Sibilia Week 2 of the #Vermont legislative session:

Good morning!

Reports and notes of interest from the second week of the legislature below:

Department of Public Service creates wireless coverage maps and submits challenge to wireless coverage in Vermont

Montpelier—The Department of Public Service created an interactive map that shows the results of a drive test of mobile wireless coverage in the state. After reviewing providers’ maps that purport to show the extent of their coverage, the Department undertook a drive test of all major roads in the state to collect data and assess where mobile wireless service is actually available from a consumer perspective.  read more

Links are provided below to:

challenge map
VTel’s federally funded Wireless Open World (WOW) was to bring 4G/LTE wireless broadband to every un-served home and business in rural Vermont.

A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion.  What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont

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Help for federal workers

As a result of the partial Federal Government shutdown, the Department for Children and Families, Economic Services Division (ESD) has issued guidance to all of its district offices to screen for and potentially provide benefits to Vermonters who are furloughed Federal employees. These Vermonters may be eligible for financial assistance during this shutdown. ESD may be able to help with the cost of food, fuel assistance, etc. Furloughed Federal employees may apply in person at their local district offices or online at dcf.vermont.gov/esd, or by calling 1-800-479-6151.

In addition to the information from DCF, banks & credit unions are urging anyone affected by the shutdown to contact their financial institution. Most institutions are offering some kind of assistance, such as overdraft assistance, loans, changes in terms of existing loans, to help people weather this hardship.

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VT/NH paid family leave plan

Last week Gov. Scott and NH Gov Sununu proposed a joint voluntary pad family leave program

From VtDigger: Democrats reject Scott’s paid leave plan, pitch mandatory program:

The paid family leave bill backed by Democratic lawmakers would be funded through a universal .93 percent payroll tax split between employees and employers.

Johnson said the plan would be cheaper than the governor’s and yet offer more time and pay: employees struggling with illness, caring for sick family members, or taking care of a newborn child would be able take 12 weeks of leave while receiving 100 percent of their wages.

The governor’s proposal would give employees six weeks of leave and 60 percent of their earnings each week.

“The cost of the program is a little less expensive, but the benefit is almost double, so you get twice the benefit at a slightly lower cost,” Johnson said.

The Democrats’ proposal would cost 70 cents per day per employee, for those earning a median income, according to Johnson.

Under the governors’ plan, Vermont and New Hampshire’s combined 18,500 state workers would receive the paid family leave benefit, administered through a private insurer and funded by the state.

Sharing risk across a bigger pool helps to provide more sustainability and less risk to insurance type programs – so I appreciate the notion of this proposed collaboration. Like every proposal, the details will matter.  I expect this to be a session long discussion in the House.

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CARE (Citizen Assistance Registry for Emergencies)

Emergencies can take many forms, from natural disasters to human-caused events such as a major traffic accident that closes a road or takes out the power for hours at a time. For elders or people with physical or mental disabilities, such events can become life-threatening if they are prolonged and no one is available to help. The CARE Program (Citizen Assistance Registry for Emergencies), administered by the United Ways of Vermont, Vermont 211 and E-911, are working together to identify Vermont residents who would require special assistance in an emergency. If you or know someone who would need special help in a crisis, please complete the linked form below and return it to Vermont 211. Your information will be entered into a database linked to the E-911 system, and the records will be updated each year. All records are confidential and will only be shared with groups involved in helping to keep people safe in an emergency. You must send a new form each year to keep your registration up-to-date. This form may be completed, printed and mailed to: Vermont 211 PO Box 111 Essex Junction, VT 05453

CARE Registration Form

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VSBA Legislative Alert: Act 46 Forced Merger Delay Under Consideration

House leaders have indicated they are open to delaying implementation of forced mergers until July 1, 2020.  These House leaders have heard from school board members and community leaders who are participating in the lawsuit to prevent forced mergers from taking place.  The indication is that everyone agrees that Act 46 mergers should be delayed until 2020.

