Budget, Taxes and Act 46 public hearing

“We always hear about the rights of democracy, but the major responsibility of it is participation”
~Wynton Marsalis
April 1, 2017  
Public Hearing on possible changes to Act 46: The Senate has passed S.122, which would make modifications to Act 153 and Act 46.  The bills stated purpose is to provide increased flexibility for school district mergers.

The House Education Committee will hold a public hearing on S.122 on Tuesday evening, April 4, 2017.  The hearing will be held in room 11 at the State House in Montpelier from 5:30-7:30 PM.Witnesses may begin signing up at 5 PM for time to speak.  Testimony will be limited to three minutes per person with witnesses speaking in the order of sign up.  The Committee will also accept written testimony.  Testimony and questions may be directed to:

Marjorie Zunder, Committee Assistant, House Education Committee
mzunder@leg.state.vt.us

802-828-2258

This is an important opportunity for boards and members of the public to share information that can assist the House Education Committee as they consider the changes the Senate has suggested and whether or not to accept those changes and whether or not to make additional changes themselves. 

This is an important hearing. Testifying is easy.  Consider writing out your three minutes of testimony, and also consider framing it the form of a suggestion.  What could the legislature do that would make the job of improving opportunities for students easier?  If you do plan to come up and testify, please send me an email or text to let me know so I can plan to meet up with you.

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Important Wardsboro Meeting also happening on April 4th:

Wardsboro has scheduled a re-vote on the Dover/Marlboro/Wardsboro Act 46 merger articles to be held on May 1, 2017.  The board has warned the following meetings:

April 4, 2017 @ 6:30 p.m. at Wardsboro Elementary School – regularly scheduled school board meeting which will be attended by Brad James and Donna Russo-Savage from the Agency of Education.  Brad is a long time AOE staffer and Donna literally wrote Act 46 when she was employed as one of the lawyers for the legislature.  This will also be a good opportunity for Wardsboro residents to get answers to questions they have prior to the re-vote.

April 24, 2017 @ 6:30 p.m. at the Wardsboro Town Hall (public forum specifically for Act 46 reconsideration vote)

An abundance of information, previously posed questions and answers, and the proposed merger articles can be found at http://wcsu-committee.blogspot.com/

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This past week the House passed the tax bill unanimously – raising virtually no new taxes, but banking on increased enforcement for a small amount of funding. There was nearly unanimous support for the budget which increased by 1%.  The budget was largely uncontroversial with the exception of a study on education spending.  Rep. Heidi Scheuermann from Stowe and I, both proponents of property tax reform, spoke at length in opposition to this proposed study which calls for identification of cost drivers in education and legislative proposals to address the cost drivers.  Rep. Scheuermann spoke to dozens of studies which have been done on cost drivers in the past and called for action on the funding formula.  I spoke to the statutory definitions that make per pupil spending the definition of equity of opportunity called for in Brigham and also called for action on the funding formula.  Our request to strike the study received tri-partisan support but was was ultimately defeated 86-42.

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Thank you to all who have been contacting me on issues impacting or interesting you individually and our communities collectively.  I want to take a moment to share a few thoughts on particular bills I have heard from a number of folks on:

H.422 An act relating to removal of firearms from a person arrested or cited for domestic assault.  This bill passed the House 78-67.  This bill was initially troubling for me.  I am a strong supporter of our Constitution, but also know very well the danger and unpredictability in domestic violence situations.   Ultimately I voted against this measure because the law basically changed only one thing, whether or not a judge was contacted prior to removing a firearm after a crime had been committed which did not convince me made anyone safer and did infringe on due process for the accused.

H.170 An act relating to possession and cultivation of marijuana by a person 21 years of age or older.  Voters may recall I voted against last years (very different) marijuana legislation.  I’m convinced legalization will happen, but as long as it is still illegal federally, Vermont legislation needs to thoroughly consider taxation, regulation, impaired driving and youth prevention in order for me to consider voting for it.  This past week H.170 came to the floor for a vote.  I made a motion to send it to the Human Services Committee for additional considerations on youth prevention, which was agreed to.  My sense is the bill may yet emerge for a vote in the House.  If a vote passes the House it is expected to pass the Senate which overwhelming approved last years bill.

H.316 An act relating to renewable energy goals for Vermont’s total energy consumption.  This legislation seeks to put Vermont’s renewable energy goals into law, that is that we will provide 90% of our energy by renewable resources by 2050.  I am not opposed to this legislation, which was also introduced in the Senate.  The bill is in my committee for consideration this year or next, along with about 30 other bills.  We have taken zero testimony on this bill, and that will definitely happen prior to us taking it up.  Given that the session is 3/4 over, the chances for this bill this year are pretty slim.   I was surprised to be contacted by a number of constituents asking me for action on this bill, notifying me that VPIRG had been persistently contacting them and urging them to contact me.  VPIRG is the largest nonprofit consumer and environmental advocacy organization in Vermont.  They are in the statehouse every single day, and in my committee more days then not.  To the best of my knowledge, they never even asked our Committee Chair, never mind me, if he would take this legislation up this year.  VPIRG does some good work including grassroots outreach.  Unfortunately, this is not my first experience with them misleading my constituents – unnecessarily I might add.  Thank you to the folks who reached out to me to ask me about this!

