Rep. Sibilia: Voting, PUC hearings on Consolidated Communications

Good evening/morning,
Election day is Tuesday, November 6th. You must be registered to vote in the town you currently reside in. In Vermont you can register the day of the election. Information on Vermont’s voting laws is available on the Secretary of State’s website.
This year, we have contested elections for U.S. Senator, U.S. Congress, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor and State Senate. I am running uncontested for re-election to represent you in the House of Representatives and ask for your vote. You may write in a name for any office. Just about every election in Vermont we are reminded that the individuals vote counts a lot. Many races have been won with one or two votes and a number of statewide elections have not resulted in a candidate receiving a majority of the votes and required the legislature to choose the winner. Please vote!
Dover Town Hall                              7:00 AM
Readsboro Central School            10:00 AM
Searsburg Town Clerks Office     10:00 AM
Stamford Elementary School          8:00 AM
Wardsboro Town Office                  9:00 AM
Whitingham Municipal Center     10:00 AM
All polls close at 7:00 PM
Results will be posted as they come in at the Secretary of State’s elections results web page.
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Consolidated Communications hearings
 
Southern Vermont: READSBORO November 26th 
Northern Vermont: SAINT ALBANS December 6th
Time and locations TBD 
 
The Vermont Department of Public Service has petitioned the Vermont Public Utilities commission for an investigation into the service quality provided by Consolidated Communications, Inc. In seeking the investigation, the Department noted that the number of consumer complaints received from Consolidated customers related to service outages between July and September of 2018 has increased by 2,760% over the same period in the previous year and that the number of complaints related to installation delays between July and September of 2018 has increased 500% over the same period in 2017. The Department has been conducting an informal inquiry into the complaints and Consolidated is cooperating with the inquiry.
Please share: I personally have received multiple reports of elderly, handicapped or geographically isolated customers safety having been compromised by service quality issues (5 and 10 day repair times for instance). It is important for state regulators to understand the magnitude of the service quality challenges. If you have experienced poor quality telephone service, lengthy repair or installation times please consider testifying in person or you can provide testimony online at the Vermont Public Utility Commission Online Portal for case #18-3231-PET
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Act 46 news 
The State Board of Education has recently accepted the Secretary of Education recommendations for the Searsburg and Stamford Interstate District Alternative Structure proposals. Many many thanks for the countless hours both groups have put forward on behalf of their students and taxpayers in order to fulfill their districts obligations under Act 46.
Congratulations to the new River Valleys Unified School District board  for their recent award from BCTV: Municipal Partner of the Year.

“River Valleys Unified School District Board was created last summer following the unification of Dover and Wardsboro School Districts under Act 46. The River Valleys USD Board turned to BCTV to video its bi-weekly meetings as a way to engage and provide transparency. And, in fact, thanks to the board’s promotional efforts, most of the meetings have received hundreds of views.

‘It’s gratifying to get so many views, and critical that those who can’t attend can get the full flavor of the somewhat complex process,” said Board Chair Richard Werner. “In addition, it’s been a benefit to all of us to be able to review the videos as work progresses.'”

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Open enrollment period is November 1 through December 15th more info 
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Highlights from this summer/fall
 
Ditch School in Wardsboro with Gary Urbanati
 
Readsboro meeting w/Agency of Digital Services & Department of Public Service
 

Community forums in Wardsboro, Dover, Readsboro and Stamford & healthcare forum in Whitingham

Toured Great River Hydro Facilities 

Attended dedication of 
Gold Star Families Memorial
State Board of Education Act 46 Alternative Structures Hearing
 
Grew a contender for World’s Smallest Gilfeather Turnip


A Historic Gathering of Independents at the #UniteSummit
Attended and spoke at: A Historic Gathering of Independents at the #UniteSummit in Denver


Listened to this excellent VPR Podcast series on Jack Sawyer and Vermont’s gun debate


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These posts have been made to my website and to social media since the end of the 2018 session

 Opportunity: #Vermont Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) program

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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.
Laura
Rep. Laura Sibilia
State Representative
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham
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2018 Session – Acts to reduce violence in our schools and communities