It is not clear whether there will be an opportunity for those affected by this decision to testify.  If you have an opinion about whether or not the General Assembly should delay implementation of Act 46 mergers ordered by the State Board of Education, now is the time to let us know. Because it isn’t clear whether board members in affected districts will be invited to testify, please consider sharing your perspectives with these officials in order to ensure the decision is well-informed.

Speaker of the House: Speaker@leg.state.vt.us
Chair of House Education, Rep. Webb: KWebb@leg.state.vt.us
Vice Chair of House Education, Rep. Cupoli: lcupoli@leg.state.vt.us

Senate President Pro Tem:  timashe@burlingtontelecom.net
Chair of Senate Education, Sen. Baruth: PBaruth@leg.state.vt.us
Vice Chair of Senate Education, Sen. Ingram: DIngram@leg.state.vt.us

Single Education District concept floated:

In a draft policy memo dated Jan. 1, administration officials, led by Education Secretary Dan French, outline a new concept for Vermont’s schools: consolidating all school districts into one, abolishing the State Board of Education, and establishing four regional administrative entities, each with its own school board and superintendent, to oversee schools in the area.
Administration’s Education White Paper
Vermont School Board Association Response 

Coming up:

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call

View on Monday night arrivals

votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

In the news:
Legislative Cheat Sheet and Lobbying
Rainville endorses Knight in adjutant general race

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
Kind regards,
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

 

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#Vermont one of Nine States to Design Regional Approach to Cap Greenhouse Gas Pollution from Transportation 

Transportation and Climate Initiative aims to complete design process before end of 2019.

A coalition of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia today announced their intent to design a new regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels, and invest proceeds from the program into low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure. Read the full release

In defense of the most politically diverse legislative body in the country #vtpoli

It feels like our nation is collectively holding its breath waiting for election day and praying for some check on this dangerous Presidency.

In the whole course of history, it has never been true that one party had a monopoly on good ideas, common sense, or the pulse of the people. One party controlling the House, Senate and Executive Branch does not make for good government for all Americans. Particularly when that party elects to work in a partisan manner, because they can, and disregards a large portion of the electorate. Including, especially, the 40% of independent Americans who don’t consider themselves partisan at all. We desperately need a check on the Republicans in Washington D.C. who have failed to limit the self-proclaimed nationalist occupying the Oval Office and so count me in as hopeful we will see a strong blue wave roll into D.C. on November 6th.

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The Deeper Dig: In search of a supermajority  Oct 26 2018 By Mike Dougherty

Americans and Vermonters don’t like how things work under an unchecked super-majority. They want leaders who will compromise, collaborate and work to solve problems, but our country’s two-party system does not readily reward that type of governing. Nonetheless, Vermonters historically have been comfortable taking a different way than the rest of the country, and thus far we seem to have staved off the worst of the increasingly alarming partisan dysfunction.

In the last election Vermonters sent divided government to Montpelier: a moderate and

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Modeling bipartisanship for Vermont students: Democratic Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson and Republican Representative Heidi Scheuermann breaking from last year’s heavily contested budget debate (for multiple false fire alarms) give an impromptu bipartisan civics lesson.

courageous Republican governor, a Progressive Democratic Senate and the most politically diverse legislative body in the country,  the Vermont House of Representatives led by a Democratic Speaker of The House who operates on the premise that including all voices and parties ensures better problem solving. Speaker Mitzi Johnson has presided over a body that included the most elected centrist independents in the country, independents like Ben Jickling of Brookfield and Ed Read of Fayston who help the Democratic majority craft and pass more balanced legislation, and moderate Democrats like Rural Economic Development Working Group Co-Chair Chip Conquest of Newbury and socially moderate/fiscally conservative Republicans like Heidi Scheuermann of Stowe and Fred Baser of Bristol as well as seven elected Progressives. There is no other legislative body in the country that houses this many different political parties and elected centrist independents.

The resulting implementation and creation of Vermont policy is managed by a governor willing to buck the national Republican party and also willing to veto the democratically controlled legislature and a House of Representatives with a political prejudice towards the center.  This divided government set-up, while uncomfortable for the most partisan Vermonters and party leaders, and more reliant on the threat of gubernatorial veto than would be needed with a more politically diverse Senate, actually works fairly well. There is always room for improvement, but not by wiping out bipartisan collaboration.

