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Posts from the ‘Photographs’ 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.

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When is $26 Million Not $26 Million?

May 6, 2017

reptomstevens

(A version of this post appeared in the May 4 issue of the Waterbury Record)

When is $26 Million not $26 Million? When it is considered to be real savings by the Governor when they trash long-standing collective bargaining agreements for our teachers, principals and support staff. It sounds sexy — who wouldn’t want to find a $26 million present under their Christmas tree? — but like so many of his proposals this year, once you take off the wrapping paper, there’s nothing inside.

Earlier in the year, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that achieved one of Governor Scott’s prized notions — it was balanced without raising taxes or fees. By choosing to present a budget this way, the House acknowledged that our economy, while stronger than most, has plateaued. And with the unknown of fate federal money, it is a budget that proposed little or no new spending, or spending that was offset by cuts elsewhere. What the House did not do was to approve of certain initiatives proposed by the governer that were attractive, but would have required a substantial increase in your property taxes. Flatlining a budget is, due to inflation, essentially cutting the budget by 2% or so, but the House chose to live with the reduction of certain services in order to make it work.

The Senate, on the other hand, has other thoughts about how our resources should be spent, and have proposed paying for some initiatives with the property tax. Again, the House does not support raising revenues through the property tax that should be raised through the General Fund, where everyone contributes.

And most recently, the Governor has promised to veto the budget if it doesn’t include changes to the teachers’ health insurance program, as well as ending the teachers’ right to strike over this benefit. (see p. 2540) While the Governor stated his desire to change the way teachers receive a locally bargained benefit, his administration did not make a proposal until the closing days of the session. Worse, this proposal was concocted in the shadows in conjunction with the Vermont School Board Association without the input from the teachers or their union. This is unconscionable. The rallying cry of many individual groups applies here, as well: Nothing about me without me. 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