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Vermont’s elected independents push for non partisan representation on apportionment board #vtpoli

Vermont‘s elected independents push for non partisan representation on apportionment board

Vermont’s five elected independent legislators have introduced legislation that will add two residents of the state – who are not affiliated with any political party – to the Legislative Apportionment Board. H.236 has been introduced in the House and sent to the Government Operations Commitee.

How reapportionment works:

Reapportionment occurs during the biennial legislative session following each Federal decennial census. The process primarily—but not exclusively—relies on the population figures gathered during the most recent census. Legislative districts are drawn and House and Senate seats are allocated to ensure that the populations of each district have relatively equal representation in both chambers of the State House. Three entities are involved in the process: the General Assembly, the Legislative Apportionment Board, and municipal Boards of Civil Authority.

How the other members of Legislative Apportionment Board are selected: The Legislative Apportionment Board is the only party to the process whose sole purpose is reapportionment. The Board is chaired by a special master who is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Each political party that has had more than three members serve as members of the General Assembly for at least three of the five biennial legislative sessions since the previous census is represented by two members on the board—one appointed by the Governor and one appointed by the state party committee. Until 2010, the Board had five members with two representatives each from the Democratic and Republican parties. In 2010, the Board expanded to seven members for the first time with the addition of two members from the Progressive party.

History of elected independents serving in the Vermont legislature since the last census:
Vermont has had more than three independent unaffiliated members of the General Assembly serve for at least three of the five biennial legislative sessions since the previous census.

2019/20
Jickling, Murphy, Norris, Pajala, Sibilia

2017/18 (three of the seven independents elected in November 2016 stepped down during the biennium and were replaced with gubernatorial appointed independent representatives)
Jickling, Murphy, Norris (Eastman), Poirer, Pajala (Olsen), Read (Greshin), Sibilia

2015/16
Eastman, Greshin, Murphy, Olsen, Poirer, Sibilia

2013/14
Goodwin, Greshin, Poirer, Stevens

2011/12
Greshin, Poirer, Stevens

 

Reapportionment does not exist for the benefit of the political parties. The process exists to ensure that Vermonters are fairly and equitably represented in the legislature. Over 40% of Americans identify themselves as politically independent, and it is important for all of Vermont’s citizens to be represented and involved throughout the Vermont reapportionment process.

A diverse and representative legislative apportionment board can only strengthen that process.

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For additional comment:

Rep. Ben Jickling bjickling@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Barbara Murphy bmurphy@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Terry Norris tnorris@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Kelly Pajala kpajala@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Laura Sibilia lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us

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Rep. Sibilia: Week 6 of the Vermont legislative session

Good evening,

It’s been a busy week and there is significant progress to report on a number of bills and initiatives I am spending time working on.

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Entrepreneurs, Innovators and Volunteers Michael Birnbaum of Cloud Alliance and Carol Monroe of EC Fiber show the Energy and Technology Committee maps of fiber projects happening in the “worst business case” part of Vermont according to Michael. Both Michael and Carol have volunteered many many hours advising communities on connectivity.

Most especially this connectivity expansion bill which is under development in our committee. This proposal is geared towards supporting the creation of Communications Union Districts and is intended to help incent public private partnerships. We continue to hear testimony about the need for all Vermonters  to have access to telecommunications infrastructure for safety and access to the modern economy.

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There is an issue I have not been spending a lot of time on in Montpelier, or writing about and that is property taxes and education funding, and I plan to explain why in more detail during Town Meeting week.

