Rep. Sibilia: Reflections on 2018 ~ Contemplating 2019

~ 2018 Reflections ~ Contemplating 2019 ~

This past year voters elected me to a third two-year term representing you in

 the Vermont Legislature.  Thank you for placing your trust in me. I will continue to work to represent our district with integrity and passion.

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Last session I served for a second year on the newly formed Energy and Technology Committee in the House. The former chair of this committee Rep. Steve Carr has retired and a new chair will be named for 2019. I was also appointed to the Joint House/Senate Information Technology Committee and the House Ethics Panel. There were a number of bills that I introduced or cosponsored, most having to do with education, telecommunications expansions and rural economic development which remain important issues in our district and our state.
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At the time the Rural Electrification Act was passed, electricity was commonplace in cities but largely unavailable in farms, ranches, and other rural places.

The Vermont House and Senate efforts on Net Neutrality and Data Privacy protections combined with the failure of the 2G CoverageCo rural cellular network and increasing declines in land line telephone system are pulling together coalitions and urgent conversations regarding the need to assess our entire telecommunications infrastructure, transmission, content development, privacy and access systems. This will be a significant part of our work in the coming years.

An important reminder about landline phone service: Storms and weather and accidents happen, and when they do we can briefly lose our landline telephone service. When that happens, it is important to let the phone company know you have lost service.
If you start having chronic issues with your landline phone service like significant delays (more then 48 hours) in repair time, repeated failure to solve the problem or repeated failure to schedule a technician or service it’s important to then let your elected officials and those individuals who regulate the phone company know what is happening.
When your land line stops working:
1. Call your service provider and report the problem. Note the date, time, name of the person who has taken your call and what they tell you they will do to solve your issue.
If you still do not have phone service for more then 24 hours after your initial call to the phone company:
2. Send an email to your State Representative with the following information:
    • What the name of the telephone carrier isfcc
    • What the address is where the problem is located
    • What the name of the account holder is at that address
    • The best means for the phone company to contact that person
    • What the problem is
    • When the problem started
    • How many times the phone company has been contacted
    • What they have said/done
2. If you still don’t have service 24 hours later, and there has been no follow up by the company
  • If your provider is Consolidated you can submit comments to the public service quality complaint that has been opened up: Go to the Vermont Public Utility Commission website and open case https://epuc.vermont.gov/?q=node/64/135508/FV-Case%20Summary-Portal and file a public comment by clicking on the drop down menu under “Case Details” and selecting “add a public comment”. Suggested info for public comment is same info included in the email to your State Representative.
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The possession and use of marijuana and a limited number of marijuana plants was legalized early in the past session. We will see proposals for a system to tax and regulate sales in this coming session.
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Several acts to reduce violence in our schools and communities were passed. In a perfect demonstration of a functioning democracy, opponents of the legislation have filed lawsuits and asked the Courts to decide if the Legislature and the Administration acted in a way that violates our Constitution. This is exactly how our system of checks and balances on power is supposed to work. There are at least three additional pieces of gun legislation that I am hearing may be introduced in 2019 – a 48 hour waiting period on gun purchases, a ban on 3-D printing of guns and a gun storage requirement. When and if these bills are introduced and considered, your specific examples of how you personally might be impacted by such laws will be helpful if we end up taking these bills up.
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This past year a special committee examined 50 years of Act 250 The Commission on Act 250: the Next 50 Years is a six-member legislative committee that was established to examine and report by December 15, 2018 on a broad list of issues relating to the State land use law known as Act 250, originally passed in 1970 and codified at 10 V.S.A. chapter 151. The draft report has recently been released. To publicly comment, please email Act250Comments@leg.state.vt.us
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 Education issues for our district and much of the state continue to revolve around Act 46

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River Valleys School Board Chair Rich Werner walks members of the public through expected tax implications on its first budget proposal

implementation.  Stamford continues to make progress on developing an interstate district with Clarksburg, MA.

The River Valley’s Unified District Board for Dover and Wardsboro has approved it’s first budget and projected it’s first tax rate and is preparing to go the voters at the River Valleys Unified School District Annual Meeting on February 12, 2019 at 7 pm at the Wardsboro Town Hall.
Whitingham’s lawsuit challenging the state’s education finance formula continues to move forward.
The Acting Secretary of Education produced a statutorily required plan on the alignment of all of Vermont’s school districts. The State Board of Education took testimony at public hearings, including my testimony, and crafted their Final Report of Decisions and Order on Statewide School District Mergers as required in Act 46.  New lawsuits are emerging from districts who have been recommended for forced merger.
Gov Scott proposed to alter student/staff ratios prior to receiving the statutorily required and funded student weighting study needed to ensure those ratios are implemented and felt equitably throughout the state.  He also successfully advocated for the use of one time funds to artificially lower property taxes for one year.
In 2018 Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcomb resigned and Gov. Scott appointed Dan French as the new Secretary of Education.  Long time legislator and former Chair of House Education and Vice Chair of Ways and Means Rep. Dave Sharpe retired which will almost certainly effect the tenor and type of education discussions the legislature has going forward.

