Rep Sibilia: Week 3 of the 2023 Legislative Session

Good evening,

This week legislative priorities and the Governor’s priorities for the session continue to come into view. Yesterday we heard the Governor’s budget address for FY 2024.

There is a lot to see and hear when sitting in the House of Representative’s Chamber during the Governor’s Budget Address. Many members of the governor’s cabinet attend and sit in the house balcony. The Vermont Senate also joins house members in the chamber. As the governor speaks, there is polite clapping, enthusiastic clapping and cheering, silence, heads shaking in agreement or disagreement.

There some items I was really pleased to hear in yesterday’s budget address, and some items that were pretty discouraging. That’s really no surprise if you think about it, as no two people agree on everything – never mind a room of 250 people. In yesterday’s address, it was Governor Scott’s comments on Vermont welcoming immigrants and refugees that found the unifying common ground between parties, the House, the Senate, and his cabinet, sending almost everyone in the chamber to their feet in support. It is always a relief to me to see that level of agreement on a priority in government – it is a place to build from.

With compassion and courage, we can do our part to welcome those bold or desperate enough to leave their lives, and all they’ve ever known, behind to travel thousands of miles just to live the American dream.

GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT DELIVERS FISCAL YEAR 2024 BUDGET ADDRESS

In addition to my report last week on the legislative and administrative proposals for paid family leave; universal childcare, housing and climate change adaptation are also reportedly shared priorities between the two branches, though how to address the priority will see different approaches proposed. If we are all acting in good faith and working hard the odds are pretty good we will find more common ground. “Hope springs eternal” at the beginning of every two year biennium!

Senator’s Hashim and Harrison in the House Chamber at the conclusion of Governor Scott’s Budget Address yesterday. Both will be joining me at next month’s office hours in Dover at the Dover Free Library on Saturday, February 4th from 11-noon and Senator Harrison will join me virtually on Zoom Thursday February 16th from 6-7 pm.

Universal Childcare Report

While we do not yet have the governor’s proposal on childcare and the legislature has not released a bill, an important report supported by both has been released. Act 45 of 2022 requested a “financing study” to estimate the cost of achieving a high-quality childcare system with a well-compensated workforce, and a sliding-scale subsidy system capping family cost at 10 percent of family income. The study was required to also identify sources of stable long-term funding to cover the added cost of the expanded subsidies.

Vermont Early Care and Education Financing Study (RAND Report) pegged the annual cost across all of Vermont’s pre–school-age children for high-quality childcare with a well compensated workforce is estimated to total about $645 million. These costs would be paid for by a combination of family contributions and public funding at the federal, state, and local levels.

Report recommendations on funding sources:

  • a new 0.9 percent payroll tax
  • a 2.0-percentage-point increase in the sales tax
  • a new limited services tax of 9.9 percent
  • a new expanded services tax of 7.1 percent.

Housing

Three major bills on housing are on their way to being introduced from Rep. Seth Bongartz, Rep. Katherine Sims and Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale.. Here are the latest articles describing what it is expected those bills will contain:

Afforestation presentation given to my Committee on Environment and Energy this week

I was a little concerned by comments I read in VTDigger last week: Many second homeowners pay a lower tax rate than residents. Will the Legislature change that? and the discussion about differences in the residential and non residential tax rates in some towns in Vermont. There appeared to be a lack of understanding about the effects previous policies have had on property tax rates and no mention that two decades of deeply flawed progressive education tax policy – driven by the last attempt to tap second homeowner wealth in the 90’s (Act 60 and 68) – created the present unpredictable and unfair education system and property tax landscape for Vermont students, businesses residents & non residents. Many in our valley know how long we have fought to remedy that flaw by correcting pupil weighting after 20 years. Though we were finally successful in that effort, working with a large coalition from around the state, it will take years of a corrected formula before we see consistency and stability in property tax rates across the state.

There has been interest in creating a short term rental registry, assessing an unoccupied dwelling fee and other proposals to raise funds to address the current housing shortages. I don’t necessarily oppose those concepts, but the details matter. Thus far, I have been challenged to find the connection these potential policies make to the barriers I’ve seen to more housing, chiefly that we have underbuilt residential housing for decades, focused public funding and effort almost exclusively on low income subsidized housing, have refused to reform land use regulations that make building more expensive and complicated, have local zoning in many places that does not support more housing being built, and inadequate and inconsistent access to critical public infrastructure like water, sewer, broadband.


…those can be big issues for just regular citizens, and regular citizens run Vermont. That’s who runs Vermont. 

Laura Sibilia The Deeper Dig: Leveling the funding field for small towns

Comprehensive Review of Vermont’s Renewable & Clean Electricity Policy and Programs 

The Department of Public Service is currently reviewing the policies and programs related to renewable electricity to determine what changes are necessary to achieve state energy and climate goals. Input from the public is critical. There are opportunities for Vermonters to share their opinions and suggestions. 

Upcoming events!

1/13/23: Please join us to learn more about Vermont’s current electric system and attend one of the upcoming webinars.

  • What are the webinars about? The Department will explain where Vermont’s electricity comes from, what policies and programs support the use of renewable electricity, and provide information about the process to develop future programs and policies that will further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
     
  • Who might be interested? Ratepayers, energy committee members, students — anyone who wants to know where Vermont’s electricity comes from and what policies and programs support renewable electricity.
  • Webinar 1: Where Does Vermont’s Electricity Come From?
    • Topics: How does the electric system get power to our homes and businesses; what electricity is generated in Vermont; from where & what other sources of electricity do Vermont utilities have to buy to ensure the lights stay on?
    • Dates, times, & registration:
  • Webinar 2: Current Renewable Electricity Policies
    • Topics: Current policies and programs including the Renewable Energy Standard, Net-Metering, and the Standard Offer program and how they have helped support renewable electricity to date.
    • Dates,  times, & registration:
  • Webinar 3: Parking Lot Session
    • Topics: Topics to be covered will be added as we get closer to the date.
    • Dates, times, & registration:

Webinars will be recorded and made available on the Department’s website shortly after each event. 

Accessibility: Please request reasonable accommodations by calling the Department at 1-800-622-4496 or emailing PSD-REPrograms@vermont.gov. Please submit your request 10 calendar days in advance of the webinar.


Veteran’s Care

Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for free emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled


Legislative Reports:

The legislature asks for study committees and updates on many different policy areas. Here are a handful of just released reports released reports that I’ve read on the Worker Relocation Incentive Program Interim Report and the 2022 Basic Needs Budgets and VT Livable Wage and the 2023 Biennial Report on Solid Waste


News items:


Monitor the bills I am sponsoring and recorded roll call votes. This week I sponsored bills which propose to allow the immediate family of a deceased veteran to apply for the correction, completion, or amendment of a death certificate to accurately record that the death was caused or hastened by a service-connected injury or illness; require the Enhanced 911 Board to amend its rule governing outage reporting requirements to include an additional requirement that an originating carrier provide advance notification of any preplanned outage of voice service to the Enhanced 911 Board, the Department of Public Service, and to any affected subscriber of such voice service; make available from original manufacturers to consumers and independent repair providers the information, schematics, diagnostics, and repair manuals necessary to repair certain equipment and ensure the fair repair of agricultural equipment.

H.59An act relating to correcting or amending the death certificate of a military veteran
H.75An act relating to advance notification of preplanned outages of voice services
H.79An act relating to the Vermont Fair Repair Act
H.81An act relating to fair repair of agricultural equipment

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

Rep. Laura Sibilia – Dover, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton, Wardsboro




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