LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - FEB 21, 2022
I hope you are staying warm during this cold (warm?) snap. A friendly reminder to complete your Town Meeting ballots and return them to City Hall or drop them in one of the city’s ballot drop boxes. Given delays in the mail system, I would highly recommend hand delivering your ballot rather than mailing it at this late date. You can also personally drop off a completed ballot at your local polling location on Tuesday, Town Meeting Day. I am happy to answer any questions about the local ballot. Thank you for participating in our important local elections. Now on to state policy updates…
Visit the new New North End Fletcher Free Library Branch now open in the Ethan Allen Shopping Plaza. Hours are Wednesday and Thursday 2-6pm and Friday and Saturday 10am-2pm.
Apply for EMBRACE Grants (existing and start ups) for microbusiness negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Schedule your COVID-19 booster shot online or call 855-722-7878 for more information on walk-in clinics.
BURLINGTON CHARTER CHANGES: JUST CAUSE EVICTION & THERMAL ENERGY
The Vermont House passed the just cause eviction charter change item on second reading late last week. It will go on to third reading this week and then onto the Senate. Vermont law allows landlords to terminate tenancy for no cause. Burlington’s charter change will allow the city to develop a city ordinance to define parameters around evictions. Just cause eviction policy helps to stabilize housing for tenants, especially in a low vacancy and expensive housing market like Burlington. It also helps to protect people of color and people living with disabilities who face significant burdens to prove housing discrimination in communities where no cause evictions are allowable.
I coordinated our Burlington House delegation and city council colleagues to fend off an early committee amendment that would have exempted over half of Burlington’s rental units from just cause eviction. We are looking to our Chittenden County Senators to pick up the bill after Town Meeting Day and then on to the Governor. The thermal energy charter change item will be considered by the House this week. Ranked Choice Voting for city council elections is expected to be taken up around Town Meeting Day.
EQUITABLE EDUCATION FUNDING
In late January, I joined dozens of other legislators to cosign a letter naming concerns about the proposed news approach on how to calculate education funding for English Language Learners (ELL). The Senate is currently considering a proposal based on recommendations by the Per Pupil Education Funding Taskforce. The proposal initially included updating weighting formulas for rurality and poverty, but replaced a weighting system for ELL with a grant structure. ELL funding needs encompass a diversity of things beyond instruction. In districts like Burlington and Winooski, home school liaisons and other wraparound support for students. This reflects the complexities and realities of larger ELL populations in Chittenden County compared to small rural communities. The use of a grant formula assumes every dollar spent on ELL would get the same results in each Vermont district and oversimplifies the complexities of larger ELL populations. It appears a compromise may be emerging to approach ELL funding in a hybrid way that includes per pupil weights and a base grant. This approach is promising as it will help support operational challenges for small ELL populations in smaller districts while also acknowledging the complex needs of larger ELL populations in urban districts.
I will be visiting the CP Smith Parent Teachers’ Organization (PTO) on March 14th to offer a local update on the proposal and how it will impact Burlington. I visited the Sustainability Academy PTO in January. Please reach out with any questions as I may organize another education funding district meeting as I did last fall.
MY FIRST BILL “WALK THROUGH”
In early February, I provided my first lead sponsor “walk through” of one of my bills. H.615 is a bill to require wage transparency in the hiring process and strengthen wage discrimination protections for Vermonters based on gender and racial idenity. You can view my bill presentation here. A walk through introduction is the first step of moving a bill forward in the legislative process. Given the close timing to crossover (deadline for policy bills to move from one chamber to the other), I am concerned this bill may not make the deadline. If this topic interests you, please contact members of the House General Committee to express your support and desire for the bill to be fully considered before crossover. You can send emails or leave messages through the Sergeant of Arms Office at the State House.
Thank you to those who reached out about Proposition 5 (reproductive liberty constitutional amendment), economic opportunities for BIPOC Vermonters (H.406), and gun control legislation (S.30) - three of the most popular topics in recent weeks. Almost 80 folks reached out about policy moving through the legislature since the beginning of January - we have an active legislative district! I always welcome feedback, ideas and information sharing on what you think.