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We are starting to hear talk of coming back in October to address federal impacts on the Vermont budget.  There may be significant impacts to healthcare, education and environmental programs.   As soon as more is known definitively, I will share that information.

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I am honored to represent you in the Vermont Legislature.  In order to do so effectively, I need to hear from you about ideas, issues or opportunities.   My cell phone is 802-384-0233 and my email is lhsibilia@gmail.com.

Please stay in touch, and stay engaged,

 

Rep. Laura Sibilia
State Representative
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham
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2017 Town Meeting update

Town Meeting Update March 2017

presentation1It’s an honor to represent you in our State Legislature and to communicate the activities of the General Assembly to you in this Town Meeting update.

BUDGET: Governor Scott has provided a 7.93B budget to the Legislature which outlines his priorities for the state.  Included were increases for early childhood education, higher education, workforce training and housing.  The Governor proposed paying for cradle through college services through the state’s education fund, proposed increased efficiencies and effectiveness opportunities through combining the agencies of Commerce and Labor as well as the Liquor and Lottery Commissions.  These proposals have been met with varying degrees of pushback in the Legislature,including a significant increase proposed to the property tax and some concerns about ensuring worker protections.  I have voiced my opposition to both the Governor’s office and to our house leadership regarding increases to the property tax resulting from added services being paid for out of the education fund. The House Appropriations Committee has been working through the proposals and has hosted public hearings around the state to gather feedback.  We will vote on the House’s proposed budget in the coming weeks, and then the process will move to the Senate.

EDUCATION:  Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcomb has been reappointed by Governor Scott to lead the Agency of Education.  ACT 46 Many legislators in the House support consideration of a number of changes to Act 46, including clarity around alternative structures and increased time for districts, through H.15.  There has been resistance by the education committees toward making any changes to Act 46 prior to Town Meeting when a number of merger votes will take place, but the Senate Education Committee has been working on a bill that would increase Act 46 timelines if certain criteria are met and provided more flexibility in establishing a side by side district.  Education Finance I have been named to an Education Finance Committee Speaker Mitzi Johnson has established.  We have been told that our goal is to produce options for changes to the financing mechanism for next year.  This year, we have at least six different education finance proposals.  Along with Rep. Olsen, Rep. Long and Reps. Gannon, I have co-sponsored H.183  which proposes a temporary funding solution for school districts with declining student enrollment like Twin Valley and Leland and Gray.  I have also proposed H.274 which asks the Agency of Education to make a recommendation on the addition of a school district population density factor to the weighting factors used to determine equalized pupil counts, an outline of the minimum high schools located in rural Vermont should be required to have, and an opinion on the consequences of schools in rural Vermont closing.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: New Committee  This year the house created a new committee, Energy and Technology, to provide greater focus for both telecommunications and IT projects.  This is the committee I have been placed on for the next two years.  Act 248a We have been working on H.250 which reauthorizes Act 248a for three more years.  248a was enacted to provide an easier means of erecting telecommunications technology then Act 250.  My colleague Rep. Yantachka has written a helpful brief history of Act 248a.  Telecom Plan I’ve also introduced H.347 which seeks to have the Vermont 10 year Telecommunications Plan developed in consultation with Education, Healthcare and Public safety agencies, in addition to Commerce.  Locally I have been working with the Department of Public Service and CoverageCo, a company contracted to delivery limited cellular services to communities isolated during T.S. Irene.  Both Readsboro and Whitingham have these sites operational, though in some cases the placement has not been optimal.  Wardsboro was to have two sites which to date have not been installed.  We are working with the company to do some Town Meeting surveying to better inform next steps.  Along with Rep. Chip Conquest, I’ve introduced H.459, a bill looking to help municipalities finance telecommunications infrastructure projects.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Much of this year’s focus in economic development is on workforce training and recruitment needs and career and technical training.  There are also a number of communities who are looking to lift the limit on the number of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) Districts in the State.  TIFs are a municipal infrastructure financing tool, used widely throughout the country.  In Vermont, almost all TIFs exist in Chittenden County, and there is a ban on establishing any new districts.  In my committee we have been looking at what impact energy storage can have both on helping us achieve our renewable energy goals and on providing more stability to the energy grid.  Our neighbors are getting ahead of us in developing storage which could have negative impacts for Vermont ratepayers in the future.

ON THE HORIZON:   Paid family leave insurance program, $15 minimum wage, marijuana decriminalization, and a fight over how to pay for the cleanup of Lake Champlain.

