Rep. Sibilia: 2022 Session Update Week 3

Good evening,

The House completed it’s first week of meeting in person and allowing members with COVID-19 related challenges to participate remotely. The Senate is still meeting remotely and virtually no citizen witnesses or lobbyists were present in person at the statehouse this week, so the limited staff that were physically present were able to work out technology and room change challenges. I’m hopeful conditions will continue to improve and vaccinated and masked Vermonters will feel conditions are safe enough to return very soon.

This week I learned how to take my name off the sponsor list for a proposed change to the law. A colleague had sought my support for two pieces of education legislation, one of which I agreed to sign on to. The bill proposals included a ban on dual enrollment funding for students attending college classes out of state. I do support dual enrollment for students in border towns given our districts proximity to the MA border. I offer my apologies for not carefully reviewing the citations to those who noticed this error and were concerned.

Reapportionment and Legislative Redistricting

Delays in completing the census under the Trump Administration combined with the need to determine new districts for the 2022 elections Mook have shortened the timeline available for legislative reapportionment. It is VERY important that all of the towns in the Windham Bennington district (Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro and Whitingham) consider the proposed maps and provide written or virtual testimony to the Government Operations Committee on the towns disposition to proposed changes. Please also share that with me. There are two maps that were brought to the legislature by the Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB) which has now concluded its work and where the legislature will start. A majority map which contains only single member districts and an alternative map which keeps two member districts. The majority proposal takes the current Windham Bennington District and divides it into four other districts. The alternative proposal divides the district into five.

Here is a list of input I have received from towns, and consideration points for towns in the district:

  • A district needs to be made up of roughly 4,287 people.
  • 2020 Census changes in population total 4402 people living in the towns in our district. There is no constitutional imperative to add or subtract people from our district. The district could stay the way it is and meet the constitutional requirements.
  • This is not my district. This is the people’s district. The towns that make up the district need to make sense to you and your neighbors regardless of who your representative is.
  • Dover weighed in with the LAB opposing any changes to the current district.
  • Stamford weighed in with the LAB opposing being separated from Readsboro.
  • All Windham and Bennington County towns have been given an initial date of Thursday January 27th (see note below) to testify to the House Government Operations Committee. All of our towns can provide feedback on the two maps, and I hope you will.
  • The sooner I hear from your town’s Board of Civil Authority the more likely I am going to be able to help.
  • If your town needs help preparing testimony please reach out to me via email lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us or phone 802-384-0233

Hello House Colleagues,
Yesterday we pushed out the notices to Boards of Civil  (BCAs) that starts the process of holding hearings with towns across the state to learn what communities would like to see in the redistricting process. I’m reaching out to you today to let you know that we are mailing a physical letter to town offices and we’ve sent emails to all addresses we were able to obtain. Since a few of our email addresses are incorrect, and since we are in such a compressed timeline, I wanted to make this information available to you so you can share with BCAs within your districts.
Towns will be invited to testify in committee starting late next week with Bennington, Windham, Orange and Windsor County towns. The schedule of initial hearings is included below. Rest assured, we will make the time to hear from every BCA, so if your community is not yet ready to weigh in on the date their county hearing is being held, we will make time for them later.
On January 27, 2022: Bennington & Windham Counties, on January 28, 2022: Windsor & Orange Counties, on February 1, 2022: Addison & Rutland Counties, on February 2, 2022: Grand Isle, Franklin & Orleans Counties, on February 3, 2022: Essex & Caledonia Counties; Chittenden County, and on February 4, 2022: Lamoille & Washington Counties

The website with maps and current population can be accessed here:https://legislature.vermont.gov/reports-and-research/research/reapportionment/

The letter/email that was sent to BCAs is attached to this email. Feel free to share any and all of this information with your communities.

Sarah
Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, Chair of Government Operations she/her


Pupil Weighting and Vermont’s Education Finance System

This week a memo requested by the Task Force on Implementing the Pupil Weighting Factor Report was received in the House and Senate. The memo (linked below) discusses amounts of categorical aid funding needed for the reverse foundation formula “cost equity” proposal, and the pros and cons of this approach brought forward for further consideration by the Task Force.

Testimony on aspects of the incomplete Task Force recommendations has been ongoing in Senate Finance, Senate Education and House Ways and Means. There are many House and Senate members from around the state working on education finance and many engaged on correcting this injustice.

This week I met again with the Speaker of the House and other legislative leaders in the House to ask that the voices of districts who have been harmed for 20 years be featured in deliberations and next steps and that corrective be taken this year. Despite disappointing actions and testimony from a small group of legislators, to deny past or current harm has happened to students and communities in underweighted districts, I have been assured this issue is a priority this year. Please stay in touch with all of our legislators and the governor’s office on correcting this injustice this year.

Many thanks to our local boards throughout the Valley and Southern Vermont and Vermonters from the Kingdom, Winooski, Rutland and Burlington 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.