During the Legislative Session there are typically three different groups of eighth grade pages that rotate in for six-week terms to the statehouse.  The pages are a group of students from all backgrounds and areas of our state who carry messages back and forth to legislators from their constituents and other legislators.  This year’s second group of pages finished their work this past Friday.  They started six weeks earlier on February 13th.  Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson noted the historical nature of their term in her comments prior to weekend adjournment.  This group of pages first week was remarkably violence filled, even by today’s standards.  On Wednesday, February 14th 17 students in Parkland Florida were killed with another 14 injured in a mass shooting event and on Friday, February 16th a Fair Haven, Vermont high school student was arrested following a tip that he had been planning for two years to cause mass casualties.  What followed in the ensuing weeks began with a request by the governor and legislative leadership to have an expansive conversation on what could be done to improve the safety of Vermont schools, reduce community violence and protect Vermonter’s rights.  It ended after a week filled with historic votes in the Vermont House and Vermont Senate.

At public hearings that filled the statehouse, committee rooms as well as a public hearing in Whitingham, Vermonters asked us to take steps to secure school buildings, address undiagnosed and untreated mental health and drug abuse issues, and give families, law enforcement and the courts more tools to keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them.  Here are the actions that the legislature has taken, and that the governor is expected to sign.

Secure Buildings:

  • Creates a felony charge for the possession of a firearm on school ground with intent to harm.
  • $4 million in funds to the School Safety and Security Grant Program. Schools will be able to apply for grants to implement safety measures such as video monitoring and surveillance equipment, intercom systems, window coverings, exterior and interior doors, locks, and perimeter security measures. Another $1 million in federal funds is expected to be leveraged on this program.

Address untreated mental health and drug issues:

  • The Agency of Human Services will receive funds to increase their capacity to provide mental health services to relieve the backlog in our local hospital emergency rooms, increase the number of beds for therapeutic placement, as well as create a new psychiatric residential treatment facility at the Woodside juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Essex

Keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them:

  • Puts current practice into law giving the judge discretion to require any individual who is a risk to themselves or others to turn over weapons as of condition of pretrial release.
  • Empowers family members and law enforcement to seek an Extreme Risk Protection Order, a court order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they pose a danger to self or others (commonly called a ‘Red Flag’ bill).
  • Provides protection to a victim of domestic assault by allowing a law enforcement officer, in certain circumstances, to remove a firearm from the scene if the removal is necessary for the protection of the officer, the victim, or another person.
  • Expanding background check requirements to unlicensed (or private) firearm sales, including a provision that provides immunity to Federal Firearm Licensees that provide background check services in unlicensed (private) sales;
  • Requiring purchasers of long guns to be 21 years or older, unless they have taken a hunter safety course (which is already required to obtain a hunting license), are a veteran, are a law enforcement official, or are in the military. This puts long guns on par with handguns. Under federal law one must be at least 21 to purchase handguns.
  • Bans the purchase and possession of bump stocks effective October 1, 2018; and
  • Bans the purchase (not possession) of high-capacity magazines while excluding antiques, replicas and long guns with lever or bolt action. Possession of high-capacity magazines that were purchased before the enactment date is grandfathered.

I am a strong supporter of our entire Constitution including the Second Amendment.  As such, I worked extremely hard to understand the legal provisions and constitutionality of the bills, read about supreme court cases, met with the attorney general’s office, spoke with supporters and opponents of various pieces of legislation, attended and hosted public hearings with leaders from our schools, communities and from local and state law enforcement, and at the very end worked with folks from our valley, legislative attorneys, the speaker’s office and members of the governor’s staff to develop amendments that were needed to strike an appropriate balance between Vermonter’s rights and public safety.

For some we will have done too little and for others too much.  Our individual Constitutional rights are not absolute.  Our courts have allowed for reasonable regulations when one individual’s rights have encroached upon another individual’s rights. While nothing we do can guarantee 100% safety for our students or are citizens, I believe we have found a balanced way to improve the odds and respect Vermonters rights.  Thank you to all in our Valley who supported or opposed this legislation that took the time to engage with us to learn, to research, to attend hearings, speak on the phone, offer technical knowledge, or who listened to the hours of debate on public radio.  That is how a free people govern themselves in a democratic society.

