What's Really Going on With Education

This letter is in response to Don Tinney’s 6/26 commentary in VTDigger.

Tinney’s “hit piece” on Governor Scott is nothing new for the VT-NEA, although I’m surprised by the shrillness of the tone. Perhaps he realizes how much Vermonters have lost patience with rising property taxes and declining outcomes and is hoping to deflect attention away from his organization.

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Property Tax Yield Bill (H.887) - Summary & Analysis

The annual property tax yield bill was a little different this year. In response to a projected 20% increase in property tax rates, the legislature injected a number of policy reforms into the bill in hopes of reducing rates in future years.

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Expanded Ethics Oversight (H.875) - Analysis

H.875 strengthens Vermont's ethics laws by creating enforcement over disclosure requirements and independent oversight over state officials by giving the State Ethics Commission investigatory powers for the first time. A new Municipal Code of Ethics will also be created to provide a baseline code of conduct for local officials across the state.

 

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BILL ANALYSIS: Public Safety (S.58)

S.58 is one of several criminal justice bills passed by the legislature this session. Key provisions of the bill add zylazine (an animal tranquilizer) to the list of regulated drugs and tightened up language that allows dealers to dodge responsibility by claiming they didn't know what was in the products they were selling. More controversially, the bill delays "raise the age" efforts in an attempt to allow the Department for Children and Families to deal with a current spat of violent juvenile offenders.

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ANALYSIS: Updates to Open Meeting Laws (S.55)

The General Assembly passed S.55, which updates Vermont's Open Meeting Law. It requires public bodies to be transparent about their deliberations and decisions, and to use standard rules and best practices for both meeting format and method of delivery.

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Act 250 Overhaul (H.687) - May 9-10, 2024

The Senate Economic Development Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee met jointly on Thursday to review the House changes to the Act 250 bill, H.687. Representative Bongartz was there to help walk them through some of the changes. There were some minor changes to the implementation dates. The first major change is that the Land Use Review Board (formerly the Natural Resources Board) would not hear appeals to Act 250.

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Property Tax Yield Bill (H.887): Senate Floor May 10, 2024

The yield bill, H.887, reached the Senate floor late on Friday night. Senator Cummings shared the compromise they had reached with the House to “meld” the two study committees together. The finance study would now be a sub-committee for the Commission on the Future of Education. The major point of contention was the one-time bump in the property tax credit in an attempt to hold income sensitized taxpayers harmless.

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Property Tax Yield Bill (H.887): Senate Finance May 7-10, 2024

Chairwoman Cummings launched the Senate Finance Committee right in on Tuesday morning, explaining that they had drafted an amendment to H.887 the previous day. She reiterated that the Commission on the Future of Education will remain in the bill, but the amendment creates an Education Finance Study Committee who’s work will result in proposed legislation after taking into account “everything that goes into school financing.” The task of this study committee will be to design an “affordable educational funding system designed to ensure substantially equal access to educational opportunities for all Vermont students.”

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Property Tax Yield Bill (H.887): House Ways & Means May 9-10, 2024

Chairwoman Kornheiser kicked off the House Ways & Means Discussion on Thursday around H.887 by telling the Committee to “take a breath on all our opinions on everything related to the Yield. And actually, just first hear what the Senate did.” She instructed them to keep their questions restricted to “qualifying” and understanding, keep notes on other concerns for later.

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Property Tax Yield Bill (H.887): House Floor May 10, 2024

Representative Kornheiser introduced the Senate changes on H.887 to the House Floor Friday night. Her proposal of amendment embedded the education finance study into the Commission on the Future of Education. They also proposed an excess spending threshold of 118% above average district spend, which splits the difference between the original positions of the two bodies.

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