The legislature began its work for the 2022 Session last week. We met in person in the statehouse on the first day, in order to vote to legislate remotely until January 18th. I voted in favor of this two week remote work, but spoke to the importance of our need to work and debate in person. We ended this week with a vote to return to in person work, but in a hybrid fashion, allowing lawmakers, witnesses and staff who are ill or have a COVID-19 related challenge to participate remotely. Almost all legislators are vaccinated and boosted, there is a mask mandate in the statehouse and we are privileged enough to have access to weekly antigen and PCR testing. I believe it is important to be in person if at all possible when debating constitutional changes and legislative redistricting. These past two weeks I have been working from the Montpelier area during the week in order to focus on the significant work ahead.
Yesterday the tri partisan Rural Economic Development Working Group, a caucus I Co-Chair in the House, released a first ever Rural Omnibus Bill H.581. Issues related to Vermont’s working lands and Act 250 reform proposals featured heavily in the bill.
There will be a Joint Assembly to hear the Budget Message of the Governor at 1:00 P.M. on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. To view the Joint Assembly proceedings, go to the following YouTube channel: https://legislature.vermont.gov/senate/streaming/joint-assembly
Tuesday January 18th is also a public hearing on the recent pension agreement (details below). If you want to testify and need assistance please let me know.
Below are a number of updates and public hearing notices that I hope you will find helpful. Stay warm out there!
Municipal and Town Meetings
We have acted on several bills to accommodate continued remote participation at municipal meetings and at this year’s Town Meeting if needed. Governor Scott has signed S.172 which allows a municipality to:
(1) by vote of the municipal legislative body, apply the Australian ballot system to the municipality’s 2022 annual meeting; and
(2) move the date of the municipality’s 2022 annual meeting to a potentially safer date later in the year.
and is considering S.222 which would allow:
(1) a person shall not be required to collect voter signatures in order to have the person’s name placed on the ballot as a candidate for a local election that is held at a 2022 annual municipal meeting.
(b) any school district article of agreement that requires the ballots of member municipalities to be commingled by the district, the legislative body of a school district may vote that ballots for the 2022 annual district meeting shall not be commingled before counting. The ballots may be counted by each
member town and the results reported to the school district clerk for determination of the official district-wide results.
S.222 hasn’t been sent to the governor yet. This bill allows for the temporary suspension of a designated physical meeting location.
|S.223||An act relating to authorizing temporary elections procedures for annual meetings in the year 2022|
|S.222||An act relating to authorizing temporary Open Meeting Law procedures in response to COVID-19|
|S.172||An act relating to authorizing alternative procedures for 2022 annual municipal meetings in response to COVID-19|
Secretary of State Jim Condos and Deputy Secretary Chris Winters Launch Elections ‘Myth v. Fact’ Page
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos and Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters launched an Elections ‘Myth v. Fact’ page on theSecretary of State’s website in an effort to inoculate voters from election related disinformation stemming from baseless conspiracy theories surrounding elections.
This resource is being released in conjunction with the launch of the #TrustedInfo2022 campaign by the National Association of Secretaries of State. #TrustedInfo2022 is a bipartisan effort to combat election disinformation by promoting trusted, official sources like the Vermont Secretary of State’s office.
The ‘Myth v. Fact’ page on the Secretary of State’s website is divided by category, based on some of the more common baseless claims made about U.S. and Vermont elections. The page will be updated as a resource to Vermonters as we enter the 2022 election season, and beyond.
The Secretary of State’s Office encourages all Vermonters to reach out to their local election officials (Town Clerks are a great resource!) or to the Secretary of State’s Office with questions about how elections are administered in Vermont and to, please, think before you link!
Schools and COVID, Pupil Weighting and Vermont’s Education Finance System
The Pupil Weighting Implementation Task Force issued an incomplete final report on December 17th. Stakeholder concerns about the December 17th report, including whether or not new recommendations would violate students civil rights, were held at bay while final calculations that had been made by the Task Force were requested from the nationally recognized education finance scientists from Rutgers and UVM that assessed the current equity of Vermont’s formula. That report was issued this week, validating stakeholder concerns. I will ask for a public hearing on the final recommendations now that the tbd information in the requested memo has been received by the Task Force. In addition, districts that have been harmed in this process need to have their voices heard and be invited to participate in the correction of this 20 year injustice, and I will be working to ensure concrete actions to stop ongoing harm to students, districts and taxpayers is brought forward this year.
Last week House and Senate Leadership decided to send various pieces of the recommendations from the Weighting Task Force Implementation Plan to different committees to debate and discuss. According to a Vermont School Boards Association webinar, the House Ways and Means Committee anticipates receiving all of the work and passing out final legislation from their committee. In anticipation of that, the committee will be talking about education finance on Thursday mornings from 9 – noon. The sessions will be recorded and can be viewed on YouTube.
