Legislative Update 1/12/15

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Jan 12, 2015 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

It is an honor to be back at the State House. Thank you for giving me the privilege to represent you. I am thrilled to report that I have been appointed Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee. I have served as Vice-chair for 12 years. I am excited about my new leadership role.

This is my first update of the 2015 Legislative session. My goal is to keep you informed about my work, as well as other issues and events that I think will be of interest to our district. Please stay in touch and let me know if there are bills or issues you would like me to follow. Help me help you!

Education Finance /Property Taxes Update

I was glad to hear that the Speaker dedicated much of his opening remarks to prioritizing the challenges of declining enrollments, increased spending, escalating property taxes, and the financial burdens these issues present to Vermonters.  I am encouraged that the newly configured House Education Committee has started work on how to address these burdens and find a way for Vermont to deliver a 21st-century education to all Vermont children.

Thank you to Heidi Spear, Rob Rosen, Jim Parker and many of you who provided leadership and worked on proposals, and communicated with me to bring this issue to the forefront of our work at the State House. I will introduce bills that include these proposals for the Education Committee to consider and look forward to having your input as we move forward.

The Legislative Process-How it Works

Above, I have referred to “bills.”  A bill is a piece of legislation that a legislator introduces.  There are House bills, i.e. H.1 and Senate bills. Bills are introduced to create new laws or sometimes to get a conversation going on an important issue.

Once a bill is introduced, it is referred to a legislative committee. The committee may or may not take testimony on the bill. If a bill is voted out of a committee, it will go to the full chamber – House or Senate – for consideration. If the bill passes the House or Senate, it will go to the other chamber for the same type of committee and chamber review.  The bill is then sent back to the originating chamber to either pass, make changes to or ask for a committee of conference to work out the differences between the House and the Senate versions. Once that is done, the bill goes to the Governor who can sign it, let it pass with a signature or veto it.

Committee Assignments/Committee Work

As I mentioned above, Speaker Shap Smith appointed me Chair of Judiciary. Every two years, committees are appointed with the convening of a new Legislature. Many of the House committees have a majority of new members.  My committee has only 3 returning Judiciary members of the 11 members on the committee. I am excited about my new committee and the experience, expertise and interests the new members bring. We have members that served on Human Services before who will be very helpful as we do our work on child protection.

In my committee, we started taking testimony on the Vermont Justice system, existing programs and alternatives to the court system. We will meet in joint session with the Senate Judiciary and Human Services committees on the child protection work the special legislative committee did during the summer and the fall. We will be working on bills this week regarding the sex offender registry and the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.

Tripartisan Support For Creation Of Vermont Caucus

Majority Leader Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford), Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton), and Progressive Caucus Chair Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) convened our first Vermont Caucus on Friday.

The Vermont Caucus is a new concept for a weekly Friday afternoon gathering inviting all House members to hear important, informative presentations on the priority issues of the session. It kicked off with a presentation by Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe on January 9 regarding the challenges and opportunities in reforming Vermont’s education system.

This is the first in a series of Friday afternoon presentations on the big issues we heard about on the campaign trail. I am glad to be working in this nonpartisan manner.

Legislature’s Website

The Legislature has a new website that aims to help those interested in our work.  There you can find committees, their schedules, bills, testimony submitted and much more. See: http://legislature.vermont.gov.

Resources

The “Green Thumbs at Work” grant program is happening again this year! This program provides funding and technical assistance from VDH and the Vermont Community Garden Network for the development of food gardens at small worksites around Vermont.

The application is due by January 30th.  More information, as well as a link to the application can be found at: http://vcgn.org/green-thumbs-at-work.

Please stay in touch: 496-7667 or mgrad@leg.state.vt.us.

If you haven’t already, please “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter. I will be posting updates as often as possible to keep you informed about what is happening in the Vermont Statehouse. You can also look for my updates on Front Porch Forum and in the Valley Reporter and Waterbury Record.