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Town Meeting Report: 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Clarkson   
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Vermont Statehouse.  While the challenges are enormous, so are the opportunities.  For the last few years the economy has forced us to be creative and ‘think outside the box’ about how we deliver services essential to our lives.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 13:22
 
Legislative Update: 2 March 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Clarkson   
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

The Vermont Legislature is on its annual Town Meeting break this week. Before we adjourned, a number of Committees passed out bills which address some of the priorities of this 2015 Session. The top three priorities to emerge are issues involving 1) education (cost and opportunity), 2) water quality (improving the impaired waterways of Vermont) and 3) continued work on health care cost containment and reform. The House Education Committee passed out a bill which focuses on reining in education costs, building efficiencies in governance and opportunities for students. This bill now moves to the committee I serve on, House Ways and Means, which will work on it before it goes to the Floor and then to the Senate.

Realigning our ever increasing public education costs and steadily declining student population is a top priority for this biennium. Public demand for more affordable and equitable education has focused the work of the House Education Committee this session. Every community in Vermont faces the growing expense of ensuring that all students can access an equitable array of services and opportunities at an affordable price.

The Committee passed out a comprehensive proposal to improve education quality, promote sustainability, expand opportunities and contain education spending. This draft legislation has a long way to go in the legislative process but I thought I’d include some of its proposals. It is not yet clear how much this bill will trim education costs. Here are most of the elements that are currently in the bill which will now be considered by House Ways and Means:

 

  • Unified Education Districts: Requires districts to expand up to at least 1,100 students and be responsible for the education of their pre-k to grade 12 students by 2019. Alternative proposals that meet the objectives of the bill will be considered by State Board of Education.
  • Temporary Cap on Local Spending Increases: a cap of 2% on per pupil spending will be in place until 2018.
  • Limit Out-of-State Tuition Payments: Public tuition will not be paid to schools that are located outside of Vermont – exceptions to be determined.
  • Small School Grants: Phases out small school grants over 5 years.
  • Hold Harmless Provision (Phantom Students): Reduces the fiscal protection from rapidly declining enrollment by shortening the permissible period of artificial student count.
  • Yield Proposal: Simplifies the calculation and report of homestead property tax rate.
  • Explicit Ballot Language: School budget warnings and ballots will include specific disclosure of per pupil spending, percent changes and overall budget amount.
  • Moratorium on Spending: Imposes a moratorium through 2016 on any new legislation that would increase property taxes.
  • Special Education Funding: Requires the Secretary of Education to propose alternative methods of delivery and payment for special education services.
  • Ratios: the bill asks districts to move to a higher student to FTE district employee ratio.
  • Set the Education Property Tax Rate for FY 16 at $1.00 for Homesteads, 1.94% for Income Sensitivity and $1.535 for Non-Homesteads.

 

I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached by email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri) 828-2228 or at home (Sat-Mon) 457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont Legislature, and the bills which have been proposed and passed, visit the new legislative website: legislature.vermont.gov I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached by email ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ); by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri), 828-2228; or at home (Sat-Mon), 457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont Legislature, and the bills that have been proposed and passed, visit the new legislative website: (http://www.leg.state.vt.us).

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 13:22
 
Legislative Update: 16 February 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Clarkson   
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 00:00

No matter the temperature outside, the Vermont Statehouse is toasty inside – kept warm with constant activity. From intense committee work, advocates working the halls and the cafeteria, to public hearings – it is a hub for Vermonters voicing their needs and concerns. A number of visitors from our neck of the woods have been up recently: Joe Boyd and Ken Howe came up for ‘Bankers Under the Dome’ Day, we honored our new crop of Eagle Scouts, and Woodstock Union Middle School’s 8th grade spent a day at the Statehouse and the Supreme Court learning about state government. Some were lucky enough to have a visit with Judge Duke Eaton at the Court and a third of them lunched with a number of legislators in the House Ways and Means Committee room. And, as the new president of the Vermont State Fairs, Bob Allen was at the Statehouse advocating for the Fairs and their importance in our rural working lands economy. And, a number of local Upper Valley advocates attended the lively public hearing on the firearm background checks bill the Senate is currently considering. 

 
Legislative Update: 2 February 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Clarkson   
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 00:00

The 2015 Vermont Legislative Session is now well underway. Our committee work is in full swing, the House has already passed several bills, there have been several public hearings, lobbying groups are hosting lunches and receptions to introduce us to their policy objectives, we’ve seen a couple demonstrations, and, we’ve already had three Farmer’s Night performances: the 40th Army Band, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and, Marty Morrissey and Robert Resnik singing Vermont songs. Farmer’s Night is a Vermont Statehouse tradition begun in the early 19th century as weekly legislative entertainments.  Today it is a showcase for the best of Vermont talent. For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of producing Farmer’s Night. It is performed in the Statehouse every Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm, it is free and open to the public and lasts about one hour. Check out the performance schedule on the legislative website, and if you find yourself in and around Montpelier during the Session, please join us. 

 
Legislative Update: 19 January 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Clarkson   
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 00:00

Our second Legislative week turned out to be almost as dramatic as the first. The week began quietly enough - with legislative committees working hard on everything from improving the health of Vermont’s lakes and rivers to education cost containment to FY15 budget adjustments. But it ended with the Governor’s budget address on Thursday and the Rand Report on Friday which addresses the possibility of legalizing marijuana in Vermont. Both highly anticipated and full of interesting challenges.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 12:50
 
Legislative Update: 12 January 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Clarkson   
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 00:00

What an inaugural week for the 2015 Vermont Legislature! Added to all the treasured pomp and circumstance of the beginning of a new biennium was the drama of a legislative gubernatorial election, demonstrations and committee assignments. It was memorable, an exciting and colorful start to this legislative session.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 12:49
 
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