As a State Senator, Alison believes some of the top issues in the state to be addressed are:
The growth in poverty and its impact on families, health care, education, the judicial system, and our communities; curbing climate change – owning our carbon foot print personally, as a state and as a region; affordability – raising the minimum wage so people can afford to live without working 2 or 3 jobs, creating more affordable housing; and containing health care costs; strengthening our social fabric – reducing domestic and gun violence and revitalizing our downtowns.
Education is Vermont’s most important economic development investment. We need a smart, competitive workforce to not only grow our economy but to strengthen our democracy.
Realigning our ever increasing public education costs and steadily declining student population has been a top priority for the Vermont Legislature. The intent of Act 46 was to unify/consolidate the governance of school districts and in so doing, ensure that all students can access an equitable array of services and educational opportunities at an affordable price. As a result of this law, tough conversations have been held around how we educate our children in our communities. It was not designed to force the closure of small schools or end school choice – it was meant to support sustainability, accountability, and equity in Vermont’s education. And, it was designed to support local decisions. There are a number of plans to reform Act 46 which will be reviewed by the Legislature in this next session. As a Windsor County State Senator, I will work to reform this Act so that our schools and communities aren’t jeopardized.
I also think we must continue to work to make Vermont’s public colleges more affordable. The cost of higher education is a barrier to essential education for our VT youth and a debt burden for our families.
The Heroin and Opiate Epidemic
We need to continue our work moving from criminalizing addiction to treating it as a disease. Vermont’s sees the challenges this epidemic presents in every community – these are our children, friends and coworkers. It is essential that Vermont increase our preventative measures, enhancing our education efforts, creating more treatment opportunities and helping those treated find better jobs to keep their lives on track.
Continuing to reduce the amount of opiod/pain killers prescribed is a top priority also. And, we need to increase the number of excess drug disposal centers and market them more effectively.
The prohibition of marijuana has failed, and the ‘war on drugs’ has failed and cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. I believe we need to legalize marijuana in a thoughtful fashion. I have supported legislation for both medical marijuana and for the legalization of growing and possessing small amounts of marijuana. We have lessons to learn from the way Colorado and Washington legalized. I look forward to reviewing the plan being presented to the Legislature in January 2017.
I think it is important to craft a bill that will think carefully about all aspects of the implementation and regulation. Additionally a marijuana legalization bill in our state must have a distinctly Vermont character to it – one that helps out our small farmers and individuals and not out-of-state large corporations. Accompanying this work must be an educational effort which effectively identifies the challenges and risks about drug use
Second Amendment gun rights and common sense measures to reduce gun violence are not mutually exclusive. Vermont has a serious gun violence problem which we must address – and, we have a hunting culture which must be protected. However, a lack of firearm safety has led to two distinct emergencies in our state. “The majority of Vermont suicide deaths (57%) are the result of firearms, higher than the national average of 50%” (Vermont Suicide Prevention Center). And, The Vermont Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission Report (2015) reported that “Between 1994 – 2014 in Vermont, 57% of domestic violence homicides & 77% of the murder/suicides were committed with guns.”
I fully support universal background checks, safe storage of firearms, and closing purchasing loopholes such as gun shows. We can have common sense gun safety while protecting the hunting traditions so valued in Vermont. I would like to help build consensus between gun owners and advocates for gun safety. I believe that all community members must work together to ensure that guns are only in safe hands.
Investing further in workforce development is very important to growing VT’s economy. We need to build expectations among our high school students, enabling more of them to continue on to higher education. There we can train young people both in educational institutions and in apprenticeships – and we need to reduce the cost of higher education.
In addition I believe we need to focus attention on improving and revitalizing our downtown infrastructure and work to create centers which will attract entrepreneurs to come and grow their businesses in Vermont.