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Posts from the ‘Housing & Military Affairs’ Category

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

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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

Affordable Housing Matters. Housing That is Affordable Matters.

February 21, 2016

reptomstevens

Golden Hour on Golden Dome

Golden Hour on Golden Dome

Because the General Assembly meets in the winter and early spring, legislators face a number of chronic issues that frame our work, especially when there is a cold snap, as there was this past weekend. One of them is homelessness. Homelessness is an uncomfortable subject because it means that a number of Vermonters are not sharing in any economic stability that others are, or it means that we, as Vermonters, have not committed to ending homelessness among the poor, elderly, or disabled. Perhaps there are military veterans who cannot find work or housing. And perhaps there are families with children who are forced to live where they can, without the stability that will help them at work and school. Whoever they are, when it gets dangerously cold, as it did this past weekend, we seek to get them off the street and into shelter so that we don’t have to report that people are freezing to death on the streets, or alleys, or in tents.

While I miss the snow this winter, I am relieved that overnight temperatures have been milder than in recent years. Last year, the state offered shelter every night from mid-November 2014 until late March 2015. We may not have seen many homeless individuals in the Waterbury area, but in Burlington, Rutland, Barre, Montpelier, Brattleboro and other towns, we spent nearly $4 million on temporary shelter, which were primarily hotel rooms or shelters. It would have been more had some folks not couch-surfed, and it would have been more still had some organizations not made investments in new temporary housing, some of which provided the necessary social services to help them get back on their feet and into permanent housing. Read more