Which brings us back to the national election and that big blue wave that looks like it could be a tsunami in Vermont. Vermonters are also Americans and Americans are scared about where we are headed with our national politics. We are seeing voluminous early voter turn-out in the Green Mountain state and reports from door to door canvassing that there is a strong desire to punish national Republicans for not providing a check on our self-proclaimed nationalist president. Hopefully Vermonters direct their anger precisely and not generally. If you are currently being represented by a centrist independent, a moderate Republican or Democrat, think long and hard before opting to punish our president by punishing those moderates who commit to bipartisanship function and political courage in Vermont. It takes courage to run and serve without a party and it also takes courage to tell your party no.  Hopefully the “blue wave” is able to bring a check to Washington without taking out moderates in Vermont. We need balanced and knowledgeable legislators to get things done. This is a reminder that your vote is not just symbolic.

The entire telecommunications industry is suing #Vermont for taking action on #NetNeutrality

The lawsuit follows below.

The question is whether or not Vermont’s governor and legislature are federally preempted from taking action on issues of connectivity as it relates to the Net Neutrality issue.

The House Committee in Energy and Technology on which I serve spent much of the last session working on this legislation.

www.americancable.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/181018-Complaint-with-Exhibits-1-5-ECF-Stamped.pdf

Update from Rep. Sibilia :: Public forum in Stamford, Healthcare forum next week

Tuesday October 9 Tue 6:30 PM at the Stamford Elementary School we are hosting another public forum.  Thus far these forums have been excellent opportunities for me to hear from and respond to small groups about specific constituent concerns. Act 46, workforce, healthcare, telephone and internet service, carbon taxes and climate change have been the most frequent topics brought up – please come and lets talk about how Vermont government can better respond to Vermonter everyday challenges.
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Next Tuesday October 16th Rep. John Gannon and I will be hosting a single issue forum on Healthcare with Vermont’s Healthcare Advocate Michael Fisher in Whitingham at the Twin Valley auditorium from 6-7:30
Ambitious health care reform that changes how providers are paid is currently being implemented across the state. Come participate in a discussion to better understand how these changes will impact your premiums and access to care. We will also discuss passage this past year of an individual mandate requiring Vermonters to be covered by insurance as of January 1, 2020. This legislation was passed in reaction to the repeal of the individual mandate federally this past year. Deerfield Valley State Representatives Laura Sibilia and John Gannon want to ensure residents, employees and employers in the Deerfield Valley communities can weigh in on the current state of healthcare and what choices they face with an individual mandate. complete release here
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Open enrollment period is November 1 through December 15th more info 
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I attended the Vermont State Board of Education hearing on September 19, 2018 at Green Mountain Union High School, Chester, VT.
This hearing was for the State Board to hear from districts prior to deciding what to do with those that didn’t opted to merge voluntarily.
The 95 districts that didn’t merge submitted alternative plans, or Section 9 proposals, to the Agency of Education for consideration. Stamford/Clarksburg Interstate group testified.
In June, Acting Education Secretary Heather Bouchey recommended 18 forced mergers. She recommended the remaining districts not consolidate – due to mergers being impractical or legally impossible – or that they continue with processes already underway. The state board has a final plan due on Nov. 30.  I provided testimony to the state board which can be read  here.
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16th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival & Contest

October 27, 2018  Wardsboro  Saturday 10 to 3
Rain or Shine
Main Street and Town Hall
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29 days till the election!  Got one of these? Want one?
 
This year there is not a contested election but a number of folks have asked me about putting signs out – thank you! If you have a campaign sign please put it out – if you’d like one, please let TJ or I know and we will get one to you.
If you are able to offset year round communications and travel obligations through a token financial contribution, it’s appreciated.

Please stay engaged and stay in touch via email lhsibilia@gmail.com or phone 802-384-0233. If you’d like to receive updates from my blog as they are posted please check out www.laurasibiliavt.com.