The session is rapidly drawing to a close and an early May adjournment is expected.  There are very significant education, income tax, telecommunications, minimum wage, family leave laws that have also been being developed and debated during the past 6 weeks.  I look forward to providing additional updates in the coming weeks.

Please stay in touch with questions about any of the legislation noted above of if you need assistance.  lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us or 802-384-0233

Kind regards,

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

Current status of S.55

Here is the current status of the bill:

The bill is on the Senate Calendar for tomorrow (Thursday).  The Senate can concur, concur with further amendment or ask for a conference committee with the House to settle the differences.

Here is what the bill currently does:

  • Expanding background check requirements to unlicensed (or private) firearm sales, including a provision that provides immunity to Federal Firearm Licensees that provide background check services in unlicensed (private) sales;
  • Requiring purchasers of long guns to be 21 years or older, unless they have taken a hunter safety course (which is already required to obtain a hunting license), are a veteran, are a law enforcement official, or are in the military. This puts long guns on par with handguns. Under federal law one must be at least 21 to purchase handguns.
  • Banning the purchase and possession of bump stocks effective October 1, 2018; and
  • Banning the purchase of high-capacity magazines while excluding antiques, replicas and long guns with lever or bolt action. Possession of high-capacity magazines that were purchased before the enactment date is grandfathered.

House Journal for March 27th, 2018 which captures all of the amendments and roll call votes.

If you have questions please email or call.

History and my votes:

The House voted on 2nd reading for S.55 on Friday March 23rd.  The vote to support the bill was 85-59.  I did not support the bill because it created a ban on possession and transfer of high capacity magazines.  I spent much of last Saturday detailing the various provisions and how I voted which you can read here.  I voted no on the whole bill on Friday.

The House voted on 3rd reading for S.55 on Tuesday March 28th.  The vote was 89-54.  I spoke with a number of constituents over the weekend about the problematic magazine section.  I worked with a number of my House colleagues, the Judiciary Committee, our attorneys and the Speaker of the House to amend that provision.  I sent all of the new amendments to a few folks opposed to the bill and asked for more information about how they would be impacted.  We still had questions about transfers.  After 9 pm on Monday night, I had conversations with constituents opposed to the Friday version of the bill, our legislative attorneys and the Speaker to confirm transfer of magazines would still be possible.  I voted yes on the whole bill on Tuesday and sent out this explanation as to why:

As expected, S.55 has passed 89-54. There were 14 amendments on the floor. Some were handed out in paper. They will all be printed out in the journal tomorrow. I look forward to providing a detailed explanation of all the changes to the bill. This is the statement I just read on the floor.

Madame Speaker,

When we left here last week, this bill contained private sale background checks and raising the age for purchase of a firearm by three years, measures that I believe are in keeping with both the Second amendment and my oath of office, and that go hand in hand with Extreme Risk Protection orders, a measure I support. It also contained measures on high capacity magazines that would have made a number of my gun owners criminals upon passage, and so I could not and did not support the bill. The significant work that has been done over the weekend to protect my gun owners has changed my vote. While nothing we do will guarantee 100% safety for our students or are citizens, I believe we have found a balanced way to improve the odds.

No guns are being made illegal by this bill, all high capacity magazines that Vermonters currently own they can keep, Vermonters of all ages will continue to be able to possess and use a firearm.

Fear is a powerful force. Ignorance combined with fear is dangerous. I want to thank all Vermonters who both supported and opposed this legislation that took the time to engaging with us to learn, to research, to be here with us in this building, on the phone, to listen on public radio, to testify here and at hearings around the state. This is how a free people govern themselves in a democratic society.

