Rep. Sibilia: Week 4 of the #Vermont Legislative Session

Good evening!

January in the legislature was spent hearing the Governor’s budget proposals, getting acclimated to new committees and learning about concepts relevant to proposals that are being introduced.

The bulk of my time has been spent working to pull together a number of House telecommunications expansion proposals and coordinating with the Governor’s administration to introduce his financing and permitting proposals for rural build out.

Next week a proposal to delay implementation of Act 46 forced mergers was scheduled to take place and if it proceeds will likely receive a significant amount of debate on the floor.

Results from the 2019 Deerfield Valley Legislative survey are available here!

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

Twin Valley students in the house!

Wednesday afternoon Twin Valley eighth graders came to the Capital and visited with the Secretary of State, legislators, the Speaker of the House and the Governor. The students have been working on mock governments and came prepared with tough questions. Kudos to teacher Scott Salway and the Twin Valley students!

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Sin tax on e-cigs passes House This bill proposes to raise the rate of tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.25 per pack and to raise the tax on new smokeless tobacco products by a corresponding amount. Vermont House passes 92-percent e-cigarette tax

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Grant opportunity now available through Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC)

NBRC, a Federal-State partnership program in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine has expanded it’s eligibility area to include every county in the State of Vermont. Using the determined distress factor of each county the match for projects in Orleans, Essex, Caledonia, Rutland, and Orange Counties is 20% and the remaining counties match percentage is 50%. Municipalities and qualified Not-for-Profit organizations can apply for up to a $500,000 maximum award for eligible infrastructure projects, and up to a $250,000 maximum award for all other types of eligible projects.The 2019 application will be available on the NBRC website in late February with a Letter of Notification due on March 30th.

Informational meetings will be arranged throughout the state in March and April to assist applicants.

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Public Hearings

  • Community-Based Public Hearings on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget.

The Vermont House and Senate Committees on Appropriations are seeking public input on the Governor’s Recommended FY2020 State Budget and will hold community-based public hearings on Monday, February 25, 2019, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the following 5 locations. An additional location in Springfield will be held from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The Committees will take testimony on the Governor’s recommended State budget at the above dates and times. Anyone interested in testifying should come to one of the hearings. Time limits on testimony may apply depending on volume of participants. If you have a story you would like to share privately with the committee members, please contact Theresa to schedule this at the end of one of the hearings.To view or print a copy of the proposed budget, go to the Department of Finance and Management’s website at the following URL address: https://finance.vermont.gov/budget/budget-recommendations/operating-budget/fy2020

For more information about the format of these events, or to submit written testimony, contact Theresa Utton-Jerman or Rebecca Buck attutton@leg.state.vt.us or rbuck@leg.state.vt.us or at 802-828-5767 or toll-free within Vermont at 1-800-322-5616. Requests for interpreters should be made by Friday, February 8

  • Information Session Adjutant General Feb 5th 4-6 Room 11

Joint Hearing with Senate Government Operations to hear from candidates for Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard.

  • H.57 Public Hearing

There will be a Public Hearing Wednesday Feb 6th 4:30 – 6:30 pm in the well of the House  on bill H.57 An act relating to preserving the right to abortion.

 H.57 makes no changes to the status quo, which is that Vermonters currently have the right to safe, legal abortion care without government interference. H.57 codifies into state law current practices with regard to abortion care in Vermont.

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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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In the news:

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

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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Sibilia: Week 3 of the #Vermont Legislative Session

Good evening!

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

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The Windham County delegation meets to discuss issues impacting the region bi-weekly. Among issues the delegation has a careful eye on this session are the mental health care system and telecommunications.

Governor presents his proposed 2020 Budget

On Thursday Governor Scott presented his third budget – this for FY 2020. An Executive Summary of the budget can be read here. The governor’s budget address can be read here.

I heard testimony last session and this fall that caused me to be concerned about our current ability to protect Vermonters’ data 24/7. I’m happy to see the added investments being made to ensure the Agency of Digital Services continues to upgrade our cyber security capacity.
My initial thoughts on the budget:

The governor has identified a million and a half dollars and new bonding legislation toward helping municipalities start to craft solutions for last mile telecommunications. This is an important and significant step by the administration. The Legislature will be proposing additional initiatives in the coming days, and also looking to ensure that we all have a thorough understanding of the public safety risks being experienced in the disconnected parts of Vermont.

