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Legislative Weekly 1/27/19

Sunday January 27th, 2019

 

Here are some highlights from the past week in Montpelier. My focus is primarily on the Education committee right now, since that is where I’m spending most of my time but I’ll continue to provide updates in other areas as well.

 

  • H.3 - An act relating to ethnic and social equity studies standards for public schools. Our House Ed. committee unanimously voted this out on Thursday. The next stop for this bill is the Appropriations committee and then, as I understand it, to the floor of the House for a vote. The Senate will be working on their version as well, but I’m not clear on how quickly it will be moving. H.3 provides some truly laudable goals to strive towards, but it’s really just a first step towards making our educational systems welcoming and affirming for all Vermont students. Much work lies ahead to make this goal a reality.

  • H.39 - H.43, H.62, H.78 - Broadly speaking, all of these bill pertain to Act 46 and many of them seek to delay the implementation of the forced school district mergers that were order by the State Board of Education in November of last year. Over the past two weeks we have received testimony from school board members, as well as school administrators, letting us know how a delay would affect their schools and communities. This coming week, we will hear from the sponsors of all 7 House bills listed above. This will give us an opportunity to better understand the goals of each bill specifically and then for our Chair to decide which one(s) will be taken up for consideration and a possible vote. This is a contentious issue, and promises to be a difficult decision. Stay tuned! The full agenda for our House Ed. committee is posted on the legislative website if you’d like to know who’s testifying this week.

  • Governor Scott’s Budget Address - Last Thursday the 24th, the joint assembly heard from the Governor about his budget priorities heading into the session. Compared to the last biennium, I felt that the Governor put forward greater hopes for collaboration and outlined several specific policy goals for development over the course of the coming months. It seems to me that the Democratically controlled House and Senate will have a partner in the Scott Administration on several specific, important issues. These include: workforce development, affordable housing and childcare. Healthcare was not mentioned by the Governor, which was interesting to me. On the whole, though, I found the Governor’s message to be encouraging and given in a spirit of collaboration and compromise. An auspicious start!

  • H.57 - An act relating to preserving the right to abortion -  I am proud to cosponsor this bill along with over 80 members of the VT House. I wish this bill was not necessary, since reproductive rights should be fully protected at the Federal level. However, erosion of these rights in other states, and the current SCOTUS makeup mean that this bill is necessary to protect Vermonters. In addition to H.57, the Senate will be advancing a constitutional amendment to further protect these rights. The constitutional amendment will take at least 4 years, however, so H.57 would put more immediate protections in place this year.