The 2023 legislative session is one third of the way through. Major bills on housing, childcare, education and climate change are on the move and details are included in this update. A press release on Hydro Quebec US finalizing its purchase of the Great River Hydro dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers.
I’d like to offer a special note of thanks to both Senators Hashim and Harrison who were with me at last weeks office hours in Dover. I will be holding online office hours next Thursday February 23, at 6 pm.
7th graders: Are you interested in serving as a legislative page next year? Each year a small group of young Vermonters are selected to work as legislative pages in the Vermont State House. Pages deliver messages for the members of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the various legislative offices. Serving as a page offers a unique opportunity to observe the workings of the legislature and to witness firsthand the often historic events in Montpelier. If you are interested, you can learn more here.
Goodbye to a friend of the Valley
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
We will be hearing the stories of how Betsy Reagan helped so many in the coming days and weeks. The Valley has lost a generous person who supported many community service organizations and brightened the lives of thousands of locals, visitors and weekend residents. One of the many community minded actions Betsy took that my organization benefited from happened immediately after Tropical Storm Irene, and the flooding of Wilmington. The Chamber staff and board had no place to meet and respond from. Betsy made space for us all at Dot’s of Dover, fed us, and allowed our staff and volunteers a place to work from. No fuss, no question, just immediately gave us space. She and her staff and volunteers also immediately began feeding the dozens of National Guard Troops based at Mount Snow.
Please join me in sending condolences to her family, friends and staff.
30×30 and 50×50 Plan
A bill that would put a goal in statute of permanently conserving 30% of Vermont’s land by 2030 and 50% by 2050 is currently being discussed in my new committee Environment and Energy. The goals will be central to a plan the the Agency of Natural Resources will be asked to create.
Proponents of the bill underscore the urgency of preserving biodiversity in light of changing climate and ongoing development by permanently conserving important existing connected habits. Opponents and others with questions about the bill worry about Vermonters ability to continue to work the land and where expected new Vermonters will be able to live.
Drafts and documents that have been shared with the committee can be seen here
Clean Heat Standard redux in the Senate
S.5 An act relating to affordably meeting the mandated greenhouse gas reductions for the thermal sector through electrification, decarbonization, efficiency, and weatherization measures is moving through the Senate and is expected to move to the House in the next month.
S.5 will regulate fossil fuels and require fossil fuel dealers to help their customers use less fossil fuels by weatherizing, or adding wood, pellet or heat pumps to their existing heating system.
Vermonters paid $1.00 more per gallon for heating oil this January then they did last year in January of 2022. Last year they paid $1.00 more then the year before in 2021.
Fossil fuel prices are unregulated and the product of a global fuel pricing market. The volatility in that market is hurting Vermonters fuel bills and Vermont’s smallest fossil fuel dealers.
The State of Vermont keeps track of pricing – you can see what pricing has done over the years here:
Major childcare bill under consideration
S.56: An act relating to child care and early childhood education has been introduced and is being taken up in the Senate. The bill seeks to ensure adequate childcare establishments and staffing exist for Vermont’s workforce. The bill introduced in the Senate :
- Replaces universal prekindergarten program with public prekindergarten education program
beginning in FY25 for children 4 year of age
- Establishes a property tax emption for property used to provide child care services
- Creates a tiered professional compensation standard for child care workforce in FY25
- establish the Noncitizen Child Care Assistance Program
Public Hearing on Housing
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs and the House Committee on General and Housing will hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 16, 2023, starting at 5:00 p.m.
The Committees will hear testimony concerning the state of housing in Vermont.
The hearing will be held in Room 267 of the Pavilion Building, located at 109 State Street, Montpelier, Vermont. Participation may be in-person or by video conference (Zoom).
Anyone interested in testifying should sign up in advance of the hearing through the following online form not later than 12:00 noon on February 15, 2023: https://legislature.vermont.gov/links/public-hearing-on-housing
When registering, prospective witnesses will be asked to select a topic category.
See the full press release with details here
Legislation introduced to align Carson v. Makin Decision and Vermont Constitution
This summer I wrote to constituents in the old Windham/Bennington District and the pending Windham-2 District that School Choice in Vermont is Changing due to the need to align our policies with both the US and Vermont Constitution.