 

 

School safety and gun regulations votes

Thank you to all who attended the hearing Rep. Gannon and I held in Whitingham last week.  Thank you also to the law enforcement, school administrators, civic leaders, sportsman and gun regulation advocates who helped us plan an event we hoped all would feel comfortable sharing their views at.  Read more about the event here.

My constituent Stephanie Greene, who assisted in the planning and hosting of this event, posted an opinion piece on the importance of using your voice.

Prior to Town Meeting, the House voted on H.675 :

  • Puts current practice into law giving the judge discretion to require any individual who is a risk to themselves or others to turn over weapons as of condition of pretrial release.
  • Empowers family members and law enforcement to seek an Extreme Risk Protection Order, a court order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they pose a danger to self or others (commonly called a ‘Red Flag’ bill).
  • Provides protection to a victim of domestic assault by allowing a law enforcement officer, in certain circumstances, to remove a firearm from the scene if the removal is necessary for the protection of the officer, the victim, or another person.
  • Creates a felony charge for the possession of a firearm on school ground with intent to harm.

The roll call vote on this bill was 104-29 in favor.  I voted yes on this bill.  The Extreme Risk Protection Order contained in this bill is the most effective measure we have been asked to consider to ensure firearms do not end up in the hands of those who should not have them.

In addition, this bill allows law enforcement to remove firearms at the scene of a domestic assault.  Last year I voted against this piece of the bill because I felt it violated an individuals right to due process.  Changes to this language include requiring arraignment within one business day.  In my discussions with the Vermont Attorney General’s office I learned that the courts have found an individual is not Constitutionally entitled to pre deprivation due process.  In simple terms, in certain cases where law enforcement believes there is an extreme and imminent risk, due process begins after your weapon is confiscated, not before.

I tried to live post the voting on S.55 yesterday and it looks like it was tough for folks to follow.  Here is a detailed explanation of what happened on the House floor yesterday, March 23rd, with S.55.

I want to let those who elected me know that I take all parts of the Constitution very seriously.  In addition to the right to bear arms and the right of the people to petition, that also includes the separation of church and state, the right to assemble – as our youth are courageously doing today – and freedom of the press.

It is important to me to help people engage with their government, and so I work to ensure you know how to reach me, how I vote, how to read bills under consideration, and in yesterday’s instance to attempt to report what was happening from the floor.  I invite each of you to come to the State House and spend a day with me and see how our government functions.  The State House is also available to you without visiting me.  If we are in session, you have a right to be in the building watching as we attend to the people’s business.

Running for office is not a decision to take lightly.  Particularly if you are a parent with a school age child, particularly if you are not wealthy, particularly if you are not affiliated with a party.   I decided to run four years ago because I did not think our voice was being heard in Montpelier.  I’ve worked hard to help individuals and groups interact more successfully with government.  It is impossible for me to vote more then one way, so inevitably, on every vote, I have disappointed some and pleased others. If you are dissatisfied with the overall service of your legislators, the Vermont Secretary of State website contains the rules and links to forms needed to run for office. Competition in a democracy is a great thing.

To those in my district who are posting death threats and threats of bodily harm to me and/or to my fellow House and Senate Members, here are a few things to consider:  in addition to the fact that you are creating a public record of your intent, your children, their children, and my children are reading those comments.

It seems to now be acceptable for persons acting in fear to not take the time to research and cross check facts prior to taking to social media. I’d like to suggest an alternative.  Let’s turn down the emotion and rhetoric and try engaging with the information and facts which are being made available – before commenting.

Fear is contagious.  So is courage.

Thank you to all who have engaged and are engaging on these issues.  Please do stay in touch, please do ask questions, please do let me know what you are thinking about specific issues and please do let me know if you need assistance.  lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us or 802-384-0233

 

School Safety Forum planned for March 18th in Whitingham

Deerfield Valley Residents and employees invited to attend

A significant discussion about school safety is happening throughout Vermont and the Deerfield Valley following the Florida and Fair Haven, VT school incidents.  There is a sense of urgency to the conversations happening in Montpelier, led by the Governor, Speaker and Senate Pro Tem, which includes considering new safety measures as well as legislation increasing regulation of guns. Governor Scott has issued a memo detailing ideas he would like the Legislature to consider in order to improve school safety.   Deerfield Valley State Representatives Laura Sibilia and John Gannon want to ensure residents, students, staff, and law enforcement in the Deerfield Valley communities are able to weigh in.