In the interim, please bear in mind the following:

  • There are three major pieces of legislation still in the process of being implemented by an Agency of Education which I believe is understaffed and in towns with declining population and exhausted school board members and administrators.
    • Act 46 – Reorganizing Governance of Vermont’s School Districts The goal of Act 46 is to improve education outcomes and equity by creating larger and more efficient school governance structures.
    • Act 173 – Special Education Funding Advisory Group which is reorganizing special education delivery throughout the state
    • Act 11 – which includes a task force Student Staff Ratios Task Force and Commission on Public School Employee Health Benefits
  • The education funding mechanism is flawed and not delivering equity. There is a lawsuit from the town of Whitingham in the courts right now alleging the same.
  • I and others and have pushed for and secured investigation into critical adjustments in the form of a rural weighting of students. This weighting is required in order to maintain the current funding mechanism, ensure equity for students and decrease property taxes. The assessment of weights is currently being conducted and is due back in November.
  • Additionally, every student lost in a school district increases per pupil spending which increases residential property taxes. Many schools don’t cut a teacher when they lose 2 students – they just have increased per pupil spending.
  • And finally, the Governor insisted – and the legislature eventually agreed to  artificially lower property taxes the past two years. So increases in healthcare, salaries or other item have not been felt in the tax rates for two years. That means we are likely seeing effects of three years of increases in this years tax rates

I hope voters will talk with their school boards, attend annual budget meetings, ask good questions and keep your legislators apprised of what is happening to you specifically.

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Rep Nadar Hashim reports H.7 on the floor which passed out of House Judiciary by a vote of 11-0

H.7 An act relating to second degree aggravated domestic assault

This bill was sponsored by myself and Dummerston Rep. Nadar Hashim and passed on a unanimous 11-0-0 vote out of the Judiciary Committee and by voice vote in the House.

H.7 will protect victims of serial domestic abusers, and hold perpetrators who cross state lines accountable.

Approximately 75% of homicides in Vermont stem from instances of domestic or familial abuse.

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There are a number of important dates for upcoming River Valleys School District Meetings:

Schedule of upcoming meetings
– February 25 at 7:00 PM in Dover (Budget Presentation)
– March 5 Town Meeting (vote on budget)
– March 11 at 7:00 PM in Wardsboro
– March 18 at 7:00 PM in Dover

Information on the budget and articles, links to previous meetings and videos can be found at http://www.rvusd.net/

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February 14th at the Capitol

ACT  250

I have heard a number of concerns regarding changes contemplated to Act 250. This debate and discussion is happening in the Natural Resources Committee which has a draft bill you can view here.

I have signed on to another version of changes,  H.197

Please stay in touch with your feedback and comments and if you submit testimony to the committee, please send me a copy.

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Public Hearings

  • Community-Based Public Hearings on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget.

The Vermont House and Senate Committees on Appropriations are seeking public input on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget and will hold community-based public hearings on Monday, February 25, 2019, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the following 5 locations. An additional location in Springfield will be held from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The Committees will take testimony on the Governor’s recommended State budget at the above dates and times. Anyone interested in testifying should come to one of the hearings. Time limits on testimony may apply depending on volume of participants. If you have a story you would like to share privately with the committee members, please contact Theresa to schedule this at the end of one of the hearings.To view or print a copy of the proposed budget, go to the Department of Finance and Management’s website at the following URL address: https://finance.vermont.gov/budget/budget-recommendations/operating-budget/fy2020For more information about the format of these events, or to submit written testimony, contact Theresa Utton-Jerman or Rebecca Buck attutton@leg.state.vt.us or rbuck@leg.state.vt.us or at 802-828-5767 or toll-free within Vermont at 1-800-322-5616. Requests for interpreters should be made by Friday, February 8

 

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A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion.  What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont

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In the news:

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Let Them Stream Netflix

“Let them eat cake!” my friend proclaimed – making a grand sweeping gesture with an imaginary scepter as she jumped out of her chair to write and post the words on the wall in front of us.

I had just recanted a conversation to her that I’d partaken in with an executive from a Vermont telecommunications company an hour earlier. I was still somewhat incredulous about a question he had asked me and I wanted to check my reaction.