FEDERAL IMPACTS ON STATE:  There are a number of federal impacts to workforce, education, healthcare that are being carefully monitored by both Governor Scott’s Administration and the Vermont Legislature.  It is not clear how our budget, heavily dependent on federal funding, may be impacted by changes to healthcare.   Working with Governor Scott, both the House and Senate have bills which address possible over reaches by the federal government with our law enforcement personnel and with the collection of personal information.  H.228 has passed the Senate 30-0 and is likely to be voted on in the House this week.  More information on what these bills do and do not do can be found on my website www.laurasibilivavt.com 

I look forward to seeing folks at town Meeting and over the town Meeting week legislative break.  As always, don’t hesitate to call me 802-384-0233 or email if I an answer questions or be of assistance.

Kind regards,

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

 

2017 Windham-Bennington District Town Meeting Information

2017 Windham-Bennington District Town Meeting Information

Times and locations for our districts Town Meeting and Australian Ballot items are belowAct 46 Australian ballot votes and other notable Town Meeting education articles are in green.   On Monday night March 6th, I’ll be traveling to all of the Bennington County Towns, starting with Searsburg, then Stamford, then ending in Readsboro. On Tuesday March 7th, town Meeting day, I’ll be accompanied by Windham County Senator Becca Balint as I travel to our Windham County Towns beginning with Wardsboro’s Town Meeting, then Dover and ending in Whitingham.

Additional INFORMATIONAL meetings:

  • Twin Valley Joint School District Informational Meetings will be held on Tuesday February 28th at 7 pm at Twin Valley Elementary in Wilmington and on Thursday March 2nd at 7 pm at Twin Valley Middle high School in Whitingham
  • Dover, Wardsboro and Marlboro Act 46 Study Committee final meeting on Monday March 27th at Dover Town Hall (next to the Dover Free Library) at 6:30 PM
  • Dover Candidates Forum Tuesday February 28th at 6:15 pm Dover Town Hall
  • Dover Pre-Town Meeting Tuesday February 28th at 7:00 pm Dover Town Hall

Stamford

Stamford Elementary School
Town Meeting: Monday March 6th at 7 p.m. Warning
School District Meeting: Monday March 6th at 7:30 pm Warning
Australian Ballot: Tuesday March 7th at 10 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

  • Stamford town officers
  • Stamford school district officers

Readsboro

Readsboro School Auditorium
Town and School District Meeting: Tuesday March 6th at 7:00 p.m. Warning
Australian ballot: Tuesday March 7th at 10 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

  • Readsboro town officers
  • Readsboro school district officers

Searsburg

Searsburg Town Office
Town and School District Meeting: Tuesday March 6th at 7:00 p.m.

Wardsboro

Wardsboro Town Hall
School District Meeting: Monday March 6th at 6:30 p.m.
Town Meeting: Tuesday March 7th at 9 a.m. Warning
Australian ballot open 10:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.

  • Act 46 merger
  • Wardsboro town officers
  • Wardsboro school district officers
  • Unified School District officers

Dover

Dover Town Hall on Dover Common
Town and School District Meeting: Tuesday March 7th at 10 a.m. Warning
Australian ballot open 10:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.

  • Act 46 merger
  • Dover town officers
  • Dover school district officers
  • Unified School District officers

Whitingham

Twin Valley Middle/High School
Town Meeting: Tuesday March 7th at 10 a.m. Warning

  • Article 32: Shall the town raise and appropriate 100,000 to the litigation fund in the event we need to litigate with the state due to the inequality of the education tax

School District Meeting: Tuesday March 7th at 10 a.m Warning
Australian Ballot: Tuesday March 7th at 10 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Govenor Scott’s budget recommendations

Governor Scott released his first recommended state budget for Vermont today.  He prefaced his comments by pointing to Vermont’s shrinking workforce as our single largest obstacle – I wholeheartedly agree.  His budget proposed a massive realignment of our education system to include early education and childcare as well as post secondary education, and innovative realignments at the Agency of Comerce and Department of Commerce.  True to his word, he delivered a budget without an increase in taxes or fees, and which takes a fresh look at how government is best organized to serve Vermonters. It is the second part that I most appreciate, because we can’t level fund and protect the most vulnerable if we don’t examine how we are currently operating for opportunities to innovate.

The Governor has proposed a radical relook at our education system.  He has proposed funding school districts at their FY 2017 district spending levels and holding median property tax bills to their current FY 2017 levels.  I know at least one of my rural districts, currently looking at a .50 property tax increase despite cutting their budget by 750K, would very much like for this proposal to be possible.  The Governor has also asked school boards, a number of whom have already finalized their budgets, to go back and sharpen their pencils in order to come back with level funded budgets.  In order to accommodate that work, the Governor has proposed that all school budgets be voted on on May 28th, four months from today’s budget address.  I hope to meet with the Administration in the coming days to understand how they envision this working with the myriad pending Act 46 votes and whether or not they are supporting an extension of any of the Act 46 deadlines as a result of this proposal.  