In 2019 I anticipate there may be legislative proposals to hold some or all non-merged school districts harmless, to delay the effects of Act 46 for some or all non-merged districts or to reject some or all of the findings of the State Board of Education. I expect the Governor to propose major education finance changes, as he has every year. My support for those proposals always centers around two factors – not harming Vermont students and transparently helping Vermont taxpayers, in that order. Our local districts have complied with Act 46, but are still deeply challenged by the combination of our rural demographic challenges and the 20 year flawed education financing system. Locally we have more work to do and need to have that work supported. My efforts in the coming session will center around honoring the incredibly difficult and emotional work our communities have done so far, protecting the educational needs of our students and defending our taxpayers.
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In 2019 the Vermont Legislature will elect a new Adjutant General for the Vermont National Guard who will lead both the air and Army Guard in Vermont.  Legislators will choose between at two candidates. Vermont is the only state where the Adjutant is elected by the Legislature. If you are Guard Family or former Guard and have thoughts you’d like to share in advance of that election I would like to hear them.
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 must originate in the Vermont State Senate and can only be  proposed every four years. This is one of the years changes can be proposed. There will be a push for amendments that will create 4 year terms for Governor as well as establish civil and reproductive rights for Vermonters.
How does ranked-choice voting work?
How does Ranked Choice Voting Work

In addition, Rep. Ben Jickling of Randolph and I are working with Senator Chris Pearson of Burlington and other independents and Progressives on a bill which would bring Ranked Choice Voting to Vermont. Maine has recently utilized and the courts have upheld election results using Ranked Choice Voting. Massachusetts has a healthy public education campaign underway. We are looking forward to lots of public education on the benefits of ensuring candidates receive a majority vote and that all voters are able to have their votes considered in elections.

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The remote worker program has officially opened for applications as of January 1. This program reimburses individuals for some expenses to move to Vermont and work remotely. More information is available at the ThinkVermont website.
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Other issues we are hearing will be receiving legislative attention this session: Minimum Wage, Paid Family Leave, Water Quality, Climate Change
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Thank you to all who have taken our 2019 Legislative Survey.
Thus far we have 196 responses but are particularly light in responses from the under 35 crowd.

If you haven’t taken the survey, especially if you are a young person – please take the survey by Friday January 4th. Results will be published prior to the start of the new session on January 9th. The survey is designed to measure the attitudes and priorities of voters in the Deerfield Valley based on general topics and some specific proposals that we think will happen in the legislature this year.
 
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In 2018 I had some proud momma moments included my youngest daughter graduating from the UVM ROTC program as a nurse and 2LT in the U.S. Army and my son working all last winter in order to travel to France and Italy over the summer and then being able to watch him playing in the DIII Vermont high school soccer championship game this fall.  
Both of my daughters spent a fair amount of time in the State House during the debate and passage of

S.55 observing democracy in action and my oldest daughter has agreed to work with me part time during this year’s Session helping with research.
Proud to also share that my little brother graduated from the Vermont Police Academy this Fall and he is now working with Brattleboro Police Department.
 
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A final thought on 2018 – During the past four years I’ve been privileged to serve in the Vermont Legislature, I have had the added honor of sitting next to Rep. Kiah Morris of Bennington. Kiah was the only African American women serving in the Vermont House. Kiah has unexpectedly stepped away from serving in the House, and I have been reflecting on what I have learned since meeting her.
Kiah and I came into the House the same year and shared an immediate bond as Southern Vermont moms with young sons still at home. In our first term, we successfully worked together with a number of our colleagues on the creation of the Southern Vermont Economy Zone, a long term economic strategy which is already resulting in new collaborations and projects in Southern Vermont. It was eye opening to me each time I heard racist and discriminatory remarks in devotions, debate or comments in the Vermont House of Representatives including speeches on several civil and human rights measures Kiah had proposed which were so vitriolic they reduced visitors to tears. Watching the two self described local white supremacists harass her – sometimes daily and sometimes hourly over the years she served – equally as shocking. It’s hard to see what we don’t see.
Growing up and living in areas that are largely rural and almost exclusively white had afforded me virtually no opportunities to witness overtly racist acts. Out of sight, out of mind.  Sitting next to Kiah brought home to me the work that is still needed to combat racism and bigotry, even in Vermont. As our entire country continues to feel the demographic shifts of a globally connected economy, retiring baby boomers and lower birthrates, and we in rural Vermont continue to seek qualified employees for existing good paying jobs, people who want to start businesses and live here, enroll their students in our schools and enjoy the beauty, quiet and safety that keep us here, we have to start by asking (as my friend Kiah has asked me) “who deserves to be able to be here and to enjoy those things?”
Thank you for keeping me informed about your hopes, challenges and points of view last year – I hope you will continue in 2019 – Happy New Year!
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Scam Alert from the VT Attorney General’s Office – Social Security Administration

Scammers are posing as the Social Security Administration claiming social security numbers have been compromised. They are seeking to gain access to your social security number.