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Buy this Netflix & Chill cake at L’Orchidee in London

“Let them eat cake” is the traditional translation of the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, supposedly spoken by “a great princess” upon learning that the peasants had no bread. Since brioche was a luxury bread enriched with butter and eggs, the quotation would reflect the princess’s disregard for the peasants, or her poor understanding of their situation.[i]

This Summer I wrote in an oped titled Venn of Doom[ii] about Helyn, a physically handicapped woman in Readsboro who was told it would be up to ten days before her phone service was repaired. She’s a key longtime volunteer in a rural town which is located more then 30 minutes from State Police, ambulance or emergency rooms and she had just had serious surgery prior to her phone service going out. There is no cell service and no other phone or internet provider in her town.

One of the policy areas I spend the most time on as a legislator is connectivity. Previous to Helyn, my time had been focused on illuminating the economic disparity caused by the lack of cellular and internet in rural Vermont and trying to find policies that would invite new partners and dollars to the cause of connecting rural Vermont to the modern economy.

What happened to Helyn helped me understand that the status of communications infrastructure in rural Vermont was not static – in many places it was deteriorating. This issue has moved from one of economic connectedness to one of public safety.

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“Number Please”: The Telephone Comes to Vermont, 1910 

The federal government largely preempts states from regulating internet providers, leaving development of telecommunications infrastructure to the free market. As a result, telecommunications networks in a dynamic and rapidly evolving free market are developing in areas where they are profitable, i.e. lots of customers easy to build to.  In that type of environment there is limited incentive for improving or replacing infrastructure in areas that are less profitable, i.e. less customers and harder to build. And so, in the more rural reaches of Vermont, customers in the footprint of the legacy telephone Bell Operating Company – Consolidated Communications – are being left with copper lines built in the 1800’s. The lines don’t work well when it’s raining, often run through the woods, and as of late appear to be getting repaired by fewer and fewer employees.

That’s the situation Helyn and her neighbors, and my constituents in Wardsboro and our friends in the Northeast Kingdom and other rural Vermont and Northern New England locales find themselves in. There seems to be a profound misunderstanding of the impact of that situation.

“Why doesn’t she move?” That was the question posed to me by the CEO of the telecommunications company when I told him about Helyn. The question which my friend equated with the privileged obliviousness inherent in the historical quote “Let them eat cake!”

“Just don’t over build us.” That’s what the government affairs representative for the major Vermont cable companies told me late last week when I asked how we can make sure Helyn can call her doctor or for an ambulance. Not a hint of irony in his voice despite his companies having over built the legacy telephone Regional Bell Operating Company and contributed mightily to the situation unfolding in rural Vermont. Not an iota of discomfort when I noted that Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) have spent $572 million nationally on attempts to influence the FCC and other government agencies since 2008[iii] and a fraction of those funds dedicated to this issue could have solved it years ago.

“Rural economic development relies on many different things happening at the same time, Laura, not just expanding internet access. There is no silver bullet.” This was patiently explained to me by more than one misunderstanding fifth floor official on more than one occasion this fall as I worried about how we could ensure Helyn and other rural Vermonters had telecommunications access.

There may be a misunderstanding. The problem we need to solve is not whether or not rural Vermonters can stream “Duck Dynasty” or “Modern Family” on Netflix. The problem we need to solve is whether or not they can still call for help in the event of an accident, medical emergency or criminal activity.

In an effort to address that misunderstanding and what seems to be an inadequate sense of urgency, I’ve recently submitted a public comment[iv] to the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s open investigation into the service quality provided by Telephone Operating Company of Vermont.

img_3233Both Governor Scott and Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson have identified expansion of rural telecommunications as a priority this year.  Solving this problem once and for all will take all of us – rural Vermonters are needed to step up with their municipalities, national telecom and cable providers are needed to step up with a new sense of collaboration and cooperation and start up internet service providers need to step up with their ideas and sense of entrepreneurship to help guide policymakers.  Based on the situation in rural Vermont, and reports from around the country, we must act with a sense of urgency regarding the increasing risk opening up in rural Vermont for those who rely on landline phone service and to act in a way that acknowledges that the changing telecommunications markets are no longer just accelerating regional economic inequality but are compromising the safety of our citizens.