A School Safety Forum for residents and employees who work in the towns of Dover, Halifax, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Readsboro, Wardsboro, Whitingham and Wilmington will be held on Sunday March 18th from 4 pm to 6 pm at Twin Valley Middle High School 4299 Vermont Route 100 Whitingham, VT.    Gannon and Sibilia are hosting the forum and met with school administrators, board members, and staff, law enforcement and community representatives to plan the event.

The purpose of the forum is for those who live and work in the 9 towns to be able to share ideas about possible legislative and non-legislative solutions to school safety. This will be a moderated discussion.  To allow as many people as possible to speak, individuals who live and work in the 9 towns will be given three minutes to speak and share their thoughts on school safety.

Questions from residents or employees of the Deerfield Valley on the upcoming forum can be sent to Rep. John Gannon at jgannon@leg.state.vt.us or Rep. Laura Sibilia at lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Sibilia 2018 Town Meeting Update

Dear Friends and Neighbors: It’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.  This report is also available online at www.laurasibiliavt.com where it contains live links to supporting documents and sponsored legislation.  Please stay in touch on issues of importance to you: (802)384-0233 or lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us

PROPOSED INCOME TAX CHANGES: H.911 Lowers all income tax rates by 0.2% and collapses top two income tax brackets, creates a VT Standard Deduction, equal to $6,000 for single filers and $12,000 for married couples, creates a Vermont Personal Exemption equal to $4,150 per exemption, expands the Vermont Earned Income Tax Credit, from 32% of the Federal EITC to 35%, creates a 5% tax credit for the total amount of charitable contributions up to $10,000. Taxpayers who contribute up to $10,000 will be eligible for a $500 tax credit, provides tax relief to Vermonters receiving Social Security benefits, taxable Social Security benefits below $45,000 for single filers and below $60,000 for married filers will be 100% exempt from State income tax.

EDUCATION and PROPERTY TAXES:

  • Education Finance Proposal: 911 Adds a School Income Tax Surcharge, built upon the reformed income tax system (noted under Proposed Income Tax Changes). Rates are 0.1% of lowest bracket, 0.5% for middle brackets, and 1% on highest income brackets; Raises approximately $59 million for education; Uses the $59 million to reduce average homestead property tax rates (on both property and income) from projected FY19 rates (average reduction of $0.15); Cost containment: future tax rates will rise faster for all spenders; Non-residential property tax rate: stays at current law = $1.591; Homeowner rebate: split into two components: education and municipal; Renter Rebate: maintained and transferred to General Fund; Separates municipal and education tax bills; General Fund transfer to Ed Fund repealed; Dedicates to the EF: 100% of sales tax and 25% of rooms and meals; Transfers adult education, flexible pathways, community high school of VT, renter rebate to GF ($21.5 million); Repeals excess spending penalty. The excess spending penalty is replaced.  I am concerned that this proposal doesn’t address the current lack of accountability to businesses and nonresidential taxpayers, that it doesn’t address the substantial inequities that exist for our students, and I am deeply concerned that the replacement cost containment measure will add insult to injury for rural students while failing to capture significant needed savings throughout the system.
  • Weighting study: A student Weighting Study passed by last year’s House, Senate and signed into law by the Governor has not yet been conducted.  The administration made a request for 300K in this year’s budget adjustment to conduct the study which has been turned down by the House and Senate.  The administration is required to conduct the study and has communicated that they have begun pulling together some of the pieces.  The House Education Committee has included the study and funding in it’s recently passed Special Education bill. An accurate weighting (equalizing) of students is critical for sustained property tax relief that reflects the Vermont Constitution’s requirement for equity.
  • VT/MA Interstate district: Kudos to the Stamford School Board and Interstate Committee for driving to Montpelier in a snow storm to attend an important hearing in front of the House and Senate Education Committees on their Interstate School District proposal with Clarksburg, MA. This proposal has been developed in response to Act 46 requirements.  Several elements of support for this proposal continue to move forward in both the House and Senate.  The proposal has been awarded financial support from the MA Legislature.

