- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont lawmakers returned to the Statehouse in Montpelier on Wednesday ready to search for solutions to a series of challenges facing the state, including health care, water quality and education spending.

The first day of the session was largely focused on the details of governing, including seating new lawmakers and adjusting committee assignments. But lawmakers aren’t going to be standing on ceremony for long.

On Thursday, the House is expected to continue the debate from last year’s session about whether Vermont should legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Also on Thursday, Republican Gov. Phil Scott will give his State of the State address, in which he will outline his vision for the state in the coming year and beyond.

Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, who gaveled the chamber to order just after 10 a.m., said Vermont is a “special place,”

“There’s a reason people come here, and there’s a reason people stay here,” Johnson said.

The challenge of the Legislature will be to ensure Vermont remains special while meeting the needs of those people, she said.

Over in the Senate, which convened at about the same time as the House, lawmakers began the session with their annual training on how to confront sexual harassment.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, said afterward the training was especially poignant this year, coming after a series of sexual harassment allegations against prominent men across the country. The Senate and staff members who are bound by the same rules paid closer attention than in years past.

“There’s a different weight to it this year in light of all that’s been going on around us,” Ashe said.

A Senate Sexual Harassment Panel is scheduled to meet Thursday to review existing procedures.

___

This story has been corrected to show lawmakers returned on Wednesday, not on Tuesday.


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