Sibilia: Week 1 of the 2019 Vermont legislative session

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Vermont House of Representatives Oath of Office

A few brief notes on the start of the 2019 Vermont legislative session. Our district is the Windham/Bennington district, and so I try to work on regional Southern Vermont issues with members from the Windham and Bennington county districts.  There are several new southern Vermont legislators: Rep. Sarah Coffey of Guilford, Rep. Emiliee Kornheiser of Brattleboro and Rep. Nadar Hashim of Dummerston, Rep. Nelson Brownell of Pownal, Rep. Chris Bates of Bennington, Rep. Jim Carroll of Bennington, Rep. Kathleen James of Manchester and Rep. David Durfee of Shaftsbury.

The first short week is taken up with many formalities: we technically elect the Speaker of the House who assigns all members to committees of jurisdiction; this is where different subject matter legislation is first taken up and witnesses heard prior to votes by the entire House and Senate. This year I have been returned to the House Committee on Energy and Technology with new Chair Tim Briglin of Thetford. I am pleased to have been appointed by the Speaker to serve as the Vice Chair this year. Our committee will begin taking up telecommunications issues next week.

Other committee assignments of note, fellow Deerfield Valley Rep. John Gannon remains on the Government Operations Committee which deals with issues of elections and town governance. New Rep. Kathleen James is the only Southern Vermonter on either the House or Senate Education Committees. New Reps Kornheiser and Carroll and  img_3149returning Rep. Tristen Toleno of Brattleboro and Windham County Senator Becca Balint serve on the House and Senate Commerce Committees.

 

All Vermont Legislators take the oath of office, receive sexual harassment and safety training, and new legislators are seated in the House chamber. A large group of 40 new representatives was elected in the 2018 election. There are now 95 Democrats, 43 Republicans, 7 Progressives and 5 independents serving in the Vermont House.

Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson’s opening remarks and Governor Phil Scott’s Inaugural address each called for increased vigilance in how we treat one another and work together as we go about the people’s business. Each also spoke to the need to include all parts of Vermont in the economy as well as the need to expand telecommunications. Both the governor’s administration and the Speaker have been engaged in conversations throughout the Summer and Fall with individuals and groups working to address the telecommunications shortfalls once and for all.

VPR’s Pete Hirschfield provides a good early high level analysis here about 6 Issues to Watch During the 2019 Vermont Legislative Session

Coming up: The governor’s budget address will take place on Thursday January 24th at 2PM. Rep. Gannon and I hope to release the results of the 2019 Deerfield Valley Legislative Survey this week – be on the lookout.

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. I hope to send out a brief update every Friday afternoon or Saturday morning during this years legislative session.

Rep. Sibilia in the news:

Shutdown may delay feared FCC rule change

Local reaction varies to governor’s address

Will New England States Bolster Ranked Choice Voting in 2019?

Local media outlets collaborate over growing concern

Lawmakers to propose ranked-choice voting in upcoming session

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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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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Seven years

Marking the seventh anniversary day of our communities awaking to devastation. Honoring the overwhelming and sustained courage of our people that has rebuilt, repaired and rebirthed what was lost. The years since Irene have seen us gain resilience, camaraderie, character and investment that would not have been possible without such a great test.

‘You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.’ Eleanor Roosevelt

The banks are healing, but the scars the Rock River left are still visible.

Vermont email scam alert

Please share this latest scam alert from the Vermont Attorney Generals office, and don’t forget to check in with your more vulnerable family members and neighbors. These scammers are extremely manipulative and prey on the good will and fear of others who don’t expect these kind of flagrant in your face cons.

At the end of this email is a link to sign up for alerts on currently reported scams.

From the AG’s Office:

“An e-mail password hacking and extortion scam is targeting Vermonters

We are getting increased reports of e-mail extortion scams claiming you have been hacked, and that the scammers have compromising information about you.

The e-mail lists a current or former password you may have used, claims that the sender has access to your computer and webcam, and may claim to have compromising video, pictures or web browsing history. The sender threatens to release this information unless you send them money.

These e-mails are scams. If you receive one of these e-mails, DO NOT send money. If you find that your current password is listed in the e-mail, change your passwords from another computer and run virus scans.

We need your help! You can stop these scams from hurting your community by sharing this information with people you know.

Call us at 800-649-2424 if you have questions, concerns, or

need help determining if you have been a victim of a scam. ”

Sign up here:

https://www.uvm.edu/consumer/forms/sign-scam-alerts

Thank you

14956043_10154800053348313_507928364907914517_nThank you to the voters in Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham for supporting my campaign and re-electing me to the Vermont House for two more years.  I appreciate the responsibility for carrying your voices to Montpelier and assisting all of those working to revitalize our region of Vermont.  I encourage you not to hesitate if I can be of assistance to you, your family or your business or if you would like to discuss an existing or proposed law.

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Just after the election, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked by Governor-elect Scott to co-chair his Transition Leadership Advisory Committee.  Having had the opportunity to hear the Governor-elect express his vision for how his incoming administration will interact with and assist Vermonters, I am truly honored to have been asked to help find the people that will be expected to carry out that vision in the new Scott Administration.

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A final note I’d like to share.  I’ve heard from a number of folks about concerns regarding tolerance of all Vermonters in light of the national campaign rhetoric and results.  I wanted to share an excerpt from one note as well as from my response.

Excerpted from a constituent email:

“You have the great responsibility and opportunity to present kindness, empathy, respect and compassion as the indisputable way to treat ALL citizens. Let those ideals guide you as you cast votes and speak with others in positions of power.”

I want to reassure the voters in our district that I will uphold the Constitution, fight bigotry and promote tolerance and acceptance of all Vermonters and Americans. Also be assured, I am not afraid to stand up to ignorance and hatred. Our Constitution provides us with freedoms and responsibilities, and I believe they apply to and for all of our people, no matter who they love, what their religion, color of skin, ethnicity, or sex.

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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.

Please stay in touch, and stay engaged,

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

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