HEALTHCARE: The House Healthcare Committee advanced a bill H.696 out of its Committee on Friday that requires individuals to be covered by insurance and establishes a working group to report on administration and enforcement of the Individual Mandate requirement.

SALIVA TESTING: The House voted in favor of allowing law enforcement officers to administer a saliva test.  The test will indicate the presence of some drugs, including marijuana.  A person is driving under the influence of alcohol, can be asked to take a Breathalyzer test to measure their blood alcohol level. There’s no roadside test to determine if a person is impaired because of the use of certain drugs. If an officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person is driving impaired, they can be asked to do a series of roadside tests to screen for sobriety.  If a driver failed those tests, and the officer didn’t think that alcohol was a factor, if this bill passes they can ask the driver to take a saliva test. This test would not measure an impairment level, but would confirm the presence of certain drugs in the driver’s system.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: 

  • VUSF Increase: The House passed a bill to raise more than $6 million to build out broadband infrastructure across the state. 582, would temporarily increase a fee on telecommunications services from 2 percent to 2.5 percent for four years, ending in 2022.  The money raised from the increase go to a fund that distributes grants to internet service providers that expand networks in underserved areas.  Readsboro and Stamford town internet committees each have projects that have recently been awarded VUSF funds.  The House approved the measure on a vote of 109-27.  The measure is now in the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Net Neutrality: Two bills in my Committee are seeking to ensure Vermonters have Net Neutral internet access. Senate bill 289, was approved by a vote of 23-5, and requires internet service providers to certify compliance with net-neutrality provisions as a precondition for winning state contracts. I am one of the lead sponsors on House bill, H.680, takes a wider approach to regulation, requiring internet service providers doing business in Vermont to apply to the Public Utility Commission for net-neutrality certification. Governor Scott signed an Executive Order similar to the Senate bill, but with flexibility for State Agencies to grant exceptions to some internet service providers.

PAID FAMILY LEAVE: Passed the House last year.  If approved by the Senate, and signed into law by the Governor, employees over age 18, who work at least 18 hours a week, who do not work for the federal government, who work more than 20 weeks for an employer in a 12-month period, will legally have access to paid sick leave. Covered employees will accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 52 hours they work. An employer may require a one-year waiting period before an employee may take accrued sick time. The employer may restrict the amount of sick leave that may be taken to and to 40 hours a year.

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE:  Passed the Senate last month.  If approved by the House, and signed into law by the Governor, employers would be required to increase hourly pay every year through 2024. The first increase would come January 1, 2019, with a minimum wage increase from $10.50 to $11.50 an hour.

MARIJUANA: Recreational use of marijuana and a policy of limited “home grow” was legalized on January 22nd.  I support taxing and regulating marijuana use like we do with alcohol and tobacco.  This was not a tax and regulate bill and therefore I voted against this bill.  Thank you to all who contacted me regarding this legislation.  I expect Vermont will be working to adjust marijuana legislation on an annual basis for the next decade.   Details of the bill can be found on my website.

GUN SAFETY LEGISLATION:  There is a significant discussion about school safety happening throughout Vermont, and a sense of urgency to the conversations happening in Montpelier, led by the Governor, Speaker and Senate Pro Tem.   A memo from Governor Scott to legislators outlining proposals he is open to working on can be found on my website.  New school safety measures as well as legislation increasing regulation of guns are proposed.  Rep. Gannon and Rep. Sibilia are working with school, law enforcement and community groups a public forum for residents, students or employees who work in the Deerfield Valley on Sunday March 18th from 4-6 pm at the Twin Valley Middle/High School in Whitingham.

