Rep. Symington unanimously elected new House Speaker

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(Host) Jericho Democrat Gaye Symington was unanimously elected Speaker of the House when the Vermont Legislature convened today.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel examines the activities in the House on the first day of the new session.

(Markowitz) “Will the House please come to order! Pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution and the laws of the state of Vermont, I hereby call the 68th Biennial Session of the House of Representatives to order!”

(Kinzel) It was standing room only in the House chamber as Secretary of State Deb Markowitz gaveled the new session into order. Representatives and their families and friends crowded into every available seat in the room.

The first order of business in the House was the election of a new speaker.

Because the Democrats picked up 14 seats in the November election and now enjoy a commanding majority in the House, it was no surprise that their leader, Jericho Rep. Gaye Symington was elected Speaker. What was a surprise was that her election was unanimous and that her nomination was seconded by a Republican – Mark Young of Orwell.

(Markowitz) “I declare that Gaye Symington of Jericho has been elected Speaker for the ensuing biennium…”

(Kinzel) Symington is the second woman to be elected Speaker – the first was Consuelo Bailey in the 1950s – and the fourth Democrat to hold the post.

She told House members that she expects that there will spirited debate in the House over many key issues but she hopes that debate will always be respectful.

(Symington) “Today you’ve given me a great honor to serve Vermont and to serve you as Speaker, and I note that in electing me to serve as the Speaker of the Vermont House, you have given me a gavel not a crown. I accept this position as one of managing a conversation and doing that with mutual respect.”

(Kinzel) Symington says the state faces a number of difficult financial challenges because of budget cuts from Washington.

(Symington) “Setting forward a budget that lives up to our responsibilities without asking our children to pay the bills for services and infrastructure that we want the benefit of today – that is especially challenging in the face of federal policies that fall short of those goals.”

(Kinzel) One of the major duties of the Speaker is to make all the committee assignments in the House. Symington says she hopes to make these appointments by Friday afternoon.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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