Many thanks to our local boards throughout the Valley and Southern Vermont that are working so hard to correct this 20 year injustice to our students, communities and taxpayers. We have made a lot of progress, and the work continues.
The Agency of Education (AOE) issued Updated Advisory Memos and Testing Protocol:
As part of the transition to the new program, the AOE and Department of Health (DOH) have updated two advisory memos:
- Advisory Memo: COVID-19 Prevention and Mitigation Measures for Winter 2022 (replacing the fall version)
- Advisory Memo: Recommendations for Contact Tracing (RESCINDED)
The AOE and DOH also issued the following protocol:
Public hearing on Vermont’s teacher and State employee pension systems: The Vermont Pension Benefits, Design and Funding Task Force has published its report, including recommended changes to the pension and retirees’ health systems. The report can be found at https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Legislative-Reports/WRebecca-WassermanPension-Task-Force-Final-Report-and-Recommendations-January-20221-10-2022.pdf
The Senate Committee on Government Operations will hold a public hearing regarding Task Force recommendations on Tuesday, January 18, 2022 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to register to speak at the hearing and/or submit written testimony. The Committee encourages the public to review the Task Force’s Final Report before testifying. Anyone interested in testifying must sign up in advance of the hearing through the following online form: https://legislature.vermont.gov/links/pension-benefits-public-hearingInstructions on how to access and participate in the hearing will be sent once you have signed up for the hearing. Testimony time will be limited to two minutes per person. To submit written testimony, please e-mail an MS Word file or PDF file to firstname.lastname@example.org.The public hearing will be available to watch live on YouTube at the following link: https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/streaming/senate-government-operations For more information about the format of these events, contact Mike Ferrant at email@example.com.
Amending Vermont’s Constitution: Proposition 2
Public Hearing Montpelier, Vermont
The House Committee on Government Operations will hold a public hearing on Proposal 2, proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Vermont regarding the prohibition on slavery and indentured servitude, on Thursday, January 20, 2022, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the House Chamber and on Zoom.
Members of the public are invited to testify regarding the Legislature’s work on Proposal 2. Individuals wishing to testify may do so in person or by zoom. Please register to testify at https://legislature.vermont.gov/links/proposition-2-public-hearing and please specify if you intend to testify in person or by Zoom.
In order to ensure there is enough time for everyone to speak, we are asking that remarks be no longer than five minutes. We welcome people to submit testimony via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate in the subject line Proposal 2 Public Comment.
If you plan to attend and need accommodations to participate, please contact the Sergeant at Arms at 802-828-2228 by January 15.
The Reapportionment of Vermont’s House and Senate Districts
Today the House voted to consider both the majority and minority redistricting maps that the non partisan Legislative Apportionment Board proposed changes which includes a set that does away with all two member districts and a set that preserves two member districts. The work now goes to the House Government Operations Committee. My vote on the final maps will rely almost exclusively on the information that I receive from each town in our district. If you have concerns about the proposed maps, please first be in touch with your Town Clerk and Board of Civil Authority to find out when and how they will be weighing in with the legislature.
2022 Bills Sponsored by Rep. Sibilia
|H.467||An act relating to extending the baseload renewable power portfolio requirement|
|H.511||An act relating to promoting housing in Vermont’s centers|
|H.518||An act relating to the creation of the Municipal Fuel Switching Grant Program|
|H.552||An act relating to transportation initiatives to reduce carbon emissions|
|H.566||An act relating to the establishment of the Vermont Forest Future Program|
|H.581||An act relating to rural economic development|
|H.582||An act relating to the creation of the Pipelines and Pathways Grant Program|
|H.584||An act relating to the creation of an antiracist education certification|
|H.585||An act relating to reapportionment|
|H.609||An act relating to technical corrections to Title 16|
|H.628||An act relating to amending a birth certificate to reflect gender identity|
|H.673||An act relating to permits for overweight and overlength motor vehicles|
|H.674||An act relating to requiring the removal of snow and ice from vehicles operated on public highways|
|H.678||An act relating to legislator compensation and benefits|
Noteworthy legislative items:
Brattleboro Reformer: Surge in COVID cases has lawmakers making remote return
Rutland Herald: Rural caucus unveils omnibus bill to help forest industry
Latest OpEds and Blog Posts
- Rep. Sibilia: 1/6/2022 COVID-19 Updates
- Rep. Sibilia: A look at the 2022 Legislative Session
- Rep. Sibilia: Join Team Schools and Hospitals in 2022!
Stay in touch and keep track of the legislative session
Join me on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 6 pm when I will be zooming with the Wardsboro Library from the statehouse or the 3rd Saturdays at 11 am when I host virtual office hours and you can join here or by calling +1 646 558 8656 Meeting ID: 734 376 857 Passcode: 003089.
As always, if you have suggestions, concerns or critiques please be in touch so we can schedule time to discuss. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or email@example.com. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com
Rep. Laura Sibilia Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham