Timely piece on disinvestment in local media “Sometimes when you try to pinch pennies, you lose pounds”



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.
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
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.'”

Open enrollment period is November 1 through December 15th more info 
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

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

Please stay engaged and stay in touch via email lhsibilia@gmail.com or phone 802-384-0233. If you’d like to receive updates from my blog as they are posted please check out www.laurasibiliavt.com.
Rep. Laura Sibilia
State Representative
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

Time for a new session

This week I’m packing to head back up to Montpelier for the legislative session which starts on January 5th and will likely go through some unknown date in May. I’ve also been catching up with folks who have reached out to me on various issues they care about or problems they are trying to fix.

Being your Representative in the Vermont Legislature is a thought provoking and curious job.  Often the requirement is helping empower and inform citizens on how to better navigate their government. There are just as many times I’m learning from constituents who possess deep background and knowledge on specific issues and who are trying to make their town, their school, or their industry work better.  Thank you to all who have taken the time to reach out for assistance or to help me better understand their interest.

Topics of concern or specific issues ideas I have been hearing from you about since the end of last year’s session include numerous challenges with implementing the school governance reform Act 46, Vermont education finance, the clean-up of Lake Champlain, last mile challenges (in most of my towns!) with broadband and cellular, ATV access to state land, the uses of Act 250 fees, AirBnB regulation, emergency response times, Gilfeather Turnips!, the reliability of an eventually enacted state energy plan with 90% renewables, licensing of art therapists, a carbon tax and of course I have heard from folks both opposed and in favor of marijuana legalization.

In addition to the aforementioned issues and a host of other policy initiatives and ideas, Vermont is again facing a current year and project FY 17 deficit.  This is largely associated with Medicaid and is a direct result of having increased the number of Vermonters who are eligible for benefits through both the federal and state health care actions, but not increasing taxes to pay for the newly eligible recipients.   The situation is even more urgent due to inadequate reimbursement rates for healthcare providers.  Last year the Governor proposed a .08 payroll tax to pay for the increased eligibility demands, but the tax was not supported by the Legislature.   This year he is saying he will not propose new taxes but will reduce other services in order to pay for the medicaid expansion.  The solution almost certainly will involve either cutting benefits, raising taxes, or some of both.

In December I spent the day in Montpelier attending the pre session legislative briefing put together by the Joint Fiscal Office

The Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) was created in 1973. The primary mission of the office is to provide non-partisan financial analyses to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the House Ways & Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, the House and Senate Transportation Committees, and the Joint Fiscal Committee. The Office also provides additional non-partisan staff support to committees in a variety of fiscal areas including health care, education finance, institutions and general fiscal analysis.  There is a tremendous amount of financial information on there website, a great resource for Vermonters.

The chief economist for the legislature, Tom Kavet, gave his assessment of the current economic and demographic trends in Vermont.

Education Secretary Holcomb during the December 1 briefing

We were also briefed by members of the Governor’s administration including the Secretary of the Administration and the Commissioner of Finance on how the current year budget is doing (there is a 48M+ shortfall), and how the upcoming years budget will look if revenues and expenses stay the same (another potential 58M+ shortfall). The Governor’s Secretary of Education gave an update on implementation of Act 46.

On December 1st the Commissioner of Taxes released forecasts related to education tax rates for the upcoming fiscal year, FY2017. The statutorily required forecasts are a joint effort between the Agency of Education, Department of Taxes, and Joint Fiscal Office. This year the forecast shows that the projected average homestead property tax rate will rise by 1 cent to $1.535 per $100. The projected average nonresidential property tax rate will rise by three tenths of one cent to $1.538. The projected average income rate will go down slightly from 2.74% in FY2016 to 2.72% in FY2017 (which begins on July 1, 2016). The average tax bill for all three types of payers is projected to increase 1.12%.  Read more on this here

This year I hope to increase the number of updates from the State House – feel free to let me know if you are hearing too much or too little!  You can also monitor the work my committee is doing and check in on how I am voting on issues by going to the legislature website www.http://legislature.vermont.gov/

As always, I encourage folks to weigh in on issues that you care strongly about.  The best way to reach me is email at lhsibilia@gmail.com or cell at (802) 384-0233.  And if you are in Montpelier on business or to testify, give me a call and let me know if you’d like to try and meet.