Indys, Ubers and #PeopleOverParty

Last Sunday I found myself in Denver, traveling by Uber with a scientist I had attended a weekend conference with.  My new scientist friend conducted an experiment with our Uber drivers as we traveled to various Denver destinations talking about how much we were enjoying Denver and gathering info about our next destination.  

“We are here talking with people who are worried about politics and government in our country, she started. Can I ask you two questions? Are you registered to vote? And are you affiliated with a party?” They were all registered to vote.  And all independents.

My scientist friend was Dr. Ann Diamond, a family practitioner and independent candidate for the Washington State House of Representatives who had just won a top two primary in her district. If elected in November, she will be the first independent to serve in the Washington House. The conference we met at was the Unite Summit – a gathering of independent elected officials, former Democratic and Republican officials, candidates, strategists, and supporters from across the country meeting to continue building momentum for a better way forward in governing our states and our country.

Screenshot 2018-08-22 17.15.51 (2)The Summit was hosted by Unite America, a national grassroots movement of citizens who think both parties are failing and that our country can do better. I was honored to sit on a panel with  elected independent state legislators from Maine, Alaska and Colorado and talk about the difference a small group of elected independents, working with moderate members of both parties, can make in state legislative bodies.  The seven elected independents in the Vermont House work with our moderate colleagues on both sides of the isle to pull together bipartisan coalitions. In Maine and Alaska, these bipartisan coalitions have come together to overcome serious budgetary and elections stalemates in order to enact commonsense bipartisan reforms.

In Vermont, Maine and Alaska voters are getting used to electing independents. But that is not the case in the rest of the country and certainly not the case with any of our federally elected officials.  Unite America is providing a simple yet productive way to help bring function back to our politics — by helping elect independents to office. If you are an independent, like my Denver Uber drivers and 40% of our fellow Americans, and are looking for a productive way to engage in politics, keep an eye on Unite America as they work to connect independents across our country.

My time in elected office has been spent dedicated to elevating the voice of our district and our district’s issues to Vermont’s policymakers. While that will continue to be my focus, I was grateful for this brief opportunity to share my experience serving as an independent and to be able to encourage others to run to serve the people instead of parties. It left me feeling very hopeful for our country.

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Time for a Special Session

The Vermont legislature adjourned on May 12th around midnight.  As of the writing of this update, several bills have been vetoed and several more including the budget and school finance bills are promised vetoes. Though the Governor had threatened to veto these bills, the legislature did not schedule a veto session but rather adjourned “sine die” which means without a date to return.  In the second year of a two-year biennium it is typical to adjourn with both a scheduled veto session or if the governor does not veto any legislation, sine die.

Given no veto session was scheduled, without any further action, the legislature would return to session after the November elections on the first Wednesday in January after the first Monday.  In this case, if the governor vetoes the budget and no veto session has been scheduled by the legislature, then the governor needs to call the legislature back for a special session to agree on a budget bill to fund government after July 1, 2018.  The legislature can also take up any bills it would like to in a special session, as opposed to a veto session which deals only with those bills that have been vetoed.

On May 23rd we were called back by the governor for a special session.  It is my hope that this session will be brief and will only deal with those bills needed to ensure the function of services for Vermonters and the funding of schools.  Given that so much hinges on the final passage of the budget and school finance bills, and that the legislature can take up anything during a special session, I am holding off on writing a final legislative update for this session.

Going into this session I’d like you to know that I will not support school finance bills which mandate student/staff ratios or lowering of excess spending thresholds until and if the state is responsible for the running of the schools or we have proper weighting of students which acknowledges that every child cannot be provided equitable educational opportunities for the same per pupil spending.  We can and should address property taxes, but it requires proper student weights to do so in a way that doesn’t harm the students in rural Vermont.  At the end of this Special Session, I will provide a comprehensive legislative update.

