Madame Speaker! | Freyne Land

Madame Speaker!

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Democratic Speaker of the Vermont House Gaye Symington of Jericho is in Year #4 of her reign.

That's a picture of her in her corner office taken last winter. Below is one we snapped last week.

The other day we asked her what, from her travels around Vermont, she's hearing as the No. 1 issue Vermonters are raising?

"I would say it's the cost of healthcare," she replied. "If I had to add up the numbers over and over again, that would be very high up there."

Have to agree with her. That's the issue we're hearing the most about: the high monthly insurance bills that Vermonters have to pay, and the high-deductibles in the $5000-$10,000 range that go with them.

"The cost pressures on what they're paying for fuel," she added is another top issue. "And the pressure points of property taxes."

But healthcare's at the top? That's what you're hearing?

"I know, Peter," she replied with a tinge of irritation in her voice, "you want to know just the No. 1 thing."

Told her I'd listen to as many as she cared to mention. That all I can do is ask the question.

Also asked Speaker Symington how she felt about the prospects for the session?

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She said she thought things had gotten off "on the right foot."

"I think we're talking about working together and as things get more specific, we'll see if that proves to be the case," said Gaye.

We dared ask: "On a scale of 1-10," how would she rate communication between herself and Gov. Jim Douglas?

"It's difficult to get information out of the Fifth Floor," she answered, "in terms of specific proposals." Speaker Gaye did say that she and Gov. Scissorhands have been meeting "regularly this past summer and fall."

And while she described her pow-wows with King James to be "more informative" than in the past, she told us she still has been in the dark on some things, including some in his State of the State speech.

While "the governor has the prerogative to have a few surprises in his State of the State address," she said, "it's common for governors to give people a heads-up on what's likely to be said and give us a copy ahead of time."

Gov. Douglas "chooses not to," she noted. "That's his prerogative."

Symington did say, with a touch of sarcasm, "I think Walter probably had a copy."

That's a reference to her predecessor  - Republican House Speaker Walter Freed, who was speaker for Jimbo's first term.

Bet she's right about that, eh?

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