Posts from the ‘Policy’ Category
April 24, 2018
Every year, I reserve a date close to Wm. Shakespeare’s birthday to do a devotional prior to our day’s work in the State House. This year, I was planning on tying the prescience of Shakespeare and the demise of net neutrality — a big stretch, for sure, but it seemed workable in February. Instead, current family events resonated more deeply with the famous words of Jaques in “As You Like It.”
I have spent a lot of time over the past year in places that have, believe it or not, a higher average age per resident than the Vermont State House.
Nursing Homes. Or, more precisely, long term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, councils on aging.
They have us beat.
I was there with my mother. My mother is diminishing before my eyes, and the eyes of all five of her children.
I have a photo of her from two years ago, when she was merely forgetful, or in the throes of chemo brain, after treatment for colon cancer, and she is pretty vibrant. She’s standing with my brother Paul, and they are smiling, two peas in a pod.
And that’s no surprise, because my mother, starting back in 1965, committed her life to taking care of Paul, who has Down Syndrome. She fought like hell in the late 1960’s to make sure he was not institutionalized, and in the 1970’s she fought like hell to make sure he, and other developmentally disabled friends, were allowed to be mainstreamed in our public schools, and in the 1980’s and 1990’s she fought like hell to make sure Paul had the governmental services he needed to thrive in the community, and she fought like hell to make sure that the community had a spot for Paul.
I have another photo of my mother taken during her most recent hospital stay, when she was recovering from a fall, and from pneumonia, and from a UTI, and from the flu. She is not vibrant in this photo — she is clearly tired, ill, and somewhat empty, a preview of the weeks and months to come, as the Alzheimer’s takes her away from herself. Read more
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