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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Eliminating Independent School Choice (H.258) - Feb 22nd, 2023

On Wednesday, the House Education Committee took up the H.258, which would eliminate Independent school choice in Vermont. Andrew Jones (Assistant Superintendent, MMU) shared that he was also an education policy researcher at UVM and considers himself an expert on “school privatization.” As someone who strongly believes in the institution of public education, he voiced his support for the bill because he is “gravely concerned” about the 2022 Carson V. Makin ruling. He believes that allowing school vouchers to go religious schools undermines the public education system. He also argued that vouchers “effectively subsidize the wealthy” because research from other states with vouchering programs indicated that they were most often utilized by families who would have sent their kids to private schools regardless.

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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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Miscellaneous Elections Bill (H.97) - Feb 22-23, 2023

On Wednesday the House Government Operations Committee heard significant testimony on their draft bill that would, among other things, ban fusion candidates. John Rodgers (Former State Senator) testified first.

Rodgers stated that he believes in “One Person, One Vote, One Candidate, One Party” and mentioned he and Senator Alice White had meant to address these issues in the past. He believes this is a serious issue for primaries and he sees low turnout (27% in the 2022 primary) as being exacerbated by “hybrid candidates.”

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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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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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Thermal Sector Carbon Pricing (S.5) - Feb 23, 2023

After sitting nearly a week, S.5 was brought up in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday afternoon. June Tierney (Commissioner, Department of Public Service) testified that the $400K allocated in S.5 is not enough funding to achieve the goals for her department set out in the bill.

Tierney generally supports the idea of “potential study” to see what the impact will be and to discover if climate goals are practical and can be fulfilled. She pointed to questions like what is out there, what can be done, and at what cost?

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VT Outdoor Recreation Community Grant Program (H.275)

Representative Dolan introduced her short form bill, H.275, to the House Education Committee on Wednesday. Her intention with the bill was to establish education grant pilot projects focused on middle schools for 8th and 9th graders to get them enthusiastic about going to a trade school and to understand the available opportunities. She believes this will be particularly valuable for rural union school districts.  

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Giving Preference to CTE Students (H.278)

Representative Oliver presented his bill, H.278, to the House Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill proposes to require the Vermont State Colleges, the University of Vermont, and the State Agricultural College to give preference in admissions to eligible students who are residents of the state and who have completed a career technical education program in a subject matter or industry the postsecondary school offers.

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NEASC Accreditation

Jay Nichols (Executive Director, Vermont Principals Association) joined the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. Chairman Campion said he had invited them to respond to the question: “Should we consider encouraging or requiring NEASC evaluation for public schools?”

The Vermont Principals Association is opposed to doing this, mostly because of cost and they feel like the benefit to them isn’t as great as independent schools. Read more…

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