Public hearing on education, paid sick leave and the gun bill

We are in the final weeks of the session, and my House committee is working to get our economic development bill out this week.  You can follow the progress on our committee page where we are working on S.138, the Senate’s economic development bill.
Hearing on Education Consolidation Efforts:

This Wednesday April 22, 2015 a Public Hearings has been set on H.361 –  An act relating to making amendments to education funding, education spending and education governance.

The Hearing will take place in Room 11 5:00-7:00 pm.  This is an important opportunity to voice support or opposition for the significant governance change in H.361 as it emerges from the Senate Education Committee and before it is voted on by the entire Senate.  The Senate bill is different from the house and still changing.  You can monitor it here

Testifying is easy, and if you feel strongly about this legislation, either way, you should come and say why!  You should prepare two minutes of comments.  You can, but don’t have to, bring those comments in written format for easy reading during your testimony.

Paid sick leave:
The House will be voting on paid sick leave this week.  This is an initiative that has received some good work in response to past concerns from the business community.  It is also an initiative that continues to highlight the difference between our more rural employers and national chain employers.  This is a bill that may make sense for Chittenden County, but probably still doesn’t make sense for our mom and pops in our little towns.  H.187 proposes three mandated sick days for full-time workers after working a minimum of 1,400 hours.  The latest version of the bill is here
New gun regulations passed:
Through the election and my conversations with voters in my district I have been consistent and clear that I would support better enforcement of existing federal laws, but I would not vote in favor of new gun regulations.  That has been my position when asked by staunch second amendment rights advocates and when asked by constituent GunSense supporters.   S.141 is the bill regarding possession of firearms that passed the Senate and came in front of the House.  Thursday, on the second reading of S.141, a parliamentary procedure caused the bill to be divided into several sections.  I was pleased with the divided question, as I was able to vote, as I said I would, in favor of the sections having to do with enforcement of existing federal law, but against the sections having to do with new regulations.

The bill needed 72 votes to pass.  Friday, after incredibly moving, personal and courageous testimony about mental illness by a number of my colleagues, S.141 in its entirety passed the House by a vote of 80-62 on third reading.   I voted no.  I thank all who contacted me in support, and opposition, of this bill for doing so.

You can read about the progress of the bill through the Senate and House here.

In general, I’m opposed to national lobbying efforts like GunSense, (or the NRA for that matter) driving Vermont policy, though I did agree to meet with the GunSenseVT chapter and hear them out.  While I understand GunSense has a significant base of Vermont supporters, it is not, as some have claimed to me, a “grassroots Vermont organization.”  While I further understand that not all, or even a majority, of my colleagues in the House who voted in favor of this bill accepted campaign contributions from GunSense, the fact of the matter is a number of them did.  GunSense also spent nearly 80K this year on full time lobbying.

When I met with Ann Braden and GunSenseVT, there were three ways they lost my potential partial support for their efforts.
1. Data manipulation:  GunSense use of select data to justify a campaign for background checks in Vermont immediately drew my attention.  The expression of that data in percentages seemed to show there was a significant problem, but the actual numbers of incidents cited were very low, presumably this is why percentages were used to express the data. Not a fan of that type of manipulation – disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst. One of the problems GunSense set out to solve was Vermont guns being used in MA crimes.  I’m not sure how the bill that we just passed will prevent the annual average 25 stolen guns from Vermont showing up in MA.  Those that are desperate enough to steal guns are not likely to be deterred by this bill.
2. All or nothing: I offered a willingness to work with GunSense on better enforcement of existing federal laws.   In response to that offer, GunSense sent one of my opponents a campaign contribution.  These folks never followed up on how I could be even partially supportive, even though they had full time everyday lobbying effort going on in the Vermont Statehouse.
3. Attempt to intimidate: During my meeting, Ann and Co. promised me that they were raising money and were going to fund and get elected candidates who supported their effort.  There is actually nothing wrong with doing that.  Many causes, including pro gun activists, operate similarly.   But this strategy is the least likely to change my mind or elicit my cooperation on any issue.
I hope to continue to talk with folks about guns and how they are regulated, and I encourage you to be in touch if this is an issue you care about.  You can count on me to always listen, consider and then to always be candid about how I will vote.