Proposed childcare and college education initiatives should not be funded out of the education fund (as has been proposed). Increasing workforce programming at the career tech centers will require significant scrutiny. We are seeing success in distributed career training programs, so I’d want to understand better how this proposal will be structured to ensure it is accessible to all students and doesn’t exacerbate existing inequities in secondary education.

I applaud the proposal to remove the tax from military retirees’ pay. We are one of only a few states in the U.S. that still tax this — an unneeded incentive for our military retirees to move out of state.

Telecom initiatives and proposals are beginning to be introduced

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Utility regulation 101 review this week

A major focus for me in this biennium is ensuring all Vermonters are consistently able to call for emergency services, access Vermont’s government and engage in both the Vermont and the global economy.   Governor Scott’s Proposed FY 2020 Budget takes some significant steps in this direction including enabling language for municipal bonding and the potential for a VEDA loan fund. The administration also announced a partnership with Microsoft which we will hope to hear more about in the coming weeks.  A number of bills I have been working on were introduced this week including assessing the ability of electric utilities to provide internet access services. The bill introduced is modeled directly after legislation which passed in Virginia. Former gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist is expected to testify in our committee on the concept which she spoke about during her campaign.

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

Abortion access 

A Vermont law has been introduced to put existing federal law – ensuring a women’s access to abortion – into Vermont statute.  Self-determination and Freedom of Religion factor strongly into my support for this action which simply codifies existing federal law without changes. All women have the right to determine their health care and all Vermonters have the right to live their lives according to their private religious convictions. I understand this is an issue about which voters typically have strong opinions, so I will restate – there is no change or expansion of the existing law in the proposed state statute. Governor Scott has indicated he would sign this language in it’s current form.

Decarbonization Study Released

Our committee and the Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to hear about a report the legislature commissioned last year: An Analysis of Decarbonization Methods in Vermont – Executive Summary The Governor has stated he will not support a carbon tax. I have been consistent that I believe we need to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible but will not support a single state carbon tax or efforts that don’t acknowledge and assist working and rural Vermonters with alternative vehicles or heat.

Here are the key findings from the report:

  • Emissions in Vermont have been increasing since 2011, and the state is currently well above a pathway that would meet any of its GHG emissions targets.
  • Vermont is unlikely to meet its emissions targets with a carbon-pricing-only strategy unless the carbon price is substantially higher than the prices modeled in this study ($19 to $77 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent in 2025).Vermont has a high share of emissions from transportation and heating fuel use; both sectors are difficult to decarbonize through carbon pricing or nonpricing policies.
  • Combining moderate carbon pricing and nonpricing policy approaches could reduce emissions to meet Vermont’s US Climate Alliance target; under this approach, emissions are projected to be 32–38 percent below 2005 levels in 2025 compared with the target of 26–28 percent.
    • Combining policies such as those described in the study would not meet the state’s statutory 2028 target (58 percent below 2005 levels or 50 percent below 1990 levels).
  • Economic modeling of a range of carbon pricing designs (without nonpricing policies) suggests:
    • The combined climate and health benefits of the carbon pricing policies would exceed the economic costs for every carbon pricing scenario considered in this report.
    •  Impacts on the state’s GDP, level of employment, and overall economic welfare would be very small, regardless of carbon pricing policy design.
    • A carbon pricing policy could generate $74.7–$433.8 million in annual revenue in 2025, depending on the carbon price amount and number of sectors covered.
  • In choosing how to use the revenue raised through a carbon pricing policy, policymakers face trade-offs among environmental outcomes, overall economic costs, and the impacts on different types of households. Policymakers can divide total revenues across multiple uses, balancing these tradeoffs.
    • According to our modeling analysis, per household rebates more than offset the costs of increased energy prices for the average low-income household.
    • Reducing taxes on wage income would lower the overall cost to Vermont’s economy relative to other options considered, but these cuts would not fully offset higher energy prices.
    • Devoting revenue to finance nonpricing policies would reduce emissions further, but would also impose higher costs on Vermonters, because this would reduce funds that could be used to partially or fully offset the economic impacts on households of carbon pricing.

Rep Sibilia in the news:

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

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

Open Enrollment: Extended Hours Today and Tomorrow for Vermonters

WATERBURY, VT –As 2019 Open Enrollment draws to a close for Vermont’s health insurance marketplace, state officials are urging Vermonters to sign up online at VermontHealthConnect.gov or to take advantage of the Customer Support Center’s extended hours: today from 8 am to 8 pm and tomorrow (December 15th) from 8 am to 5 pm.

