VERMONT - In 2017, when the Vermont Legislature adjoins in its new legislative session beginning in early January, they will be faced with the decision to select the new Speaker of the House, replacing current Speaker, Shap Smith. Shap Smith has been Vermont's Speaker of the House since 2009 and has been re-elected as speaker three times, in 2011, 2013 and 2015 and is not running again in 2017.
Meanwhile, in the current race for the speaker, in late November, Democratic Candidate Sarah Copeland-Hanzas of Bradford Vermont dropped out of the race, which has now left the door open for the other Democrat in the race, Mitzi Johnson of Grand Isle County to be the leading Democratic Candidate.
Copeland-Hanzas of Orange County, has been encouraging caucus members to support Mitzi Johnson's speaker bid. Johnson was a member of the Vermont House from 2003-2010. Johnson has also been involved in multiple committees from the Agricultural Committee from 2003-2006 to the Appropriations Committee from 2007 to now.
Marty Feltus, a Republican Representative for Caledonia District four, covering the towns of Lyndon, Burke and Sutton said that Mitzi Johnson is a very eligible and qualified candidate for the Speaker Position but also says that, "We need to be open to the fact that there maybe other candidates for the Speaker of the House," other than Johnson.
In fact, there have been more candidates running for this race, other than Copeland-Hanzas and Johnson. Chip Conquest, of Orange County, another Democrat is running. Meanwhile, Vermont Republicans recently have nominated Representative Linda Myers of Essex, Vermont to be their party's speaker nominee.
For Vermont Republicans, House Minority Leader, Don Turner of Milton recently stated that a big concern going into 2017 is the fact that the overall budget in Vermont over the past six years has often increased faster than the state's revenue growth.
Democratic Representative Chip Troiano of Caledonia District two, covering the towns of Hardwick, Walden and Stannard stated this about the current budget situation in Vermont, "We will have more looming budget issues to face this year and I think Mitzi's good working understanding of the budget will be a great advantage."
Continuing to describe Vermont's overall budget situation, Troiano states that, "There is great uncertainty in the Vermont budget, which relies heavily on those Medicaid dollars for all of the programs I have mentioned (the opiate crisis, child protection, healthcare, education and medicaid revenue), that is evident around the State House. That again, is where Mitzi's knowledge will be a great benefit to her roll as Speaker."
Over the first weekend of December 2016, Vermont Democrats met to formally nominate Representative Johnson as their candidate for Speaker of the House.
In 2017, whoever comes out on top in this contest, there's a good chance that Vermont could see in it's state history, it's third overall female speaker of the house if Mitzi Johnson or Linda Myers prevails in January 2017.