Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Housing & Military Affairs’ Category

Town Meeting Report 2019

March 2, 2019

reptomstevens

Reporting to my constituents about what work we have done up until Town Meeting is always a bit curious, because very little of what we have done is tangible yet. There has been a lot of education for the new representatives, a lot of adjustment for me as I assume leadership in my committee, and lots of smoke and fire over issues like education, racial equity, freedom of choice, family and medical leave, minimum wage, tax and regulation of marijuana and so on. We have had introductions to many bills that have been requested by constituents, and check-ins from the many departments from whom we have requested reports. It’s been very busy, but without solid outcomes. We are approaching crossover, the date by which we have to pass bills out of our committee in order to be considered by the Senate (and vice versa), and we are still receiving bills that have been requested. It’s almost like a kaleidoscope right now — lots of interesting shapes and colors that change with a slight turn that are interesting in many different ways. We soon have to stop the turning and be satisfied with the last result, and then move on to the next.

This report focuses on some of the key legislation or events that have shaped our experience in the State House so far. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, or have needs from the bureaucracy.

Advertisements

Without Net Neutrality, Our Rural Economy is Shot

January 26, 2018

reptomstevens

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

The World is Still Waiting for Us to Catch Up on Paid Family & Medical Leave…

March 18, 2017

reptomstevens

Did you know that the United States is, at last count, one of only two countries on Earth that does not offer paid family and medical leave for its citizens? Got that? On Earth. We spend a lot of energy, verbally and physically, trying to bend our minds around “competitiveness” and “affordability” and, when it comes to showing the most basic compassion toward our citizens, we have failed. But then, is it really a failure if we haven’t really tried?

Oh sure, since the early 1990’s, both Vermont and the United States have offered an unpaid family and medical leave for employees. The Vermont Parent and Family Leave Act covers all employers doing business in or operating within the state of Vermont, which for parental leave purposes employ 10 or more employees for an average of at least 30 hours per week during a year, and for family leave purposes employ 15 or more employees for an average of at least 30 hours per week during a year. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act applies to companies with more than 50 employees. The PFLA has been slightly more accommodating with the kind of leave one can take than the FMLA, but neither of them have evolved to include income replacement for those families who need to take leave to take care of their parents, themselves, or to bond with their children.

It is this “softer” reality that really makes people nervous. There are many positive societal benefits, from stress reduction to quality health care to child bonding to self care and so on, and many of them are quantifiable, but the opponents of this bill refuse to consider them. Read more