Officials also warn that wait times can be long on the phones. Volume is always high when deadlines approach. This year, interest is especially high because existing members are poised to save hundreds of dollars by changing plans and most uninsured Vermonters can find plans that are almost entirely paid for by increased financial help.

“We are committed to helping Vermonters get into their chosen plan for January 1st,” said Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Cory Gustafson. “And I don’t want people to have to wait on hold a long time to do so. If you can sign-up online, please do. The system can handle the volume. If you call and are told the wait is more than 20 minutes, feel free to take the call-back option. Or just call us back tomorrow or next week. We’ll help you finish.”

Vermont does not have the authority to extend open enrollment but is permitted to help Vermonters apply or change plans after the deadline if they are unable to get through before the deadline.

The Department of Vermont Health Access also offered these suggestions:

• If you have a non-urgent question and don’t want to wait on hold, consider calling late next week.

• If you don’t qualify for financial help and have already signed up for 2019 coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont or MVP Health Care, don’t wait on hold today to cancel your Vermont Health Connect plan. Call next week when wait times are shorter.

• If you have family, friends or neighbors who still need health insurance, please encourage them to check the Plan Comparison Tool to see if they’ll qualify for a free or low-cost plan.

• Read and share the Department’s Open Letter to Everyone Who Has Helped Vermonters Get into the Right Health Coverage.

Fast Facts on 2019 Comparison Shopping

• The last four days have been the highest volume days ever for Vermont’s Plan Comparison Tool.

◦ Monday and Tuesday had 900 sessions each day;

◦ Wednesday and Thursday had more than 1,000 sessions each day;

◦ Prior to this week, the tool had never seen more than 760 sessions in a single day (that previous high being last December 15th).

• The 2019 tool has had nearly 35,000 sessions since its launch in late October.

◦ That’s more sessions than there are people in the individual market, including those enrolled outside of the health insurance marketplace;

◦ Usage is up 59% over last year.

• Vermonters are investing more time in their comparison shopping.

◦ The average session this year has been close to eight minutes, compared to just over six minutes last year.

• Most Vermonters who sign up through the health insurance marketplace qualify for financial help to lower their monthly premiums and/or out-of-pocket costs.

◦ Income thresholds vary by household size, going up to nearly $49,000 for an individual, $66,000 for a two-person household, and $100,000 for a family of four;

• Due to a complex set of policy changes, the federal government is providing a lot more financial help in 2019;

◦ A family of four earning $100,000 will receive over $3,000 more in financial help than they received in 2018;

◦ A couple earning $50,000 per year can find plans as low as $19 per month (92% less than it would have cost them in 2018);

◦ Many Vermont Health Connect members can save more than a thousand dollars by changing to a different ‘metal level’ insurance plan, per the 2019 Plan Comparison Tool.

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2019 survey on the #Vermont Legislative session for the Deerfield Valley

This year I’m collaborating with fellow Deerfield Valley legislator Rep. John Gannon on a brief 16 question survey which is designed for you to weigh in on what areas you’d most like the legislature to spend their time on. There are a few additional questions about issues that could emerge during the 2018 Vermont political discussion. We are hoping you will consider giving some brief input prior to the the legislative session which begins January 9th and will likely go through early May.

This survey is intended for our constituents in Dover, Halifax, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham, and Wilmington but our weekend residents and neighbors are free to weigh in.  The only required questions are name and town of residence. The survey should take you about 5 minutes to complete if you choose to answer all of the remaining questions.

Take the survey

A reminder about the Consolidated Communications hearing in Readsboro Monday November 26th:  After a significant increase in repair and new service complaints this summer, the Department of Public Service petitioned the Public Utility Commission for an  investigation to be conducted. There will be two hearings statewide – one in Readsboro at the school on November 26th starting at 6:30 and another in St Albans at BF Academy on December 6th at 6:30. Please share this information with your neighbors and ask them to attend or file comments with the PUC on case #18-3231 if they have experienced a service quality or new installation issue. It seems likely that Vermont’s policymakers are not aware of the extent of the service quality issues, or the results of the billions of dollars of deferred maintenance. While we all want to see more internet and cellular service, unreliable land line phone service in areas without cell or internet poses significant dangers for vulnerable populations and public safety.

Please stay in touch with issues of concern,

Rep. Laura Sibilia

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

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