Hang up!  Do not provide personal information or payment.

The scammers may have a realistic-looking number for Social Security Administration on Caller ID.

Please help us stop these scams by sharing the information with someone you know.  If you have questions about this scam, or have provided sensitive personal information or money to the scammers, please call the Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424.

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

Rep. Laura Sibilia 2018 session survey

Goose City

Greetings from Goose City!

We are winding down from soccer with our son and looking forward to the holiday return of our girls.   I’m thinking more and more about the coming legislative session, and there are a number of public input sessions I want you to know about further on in this email.

This year I’m hoping you will consider giving some brief input prior to the the legislative session which begins January 3rd and will likely go through early May.  I’ve compiled a brief 10 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.

This survey is intended for my constituents in Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro and Whitingham, but our weekend residents and neighbors are free to weigh in.  The only required questions are name and town of residence.

Take the survey

I have scheduled two meetings with constituents in Dover and Wardsboro and hope to see you there:

  • Dover Town Hall November 28th 6:30-8
  • Wardsboro Town Hall November 30th 6:30 – 8

In addition I will be attending the Stamford School District meeting on November 14th from 7-9 pm.

And the Twin Valley, Whitingham, Wilmington meeting with Rep. John Gannon in Wilmington on December 19th at 6 pm.

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Upcoming statewide hearings of interest:

Rural Caucus Hearing: The Rural Development Caucus will hold a Public Hearing at the State House from 5–7 pm on Tuesday, November 7 to hear from municipal, business, education, and nonprofit interests in rural Vermont about what the most pressing issues are for rural Vermont. The press release and instructions on how to testify are available here.

Equifax data security breach: The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development will meet to hold hearings around the State to discuss issues related to privacy and data security breaches. Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Financial Regulation, and the Office of Legislative Council will join the Committee in presenting a brief summary of current law and recommended responses to security breaches.

The Committee will hear from the public their questions, experience with breaches, concerns, and suggestions. This topic is a continuation of the Committee’s work last session, and of particular interest in light of current events in relation to the Equifax breach.  A list of meeting dates and locations is available below. Sign-up will begin 30 minutes prior to the hearing’s start time.

Thursday, November 9th

12:30 p.m. Springfield Town Offices Selectmen’s Hall 96 Main Street Springfield, VT
5:30 p.m. Barton Village Office 17 Village Square Barton, VT

Tuesday, November 14th

12:30 p.m. Manchester Community Library Hunter Community Room 138 Cemetery Avenue Manchester Center, VT
6:00 p.m. Department of Health Conference Room 2B 108 Cherry Street Burlington, VT

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December 15th deadline – Open Enrollment: Open enrollment is the time of year when you can make changes to your Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont or MVP Healthcare insurance coverage. The new plan year begins January 1, 2018. If you want to change plans, you should call the Vermont Health Connect Customer Support Center or log into your account. If you don’t contact them and confirm a plan choice by December 15, 2017, you likely won’t be able to change plans until the next Open Enrollment.

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Education:

As you may recall, former Rep. Oliver Olsen and I have been fighting for years to commission a study of pupil counting, as we believe that the current system unfairly harms rural districts with small population densities, and we fought hard to have this study included in an act of the General Assembly.  We were finally successful in the 2017 session.
There is a fight brewing with AOE on whether or not this study will be done.  Right now they are refusing.
The chronically flawed funding formula which does not scale for size, the failure to capitalize on last year’s unique opportunity for significant savings through establishing statewide equitable healthcare benefits for education staff, increases in healthcare costs, the pending Act 46 incentives and other non-locally voted on expenses are going to result in yet another increase in property taxes this year.
Without changes to the way we count students, it is a virtual certainty that rural districts will be asked to make more substantial cuts then more population dense districts, once again unfairly and unequally hurting kids.  This study is the next important “tweek” needed for Vermont’s broken education financing mechanism.  It has been needed for many many years.  There is near universal consensus this formula does not work.  I am frustrated with the lack of transparency at all levels of state government about the non-local drivers of education property taxes.
Perhaps with last weeks news out of Whitingham there is light at the end of this very long tunnel for our taxpayers and our students.
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Some positive economic development progress stories from our district:
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As always, thank you for providing feedback and suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to call or email with questions or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lhsibilia@gmail.com.
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Congratulations to all of the organizers and volunteers of this year’s Gilfeather Turnip Festival in Wardsboro – beautiful weather and record breaking turn out!