Accordingly, there is reason to believe that a shift to a categorical grant program will not substantively narrow existing gaps in spending, and educational opportunities (and by extension outcomes) among Vermont school districts. Using average costs in this way may also introduce new risks to cost containment, particularly in places where the grant amount exceeds what is necessary to provide an adequate education to a particular student need group or a given location.

Kolbe, Tammy, et al. Categorical Aid Memo to Hardy, Kornheiser January 11, 2022. Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office, https://ljfo.vermont.gov/assets/Uploads/ea20639359/response-to-request-categorical-aid-1_11_22-fina.pdf.

Governor Phil Scott proposes FY ’23 Budget

Governor Scott gave his sixth budget address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, presenting “a balanced budget that does not raise taxes while making historic investments to grow and strengthen the workforce, give kids more opportunities and help communities recover and thrive long into the future.”

The $7.7 billion budget includes unprecedented funds from the federal government and significant surpluses in both the general fund and education fund. The governor’s budget proposes major investments in housing, broadband, higher education, environmental protection and IT modernization. The House will now take testimony from the public on the budget and likely propose some changes.

“In my 21 years in public life, there has never been a more transformative moment,” said Governor Scott. “We have, within our grasp, the chance to combine good ideas, thoughtful legislation, and unprecedented financial resources into a better, brighter future – where there are good jobs, affordable homes, and every community is thriving; where every kid is getting the best education, whether they go to the largest school or the smallest; where families keep more of what they earn; and where a healthy and vibrant economy in all 14 counties allows us to protect the vulnerable and invest in the things we care about most. My friends, the budget I present to you today was built with these outcomes in mind, to make the most of this historic moment.”

from the Transcript from Governor Scott’s 2023 Budget Address

Public Hearing, Proposal 5: Proposed Amendment to the Vermont Constitution Regarding the Right to Personal Reproductive Freedom

The House Committee on Human Services will hold a public hearing on Proposal 5, proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Vermont regarding the right to personal reproductive freedom, on Wednesday, January 26, 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 5. Individuals wishing to testify may do so in person or by Zoom. Please register to testify at  https://legislature.vermont.gov/links/proposition-5-public-hearing. You must specify if you intend to testify in person or by Zoom.

To ensure there is enough time for everyone to speak, we are asking that remarks be no longer than two minutes. We welcome people to submit testimony via e-mail to testimony@leg.state.vt.us. Please indicate in the subject line Proposal 5 Public Comment.

If you plan to attend and need accommodations to participate, please contact the Sergeant at Arms at 802-828-2228 by January 21.


GOVERNOR ENCOURAGES VERMONTERS TO ORDER AT-HOME TESTS

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today strongly encouraged Vermonters to order at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests at covidtests.gov.

This Biden Administration’s initiative – which launched this week – is similar to a program piloted by the State. Through this new federal program, each household is eligible to receive four tests, which are expected to ship within 7-12 days of ordering. Supplies are limited. 

“Rapid at-home tests are a useful tool that will help us continue to move forward,” said Governor Scott. “Vermont has worked hard to gain supply of these tests, and I appreciate President Biden’s recent efforts to do the same. The USPS website is up and running now, but federal supplies remain limited, so Vermonters should act fast.”

 Any Vermonter without internet access can call the Governor’s Constituent Services Office at (802) 828-3333. “My team will help complete the online request form for you,” the Governor continued. 

 The federal effort is similar to the state of Vermont’s successful pilot partnership with the National Institutes of Health, which sent 350,000 tests to Vermonters. Many of these tests have already arrived at Vermonters’ homes.

 As the state awaits the arrival of an additional 150,000 tests it ordered for the pilot program, it is reevaluating the best use of these tests – including potentially allocating them directly to schools, child care programs and long-term care facilities – now that the general public has access to the new federal program.

Vermont is the national leader in both PCR testing and the distribution of at-home tests. Vermont has consistently performed the most PCR tests per capita of any state. Since late December, the State has also distributed about one million at-home tests directly to Vermonters, schools, child care programs, long term care facilities and other community partners.

States’ access to supplies of at-home tests continues to be a challenge. The Scott Administration will continue to work to acquire more, and the nation’s governors are working with the federal government to improve coordination in procurement and distribution.


New 2022 Bills Sponsored by Rep. Sibilia

H.691An act relating to establishing qualifications for the Adjutant and Inspector General

Noteworthy legislative items:

VTDigger: House approves $360 million spending package on housing, frontline worker bonuses and pension reform

Deerfield Valley News: State’s climate change efforts need to work for rural communities

WAMCFirst ever rural omnibus bill introduced in Vermont House


Latest OpEds and Blog Posts


Stay in touch and keep track of the legislative session

See what bills I have sponsored and voting record, or watch my committee hearings or Listen to VPR House Live Audio  or Watch House Live Video .

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 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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s