Rep. Sibilia: Town Meeting Edition (sort of)

Good evening friends,

The legislature is taking it’s customary one week break for Town Meeting this coming week. Even though many of your Town Meetings are not happening this week, I’m sending out a mid session report. Legislators like myself that are not retired will spend this week working to catch up at their year round jobs. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my Southern Vermont colleagues this week.

This week also typically marks the halfway point in a legislative session, and signals that we are getting close to “crossover”. The “crossover” deadline is the last day a bill can pass out of the House or Senate chamber in which it was introduced and head for consideration in the opposite chamber. Much of work to date has been done in our committees of jurisdiction, working on bills proposed by others or on legislation our committee is proposing. When we return on March 9th we will begin spending more time gathered together as 150 House members to debate bills including tax and budget bills.

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We had a significant debate this past week on H.81 An act relating to statewide public school employee health benefits. With negotiations for healthcare benefits for school employees happening at the statewide level, an argument has been resurfaced that lower paid staff like paraprofessionals are more deeply impacted then teachers with healthcare cost increases.

If the Senate agrees to this bill, districts will see additional mandated budget increases happening which will increase per pupil spending calculations across the entire system – in districts that are currently underweighted and those that are overweighed. This will exacerbate the current issues being experienced by our neediest students and their residential taxpayers in those districts. I asked for the bill to be sent to Education Committee for a breakdown on how this change would impact districts across the state. That motion was turned down on a vote of 96-50. I encourage you to weigh in with your Senators in defense of your students and taxpayers and join me in asking for mandated increases in education spending cease until such time as the student weights are corrected. Thank you to Dover Selectboard Chair Vicki Capitani Chair who testified on the weighting issue in Senate Finance and Education this past week.

Another bill that is getting a lot of attention right now is H.200. This bill proposes to impose a residency requirement for the owner of a rental property who wishes to offer short term rentals and to regulate short term rentals. So far it has had one hearing in the House.

There are two long standing issues that legislators are attempting to resolve in this bill. One is safety and fairness in commerce: with the explosive growth and popularity of Air BnB and other online short term rental platforms, questions about fairness have been circulating for years. Vermont’s Bed and Breakfasts and Hotels are subjected to numerous health and safety regulations and fees and this bill seeks to hold short term rentals to the same standard by requiring a registry for short term rentals and certificates of compliance.

The second long standing issue is addressing a workforce housing shortage in some parts of Vermont – particularly in large tourism areas like ski resort towns and in larger downtowns. There are many reasons for this shortage including thriving tourism economies where second homeowners/weekend residents/future residents fuel the higher end real estate market and non tourism economies like Burlington and Brattleboro where returning and relocating residents are looking for smaller units downtown – just the type of rental most attractive for short term rentals.

Short term rentals would have to register their unit, self certify compliance with all applicaple health and safety regulations and pay a $130 fee. I generally support the notion of a registry for short term rentals. However, this bill would also require that

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  • Vermonters with investment properties and
  • Out of state second homeowners/weekend residents/future residents

take the additional significant step of licensing their property as a lodging establishment if the owner does not spend 270 days a year living in the unit and wishes to offer short term rental for more then 14 days in a year. I do not support this added residential requirement which would require the same health and safety requirements, permits and fees for a one bedroom condo as the Grand Summit Lodge. I have begun to hear from locals and our weekenders on this issue and welcome you to add your voice if you support or oppose this legislation.

You’ll see I have linked an article about the Texas power grid. Why? I’m particularly interested in the issue of regulated versus unregulated critical utility infrastructure as the legislature works on a bill that shifts the paradigm on connectivity. H.360 a bill which proposes to coordinate, facilitate, support, and accelerate community broadband deployment
throughout Vermont.
was passed out of our committee by a vote of 9-0 this week. I’ll be writing more about this bill here later this week.


Town Meeting Details

Like so many things in our pandemic year, Town Meeting looks different this year – I hope you will find ways to participate in this important self governance.

I look forward to visiting as many of the rescheduled in person meetings as possible to listen to your concerns and take questions
  • Dover: The Dover Selectboard unanimously approved a motion at their February 2nd meeting to move Town Meeting day to Tuesday, May 18 at 10am.
  • Readsboro Town Meeting Tuesday, March 2, 2021 & Saturday, May 15, 2021 The legal voters of the Town are hereby notified to meet at the School auditorium in the Town of Readsboro on Tuesday March 2, 2021 at 10:00 am at which time ballot boxes will open for Australian Ballot. Ballot boxes close at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Australian Ballot Voting will be on Article 2 only. Furthermore, the legal voters of the Town are hereby notified to meet at the Readsboro Central School, in the field, on May 15, 2021 at 10:00 am to act on the remaining articles. Please contact the Town Clerk to request an absentee ballot at 423-5405 Town Report are available at the Town Office
  • Searsburg: The Searsburg Schoolboard and Selectboard have voted not to hold an in-person Town meeting but are both going to go to Australian Ballot on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.
  • Stamford: Town Meeting will be held outside on Monday, April 19, 2021 and the election of officers will be held on Tuesday April 20, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. by Australian ballot in the community room. Absentee ballots maybe requested until 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 19, 2021. Please call the town office at 694-1361.
  • Wardsboro: Wardsboro’s Town Meeting has been rescheduled to Saturday, May 22, at 1:00 pm. The annual town report will be mailed two weeks prior to the Town Meeting. The meeting will be officially warned 30-40 days prior to May 22. By the warning date, it will have been decided if an in-person meeting in the town hall or outside under a tent is possible – or if not safe – to use the Australian (Paper) Ballot option. If you have questions, contact the Town Clerk’s Office.
  • Whitingham: Whitingham Town Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 2, 2021 will be held by Australian ballot only.  Ballots will be mailed to all active, registered voters.  Early voting is encouraged to prevent congregating at the polls.  Completed ballots may be dropped in the drop box in front of the Municipal Center, dropped at the Clerk’s business window during normal business hours, mailed in the postage paid envelope provided, or brought to the polls.  Please make sure you sign the inner envelope. The polls will be at the Whitingham Municipal Center, 2948 VT Route 100 in Jacksonville from 10am to 7pm on March 2, 2021.  The Warnings and other pertinent election/voting information is attached below.
  • River Valley’s School District: Annual meeting postponed. Date TBD in March by River Valley Board

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Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine – Monday opens up to 65 years old

Loved getting this all smiles photo from Dover residents Diane McCormick and Roger Cardinal who took advantage of the late week opportunity for 65+ to get vaccinated early at Walgreens. Starting tomorrow morning at 8:15 – all Vermonters 65+ can register for appointments.

To make an appointment online with the Health Department:

  1. Create an account(link is external) (anyone can do this anytime!)
    You may already have an account if you were tested for COVID-19 at a Health Department site. 
  2. Make an appointment(link is external) when your age group is eligible to get the vaccine.

Can’t make an appointment online or need help with an online appointment? Contact our call center at 855-722-7878.Call Center Hours:
Monday – Friday, 8:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.




Vermont Black History in the making

History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?

Dan Brown – Author of the Da Vinci Code and New Hampshire native
From VPR’s Brave Little State series

This last day of February is also the last day of Black History Month. Vermont, one of the whitest states in America, has joined the national reckoning with our own systemic racism in recent years. I have included two digestible Vermont made resources here for your consideration – the first is the premier video in a documentary video project undertaken by my friend and former colleague Kiah Morris. This documentary video project explores the past and present landscape of racial equity and persistent cultural and social divisions in Vermont, and seeks to find a path forward by asking questions and exploring solutions. The project documents efforts that are underway at the community, statewide, and legislative levels to address and eradicate systemic bigotry, and will present a chorus of voices to relay personal experiences and tell the stories that need to be heard. The premiere features Tabitha Moore, a mom, 6th generation Vermonter and founder of the first NAACP chapter in Vermont.

The second resource is a tutorial for supporting Vermonters of color created by by VPR’s Brave Little State.



House Appropriation CRF bill – H.315

H.315 COVID-19 Relief and Recovery for Vermont has passed the House and now heads to the Senate where we are hopeful for quick passage. This bill spends or reserves one-time funds of $48,976,000 general funds and $13,000,000 new Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF). In addition, there are $17,200,000 Reallocated and Reauthorized CRF. The House Covid-19 Relief Bill advances spending to provide timely, critical assistance to Vermonters and businesses in Fiscal year 2021, needed as the result of the public health emergency and to advance projects to stimulate recovery. This includes:

  • Provides Economic Recovery Grants of $10 million general funds for Vermont businesses that experienced an economic loss due to the pandemic and did not meet the eligibility criteria for federal programs.
  • Provides $10 million CRF funds to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to provide shelter for persons at risk of experiencing homelessness or suffering economic harm due to the pandemic.
  • In the Department of Mental Health; provides $300,000 general funds for Emergency Outreach Service Grants; $4 million general funds for Housing Supports in community settings; $850,000 general funds to provide case management staff at the Designated and Specialized Service Agencies; and provides $150,000 general funds for training and wellness supports for front line health care workers.
  • Provides $700,000 CRF for new Americans, refugees, and immigrants.
  • Provides $1.3 million between general funds and CRF to the Department for Children and Families for families participating in the Reach Up program.
  • Provides $1,376,000 CRF to the Vermont Food Bank to pay the costs of the Vermont Farmers to Families Food Box Program for the months of January and February 2021.
  • Provides $100,000 general funds to the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired to provide technology assistance to address social isolation.
  • Provides $200,000 general funds for data collection and analysis regarding health equity and health disparities.
  • Provides $15 million reallocated CRF to continue a school indoor air quality grant program with Efficiency Vermont.
  • Reserves $20 million general funds to support future legislative action regarding pension funding initiatives and prefunding of other postemployment benefits (OPEB).
  • Provides $1 million reauthorized in the Department of Public Service from unexpended CRF for the COVID-Response Line Extension Customer Assistance Program established by Sec. 13of Act 137of 2020, and $1.2 million reauthorized CRF for the Connected Community Resilience Planning Program established by Sec. 14a of Act 137 of 2020.
  • Provides $3 million general funds to the Agency of Agriculture, Food and markets for the Working Lands Program to allow early funding of projects.
  • Provides $10 million general funds to the Agency of Natural Resources of which $5 million is for the Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation Vermont Outdoor Recreation Collaborative (VOREC) and $5 million is for the Central Office for investments to improve recreational infrastructure and access on State lands and Vermont’s trail network.
  • Includes annual language linking Vermont to the Federal tax statutes.

The Purple Principle podcast season finale

The Purple Principle is a non-partisan podcast for independent-minded Americans exploring the perils of partisanship in U.S. politics, society and daily life.

How did we get so partisan? How could we get less partisan? And can independent-minded Americans help bridge the divide? SEASON 1 FINALE, Part 1 and Part 2

My Purple Principle interview took place almost a year ago, I remember as we were gathering, joking with the producer about whether or not we should be wearing masks. Stunning to see how much more polarized we became in 12 months. Pandemic, George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter, the 2020 election and an attempt to overturn the American election. The poles are so far apart. But, hopefully, as the poles become more partisan we ARE seeing growth in the middle.

Gallup

Bills which have passed the House and Senate

S.142/25/2021An act relating to deed restrictions and housing density
An act relating to deed restrictions and housing density This bill proposes to invalidate new binding agreements that would prohibit the construction of accessory dwelling units or the development of small lots able to connect to municipal water and sewer service

New Bills/Resolutions Rep. Sibilia is sponsoring

H.339An act relating to creating the Vermont Silver Rose Veterans’ Service Certificate
This bill proposes to create the Vermont Silver Rose Veterans’ Service Certificate to honor veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
H.350An act relating to penalties for Lifeline service interruptions
This bill proposes to require that a Lifeline service provider shall be assessed an administrative penalty by the Public Utility Commission of $25.00 per
customer for each day there is a service interruption resulting in a loss of E-911 calling capacity. Penalties collected under this subdivision shall be
deposited into the Enhanced 911 Fund established under 30 V.S.A. § 7054
H.352An act relating to allowing ranked choice voting in municipal elections
This bill proposes to allow municipal voters to vote at an annual or special meeting to use ranked choice voting to elect the officers of the municipality in subsequent elections.

Vermont House sessions

The public can also watch the Vermont House legislative sessions live or recorded videos – information below

Tuesday at 10:00 AM; Wednesday at 1:15 PM; Thursday at 1:15 PM; Friday at 9:30 AM (All times subject to change)


As always, if you have suggestions, concerns or critiques please be in touch so we can schedule time to discuss them.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com

Kind regards, 

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

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