Rep. Sibilia Week 7: H.57 passes House, new Adjutant General elected, minimum wage bill on the move

Good evening,

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VEDA loans for broadband expansion have been proposed by the Governor.

Hope to see folks at the Dot’s of Dover fundraiser Sunday, February 24, 2-5 PM, at The Dover Forge which is raising money for the employees affected by the fire that destroyed Dot’s in January.

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Work continues in our committee on a 3.1M Telecommunications Bill and I look forward to sharing more details over the Town Meeting break.  The purpose of this bill is to empower and provide support to municipalities and groups of municipalities to work with start up or existing telecommunications providers or utilities to solve for last mile telecommunications. I would love to hear your thoughts on the bill!

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This week Colonel Greg Knight was elected Adjutant General and Inspector General of the Vermont National Guard during a Joint Session of the Vermont Senate and House. Colonel Knight was one of four candidates vying to replace outgoing Adjutant General Major General Steven Cray and the only candidate to currently serving in the Guard in an active duty capacity.

Knight elected to replace Cray as head of Vermont National Guard

So many from the Deerfield Valley have served and deployed with the Vermont Guard over the years including many from my family. One of the greatest honors I have had as an elected official was being asked to nominate this humble, optimistic and ethical leader to this post.  My nomination follows:

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Colonel Greg Knight and his wife Tracey Knight in the House chamber prior to the vote to elect him Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard

Mr. President:

Over the last two decades and after nearly a dozen combat and disaster deployments by my Vermont soldiers, it has become clear to me that our military’s well-being is directly tied to two important factors:

  • the quality of their leaders and
  • federal and state lawmakers understanding and awareness of the needs of our military and their families.

Our Vermont guardsmen and women count on us to stand and speak for them when we are able. Today we are able.

Though most major decisions impacting our Guard are made at the federal policy level, we 180 Vermont legislators are unique in this nation, having the consequential responsibility of electing the next leader of our National Guard. 

Greg has come up through the ranks and from humble beginnings. His Father was an Army NCO who also battled alcoholism. He has served in both an enlisted capacity and in an officer capacity meaning he has walked in the military shoes of all those he will lead. He does not have your typical patrician General Officer background. Greg has earned his rank with more then 30 years of service, and is eminently qualified to lead the Vermont National Guard. He is deeply respected by those he serves with.

With a masters degree in education, as well as a second masters degree from the Naval War college in strategic studies Colonel Knight is a combat proven soldier, having served in Ramadi during one of the most violent times of the Iraq war. Greg has commanded at all levels, from an Armor Company to his current Regimental command. His leadership has been developed in a challenging blend of combat arms and staff positions, enabling him to move easily between those two distinct segments of our military.

Greg remains in touch with the soldier on the ground and the airman in the shops.

He is committed to leveling the playing field for all who serve, focusing on equal opportunities regardless of gender, or any other metric. His focus is on the sons and daughters of Vermont who willingly step forward and say, “send me.” They deserve our best. We owe them our best.

As Adjutant General, Greg Knight will lead alongside our women and men, challenging them, respecting them, rebuilding the teams that will lead our Guard back into the proud organization that it has been and will become again.

I look forward to an era of renewed transparency.  It is time for a culture change and I ask you to join me in voting for COL Greg Knight.

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H.57 An act relating to preserving the right to abortion

H.57 passed the House this week after many hours of debate. The bill enshrines current access under federal law into Vermont statute.  If the bill passes the Senate, and is signed into law by the Governor, there will be no change, expansion or decrease to a woman’s current access to abortion services in Vermont.

Many amendments were brought by Rep. Bob Bancroft of Westford and Rep. Carl Rosenquist of Georgia during second reading of the bill. All of these amendments sought to change the current legality and access to abortion in Vermont. Roll call votes on the amendments can be found here. I voted no on the amendments and yes on the bill as I do not support changing current access or legality.

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H.227 An act relating to a property tax exemption for veterans

This week I was proud to work with a number of veteran’s to introduce H.227  which would exempt the first 10,000 in value of a veteran’s property from property tax and allow municipalities to expand that exemption to 40,000 with a vote at Town Meeting. This language mimics existing statute for disabled veterans.

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From VtDigger: Governor pushes for speedy expansion—The Brattleboro Retreat is set to expand its inpatient facilities using state money, as the Scott administration looks to alleviate pressure on Vermont’s overtaxed mental health system.

  • The Retreat, a private not-for-profit mental health and addictions hospital, will be adding 16 inpatient psychiatric beds around this time next year.
  • The project has been funded with $5.5 million in state money, and a dozen of the new beds will be contracted for exclusive use by the state.
  • Vermont Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille is pushing the Retreat to accelerate the schedule due to the growing number of Vermonters seeking mental health treatment, and the increasing need for individualized treatment.

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Bills on the horizon:

S.24 – The Senate has just passed a bill requiring the minimum wage to increase to $15 by 2024. This bill will be taken up in the House in the second half of the biennium. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Vermont’s minimum wage is currently $10.78 and automatically increases every year.

We are hearing from Vermont employers daily about their challenges in recruitment and hiring, a problem impacting much of our country and in particular rural states. We are also also hearing from non-profit and healthcare service providers that they are unclear where the increased public funds to pay an additional increase in the minimum wage will come from.

I would love to hear from you on this issue, particularly if:

  1. you are working a year round full time minimum wage job in the Valley
  2. or are an employer with information about how an additional increase in the minimum wage would or would not impact your operations

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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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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.

  • Morrisville – People’s Academy High School, Auditorium, top of Copley Avenue
  • Rutland City – Rutland Public Schools, Longfellow School Building, Board Room
  • St. Johnsbury – St. Johnsbury House, Main dining room, 1207 Main Street
  • St. Albans City – St. Albans City School, Library, 29 Bellows Street
  • Winooski – Community College of Vermont, Room 108, 1 Abenaki Way
  • Springfield – Springfield Town Hall, 96 Main Street, 3 Floor Conference Room (Selectmen’s Hall)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.

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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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