Final Reading: House and Senate leaders move forward on legislation — remotely

Tim Ashe
Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe looked at papers as the Vermont Senate reconvened in the Senate chamber on March 24, to vote on emergency COVID-19 legislation. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

— House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, confirmed on a conference call with press Monday that at least two people have been tested for the coronavirus who work in the Statehouse. They both tested negative, she said. 

Johnson wouldn't give more details about who was tested because she said doing so could violate medical privacy laws. For that reason, she also declined to identify whether they were Statehouse staff or lawmakers. 

Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, said he was not aware if any Senate staff or senators have been tested for the virus. 

Johnson said the Legislature is working with the Vermont Department of Health to formulate a policy about when the public is notified if people in the Statehouse are tested for the coronavirus. - Grace Elletson

— Speaker Johnson and Pro Tem Ashe also announced the creation of the Joint Small Business Solutions Task Force, which will be made up of lawmakers to address COVID-19 financial pressures. 

The task force will oversee the allocation of resources for small businesses and contractors in the state. It also aims to ensure that Vermont is “maximizing” assistance to meet small businesses’ needs, according to a press release about the group. 

Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin; Sen. Allison Clarkson, D-Windsor; and Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden; will serve on the task force from the Senate chamber. Michael Marcotte, R-Newport; Charlie Kimbel, D-Woodstock; and Stephanie Jerome, D-Brandon; will be serving on the task force from the House chamber. - Grace Elletson

— Mark Levine, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, told lawmakers on a Joint Rules call that testing efficiency and availability is improving in the state. “We were in a bad place,” Levine said, referring to two weeks ago, when tests were scarce and results took days to receive. 

While the state isn’t in a “luxurious” place with its tests, Levine said — only Vermonters who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms are able to receive tests — he said the situation is improving. Also, testing results turnaround times are decreasing. - Grace Elletson

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Grace Elletson

About Grace

Grace Elletson is VTDigger's government accountability reporter, covering politics, state agencies and the Legislature. She is part of the BOLD Women's Leadership Network and a recent graduate of Ithaca College, where she was editor in chief of the Ithacan. She previously interned for the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Christian Science Monitor and The Cape Cod Times, her hometown newspaper.

Email: [email protected]

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