 

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

[ii] https://laurasibiliavt.com/2018/08/30/venn-of-doom/

[iii] http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/3-ISPs-Have-Spent-572-Million-to-Kill-Net-Neutrality-Since-2008-139931

[iv] https://epuc.vermont.gov/?q=node/64/135508/FV-Public%20Comments-Portal

Rep. Sibilia: Week 5 of the #Vermont Legislative Session

Good evening!

20170512123202_netflix-cake
Buy this Netflix & Chill cake at L’Orchidee in London

My latest oped title “Let Them Stream Netflix” will be posted later this evening. It has to do with the current situation with Vermont’s rural landline telephone service.

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img_3280This week the legislature spent a considerable amount of time debating H.39 which provides extensions to Act 46 timetables for districts that have been recommended for forced merger by the State Board of Education. The House passed a proposal that provided several different limited time period extensions. The Senate is unlikely to take up the proposed extensions until a court hearing on a preliminary injunction filed by school districts – which asks for  a moratorium on consolidation – likely in mid-February.

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There are a number of important dates for upcoming River Valleys School District Meetings:

Schedule of upcoming meetings
Annual Meeting February 12, 2019 at 7:00 PM, Wardsboro Town Hall
– February 25 at 7:00 PM in Dover (Budget Presentation)
– March 5 Town Meeting (vote on budget)
– March 11 at 7:00 PM in Wardsboro
– March 18 at 7:00 PM in Dover

Information on the budget and articles, links to previous meetings and videos can be found at http://www.rvusd.net/

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Results from the 2019 Deerfield Valley Legislative survey are available here!

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This week I co-sponsored H.66 An act relating to survivor benefits for law enforcement officers

In the event that a firefighter or EMT/paramedic dies tragically in the line of duty, his or her family is eligible to receive a one-time payment from the state. However, this same type of assistance is not offered to the families of police officers in Vermont.

As it stands, under state law, a review board determines whether the spouse, child, or parent of a firefighter or EMT killed in the line of duty or from an occupational illness will receive a one-time payment of $50,000 from the state. These funds come at a critical time for families, who are not only mourning the loss of a loved one but must also pay for their ongoing expenses as they rebuild their lives.

The Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police (VACOP) endorsed Bill H.66 earlier this week, which would amend state law to include the surviving spouses, children, and parents of police officers who die in the line of duty.

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Public Hearings

  • Community-Based Public Hearings on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget.

The Vermont House and Senate Committees on Appropriations are seeking public input on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget and will hold community-based public hearings on Monday, February 25, 2019, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the following 5 locations. An additional location in Springfield will be held from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The Committees will take testimony on the Governor’s recommended State budget at the above dates and times. Anyone interested in testifying should come to one of the hearings. Time limits on testimony may apply depending on volume of participants. If you have a story you would like to share privately with the committee members, please contact Theresa to schedule this at the end of one of the hearings.To view or print a copy of the proposed budget, go to the Department of Finance and Management’s website at the following URL address: https://finance.vermont.gov/budget/budget-recommendations/operating-budget/fy2020For more information about the format of these events, or to submit written testimony, contact Theresa Utton-Jerman or Rebecca Buck attutton@leg.state.vt.us or rbuck@leg.state.vt.us or at 802-828-5767 or toll-free within Vermont at 1-800-322-5616. Requests for interpreters should be made by Friday, February 8

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From article written by Rep. Theresa Wood – member House Human Services Committee:

Facts matter.  And so do emotions.  H.57 – “An act relating to preserving the right to abortion” has been the subject of intense, often emotional debate and testimony in the State House over the last three weeks.  Perhaps the most visible of this debate occurred during the public hearing attended by hundreds of Vermonters – both pro and against the bill.

