Oversight Independent of Schools (H.483) - April 20, 2023

On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee heard from Heather Bouchey (Interim Secretary, Agency of Education) and Chris Kane (Interim State Director of Special Education, Agency of Education) on H.483. Bouchey stressed the nature of public process and 2200 rulemaking stakeholder engagement. She believed this needed to be “implemented and experienced” as independent schools engage with that newly developed process.

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Responsibilities of the Department of Health Access (H.206) - April 20, 2023

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee heard testimonies on Thursday from various entities concerning H.206. The bill relates to the duties of the Department Vermont Health Access (DVHA), which was initially created in the House Health Care Committee back in February. Subsequently, reviewed by the House Appropriations Committee and then passed House sent to the Senate.

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Next Steps on Ethics (H.125) - April 20, 2023

Christina Sivret (Executive Director, Vermont Ethics Commission) joined the Senate Government Operations Committee to discuss a provision they wanted added to H.125. The underlying bill delt with boards and Commissions, but the Committee had previously indicated that this was a good vehicle for the language she was looking for.

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Divestment of State Pension Funds (S.42) - April 19, 2023

Bill McKibben from Third Act joined the House Government Operations Committee on Wednesday to discuss S.42. He noted divestment started here in Vermont years ago. Third Act was founded by McKibben, who wrote the "original book" about global warming. In LA Times and companies knew, all the way back in the 1980s, about the impact of fossil fuels and "lied about what fossil fuels can do to the environment," he claimed.

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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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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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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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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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