Governor Scott has also proposed significant additional programs for Vermont’s property taxpayers to fund.  We do not currently have an education system that can be easily modified to do what the Governor has recommended and maintain equity.  The system we do have is in the process of a massive and historic reorganization.  Here is a link to the Governor’s budget recommendations. I will be reading these recommendations with an open mind, remembering that Vermont students have equal protection under the law provided for them in the Vermont Constitution and that the property tax burden is largely considered to be untenable at current rates.

The Governor has also proposed that non-Medicaid eligible clients be able to bypass the Vermont Health Connect system to enroll with the healthcare provider of their choice, needed increases in funds for opiate treatment, investments in workforce housing, closing the Windsor work camp, a scholarship program for Vermont National Guardsman, and an entrepreneurial reorganization of Vermont’s Commerce and Labor entities.

The House Appropriations Committee has announced a series of public hearings on the Governor’s proposed budget. The full schedule is linked here, but the Southern Vermont hearing will be Feb 13th in Bellows Falls at the Windham Antiques Center at 6 pm.  After reviewing the Governors recommend budget, consider either attending this hearing, or submitting written comments.  Do you love the Governor’s proposals, or think you have a better idea?  It actually does matter and your voice will be considered.

State Board hearing on independent schools, updates on Act 46 and telecommunications

5988599The State Board of Education is holding a public meeting this Monday December 12th (tomorrow!)  at 6PM at the Riley Center at Burr & Burton Academy in Manchester. The purpose of the hearing is to give the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed amendments to the approval of independent schools. I will be attending this hearing as will my fellow Deerfield Valley representative Rep. Ann Manwaring and her successor Rep-elect John Gannon.

If you are unable to attend and provide comment, it is possible to provide comment to the State Board of Education for review at: SBE.PublicComment@vermont.gov ;  specify “SBE Rule 2200 Series” in the subject line of the email.

State Board of Education Chair Stephan Morse issued a statement about the proposed rule changes in late November.

Bennington County Senators Dick Sears and Brian Campion recently addressed the controversy

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ACT 46 Update – Wardsboro, Dover, Marlboro

Click here to read the full 30-page Report & Articles of Agreement prepared by the Act 46 Elementary Study Committee for Dover, Marlboro and Wardsboro.  Instructions for HOW TO COMMENT.

Next Meeting:
January 5th, 2017, Marlboro Elementary School, 6:30pm. Open Public Meeting. Agenda to follow.
Time to decide! Over the next several weeks the Committee Members are scheduling six public information sessions to give voters many opportunities to discuss what will be on the ballot when they go to vote in March, 2017 at Town Meeting Day. Voters, parents of school children, and interested residents may go to any of these meetings in any of these towns. The meetings will help voters understand what happens if the articles are approved and what happens if they are not.  The schedule is as follows:
  • January 12  6:30pm – 8pm Marlboro Elementary School
  • January 19  6:30pm – 8pm  Dover Town Hall
  • January 23  6:30pm – 8pm  Wardsboro Town Hall
  • February 2  6:30pm – 8pm Wardsboro Town Hall
  • February 13 6:30pm – 8pm Marlboro Elementary School
  • February 27 6:30pm – 8pm Dover Town Hall

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  Legislative Briefing  

All members of the Legislature were able to attend a one day pre-session briefing regarding the economic outlook, revenue projections, All-Payer model for health care, and implementation of the Clean Water Act.

The most serious issue continuing to plague our state are our demographics.  Vermont has the lowest birth rate in the country.  We have also seen a steady decrease in the prime child bearing age population.  The most significant effects of this can be seen in our declining student population and in the unfilled demand for professional and skilled workers our employers are experiencing. Look for private and public measures at the state level and in the Southern Vermont Zone to begin to directly address reversing population loss and employer recruitment. This is not a Vermont specific problem, but a rural America problem. For those who may be interested in the broader context of this challenge this is a great read with a lot of data. America: This Is Your Future

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Telecommunications:  There is a lot happening right now with phone and internet service across Vermont and our district.  As you may have read, Fairpoint is being sold to Consolidated Communications out of Illinois.  Fairpoint is down to about 1/3 of the landline phone customers it had when it first purchased Vermont’s landlines from Verizon.   The purchase will require the Public Service Board to issue a Certificate of Public Good which will take some time.  Important questions likely to be asked during that process include the new companies experience running 911 systems, what happens to Vermonters currently employed by Fairpoint, and what the new companies plans are with regard to broadband improvements/expansion.  In related news, the Public Service board has recently issued a decision in a nine year old open docket regarding Comcast and their VOIP (voice over IP) service.  Traditional telephone service is subject to quality regulation by the Department of Public Service.  VOIP has NOT been subjected to that same regulation, but appears that the Public Service Board believes they should be.  