As proposed, the bill recognizes the fundamental right to the freedom of reproductive choice for women.  Because this is an emotionally charged issue, it is important to understand some of the facts. This bill does not change current practice in Vermont, or in fact, the practice as it has been for more than 40 years since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade – notably one of the Supreme Court’s most controversial decisions.  Given the politics in Washington, there is considerable debate about whether the Supreme Court will eventually overturn Roe v. Wade and leave it entirely up to individual states.

This bill does not allow for partial or full birth abortions that are specifically prohibited by the 2003 “Partial Birth Abortion Act” enacted by Congress.  All medical providers must comply with this federal law. The bill does not change the ability of a woman to sue for wrongful death if something goes wrong during her pregnancy. Testimony revealed that abortions in Vermont are declining – that’s good news.  They are declining because of improved education and increased access to family planning and birth control. In Vermont, 1.3 percent of abortions occurred later in pregnancy – only because of the mother’s health or viability of the child – not for elective purposes of the mother.  No elective late term abortions are performed in Vermont according to the Vermont Medical Society.

The House Human Services Committee has added two amendments: the first to remove the section that stated, “A fertilized egg, embryo or fetus shall not be considered a person.”  This amendment passed, and that section is now omitted from the bill. They also added reference to the federal statute banning partial or full birth abortions. With these two amendments, the bill passed out of the House Human Services Committee by a vote of 8 – 3.

The bill has now been referred to the House Judiciary Committee which will begin taking testimony next week.  It will come to the House floor for a full vote later this month and then, if passed, it will move to the Senate.  It is fair to say that there will be other amendments offered along the way, so if you want to watch the progress of the bill you can do so on the legislative website:   https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.57

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A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion.  What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont

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In the news:

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Rep. Sibilia: Week 4 of the #Vermont Legislative Session

Good evening!

January in the legislature was spent hearing the Governor’s budget proposals, getting acclimated to new committees and learning about concepts relevant to proposals that are being introduced.

The bulk of my time has been spent working to pull together a number of House telecommunications expansion proposals and coordinating with the Governor’s administration to introduce his financing and permitting proposals for rural build out.

Next week a proposal to delay implementation of Act 46 forced mergers was scheduled to take place and if it proceeds will likely receive a significant amount of debate on the floor.

Results from the 2019 Deerfield Valley Legislative survey are available here!

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Reports and notes of interest from the fourth week of the legislature below:

Twin Valley students in the house!

Wednesday afternoon Twin Valley eighth graders came to the Capital and visited with the Secretary of State, legislators, the Speaker of the House and the Governor. The students have been working on mock governments and came prepared with tough questions. Kudos to teacher Scott Salway and the Twin Valley students!

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Sin tax on e-cigs passes House This bill proposes to raise the rate of tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.25 per pack and to raise the tax on new smokeless tobacco products by a corresponding amount. Vermont House passes 92-percent e-cigarette tax

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Grant opportunity now available through Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC)

NBRC, a Federal-State partnership program in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine has expanded it’s eligibility area to include every county in the State of Vermont. Using the determined distress factor of each county the match for projects in Orleans, Essex, Caledonia, Rutland, and Orange Counties is 20% and the remaining counties match percentage is 50%. Municipalities and qualified Not-for-Profit organizations can apply for up to a $500,000 maximum award for eligible infrastructure projects, and up to a $250,000 maximum award for all other types of eligible projects.The 2019 application will be available on the NBRC website in late February with a Letter of Notification due on March 30th.

Informational meetings will be arranged throughout the state in March and April to assist applicants.

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Public Hearings

  • Community-Based Public Hearings on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget.