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

Time to eliminate the Venn of Doom

“By the 1930s nearly 90% of U.S. urban dwellers had electricity, but 90% of rural homes were without power. Investor-owned utilities often denied service to rural areas, citing high development costs and low profit margins. Consequently, even when they could purchase electricity, rural consumers paid far higher prices than urban consumers.” – from the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives  Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives

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Vermont has state-of-the-art communication technologies. We have cell service throughout much of our state and wireless internet solutions in areas where the topography works. We have middle mile fiber, cable and dsl that connects residents and businesses to the global economy, their doctors and public safety and even provides phone service through VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocols).  Modern life is possible in much of Vermont. Still it’s no secret that access to wired and wireless phone and internet is unevenly available in the Green Mountain state. What may not be as widely known is that in some of the most rural parts of Vermont this situation is not static, it’s deteriorating. We have a negative relationship of conditions which has developed; a Venn diagram of doom if you will.

An early morning call from one of my constituents this summer drove this point home. She lives in a community which is almost exclusively limited to dial up or satellite for internet, sadly VTel’s federally taxpayer funded wireless network is still not available in her town. The only cell service in her town, CoverageCo limited 2G, is non operational and has been for some time.  She recently had serious surgery and is also handicapped. It takes over 30 minutes to get the State Police to her town, at least 30 minutes for an ambulance assuming a volunteer and driver are able to respond immediately and the hospitals are 30 minutes away (when the roads are open and not closed with snow accidents or washed out roads). She called because her landline phone line was not working and the repair date she was given – more than a week – had her worried for her safety.

This summer I received an unusually high number of complaints about phone service repairs and installations. There has been a corresponding increase in complaints about repair times to the Public Utility Commission which regulates landline telephone service and other public utilities like electricity.  Because of this, it would not surprise me to see an investigation opened up and action taken against the rural landline telephone provider. The irony here is the regulated landline telephone provider is the ONLY provider required to supply service to those Vermonters who reside at the intersection of the “Venn of Doom” – the place where no cell service, no internet service, and long distances from emergency response and emergency healthcare meet.

Vermont – and all other state’s – have limited ability to regulate the build out of wireless (cell service) and wired internet (cable) due to federal preemption. These for profit providers compete in an extremely dynamic marketplace, with rapidly innovating technologies, in Vermont’s densely populated areas. They compete with each other and they also compete with the regulated telephone providers who must provide service and repairs of critical infrastructure to all Vermonters, not just those they can make a profit selling a high end product to. Guess which type of provider is losing landline customers in the easy – and cost effective to provide service to – densely populated service areas? Guess who still has to provide essential telephone service even when they lose landline customers? Guess who Vermont can penalize for poor service or lack of coverage?

This declining situation is not acceptable.  My colleagues in the legislature have heard me declare more then once that we aren’t just going to roll up rural Vermont and put it away – real people, families, students and businesses live there. Real businesses and towns are unable to participate in Vermont’s economy and services. We have allowed a situation to develop that is increasing risk and vulnerability in rural Vermont.

The time for patiently waiting for this situation to improve has passed. Concerns about vulnerable rural Vermonters landline access have been communicated to the Public Service Department. An RFP to find a provider to replace the CoverageCo cell service has recently been released – which is important to many towns and schools in our district. These short term actions will help. But going forward we need a shift in how we think about telecommunication access and the market for communication products, who is responsible for ensuring critical infrastructure is accessible everywhere in our state, we are going to need to develop a plan for empowering communities or regions to manage and finance connectivity expansions. In each of the last two bienniums the House has overwhelmingly passed funding measures to address parts of this challenge – we will need our Senate colleagues to join us in this next biennium. In the administration we need the DPS to have more resources and partners trying to solve this public safety, education, healthcare access, economic issue. As a state, and with our private sector providers, Vermont must take a long hard look at the regulatory structures that have produced this outcome and ensure our regulatory environment going forward supports reliable affordable essential communications infrastructure availability for all Vermonters.

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