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:
- Mobile Wireless Report
- Interactive Drive Test Map
- Tutorial: a video tutorial explaining how to use the interactive map
- FCC Initial Eligible Area interactive map
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
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.
VT/NH paid family leave plan
Last week Gov. Scott and NH Gov Sununu proposed a joint voluntary pad family leave 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.
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
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.
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
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.