The Vermont House and Senate Committees on Appropriations are seeking public input on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget and will hold community-based public hearings on Monday, February 25, 2019, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the following 5 locations. An additional location in Springfield will be held from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The Committees will take testimony on the Governor’s recommended State budget at the above dates and times. Anyone interested in testifying should come to one of the hearings. Time limits on testimony may apply depending on volume of participants. If you have a story you would like to share privately with the committee members, please contact Theresa to schedule this at the end of one of the hearings.To view or print a copy of the proposed budget, go to the Department of Finance and Management’s website at the following URL address: https://finance.vermont.gov/budget/budget-recommendations/operating-budget/fy2020

For more information about the format of these events, or to submit written testimony, contact Theresa Utton-Jerman or Rebecca Buck attutton@leg.state.vt.us or rbuck@leg.state.vt.us or at 802-828-5767 or toll-free within Vermont at 1-800-322-5616. Requests for interpreters should be made by Friday, February 8

  • Information Session Adjutant General Feb 5th 4-6 Room 11

Joint Hearing with Senate Government Operations to hear from candidates for Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard.

  • H.57 Public Hearing

There will be a Public Hearing Wednesday Feb 6th 4:30 – 6:30 pm in the well of the House  on bill H.57 An act relating to preserving the right to abortion.

 H.57 makes no changes to the status quo, which is that Vermonters currently have the right to safe, legal abortion care without government interference. H.57 codifies into state law current practices with regard to abortion care in Vermont.

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A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion.  What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont

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In the news:

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Sibilia: Week 3 of the #Vermont Legislative Session

Good evening!

Reports and notes of interest from the third week of the legislature below:

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The Windham County delegation meets to discuss issues impacting the region bi-weekly. Among issues the delegation has a careful eye on this session are the mental health care system and telecommunications.

Governor presents his proposed 2020 Budget

On Thursday Governor Scott presented his third budget – this for FY 2020. An Executive Summary of the budget can be read here. The governor’s budget address can be read here.

I heard testimony last session and this fall that caused me to be concerned about our current ability to protect Vermonters’ data 24/7. I’m happy to see the added investments being made to ensure the Agency of Digital Services continues to upgrade our cyber security capacity.
My initial thoughts on the budget:

The governor has identified a million and a half dollars and new bonding legislation toward helping municipalities start to craft solutions for last mile telecommunications. This is an important and significant step by the administration. The Legislature will be proposing additional initiatives in the coming days, and also looking to ensure that we all have a thorough understanding of the public safety risks being experienced in the disconnected parts of Vermont.

Proposed childcare and college education initiatives should not be funded out of the education fund (as has been proposed). Increasing workforce programming at the career tech centers will require significant scrutiny. We are seeing success in distributed career training programs, so I’d want to understand better how this proposal will be structured to ensure it is accessible to all students and doesn’t exacerbate existing inequities in secondary education.

I applaud the proposal to remove the tax from military retirees’ pay. We are one of only a few states in the U.S. that still tax this — an unneeded incentive for our military retirees to move out of state.

Telecom initiatives and proposals are beginning to be introduced

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Utility regulation 101 review this week

A major focus for me in this biennium is ensuring all Vermonters are consistently able to call for emergency services, access Vermont’s government and engage in both the Vermont and the global economy.   Governor Scott’s Proposed FY 2020 Budget takes some significant steps in this direction including enabling language for municipal bonding and the potential for a VEDA loan fund. The administration also announced a partnership with Microsoft which we will hope to hear more about in the coming weeks.  A number of bills I have been working on were introduced this week including assessing the ability of electric utilities to provide internet access services. The bill introduced is modeled directly after legislation which passed in Virginia. Former gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist is expected to testify in our committee on the concept which she spoke about during her campaign.

A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion.  What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont

Abortion access 

A Vermont law has been introduced to put existing federal law – ensuring a women’s access to abortion – into Vermont statute.  Self-determination and Freedom of Religion factor strongly into my support for this action which simply codifies existing federal law without changes. All women have the right to determine their health care and all Vermonters have the right to live their lives according to their private religious convictions. I understand this is an issue about which voters typically have strong opinions, so I will restate – there is no change or expansion of the existing law in the proposed state statute. Governor Scott has indicated he would sign this language in it’s current form.

