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

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