In federal telecom grant related matters, reports from Whitingham indicate a number of new residents are able to access the VTel Wireless Internet service, funded by VTel’s $100M+ federal funded stimulus award in 2009.  Good news.  Unfortunately this is still not so in Readsboro, parts of Wardsboro, Dover and Searsburg.  Expect to hear more on this issue in the very near future.  Locally, I have also received complaints about another federally funded project, intended to provide cell service in towns isolated during T.S. Irene,  Obviously there is work to do, but I am encouraged by the organizing and planning happening on the ground here.  Recently we have seen those local efforts result in a planned wireless internet expansion in Readsboro. I look forward to continuing to work on these issues with our towns during the upcoming Legislative Session.

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Great southern Vermont resource developed and managed by locals:   Searsburg/Woodford Road Conditions  This is a Facebook page where eyewitness reports, videos and current conditions reporting are available for those who need to travel Route 9 between Wilmington and Bennington.  Highly recommended!

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As always, if you need help or assistance don’t hesitate to call me at 384-0233 or email at lhsibilia@gmail.com.

SoVT All-Payer presentation, Minter and Scott holding forums in the Valley

There are a couple of important opportunities for you to weigh in on our state’s future happening in Southern Vermont in the next two weeks – I encourage you to attend those events you can, ask questions, and share your experiences.
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Draft all-payer waiver agreement presentations
Southern Vermont Forum announced
  • Tuesday, Oct. 11, 4-6 p.m. CVPS/Leahy Community Health Education Center, Rutland Regional Medical Center, 160 Allen Street, Rutland
  • Wednesday, October 12, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. Brattleboro Retreat Conference Room, 16 Anna Marsh Ln, Brattleboro
A public forum will be held with Al Gobeille, Chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board, Governor Peter Shumlin, Lawrence Miller, Chief of Health Care from the Governor’s Office, and Robin Lunge, Director of Health Care Reform to present a draft of the All-Payer Model, Vermont’s  health care reform proposal. The draft proposal is under review and is expected to be amended before it receives the final approval of Governor Peter Shumlin, Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen, Chairman Gobeille, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) . The forum is designed to present the plan to the public and those involved in Vermont’s health care system, and to take questions and comments from the audience.

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Meet with Laura in Stamford 

Wednesday October 12th in Stamford at 7 pm at the Stamford Elementary School gym.  Looking forward to meeting with residents in Stamford to discuss the upcoming legislative session.  Hope to see you there!

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Economic Forums with candidates for Governor: Phil Scott and Sue Minter – hosted by the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation

 

October 13th – Q&A forum regarding the Vermont economy with gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott
Time: 1:30-2:30
Venue: Dover Town Hall (adjacent to the Dover Free Library)
Moderated by Joe Arnold and brought to you by the BDCC and the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce
October 19th – Q&A forum regarding the Vermont economy with gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter.
Time: 1:30-2:30
Venue: Memorial Hall – Route 9 Wilmington, Vermont
Moderated by Joe Arnold and brought to you by the BDCC and the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce

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Next Dover, Marlboro, Wardsboro Act 46 study committee meetings October 13th, 6:30 PM at Marlboro Elementary School.  Website posted with agendas, minutes and videos at http://wcsu-committee.blogspot.com/

Candidates Forums The Deerfield Valley Rotary and the Wardsboro Public Library have arranged two candidate forums where both I and my challenger will appear and answer questions from the audience.  This is an important opportunity to ask questions and hear the answers from both candidates.  Voters from Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro,

Whitingham should feel welcome to attend either or both of these forums.
  • Thursday October 20th 7 pm at the
    Dover Town Hall
  • Friday October 28th 7pm at the Wardsboro Public Library

VtDigger has just published a piece which does a great job reflecting both my priorities and the priorities of my challenger which you may wish to consider as you research our campaigns and positions in advance of these forums and election day November 8th.

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Support Laura’s re-election

Thank you very much for the financial, volunteer, sign hosting and letters to the editor support to date as I seek re-election to continue representing Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro and Whitingham. There is an important campaign finance reporting date coming up on Saturday Oct, 15th.

I have had to turn multiple campaign contributions away because as your independent state representative I continue to choose not to accept support from special interests, political parties or political action committees.

Unfortunately, special interests, political parties and political action committees are once again funding opposition to my campaign. And that is going to increase now with the end of the campaign in sight. I appreciate any level of support my constituents might be able to provide – every $10, $25 or $50 helps a lot! Donating is easy online here:https://laurasibiliavt.com/help-send-lauras-voice-to-montpelier/

Letter’s to the Editor are also a great way to show support and tell other voters why they should re-elect me.  Most of our towns read the Deerfield Valley News where support letters go to editor@vermontmedia.com with the exception of Stamford where folks would send support letters to the Berkshire Eagle directed to news@berkshireeagle.com

As always, if you need help or assistance don’t hesitate to call me at 384-0233 or email at lhsibilia@gmail.com.

Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
State Representative
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Legislative updates and upcoming candidate forums

October 3, 2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

A few legislative updates and some upcoming candidate events:

Act 46
I recently posted an update about Act 46 and education reform taking place in the Valley.  This post includes links to the law, guidance from the AOE, and updates from other parts of Vermont, and so I am posting it again to maintain that link to information for voters, taxpayers and parents.  Readers may have recently read in this past weeks Deerfield Valley News that the draft articles of agreement submitted by the WSSU have been sent back for further development. I have been in touch with the Agency of Education, the Vermont School Boards Association and elected and contracted supervisory leadership regarding next steps for the districts.   There are significant untapped resources that are still available to provide assistance to the districts as they work to comply with the requirements of Act 46. I am working to help the supervisory union’s districts access them. Please stay involved in these historic and important conversations about the future of education in the valley.

The WCSU elementary school study committee has a website to track materials being considered, agendas and minutes http://wcsu-committee.blogspot.com/

Draft all-payer waiver agreement

On Wednesday of last week the Shumlin Administration announced they had reached an agreement with the federal government on a draft all-payer model for delivering healthcare.  In the current healthcare system, providers get paid for each service they give.  In an all-payer system, doctors will be paid monthly based on the health of the people they treat.
This is not the same as “single-payer” which references the number of entities (one public entity) paying healthcare providers.
On Friday the locations for three public forums were announced for this coming week, with Gov. Peter Shumlin, Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen and Al Gobeille, Chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board, to present a draft of the All-Payer Model. The draft proposal is under review and is expected to be amended before it receives the final approval of the Governor, Secretary Cohen, Chairman Gobeille, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) . The hearings are designed to present the plan to the public and those involved in Vermont’s health care system, and to take questions and comments from the audience.
  • Monday, Oct. 3, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Montshire Museum of Science Nonprofit Community Room, One Montshire Road, Norwich
  • Thursday, Oct. 6, 4-6 p.m. University of Vermont Recital Hall, 384 South Prospect St., Burlington
  • Tuesday, Oct. 11, 4-6 p.m. CVPS/Leahy Community Health Education Center, Rutland Regional Medical Center, 160 Allen Street, Rutland
When these dates for public comment were announced on Friday at 2:40 pm, I placed a call to the Governor’s office inquiring about the lack of notice, and also accessibility to Southern Vermonters.  If any new dates should be noticed, I will send those out.  If recent history has taught us anything it is that we should be thorough and thoughtful about changes to Vermonters healthcare.

Meet with Laura

It has been wonderful talking with you as I have been going out door to door during this campaign season, thank you for the time you are taking to tell me your concerns and hear from me about why I want to be re-elected as your state representative.

I have been out making my way through the district, and have also scheduled additional times for voters to talk with me in person. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and also tell me about issues or priorities you, your business or your town may have.

Questions at recent sessions have ranged from marijuana legalization to community policing, healthcare, school choice and taxes.  Next meet up sessions are:Wednesday October 5th in Wardsboro at 7 pm – Wardsboro Town Hall

Wednesday October 12th in Stamford at 7 pm at the Stamford Elementary School gym

Candidates Forums

 

The Deerfield Valley Rotary and the Wardsboro Public Library have arranged two candidate forums where both I and my challenger will appear and answer questions from the audience.  This is an important opportunity to ask questions and hear the answers from both candidates.  Voters from Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham should feel welcome to attend either or both of these forums.

  • Thursday October 20th 7 pm at the
    Dover Town Hall
  • Friday October 28th 7pm at the Wardsboro Public Library
Support Laura’s re-election

Thank you very much for the financial, volunteer, sign hosting and letters to the editor support to date as I seek re-election to continue representing Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro and Whitingham.

I have had to turn campaign contributions away because as your independent state representative I continue to choose not to accept support from special interests, political parties or political action committees.

Unfortunately, special interests, political parties and political action committees are once again funding opposition to my campaign. And that is going to increase now with the end of the campaign in sight. I appreciate any level of support my constituents might be able to provide – every $10, $25 or $50 helps a lot! Donating is easy online here:https://laurasibiliavt.com/help-send-lauras-voice-to-montpelier/

Letter’s to the Editor are also a great way to show support and tell other voters why they should re-elect me.  Most of our towns read the Deerfield Valley News where support letters go to editor@vermontmedia.com with the exception of Stamford where folks would send support letters to the Berkshire Eagle directed to news@berkshireeagle.com

As always, if you need help or assistance don’t hesitate to call me at 384-0233 or email at lhsibilia@gmail.com.

Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
State Representative
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham
The Official Vermont State Vegetable!

October 22, 2016  — Saturday
14th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival     

All Day   Live entertainment in Town Hall and outdoors

and Gilfeather Turnip Contest

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

9AM  Gilfeather Turnip Art show opens at the Library, 170 Main Street, closes at 1 PM

10 AM  Festival Opens – Indoor & Outdoor Vendors Booths, Farmers Market
10 AM  Turnip Cart Selling Fresh Turnips
10 to 11 AM  Coffee & Donut Kiosk
10 AM to Noon  Register Turnips for the Turnip Contest
11 AM  Cafe & outdoor kiosk open for lunch & soup take-out
Noon   Deadline to Enter and Judging of Turnip Contest
1 PM   Turnip Contest Awards announced in Town Hall

Rep. Manwaring endorses Sibilia for re-election

Ann has been a trusted friend and mentor for almost 20 years – I am grateful I was able to serve my first term while she was still in the House and I will miss her in the coming years.  I’m honored to have her endorsement.  Even though we have occasionally disagreed on policy, we have always been a united team in our dedication to high quality education, helping the people of our little valley towns and the great state of Vermont!

