LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - NOVEMBER 2021
As the days get shorter, it reminds me how much work there is to do before the legislature starts again in January. I have been busy working on policy research, drafting bills and meeting with constituents. This update includes one of my drafting bill requests, an update on education funding, and some insights about the state pandemic Economic Recovery Grants (2020) issued by the State Auditor last month.
WAGE TRANSPARENCY In January, I am introducing a stronger wage transparency policy to help close the gender and racial wage gap. Vermont passed the Equal Pay Act in 2002 making it illegal for employees of one gender to be paid at a rate less than the rate of employees of another gender for equal work that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility. In 2005, Vermont took one step further with the Wage Disclosure Law making it illegal for employers to discipline, retaliate or fire an employee for disclosing their wages. Employers also cannot require employees to sign a wage non-disclosure agreement. In 2018, Vermont prevented employers from seeking salary history for prospective employees in the hiring process unless the employee volunteered the information.
Massachusetts is currently considering legislation to require employers, if requested, to produce salary information to anyone applying for a job or a current employee. Colorado expanded on this policy idea by requiring employers to post wage information in job postings. California specifically added race and ethnicity alongside gender as a prohibited reason for pay differences in 2016. California more recently enacted a requirement for employers with 100 or more employees to annually report employee wage data to the state.
These policy advances would improve Vermont’s wage transparency and equity laws and empower workers. They would remove the burden on employees and applicants to discover wage information on their own. This particularly helps women, non-gender binary folks, and people of color who are experiencing a widening of the gender and race wage gap due to workforce pandemic trends in the last two years. These policy improvements will also empower current and prospective employees to seek out work in line with their worth and economic need. Employers would also benefit by gaining a better understanding of hiring patterns in their industries enabling them to better compete for qualified employees.
UPDATE ON EDUCATION FUNDING In October, I co-hosted an Education Funding event with a few fellow legislators, Rights & Democracy, former Burlington School Commissioner Liz Curry, and Deputy Director of Public Assets Steph Yu. The conversation focused on equitable outcomes for students and updating our current funding system to meet the needs of today’s students. A taskforce is nearing the end of its work and examination of different approaches to meeting that goal by adjusting the state’s categorical aid and/or per pupil weighting formula. Categorical aid funds special education, transportation, and small schools. Per pupil weighting is used when calculating what is needed to educate English language learners, students experiencing poverty, secondary level students, and pre-K students.
The Taskforce on the Implementation of the Pupil Weighting Factors Report’s policy recommendations are due by December 15, 2021, but financial modeling information has been delayed. Whatever the outcome of the recommendations, Vermont needs to update our funding mechanism and policies to ensure we are meeting the needs of today’s students across the state and moving resources equitably to districts in need of more resources. The Taskforce meets again on November 19th and can be viewed online here. ACCD AUDIT REPORT The Vermont State Auditor issued a report on the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD)’s Economic Recovery Grant Program (ERG). The program supported businesses experiencing financial loss in 2020 due to the pandemic and allocated $117 million to nearly 3,000 businesses. The Auditor found some businesses received more funding than needed based on their demonstrated revenue loss. About ⅔ of the audited group of businesses who received grants were more profitable in 2020 than in 2019. This is concerning as other businesses could not access these grant dollars due to their inability to prepare formal financial documentation, language or cultural accessibility issues, and/or a lack of funds due to the first come, first serve design of the award system. We can and must do better with our tax dollars and find more equitable and accountable wages to use state resources. If you’d like to read the entire audit report, you can find it here.
Thank you for staying engaged with state policy work. Please take care of yourselves, get the flu shot and your COVID-19 vaccine and boosters when you are eligible. Reach out if there is any way I can be of assistance.
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak VT State Representative Chittenden 6-2
Old North End | New North End, Burlington, VT House Commerce Committee Member (she/her/hers - here's a resource on personal pronouns) Social Media @staterepemma
Image Description: Burlington Waterfront at sunset with rainbow of autumn leaves in foreground taken from Battery Park (Chittenden 6-2).