Oversight Independent of Schools (H.483) - April 19, 2023

Chairman Campion welcomed Jay Badams (Superintendent, Norwich/Hanover Interstate School District ) to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, saying they wanted to know about the “whether there is ever any admissions process in our public schools.” He described H.483 as asking for “a kind of open enrollment where public dollars follow kids to whatever school they want.” He added that he thinks that is happening now in a lot of schools.

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Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - April 18, 2023

On Tuesday, Representative Sibilia gave the Committee the history leading up to the S.5.

  • In 2016, Governor Scott joined other states in committing Vermont to meeting goals of the Paris Climate Accords.
  • In 2020, Vermont passed Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA sets the mandates for greenhouse gas reductions, established the Climate Council to come up with the Climate Action Plan (CAP). The Clean Heat Standard (CHS) is the primary thermal sector solution for the CAP.

Sibilia claimed that Vermonters wanted them to act on climate, citing a poll that says 76% support climate action.

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Workforce Development (H.494) - April 18, 2023

Legislative Counsel reviewed H.494 for the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill had already passed the house and the much of the discussion was focused on the forgivable loan incentive programs (subsection 6)

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State Colleges Transformation Plan

The Senate Education Committee were joined on Tuesday by representatives from the Vermont State Colleges to discuss their Transformation Plan. Chairman Campion invited Chancellor Zdatny to outline for the Committee what the colleges will look like going forward, noting that "there is a lot of competition out there." Specifically, he pointed to Southern New Hampshire University as a competitor.

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IT Modernization Fund

On Tuesday, the Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) gave the Senate Finance Committee an overview of the IT Modernization Fund, which has historically been supported by an internal service charge (a fee charged to each agency of department based on their overall budget). The Governor’s budget this year recommended that it be its own line item in the budgets for each fund (General Fund, Education Fund, Transportation Fund, etc.) in order to be more transparent.

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Legislative Update - April 16, 2023

Two more major bills moved this week. In the House, the bill creating a carbon-pricing credit system advanced out of the Environment & Energy Committee with some relatively minor changes. However, it does provide some additional flexibility to the Public Utilities Commission to pause the credit program due to market conditions such as workforce shortages or supply chain issues. Additionally, the penalties on fuel dealers were reduced from 4x the credit amount to 2x.

The second major move was a bill passed by the Senate that would double legislative pay and create a new benefits package for legislators that includes health insurance and child care services. The goal is to make the legislature more attractive and accessible for working-class Vermonters, but it is still a historic increase in compensation for the State's citizen legislature.

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Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - April 12-13, 2023

Wednesday

The Committee began marking up S.5 on Wednesday. Chairwoman Sheldon asked if cooking was included in the definition of thermal sector and therefore covered under the bill. Legislative Counsel confirmed that it was included and transitioning from gas to thermal induction stoves in restaurants qualifies for credits.

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Compensation for Legislators (S.39) - April 13, 2023

The compensation and benefits bill for legislators, S.39, hit the Senate floor on Thursday. Senator White presented the bill on behalf of the Government Operations Committee and was followed by Senator Baruth for the Appropriations Committee.

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Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100) - April 13, 2023

Susan Minter (Executive Director, Capstone Community Action) shared with the House General & Housing Committee on Thursday a report by the Community Action Team reiterating that housing was needed. Minter gave a very similar presentation to the one given in the Senate regarding S.100. The same risks were identified as in the Senate the same powerful stories that demonstrated the need for more housing. 

She reiterated, again, that there was no focus on Act 250 or business issues addressed in the bill. Even so, Minter supported the bill as it was.

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Oversight Independent Schools (H.483) - April 12 -13, 2023

Wednesday

On Wednesday, Chairman Campion asked Legislative Counsel to share, with the Senate Education Committee, background on Act 49 and Act 173 and how they relate to independent schools. Act 49 was passed in 2017 and created a task force on independent schools. The task force was split and could not find a consensus; instead of offering a comprehensive report, each member issued their own recommendations around enrollment policy, if schools should be required to deliver special education and which categories should be required, and special education required reporting. The legislation also paused rulemaking until the legislature could act on these issues.

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