A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would establish eligibility for taxpayer funding of K-12 Education.
S.66 “maintains historic community choice while modernizing Vermont’s public education system to align with both Vermont and US Constitutional requirements – Requires districts that do not maintain a high school or elementary school to designate up to three schools to serve as the public school or schools of the district and authorizes the payment of tuition to these designated schools.
The bill protects the integral role of historic academies in the Vermont public education system – Establishes criteria to determine whether a school is eligible for designation. To be eligible for designation a school must be:
- a public school in Vermont;
- a public school located outside of Vermont in a different state; or
- a recognized independent school that meets at least three of the following four criteria:
- The school serves as a regional CTE center.
- The school was established through the granting of a charter by the Vermont General Assembly.
- The school qualified as a public school under the definition of “public school” in effect on June 30, 1991.
- The school is an employer of teachers within the meaning of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Vermont.
The bill provides safeguards for students and taxpayers, while ensuring alignment with both Vermont and US Constitutional values, as well as accountability and transparency – Establishes the process for a school district to designate schools eligible for designation and authorizes a process by which a parent or guardian who is dissatisfied with the instruction provided at a designated school to request that the school board pay tuition to another public elementary or public high school selected by the parent or guardian.
Prohibits a district from paying the tuition of a student to any school or program other than a public school, a school eligible for designation, a tutorial program approved by the State Board, a therapeutic school, or an approved education program. Authorizes an appeal to the State Board for aggrieved persons.
The bill maintains the long-standing and critical role for therapeutic schools to ensure Vermont taxpayers can continue to support the needs of all students, as required by Vermont and Federal law – Establishes the definition of “Therapeutic school” as an private school that limits enrollment to students who are on an individualized education program (IEP) or plan under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and who are enrolled pursuant to a written contract between a local education agency (LEA) and the school. Payment for students at therapeutic schools is by contract.”
If this bill were to pass, Dover and Wardsboro’s River Valleys District will be required to designate up to three schools for their middle school and secondary students and the Stratton School District will be required to designate up to three schools for their elementary, middle and secondary students. It is my understanding that Burr and Burton will be eligible for designation as a secondary public school for both Districts.
As I promised in August, I will be working to keep voters appraised of the activity surrounding this bill. I am currently working to schedule community forums in each town to hear from residents and hope to have that schedule early next week.
Introduction to Ice Fishing with Vermont Department of Fishing and Wildlife
Join us to learn the basics of ice fishing! Topics covered will include safety, equipment, regulations and more, providing you with the skills to ice fish on your own! All equipment will be provided. Participants should dress for the weather and bring plenty of hot chocolate.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Retreat Meadows, Brattleboro, VT
Click here for more information and a full list of free ice fishing clinics around the state.
New bills that I have sponsored
H.173 This bill proposes to expand the statute prohibiting luring a child to also prohibit manipulating behaviors intended to facilitate sexual contact with a child.
H.176 An act relating to secondary enforcement of certain motor vehicle violations. This bill proposes to designate certain motor vehicle violations as violations that may only be enforced if a law enforcement officer has detained the operator of a vehicle for another suspected violation
H.209 This bill proposes to give students within a supervisory union the choice to attend an elementary school located within another school district within the same supervisory union, subject to capacity limitations determined by both the sending and receiving elementary school. This bill also proposes that no tuition will be charged by the receiving district.
H.228 This bill proposes to require students in Vermont public schools to complete a course on personal finance as a condition of being awarded a high school diploma. This bill also requires the State Board of Education to adopt standards for student performance in the content area of financial literacy and supervise the implementation of the required financial literacy course.
Reports I’ve read this week:
- Report Requested Under Section 21a of Act 60 (2021) on Mailing of Ballots in Primary and Municipal Elections and Voter Verification
- 2023 Report on Possible Revenue Sources for Universal School Meals
All of the reports the legislature has asked for and received can be found here
Monitor the bills I am sponsoring and recorded roll call votes.
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, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton, Wardsboro