February Legislative Update

It may sound cliche, but knowledge is indeed power. Here is an update on what your government is working on in the areas of workforce development, government transparency, and ethics.

Workforce Development

Campaign for Vermont has been advocating for a Pathway to Economic Renewal and Shared Prosperity. We've known for too long Vermont has lacked an economic development strategy that links research, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, startup capital, higher education, workforce training, and affordability under one comprehensive economic development plan. 

The House Commerce Committee is working on a bill with the Administration to strengthen workforce development programs in Vermont. They are discussing how to focus students on career pathways and looking at employee credentials.  Additionally, Vermont Commissioner of Economic Development, Joan Goldstein, presented to the committee an overview, Interagency Workforce Plan, of the $3.2 million spent on workforce training in Vermont. CFV will be watching for final legislation as it moves out of the House Commerce Committee.

CFV continues to believe that in order to effectively attack the demographic challenges facing Vermont, economic development must be approached in a way that cuts across state government and eliminates silos in order to deliver the change needed to attract better paying jobs and encourage families to move here to fill those jobs.  CFV is committed to advocating for policies that will  create a more prosperous economy for every generation of Vermonter.

Government Transparency – Open Meeting Practices

The House Government Operations Committee is expected to move a draft bill that will update Vermont’s open meeting laws. You can read the draft here. Their intention is to codify in law ‘best practices’ as proposed by the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office. This bill has not yet been assigned a number, but will address the definition of “meeting” as it applies to these statutes, amend fee formats for Public Records Act requests, and update timeframe requirements for responding to Public Record Act requests. The legislation would also create a new position within the State Ethics Commission for an impartial and independent Open Government Ombudsman to assist ensuring compliance with Open Meeting and Public Records Act.

Many local school and municipal boards have expressed concern that the legislation is overreaching and could discourage interaction between board members outside of formal meetings.  The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is advocating for the deletion of language that relates to “serial meetings”, defined as conversations that occur in a chain with multiple board members. The original proposal included intermediaries too, but it is unclear at this point what the committee will decide.  Campaign for Vermont is continuing to monitor this legislation.

Campaign Finance Transparency

On February 23rd, the House of Representatives passed H.828. This legislation intends to modernize Vermont’s campaign financing provisions and subject modern media – defined as social media, electronic communications, and other digital platforms – to disclosure requirements. H.828 will also require local candidates to file an additional disclosure report on the Friday preceding a local election.

The Senate will take a look at this House passed version of H.828 and make recommendations of their own.  Campaign for Vermont will continue to monitor this legislation.

Ethics Update

S.240 was introduced on January 3rd and has seen little action.  The bill would undermine some provisions of the ethics standards put in place last session by eliminating the requirement for the spouse or domestic partner of candidates, Executive officers, and the Ethics Commission members and Executive Director to disclosure their sources of income.

CFV opposes this legislation, because spousal or domestic partner disclosure provides an important element of ethics standards and transparency. It needs to be noted that current law does not require disclosure of income amounts, only sources of income. Having this requirement in place is a key component to mitigating potential conflicts of interest.

How can you get involved?

  1. Contact your legislator and ask them to be what they are doing to help make Vermont more affordable. Politicians work for us. In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, “we the people elect leaders not to rule, but to serve.”
  2. Make a financial contribution. Your support will go directly towards holding our elected officials accountable and pursuing innovative ideas to reduce property taxes.
  3. Follow us on social media. Keep up with the latest updates and opportunities for action.

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