Decarbonization Study Released

Our committee and the Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to hear about a report the legislature commissioned last year: An Analysis of Decarbonization Methods in Vermont – Executive Summary The Governor has stated he will not support a carbon tax. I have been consistent that I believe we need to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible but will not support a single state carbon tax or efforts that don’t acknowledge and assist working and rural Vermonters with alternative vehicles or heat.

Here are the key findings from the report:

  • Emissions in Vermont have been increasing since 2011, and the state is currently well above a pathway that would meet any of its GHG emissions targets.
  • Vermont is unlikely to meet its emissions targets with a carbon-pricing-only strategy unless the carbon price is substantially higher than the prices modeled in this study ($19 to $77 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent in 2025).Vermont has a high share of emissions from transportation and heating fuel use; both sectors are difficult to decarbonize through carbon pricing or nonpricing policies.
  • Combining moderate carbon pricing and nonpricing policy approaches could reduce emissions to meet Vermont’s US Climate Alliance target; under this approach, emissions are projected to be 32–38 percent below 2005 levels in 2025 compared with the target of 26–28 percent.
    • Combining policies such as those described in the study would not meet the state’s statutory 2028 target (58 percent below 2005 levels or 50 percent below 1990 levels).
  • Economic modeling of a range of carbon pricing designs (without nonpricing policies) suggests:
    • The combined climate and health benefits of the carbon pricing policies would exceed the economic costs for every carbon pricing scenario considered in this report.
    •  Impacts on the state’s GDP, level of employment, and overall economic welfare would be very small, regardless of carbon pricing policy design.
    • A carbon pricing policy could generate $74.7–$433.8 million in annual revenue in 2025, depending on the carbon price amount and number of sectors covered.
  • In choosing how to use the revenue raised through a carbon pricing policy, policymakers face trade-offs among environmental outcomes, overall economic costs, and the impacts on different types of households. Policymakers can divide total revenues across multiple uses, balancing these tradeoffs.
    • According to our modeling analysis, per household rebates more than offset the costs of increased energy prices for the average low-income household.
    • Reducing taxes on wage income would lower the overall cost to Vermont’s economy relative to other options considered, but these cuts would not fully offset higher energy prices.
    • Devoting revenue to finance nonpricing policies would reduce emissions further, but would also impose higher costs on Vermonters, because this would reduce funds that could be used to partially or fully offset the economic impacts on households of carbon pricing.

Rep Sibilia in the news:

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Sibilia Week 2 of the #Vermont legislative session:

Good morning!

Reports and notes of interest from the second week of the legislature below:

Department of Public Service creates wireless coverage maps and submits challenge to wireless coverage in Vermont

Montpelier—The Department of Public Service created an interactive map that shows the results of a drive test of mobile wireless coverage in the state. After reviewing providers’ maps that purport to show the extent of their coverage, the Department undertook a drive test of all major roads in the state to collect data and assess where mobile wireless service is actually available from a consumer perspective.  read more

Links are provided below to:

challenge map
VTel’s federally funded Wireless Open World (WOW) was to bring 4G/LTE wireless broadband to every un-served home and business in rural Vermont.

A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion.  What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont

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Help for federal workers

As a result of the partial Federal Government shutdown, the Department for Children and Families, Economic Services Division (ESD) has issued guidance to all of its district offices to screen for and potentially provide benefits to Vermonters who are furloughed Federal employees. These Vermonters may be eligible for financial assistance during this shutdown. ESD may be able to help with the cost of food, fuel assistance, etc. Furloughed Federal employees may apply in person at their local district offices or online at dcf.vermont.gov/esd, or by calling 1-800-479-6151.

In addition to the information from DCF, banks & credit unions are urging anyone affected by the shutdown to contact their financial institution. Most institutions are offering some kind of assistance, such as overdraft assistance, loans, changes in terms of existing loans, to help people weather this hardship.