 

The pace of things and #WomensMarchVT

The size and window of opportunity that exists when all of Vermont’s legislators come together for the winter months is truly significant. We have the opportunity every day to meet and work with our colleagues from around the state and members of the Administration on solving problems for Vermonters.  This week I have been busy working with my colleagues to establish a Rural Vermont working group, consider appropriate legislative changes to Act 46, travel home to Dover midweek to meet with my fellow Act 46 study committee members to host our second public input meeting, learn more about a rural cell service project that is in jeopardy, talked with multiple perspectives about universal background checks, coordinated a conference call for seven Southern Vermont towns to learn more about financing fiber to the home projects, participated in multiple discussions around school choice, civility and the crushing burdens some state education finance policy is placing on our rural schools.

I am grateful to be able to work full time on these challenges and many more for my district during these four months.  While the long work days are rewarding and invigorating,  I also look forward to my ride back to Dover on Friday night and my weekends at home with my boys.

This weekend I am still in Montpelier.  Today I am going to march with other women in our Vermont capitol.  The specific individual motivations of the marchers here will be varied and numerous.  Mine are to stand with my daughters, people of color, a free press and the LGBT community.  I also stand with those who march today in the right to life parade in Montpelier and their First Amendment right to express their religious beliefs.

Rep. Sibilia running for re-election to Vermont House

May 16, 2016

Dear friends and neighbors,

Serving my first two years as your representative in the Vermont House has been a privilege and an honor.  As an educationpanelindependent freshman legislator, unaffiliated with a political party, the learning curve was occasionally steep, always interesting and endlessly inspiring.  On your behalf, I worked hard every day to learn the legislative process, forge productive relationships with my colleagues, and use my experience and voice to assist our district, our neighbors, and our state.

My work ethic and willingness to work across the political spectrum on state and local challenges allowed me to be more effective than might otherwise be expected of an independent freshmen.  Regulatory initiatives I took a leadership or shared leadership role in include:

  • The Vermont House, as a body, has requested a federal audit of VTel federal telecom awards to determine why services promised to tens of thousands of Vermonters have not been delivered, especially in Southern Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom
  • Ensuring our towns have a representative to the state working group considering a purchase of thirteen TransCanada dams
  • Creation of a Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone and initiative to fund deepening economic development collaboration between Windham and Bennington Counties
  • Worked with other House and Senate colleagues to extend developing work on state budget accountability practices and metrics
  • Preventing an expedited, top down,  regional form of municipal governance from being imposed prior to gauging local municipal demand for regional government
  • Requiring a study of the adequate cost of providing an education to a Vermont student which has led to development of significant special education cost savings proposals
  • Ensuring that education cost containment measures were both meaningful and fair in that they required financial restraint from schools of all sizes, and not exclusively our smallest rural schools

There are numerous ongoing challenges that need significant work including ensuring health reform initiatives are functioning and properly budgeted for, monitoring the educational governance changes envisioned as part of Act 46 to make sure they  result in improved and equitable opportunities for all Vermont students and continuing to push for real property tax reform measures.  In addition, we need to prioritize the development of a continuous assessment, development, and investment program for connectivity for all Vermonters.  Future opportunity for existing and new Vermonters relies on our ability to sustain and grow a globally connected and low environmental impact economy.

salwayNext year will see a historical change in leadership of state government with a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, Senate President, and many long time House members retiring. I am running for re-election to the Windham-Bennington House seat and hope to work with this new leadership on these and other issues important to our district and to the state.   Over the course of the election season I look forward to being out in our towns and at local events hoping to hear from you on the issues most important to you, your family and your business.  You can keep track of what I am working on, or where I will be on my website http://www.laurasibiliavt.com and social media.

Thank you for your support, your questions and the knowledge you shared with me, about issues you care about, during the past two years.  As always, please be in touch with questions, comments or if I may be able to assist you in navigating our government systems for solutions to challenges at lhsibilia@gmail.com or cell 802-384-0233.