Ending Independent School Choice (H.285) - March 1, 2023

The House Education Committee returned Wednesday morning to the bill that does away with Vermont’s public tuitioning system. Chairman Conlon opened the meeting, indicating that this would not likely be taken up again before the town meeting break. However, on Friday they will take another look at their committee bill on this topic.

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Update on School Budgets - Feb 28, 2023

On Tuesday, the Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) and the Agency of Education (AOE) provided their customary update to the House Ways & Means Committee. Chairwoman Kornheiser shared that she had asked JFO to include a new line item for cloud taxes, which would amount to $16.9M in revenue if added. This addition would result in a 5% increase in average property tax bills if coupled with the additional spending items the Committee is considering.

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Miscellaneous Ethics Bill - Feb 28, 2023

The Senate Government Operations Committee took up a draft bill on Tuesday that would make miscellaneous changes to ethics laws. Legislative Counsel walked through the bill with the Committee.

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Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - Senate Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee dove back into S.5 on Tuesday. Chairwoman Kitchel notified the Committee that it was her intention to add a study and a check-back provision to the bill.

Kitchel highlighted the importance of a “potential study.” It informs everything else, including the economic and technical feasibility of the plan. Based on Julie Moore’s testimony (Secretary, Agency of Natural Resources), this study needs to be the first step in this process, and must be added to the bill.

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Legislative Update - February 26, 2023

Administrators of Vermont public schools came out swinging this week trying to drive through a bill that would eliminate public tuitioning to independent schools. They mostly repeated talking points that teachers unions argue nationally where vouchering or charter programs are introduced - i.e. not specific to Vermont or the program we offer to kids who live in towns that don't operate a school. The language they use is concerning and indicates a nationally-coordinated effort.

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Vermont State Colleges Funding

The House Appropriations Committee reviewed the FY2024 budget for the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) on Tuesday. Representatives from VSC shared that in 2020 the state asked them to close down three of their campuses to address a structural deficit of $25M per year. In response, they formed a committee and created a plan to reduce the operating deficit by $5M/year for five years.

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Omnibus Housing Bill (S.100): Feb 21 - 24, 2023

The Senate Economic Development Committee continued to do mark up of the Omnibus Housing Bill on Tuesday with two members of the Committee absent. Chairwoman Ram Hinsdale stated that she presumed that the absent Committee Members were aligned with moving in the direction that the Committee was going with mark-up of the bill. This, however, contradicts Senator Brock’s statement of last week where he went on record as to not being comfortable with this Bill.

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Possible Amendments to S.5

On Thursday the Senate Natural Resources Committee brought up the topic of possible amendments to S.5. It was a short discussion and no major changes where proposed, however they did discuss some minor concerns from Xusana Davis’ testimony the previous week.

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School Spending Update - Feb 23, 2023

Brad James shared with the House Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday that 93% of budgets are in and education spending is now projected at 7.8%. The December letter originally projected 8.5%. Burlington is still not in yet, and this has the potential to move the needle. Milton also out, their building manager has been out sick.

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Ranked Choice Voting (S.32)

The Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony on S.32 Thursday, which introduces ranked choice voting for federal elections. Chairwoman Hardy announced that she will be changing how the Committee approaches this bill. The Secretary of State’s office has stated that it would be difficult to get Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) running by the 2024 presidential primary. Therefore, the bill will now push that timeline back to the 2026 federal primary. S.32 would also allow municipalities to use RCV, if they chose to do so, for local races.

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