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VT/NH paid family leave plan

Last week Gov. Scott and NH Gov Sununu proposed a joint voluntary pad family leave program

From VtDigger: Democrats reject Scott’s paid leave plan, pitch mandatory program:

The paid family leave bill backed by Democratic lawmakers would be funded through a universal .93 percent payroll tax split between employees and employers.

Johnson said the plan would be cheaper than the governor’s and yet offer more time and pay: employees struggling with illness, caring for sick family members, or taking care of a newborn child would be able take 12 weeks of leave while receiving 100 percent of their wages.

The governor’s proposal would give employees six weeks of leave and 60 percent of their earnings each week.

“The cost of the program is a little less expensive, but the benefit is almost double, so you get twice the benefit at a slightly lower cost,” Johnson said.

The Democrats’ proposal would cost 70 cents per day per employee, for those earning a median income, according to Johnson.

Under the governors’ plan, Vermont and New Hampshire’s combined 18,500 state workers would receive the paid family leave benefit, administered through a private insurer and funded by the state.

Sharing risk across a bigger pool helps to provide more sustainability and less risk to insurance type programs – so I appreciate the notion of this proposed collaboration. Like every proposal, the details will matter.  I expect this to be a session long discussion in the House.

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CARE (Citizen Assistance Registry for Emergencies)

Emergencies can take many forms, from natural disasters to human-caused events such as a major traffic accident that closes a road or takes out the power for hours at a time. For elders or people with physical or mental disabilities, such events can become life-threatening if they are prolonged and no one is available to help. The CARE Program (Citizen Assistance Registry for Emergencies), administered by the United Ways of Vermont, Vermont 211 and E-911, are working together to identify Vermont residents who would require special assistance in an emergency. If you or know someone who would need special help in a crisis, please complete the linked form below and return it to Vermont 211. Your information will be entered into a database linked to the E-911 system, and the records will be updated each year. All records are confidential and will only be shared with groups involved in helping to keep people safe in an emergency. You must send a new form each year to keep your registration up-to-date. This form may be completed, printed and mailed to: Vermont 211 PO Box 111 Essex Junction, VT 05453

CARE Registration Form

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VSBA Legislative Alert: Act 46 Forced Merger Delay Under Consideration

House leaders have indicated they are open to delaying implementation of forced mergers until July 1, 2020.  These House leaders have heard from school board members and community leaders who are participating in the lawsuit to prevent forced mergers from taking place.  The indication is that everyone agrees that Act 46 mergers should be delayed until 2020.

It is not clear whether there will be an opportunity for those affected by this decision to testify.  If you have an opinion about whether or not the General Assembly should delay implementation of Act 46 mergers ordered by the State Board of Education, now is the time to let us know. Because it isn’t clear whether board members in affected districts will be invited to testify, please consider sharing your perspectives with these officials in order to ensure the decision is well-informed.

Speaker of the House: Speaker@leg.state.vt.us
Chair of House Education, Rep. Webb: KWebb@leg.state.vt.us
Vice Chair of House Education, Rep. Cupoli: lcupoli@leg.state.vt.us

Senate President Pro Tem:  timashe@burlingtontelecom.net
Chair of Senate Education, Sen. Baruth: PBaruth@leg.state.vt.us
Vice Chair of Senate Education, Sen. Ingram: DIngram@leg.state.vt.us

Single Education District concept floated:

In a draft policy memo dated Jan. 1, administration officials, led by Education Secretary Dan French, outline a new concept for Vermont’s schools: consolidating all school districts into one, abolishing the State Board of Education, and establishing four regional administrative entities, each with its own school board and superintendent, to oversee schools in the area.
Administration’s Education White Paper
Vermont School Board Association Response 

Coming up:

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call

View on Monday night arrivals

votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

In the news:
Legislative Cheat Sheet and Lobbying
Rainville endorses Knight in adjutant general race

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham