Legislative Update April 14th: Economic Development bills moving, Iron Chef’s and more

The Senate voted out their big economic development bill S.138 last week.  This “promotion of economic development” bill, developed by the Economic Development Housing & General Affairs Committee, had a rough trip through the Senate with a number of provisions stripped out, including Windham County Senator Becca Balint’s innovative Millennial Enterprise Zones.  This zone would have given credits to people investing in “human, intellectual, physical, or economic capital in building a business in information technology or related fields.” We know the need for skilled tech workforce is real and growing.

Work in the House Commerce Committee, of which I am a member, continues and includes taking up all of the initiatives in S.138.  Some of the initiatives we are working on are an employee relocation credit, and expanding the states funding and scope for marketing to include economic development and expanding broadband with new build out financing tools.  In addition to an economic development bill, we are also working on consumer protection and workforce development legislation.

Legislation on mandatory paid sick leave may be coming to the floor of the House for a vote soon.  You can read the bill here.

It’s always a good day when constituents, colleagues, friends or family are in the Statehouse.  Last week one of my favorite school programs, Jr. Iron Chef, was in the State house with a number of the winning teams, including the latest Twin Valley winners “All Wrapped Up”: Coach Troy Felisko, Skyler Boyd, Chad Bernard, Tabitha Felisko and Hailey Howe.  The team Won the Junior Iron Chef High School Crowd Pleaser Award with their Seared Mayan Couscous Wrap. This team of sophomores has been competing together for 5 years since they were in the 6th grade.  This was their 3rd time going to the State Competition and their first win!  Lonny Paige, Director of Twin Valley Food Service and mastermind of the Twin Valley Jr. Iron Chef Program since 2008 was also in house.  Lonny has brought a winner to the state competition every year, including my daughters team twice!  The amount of support and appreciation for this program shown by the involvement of coaches, parents and business community of the Twin Valley area has been remarkable.

Last week a bill to ban teacher strikes and contract impositions, by boards, H.76, made its way to the House floor.  The bill had originally been part of H.361, but ended up being voted on as a stand alone bill.  A fellow school board member, Rep. Martin Lalonde, had proposed an amendment that would have added a study to examine the other mechanisms and procedures involved in contract negotiations between Education Labor and Management.  The vote ended up being 71-72 against the amendment during the second reading of the bill.  On the third reading reading of the bill, in what I understand is an unusual event, the House voted down the bill entirely.

I voted in favor of the amendment and spoke on the floor during the debate said, “We passed a bill out of this House last week which, if it survives it’s journey around the Statehouse, will require major transformation in education finance and delivery.  We will be calling on all Vermonters and our education system to maintain maximum flexibility.  Removal of nuclear options from both sides seems like an important step to take.”

Citizens and boards within our district continue to engage in the statewide conversation on education reform and connect with others throughout the state.  They have started a Facebook site – Concerned Citizens from Small and Rural Schools(education funding) and are working with others around the state from www.vtschoolsrock.com Sharing ideas and concerns is highly recommended, and I would encourage all paying attention to the education reform debate to reach out and talk with others who are doing the same.

A number of folks have asked me for more information on 2010’s Act 153, which contained a study outlining which small schools have been deemed geographically necessity.

The Senate is currently considering H.361, the education bill which passed out of the house 2 weeks ago.  You can check in to see progress in that committee and the testimony they are seeing and hearing here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/24

On Friday, the Agency of Education provided testimony to the Senate regarding H.361.  It appears to sharply target removing small schools grants and accelerating removal of the hold harmless “phantom students” provision, and cautions against taking on too much without adding supports. The Agency recommends not doing the studies in the House bill, which presumably includes both the Adequacy and Special Education studies.  Solely targeting small and rural schools for reform is not enough.  However, targeting of the type recommended in the Administration’s testimony to Senate Education, as opposed to the targeting with pillows and waivers that came out of the House, is a complete failure in state responsibility for students in these schools.  The Senate has not yet voted out a bill.  If you have an opinion, this is the time to share it.

Thank you to all who are sending me messages on legislation and including their name and town so I know you are my constituent!  I encourage you to shoot me an email or call if you have a question or opinion you’d like to share!

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