September 13, 2016
To the Editor:

Summer is over way too fast and it is now election season for real, and even though many of us believe that our national election can’ t be over soon enough, we do have local elections which are important to all of us.  Early voting has started where we can now ask our Town Clerks for absentee ballots either by mail or by stopping by the Town offices.

Laura and Ann at last weeks legislative issues forum in Dover

Laura and Ann discussing the upcoming session at last weeks legislative issues forum in Dover.

As you consider whom to vote for to represent you in the Vermont House of Representatives for the next two years, I would like to share with you that I support the re-election of Laura Sibilia to serve for another term Representing Voters in Dover, Wardsboro, Searsburg, Sommerset, Readsboro and Stamford and a portion of Whitingham.

Even before Laura was elected to Represent your District two years ago she and I had worked extensively on issues concerning Vermont’s education system, specifically issues that affect our small rural communities.  It won’t surprise any one reading this that Vermont public education and its financing framework is a complex system, and sometimes we were able to shape good things and sometimes the job was to keep bad things from happening. There is so much more work to do, and I have enormous respect for her knowledge, understanding and commitment to keep this issue in the forefront on her time and energy in Montpelier.

But that’s not all.  In addition she takes to Montpelier her considerable experience and skills around economic development in Windham and Bennington Counties.

Laura hit the ground running in her first term, and I believe the voters in her District would be well served by sending her back to Montpelier for a second term.  I am sorry I won’t be returning to Montpelier, but I hope to continue to work with her from home.

Thank your for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Ann Manwaring, Representing the neighboring

District of Halifax, Whitingham and Wilmington

Act 46 update– Rep. Laura Sibilia

Many will recall that Acts 60 of 1997 and Act 68 of 2003 were the result of the Vermont Supreme Court having struck down the previous state-funding system and directing the legislature to come up with a new system that would eliminate the inequities among the local school districts.  The legislature did this by establishing a statewide property tax to pay for the education of all students.  The rationale was that towns with wealthy grand lists – lots of businesses and second home owners – could spend more on their students then towns with very few businesses or second home owners on their grand list.  The financing mechanism created by Act 60 put in place put an equalized property tax of all properties in Vermont, income sensitized it for residents and over time the legislature has enacted policies to narrow the gap between education spending per pupil between communities, with the goal of promoting greater equity.

act46 bridgeAct 46, the “Unification” plan for school districts was passed during the 2015 session and its general premise was to reduce inequities across the state by asking individual districts that operate the same grades, to partner with their neighbors and form bigger units.  If you and I join our school boards together, now your students and my students become “our students” and we will ensure that “our students” have the same opportunities.  There are obvious questions here about why the massive increases in education spending spurred by Act 60 did not fix the inequity of opportunity problem that spawned the Brigham lawsuit.   While that discussion has by no means ended, it is not the subject of this column.   With this update I intend to provide parents, residents (full time and weekend) and businesses with information about how to keep track of the Act 46 education reform which is taking shape through our valley.

To start, I am maintaining a page with links about the law Act 46, guidance provided by the Agency of Education and the Vermont School Boards Association on my website at https://laurasibiliavt.com/act-46/

act 46 map

The Vermont School Boards Association maintains an interactive map of progress with links to Act 46 study committees work around the state http://www.vtvsba.org/#!act-46-map/q4i59

Act 46 implementation progress across Vermont is happening unevenly – since the passage of Act 46 there have been a number of district merger votes, but none yet in southern Vermont and only a few successful votes in the Northeast Kingdom.  This is likely due to a number of factors including topography, distance, population, economy, more variations in how schools operate and more variations in choice then in the Champlain Valley.  Though there have been no votes in southern Vermont, work is being done, and in our valley work has been underway since the passage of Act 46.

We have two Supervisory Unions for the greater Deerfield Valley area.  Windham Southwest Supervisory Union (WSSU) includes the joint contract districts of Wilmington and Whitingham which provide K-12 education for all of their students, Halifax, Readsboro and Stamford which maintain K-8 schools and offer school choice for students in 9-12 and Searsburg which has choice for students K-12.  Windham Central Supervisory Union (WCSU) includes Leland and Gray Union High School whose member towns Jamaica, Newfane, Brookline, Townshend and Windham all send their middle and high school students to.  Each of those sending schools also maintain a K-6 elementary school.  Also in Windham Central Supervisory Union are Dover and Wardsboro school districts which maintain K-6 schools with school choice for students 7-12, and Marlboro which operates a K-8 with choice fro grades 9-12.

