Sibilia: Week 1 of the 2020 #Vermont Legislative Session

Good evening!

On Friday January 10th, the House held a moment of silence for former State Representative Dover Rep. Phil Bartlett who passed away earlier this year.

As I did last year, I plan to send out an update on the week as well as links to information that may be helpful to constituents in understanding various proposals under consideration.

The 2020 Legislative Session began this past Tuesday. This is the second year of a two year biennium and year two always gets off to a quicker start. Last weekend and this week rolled into each other with news about Windham County’s largest employer. The Windham County Delegation issued a statement on the Brattleboro Retreat last weekend amidst ratcheted up discussions on finances between the Agency of Human Services and Retreat leadership. The Governor acknowledged that the Retreat’s role in the states mental health care system is such that it could not be allowed to close without an alternative and pledged that his administration would work with the legislature to search for responsible paths forward.

Every person you meet here is working to protect something to which they feel loyal or is trying change a situation to reduce harm or improve hope. You may not agree with their goals or their methods, but if you start with the premise that they are attempting- as you are- to create an even better future for Vermont, it may lead to a more productive discussion of what is important to each of you, and a better understanding of how to get there together. 

From Vermont Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson’s Opening Remarks for the 2020 Session on Tuesday January 7th

This week I had an opportunity at the Governor’s weekly coffee to speak to him and members of his administration about issues impacting our district and region including the Retreat, a long awaited education report and progress on telecommunications. Secretary of Agriculture Ansen Tebbets took this photo just after I told the Governor and Rep. Carolyn Partridge that Readsboro now has cell service.

Education Weighting Study – no more waiting.

I have begun meeting and talking with the Agency of Education, the Legislature’s financial analysts and attorneys, Legislative leadership and school boards across the state on the recently completed Vermont Pupil Weighting Study. This is an analysis that many in our district have worked for more then a decade to have done. The high level conclusions are that students in poor and rural districts have been and are currently being denied adequate funding since the inception of Act 60.

In addition, I believe that inequitable weights and scaling of funding have helped lead to the dramatic increases we have seen in education spending and tax rates across the state since Act 60.

It is impossible to be patient given the size of the injustice done to students and taxpayers. I have four legislative objectives that I will be formally calling on the administration and the legislature to support in the coming days:

  1. Adding a poverty weight, population density student weight and a geographic necessity weight – this year and effective upon passage.
  2. Taxpayer accountability – Requirement for AOE or JFO to calculate and report on the cumulative under and over taxing that came as a result of inequitable and inadequate student weighting from 2000-2018
  3. Student justice – requirement for the Agency of Education to identify the costs in student outcomes related to inadequate funding through inequitable and inadequate weights for students in poor and rural districts from 2000-2018
  4. Prohibiting any changes to the education tax finance mechanism until such time as the December 23, 2019 pupil weighting report has been fully considered and its recommendations acted on by the general assembly  

We meet at a time in our nation’s history when too many elected officials, on both sides, are choosing confrontation and partisan politics over collaboration and progress. Polarization—the “us versus them”—is our nation’s greatest threat. It’s weakening our country and the very foundation on which it was built. 

That’s why, in state houses and town halls across America, it’s up to us to show that people from different backgrounds, with different points of view, can unite around our core values and our common humanity. It’s up to us to prove that listening to, and learning from, each other is far more constructive. And it’s up to us to seek consensus where it can be found and compromise where it cannot.

From Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s State of the State Address on Thursday January 9th

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 

Kind regards, 

Rep. Laura Sibilia 
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

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