January 26, 2018
These were my (slightly edited) introductory remarks to H.680, which proposes to establish consumer protection and net neutrality standards applicable to Internet service providers in Vermont. Along with the State of Washington, Montana and New York, and perhaps others, Vermont is putting the needs of its citizens above the desires of the service providers. I am proud to be a lead sponsor on this bill with Rep. Laura Sibilia and Rep. Matt Hill, and excited to have had over 40 other tripartisan co-sponsors.
As long as there has been an internet, and as long as it has been commodified, one thing stayed constant: that equal access to the social, informational, economic and educational power of the internet is critical to what we consider freedom. The government created the internet, and its baseline has been that the providers that have learned to commodify the internet must retain net neutrality — the idea that no company can throttle access to websites, that the internet is indeed a utility, and should be regulated at the highest levels in that way.
And here in Vermont, as we struggle to bring broadband service to the last mile, especially in the most rural areas of the state, that promise of neutrality was one of the few things that kept a level of hope alive as these rural areas tried to lift themselves up economically with the technology that was available in our cities, and in our largest towns. Without net neutrality, these parts of the state will be left further behind, and the promises we made — and those the internet made — will be made empty.
Who uses the internet today? Everyone. Governments are run on the net, businesses large and small are run on the net, schools and universities are run on the net, art is created and disseminated on the net, revolutions are fought on the net and the online marketplace is run on the net. And it is already not free. It has become the spine of our economic growth and equal access to it is our guiding principle, and Americans — Vermonters — pay a substantial fee to providers every month for that access. And that access is essential. Read more
November 30, 2017
I am sitting in my seat in the House of Representatives listening to our annual fall report on the fiscal health of the State of Vermont, and the early review is that, overall, our statewide fiscal health is reasonably good, within the confines of the policies we have put in place (expenditures) and the income we take in (taxes). The report is current, in that it does not and cannot fully contemplate any possible effects of tax and spending policies by the federal government. So-called tax reform bills are possibly coming to a vote this week or next, and we still don’t know what the full effects will be on our state revenues, and won’t until some bill passes and becomes law.
This recap also does not contemplate some of the ongoing and pressing issues and troubles for the residents of Vermont, the most important being the slow but sure gap between the ability to earn enough money to pay our share of the expenses needed to maintain a basic way of life.
Due to the great unknowns in Washington, it is hard to really summarize what our personal or caucus-wide priorities will be. Why? Vermont has an all-inclusive budget of just over $5 billion, 40% of which comes from the federal government for a number of services, from education to health care, from human services to housing, from environmental clean-ups to roads. If tax reform passes, as proposed, great portions of those federal funds will be at risk and will make an impact on Vermonters that we do not yet fully understand. From a state government perspective, we may need to completely rewrite our own tax code in order to fill in the gaps because so much of it is tied to the federal tax system. If it changes, we need to change. Read more
September 12, 2017
It has been nearly three months since we gavelled out of this year’s session, and in the background was the notion that we may have had to return in October, if the shenanigans in DC amounted to Vermont being damaged financially. With some luck, it seems that the fears we have are postponed to another time, and Congress and the President have agreed to a Continuing Resolution, which continues funding at present levels. With this news, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Pro Tem and the Governor have agreed to cancel the October session and, save for summer committees, our work is complete. (Which is not to say we are not worried about the impacts being made on all of our systems due to gross reductions in staff across many agencies, from HUD to the EPA and so on…)
And now, so is our 2017 End of Session Report. Rep. Theresa Wood and I were as perplexed as you were at the endgame — three vetoes by the Governor on bills that received wide approval in the House and Senate. We worked with our caucus to stand strong for the work we did that benefitted Vermonters most — a balanced budget with no new taxes, funding for more affordable housing and improvements in our child care and mental health systems.
As always, please feel free to reach out with your thoughts, needs, and criticism. It remains a privilege to serve you.