Vermont Health Information Exchange - April 5, 2024

Beth Anderson (President and CEO, Vermont Information Technology Leaders (VITL)) testified at the House Health Care Committee on Friday to review the purpose and activities of the organization. VITL was founded in 2005 and operates the Vermont Health Information Exchange (VHIE). The plan was approved by the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB). The GMCB has the authority to approve VITL’s budget.

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Education Spending - April 5, 2024

The Senate Finance Committee convened on Friday to hear from Julia Richter (Senior Fiscal Analyst, Joint Fiscal Office)) about the current state of the Education Fund. She noted that the most recent data they have is from March 27th. The Education Fund Outlook shows a projected education spending of roughly $1.9B and an average property tax bill increase of 17.7%.

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Flood Recovery - April 5, 2024

Kristin Warner (Public Policy Manager, VBSR) spoke to the Senate Economic Development on the creation of a new flood relief program called FRAP (Flood Relief Assistance Program). This program was originally in H.723, but was not taken up by any committee.  An amendment containing the language creating FRAP was proposed on the House floor but was defeated. VBSR is asking the Committee to take testimony on this bill. 

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Government Accountability (H.702) - April 4, 2024

Representative Boyden reported H.702 to the Senate Government Operations Committee on Thursday.

She noted there are two distinct sections of the bill:

  1. The creation of a Joint Oversight and Accountability Committee
  2. The establishment of a working group to review the State’s grant process
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Education Spending Joint Hearing - April, 4, 2024

Chairman Conlon introduced the topic of the day, which was to solicit ideas from legislators about how to address the education crisis.

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Education Spending - April 3, 2024

Chairman Conlon reviewed the House Education Committee’s “accomplishments” for the year, which, “if all goes well” would be four bills:

  • PCBs testing Pause,
  • BOCES, BOCES we hope organically grows scale and collaboration leading to cost savings we hope.
  • Community Schools FY funding,
  • School Construction program.

However, he noted, none of these addresses or responds to the “urgency many people are feeling, and the challenge in here is to be thoughtful, patient, well vetted” with regard to education spending. Many legislators are looking to put together a task force for the big problem(s) and who and what etc.

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Changes to Clean Heat Standard (S.305) - April 3, 2024

The Senate Natural Resources Committee got a first look at S.305 on Wednesday, which deals with changes to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as we have profiled in other reports. Senator Bray described the bill to the Committee as “things all PUC related rolled into one bill.” It re-ups a three-year Energy Efficiency pilot program (but removes all oversight), provides “consistent funding” to said program, and updates key deadlines in the Clean Heat Standard (CHS).

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Income and Wealth Distribution Report - April 3, 2024

Chairwoman Kornheiser introduced Stephanie Yu (Executive Director, Public Assets Institute) on Wednesday, saying they usually hear from them earlier in the session. Her presentation included a lot of data about the economic distribution coming out of Covid and how the ARPA funds prevented a worse recession. These funds “prevented what could have been a deep, lasting recession and reduced child poverty nationally from 2020 to 2021 by 46 percent,’ the report concluded.

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Act 250 Overhaul (S.311) - April 2, 2024

Peter Tucker (Advocacy & Public Policy Director, Vermont Association of Realtors) joined the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday to discuss S.311 and H.687 which both deal with overhauling Act 250. He was excited at the prospect of the “ways these two Bills will end up working together,” suggesting this is a “real opportunity” to reform land use and housing development. He acknowledged the work of the Summer Study Committee and the Natural Resource Board (NRB) and study of land use designations and the realtors association were participants in both.

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VOTE: Miscellaneous Education Bill (H.874) - April 2, 2024

Representative Brady walked through the House’s miscellaneous education bill, H.874, on the floor Tuesday. The first four sections of the bill would task the Adult Education and Literacy Student Access Committee created last year with making recommendations. The bill also adds funding for the Community Schools pilot project from the Education Fund. Another important provision of the bill brings back a Universal Chart of Accounts (UCA) requirement for school districts so that policy makers can more easily compare the spending of two districts. The key difference in this version of the UCA is it does not mandate that all districts must use the same software, only that they use the same accounting standards and categorization.

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