LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: FEBRUARY 2021
January proved to be a very busy first month in the legislature. I introduced my first bill - H.163 an act relating to enhancing equitable learning and workplace environments in public schools. This bill proposes to require and fund anti bias professional development in all Vermont schools for all educators and school board members, as well create a staff position to support equity work within the Agency of Education.
Three other labor bills are still being drafted for introduction in the coming weeks. One is an omnibus bill to better protect workers and create stable jobs by requiring employers to create reliable schedules and granting workers just cause termination rights - issues that greatly impact retail and service workers. The bill also includes a requirement for employers to reimburse remote workers for certain home office expenses as is currently required in 6 states including New Hampshire. This important policy idea came from a constituent in our district.
My committee - House Commerce and Economic Development - began to examine Governor Scott’s budget proposal to create a new $10 million Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) pandemic relief business grant program with state general fund dollars. We are working to identify the right criteria to reach businesses who could not access federal and state economic pandemic relief programs due to the start date of the business, minimum revenue thresholds, and/or pandemic business growth loss. I am particularly interested in elevating the experiences of BIPOC and women owned businesses who had trouble navigating the ACCD 2020 grant programs and are still in need of economic support to weather the pandemic. If you know of such business owners, please reach out. Data Breach for Some Unemployment Claimants
We ended last week attempting to get a better handle on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) 1099G tax document data breach for Vermonters who accessed the Lost Wages Assistance or Short Term Supplemental programs. I pushed DOL to improve communication with impacted Vermonters by creating a FAQ webpage, improving their briefings to their third-party call center to make sure accurate information is shared, and diversifying their communication beyond only using email. I am still pushing them to translate critical information so all Vermonters can understand their personal identity risk. The DOL also created a 1099-G hotline. Claimants may access the hotline by calling the Claimant Assistance Center at 877-214-3332 and selecting option 1. The State will also offer credit monitoring services to impacted claimants at no charge. In the meantime, you can freeze your credit at each of the major national credit service companies as well as set up yearlong fraud detection on your credit. To receive assistance in setting this up, you can contact the State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Program (CAP) at 800-649-2424 or e-mail AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.
Finally, I am pleased to report the House passed the Budget Adjustment Act a few days ago including $3.5 million one-time dollars to support the cost to move Burlington High School into the old Macy’s department store site. While we still have a lot to do to solve the fiscal and logistical challenges of remediating the contaminated soil at the BHS campus, this is an important piece of the puzzle.
Top Constituent Topics
Over the last two weeks, Chittenden 6-2 constituents reached out the most about H.81 Educator Health Care Bargaining Law and the funding changes proposed by the State Treasurer to shore up the teacher pension system.
H.81 proposes to allow educators the ability to bargain health care premium and out of pocket expenses based on the employee’s ability to afford those costs. I am a co-sponsor of H.81 because I worked in the education field for over a decade and know the low wages paraeducators, cafeteria workers and custodians make in our schools. Allowing the right to bargain equitable healthcare costs is the right thing to do.
The teacher pension system suffers from years of underfunding by the legislature and now we face an assessment and recommendations by the State Treasurer which significantly shift the cost burden to educators. I stand by educators and believe the solution must not place an unfair burden on educators, especially after a year of serving their communities on the frontlines during this pandemic.
Tuesday February 9th 12-1pm Press Conference by the House Progressive Caucus to discuss our priorities for the biennium. You can RSVP here to attend the Zoom event or watch live-streamed on the Vermont Progressive Party Facebook page.
Tuesday February 16th 8-9am Coffee with Emma. This is an open constituent meeting to learn about the legislative session, ask questions and provide input! RSVP here.
Sunday February 28th 4-5pm Discussion on Health Care Policy for Seniors with Emma and a Special Guest. We will discuss health care needs of seniors in Burlington, including navigating telemedicine during the pandemic, transportation and other barriers to accessing health care. Special guest to be announced soon. RSVP here.
Please be in touch with any questions. I’ve enjoyed engaging with many of you already on a variety of topics and welcome a chance to hear your thoughts.
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, State Representative Elect Chittenden 6-2 (Old North End/New North End) firstname.lastname@example.org 802-448-0838 Social Media @staterepemma
P.S. Here are some useful legislative resources to bookmark:
Watch the House of Representatives live (or recorded) daily deliberations here.
My Legislative Page. Read more about bills I sponsor here.
Picture description: Lower Batter Park between two lines of bare trees covered in snow.