Legislative Report by Rep. Alyson Eastman: New lawmaker learning the ropes
Hello! My name is Alyson Eastman and I’m proud to be the newly elected legislator for the Addison-Rutland 1 Vermont House District embracing the towns of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham and Whiting. I am honored to serve you, the voters of my district, and will pledge to represent you effectively to the best of my abilities. We all have very special days in our lives and I can honestly say that Election Day this past November joined two other very special days for me — the wedding day to my very wonderful husband, Mike, and the birthday of our special twin boys, Bentley and Brandon.
In my mind I now work for you — the voters who live in my district. As any good employee I have a responsibility to communicate to you, my employer, regarding what I have accomplished, what I hope to achieve, and most importantly provide you with feedback on my job performance. In this inaugural issue of my Legislative Report, which I intend to provide weekly throughout the legislative session, I’d like to give you a brief overview of my first week of the session and the environment in which I find myself working.
I quickly learned there are a number of things you miss out on as a freshman if, like me, you are not affiliated with a party. I was on my own picking a “good” seat in the House Chamber and found myself lacking a name tag from day one! These are really small problems in the grand scheme of what is ailing Vermont; nonetheless, I appreciated the many legislators that went out of their way to give me helpful advice.
Several weeks prior to the session Speaker of the House Shap Smith asked all legislators to list their top three committee choices and why you chose them. I listed Education, Commerce and Health Care. Although I wasn’t placed on those committees; I’m pleased to have been put on the House Agriculture and Forestry Products Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Carolyn Partridge of Windham and vice chair Rep. Dick Lawrence of Lyndonville. You can follow what my committee is doing, who we are hearing from, and what legislation we are introducing here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/8.
The choosing of a seat in the chamber is a big deal. I quickly discovered there are seats in political “neighborhoods,” there are seats to get in and out of the chamber without drawing too much attention, and there are seats for “being on TV.” Freshman legislators are asked to wait out in the hallway before being sworn in. Each name is called one by one through a lottery. If you are lucky, as I was, you get called toward the beginning and are able to find a seat you prefer instead of one that is left. I am sitting directly in front of Rep. David Potter, D-North Clarendon, and have freshman legislator Laura Siblia, another Independent of Dover, sitting next to me.
On the second day of the session, legislators had to cast their ballots for governor. This was due to the fact that the Vermont Constitution requires the governor to be elected by at least 50 percent of the vote. Legislators were able to choose from the top three candidates in the November election: Peter Shumlin, Scott Milne and Dan Feliciano. This was a secret ballot though many, including me, declared who they would be voting for in advance. I felt strongly that I was elected by my constituents and Milne won all four towns in my district. I was contacted by a great number of constituents throughout my district in the days prior to the vote. Many asked that I vote for Milne and several asked that I vote for Shumlin. Therefore, I was one of the 69 that voted for Milne. It is so incredibly important as an American, a Vermonter, and as a resident of your town to vote. The legislative vote for governor was something I was grateful for as a freshman legislator as I heard from many of you, my constituents. It started dialogue that no doubt would have taken longer.
Much happened in week 2 … stay tuned for my next report. If you see me at the post office, the school, a general store, or town hall please come up and chat with me. Or feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any questions or concerns you may have.
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