Coates & Crow: The Art of the Possible... Not Really

Recently the Pension Benefits, Design, and Funding Task Force (Task Force) released their final report, which included recommendations to fix the retirement systems for state workers and teachers (Retirement Systems). Given the stakeholders involved and the desire to have majority approval, the report’s recommendations were seen as the best that could be done for now. A good start considering the circumstances, but they do not include the systemic solutions needed to make the Systems sustainable.

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LETTER: House Government Operations on S.171

Members of the House Government Operations Committee,

Through Campaign for Vermont, I have been working with the Administration and Legislature since 2015 to encourage the passage and strengthening of ethics laws in Vermont. Today I am writing because you are beginning to take testimony on S.171. I know this bill may be confusing in how it interrelates with existing rules, policies, and practices across different branches of government. It is not always easy to step back and see the broader picture of how these all tie together.

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Legislative Update - March 27, 2022

Legislators found out this week that the Vermont child tax credit bill may need a haircut. The workforce development bill received such a large haircut that we may have a headless horseman situation.

In case we scared you, the economic development bill passed out of committee this week and is headed to the Senate floor (mostly intact). Some provisions in the bill received push-back around what business would have access to funds and whether or not revenue replacement is the role of government (that question as largely been decided by ARPA). The workforce bill was passed by the House this week as the House and Senate exchange their flagship bills.

Also, the ethics bill received a warm welcome in the House and we are looking forward to testifying on that legislation next week.

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Legislative Update - March 20, 2022

The legislature was busy this week moving bills onto the floor in both chambers to meet the looming cross-over deadline (all bills must pass from one chamber to the other before crossover in order to be acted upon this year). Many last-minute requests were denied and a number of bills saw floor action. This includes the ethics bill we have been working on, which was passed by the Senate this week.

Other bills we have been following, including the workforce development, housing, and economic development are all slated for the floor of the House and Senate early next week.

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Legislative Update - March 13, 2022

There was progress on several fronts this week with the ethics bill moving to the Senate Floor and the workforce development bill appears to be ready to move by Wednesday.

A bill that steers the state towards divestment of fossil fuels from our public pension systems is also headed to the Senate Floor. This bill is concerning for several reasons, read more below!

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Spring 2022 Update

We have been busy here at the Campaign! Here is our Spring update on all the activities we are engaged on.

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Legislative Update - February 27, 2022

There is still much up in the air going into Town Meeting week. The Senate Natural Resources Committee moved an imperfect Act 250 bill that would narrowly address housing, but also include the road rule provision that will likely draw a veto threat from the Governor. We will likely see that bill combined with efforts ongoing in the Senate Economic Development Committee but the overall picture of what the housing incentive package will look like is murky and it seems likely the Senate will fail to address the "missing middle" for owner occupied workforce housing stock that Governor Scott called for in his budget address.

The Pension "fix" was voted out of the Senate Government Operations Committee on Friday. The bill largely follows the Pension Task Force recommendations which only addresses roughly half of the pension liability the state currently faces.

Ethics legislation also ran into stiff opposition from attorneys and judicial employees this week as they refused a compromise that would hold them to the same definition of conflict of interest as other public employees but they could follow their rules for resolving those conflicts. Instead they requested that their rules of professional conduct would override the state code of ethics.

Finally, there was a jump in the projected education spending increase this week as more school budgets came back. It's still unclear what the actual tax rates will be as there is so much volatility in appraisal values and offsetting state and federal funds.

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Legislative Update - February 20, 2022

This week saw positive progress on a number of fronts. After looking like it was unraveling last week, a new draft of S.171 (the ethics bill) on Friday showed positive developments. Workforce and economic development bills are also taking shape and are looking promising.

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ACTION ALERT: This is Why Ethics Matter

Friends, earlier this week we issued our first action alert of the legislative session. Both VTDigger and VPR have picked up the story and highlighted the last-minute shredding of the ethics bill that we and others have spent two years working on.

We believe strongly that a Code of Ethics should apply equally to all three branches of state government. As envisioned a few short weeks ago, S.171 would have done that. However, the future of the bill is now uncertain as the legislative and judicial branches seek to exempt themselves or set up their own ethics policies and oversight.

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Legislative Update - February 13, 2022

Friends, it was an eventful week. We issued our first action alert of the legislative session (see more below) and the Vermont House passed a tax credit that will put $1200 per child back into the pockets of Vermont families. We also saw a showdown between the Governor and the Senate over the infamous road rule (and other provisions) in Act 250.

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