The WSSU has submitted articles of agreement to the Vermont Agency of Education for Stamford, Readsboro and Halifax school districts to merge governance (boards and budgets).  If the Agency approves those articles, they will then be put to a vote in each town.  The WSSU vote is currently slated for this November.  You can monitor the WSSU activity at http://www.windhamsw.k12.vt.us/

Over the summer, two study committees have formed in the WCSU.  One is considering combining all of the boards and budgets of the Leland and Gray Union towns and the other is considering the consolidation of boards and budgets in Dover, Marlboro and Wardsboro.  These study groups are working towards a timeline that would have a vote in the towns at or around Town Meeting day in March 2017.  You can monitor the WCSU activity, including videotaped study committee meetings, at http://www.windhamcentral.org/home

In the WSSU and the WCSU there are also two non-operating districts, Searsburg and Stratton who have been engaged in discussions with other non-operating districts in other Supervisory Unions about consolidating their boards and budgets.

School districts that do not merge with another school district are required to propose they operate as an alternative district.  The State Board of Education has recently provided guidance for districts that are considering this path forward.  The requirements for proposing an alternative structure are stricter then proposing a merging of boards and budgets.  The guidance for districts that do not voluntarily merge can be found here http://education.vermont.gov/documents/edu-sbe-guidance-alternative-structures-act46-7-2016.pdf

With regard to the various levels of school choice that currently exist in the Valley, Section 4 of Act 46 specifically states that compliant districts cannot be forced to give up their existing school choice and that nothing in the Act is intended to take away school choice.  It is important to note that a school district’s voters still have the ability to decide to change or alter school choice.  The State Board of Education has elected to begin looking at the existing rules which allow independent and private schools to access public dollars.  The Vermont School Boards Association, of which I am a board member, has testified that independent schools should be required to be held to a number of the same standards as public schools.   A change in the rules of how independent/private schools can access public funding would require public meetings.   To monitor this discussion, watch meetings, read materials and minutes presented at meetings go to http://education.vermont.gov/state-board

Very important conversations and votes about how we think about and provide for the education of students in the Valley are happening.  There is no greater reflection of our community’s vitality and values then how we provide for our children’s education.  Please join me in participating in as many of these conversations as possible and ensuring the Valley maintains high quality education for all of our students.

 

Rep. Sibilia running for re-election to Vermont House

May 16, 2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

Serving my first two years as your representative in the Vermont House has been a privilege and an honor.  As an educationpanelindependent freshman legislator, unaffiliated with a political party, the learning curve was occasionally steep, always interesting and endlessly inspiring.  On your behalf, I worked hard every day to learn the legislative process, forge productive relationships with my colleagues, and use my experience and voice to assist our district, our neighbors, and our state.

My work ethic and willingness to work across the political spectrum on state and local challenges allowed me to be more effective than might otherwise be expected of an independent freshmen.  Regulatory initiatives I took a leadership or shared leadership role in include:

  • The Vermont House, as a body, has requested a federal audit of VTel federal telecom awards to determine why services promised to tens of thousands of Vermonters have not been delivered, especially in Southern Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom
  • Ensuring our towns have a representative to the state working group considering a purchase of thirteen TransCanada dams
  • Creation of a Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone and initiative to fund deepening economic development collaboration between Windham and Bennington Counties
  • Worked with other House and Senate colleagues to extend developing work on state budget accountability practices and metrics
  • Preventing an expedited, top down,  regional form of municipal governance from being imposed prior to gauging local municipal demand for regional government
  • Requiring a study of the adequate cost of providing an education to a Vermont student which has led to development of significant special education cost savings proposals
  • Ensuring that education cost containment measures were both meaningful and fair in that they required financial restraint from schools of all sizes, and not exclusively our smallest rural schools

There are numerous ongoing challenges that need significant work including ensuring health reform initiatives are functioning and properly budgeted for, monitoring the educational governance changes envisioned as part of Act 46 to make sure they  result in improved and equitable opportunities for all Vermont students and continuing to push for real property tax reform measures.  In addition, we need to prioritize the development of a continuous assessment, development, and investment program for connectivity for all Vermonters.  Future opportunity for existing and new Vermonters relies on our ability to sustain and grow a globally connected and low environmental impact economy.

salwayNext year will see a historical change in leadership of state government with a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, Senate President, and many long time House members retiring. I am running for re-election to the Windham-Bennington House seat and hope to work with this new leadership on these and other issues important to our district and to the state.   Over the course of the election season I look forward to being out in our towns and at local events hoping to hear from you on the issues most important to you, your family and your business.  You can keep track of what I am working on, or where I will be on my website http://www.laurasibiliavt.com and social media.

Thank you for your support, your questions and the knowledge you shared with me, about issues you care about, during the past two years.  As always, please be in touch with questions, comments or if I may be able to assist you in navigating our government systems for solutions to challenges at lhsibilia@gmail.com or cell 802-384-0233.