Department of Economic Development - March 31, 2023

Joan Goldstein (Commissioner, Department of Economic Development) joined the Senate Economic Development Committee on Friday, along with Abbie Sherman (Executive Director, Vermont Economic Progress Council).

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Miscellaneous Education Changes (H.461) - March 31, 2023

On Friday afternoon, Representative Conlon (Chair, House Education Committee) provided the Senate Education Committee with an overview of their committee bill, H.461.

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Changes to Election Laws (H.429) - March 31, 2023

The Senate Government Operations Committee resumed testimony on H.429 on Friday with Betty Keller (Member, Vermont League of Women Voters) who promoted Ranked Choice Voting as a solution to the “sore loser” issue this bill was trying to address. The Vermont League of Women Voters (LWV-VT) opposes the first two sections of the bill, which deal with the “sore loser” candidates. The legislature should not be limiting choices in the general election, she argued.

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Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100) - March 28-31, 2023

Anne Sosin (Interim Director, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition) spoke to the House General & Housing Committee on Thursday about Housing and Homelessness. She cast homelessness as a housing problem and a "policy choice," reiterating that they are "aligned" with other advocates supporting the S.100 housing bill.

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Ethics Commission - March 31, 2023

Christina Sivret presentation for the Vermont Ethics Commission budget to Senate Appropriations on Friday. The total budget came up to $190K, which includes two half-time personnel, plus a contractor. The Committee asked Sivret a number of questions, but they were very receptive to the presentation. 

She was able to present all her hopes relative to enforcement of the Code of Ethics and candidate disclosure requirements now being proposed to be added to H.429. She also spoke about the required training and the support they offer public officials through advisory letters.

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Universal Broadband Audit

On Friday, Doug Hoffer (State Auditor) shared a presentation with the Senate Finance Committee regarding universal broadband in Vermont. He wanted to examine some “risks” at this stage, after nearly twenty years of talking about this. Even with a “river of money” from the Federal government, he anticipates the Communication Union Districts (CUDs) are going to be asking for “a couple of hundred million dollars more.”

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VOTE: Setting Property Tax Yield (H.492) - March 30, 2023

The House took up a bill, H.492, on the floor Thursday that sets the statewide yields which determines local property tax rates. The average rate would decrease in FY2024, but much of that decrease will be “masked” by the Common Level of Appraisal (the leveling mechanism to account for disparities between when towns last did an appraisal) and school district spending.

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Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - March 30, 2023

Thursday morning the House Environment & Energy Committee returned to testimony on S.5. Neale Lunderville (President & CEO, Vermont Gas Systems) was first to speak. Chairwoman Sheldon gave an introduction Lunderville’s terms as Transportation Secretary, Secretary of Administration (under Douglas), and General Manager of the Burlington Electric Department.

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Oversight of Independent Schools (H.483) - March 28-29, 2023

The House Education Committee met briefly on Tuesday to review two changes to the committee amendment being offered on H.483. The first change was to remove the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) model policy for admissions for publicly tuitioned students to public schools (the language was maintained for independent schools). Concerns had been raised about the model policy, and VSBA is currently re-evaluating it. However, the rationale for removal of this requirement was the that title of the bill only referenced independent schools.

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VOTE: Ranked Choice Voting (S.32) - March 29, 2023

The Senate took up S.32 on Wednesday with Senator Vyhovsky reviewing the bill. She noted that Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is used across the country and even internationally. In fact, the bulk of other democracies around the world used ranked choice voting. Here in the US, both conservative and liberal states use RCV. One reason for this is that millions of votes are not counted in the last round of presidential primaries as candidates drop out.

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