Legislative Update – January 14, 2016

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Jan 14, 2016 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Vermont State HouseI am glad to be back at the State House. Some of the issues my committee will focus on are: highway safety, DUI, driver’s license suspension reform, crime victims’ rights, the Judicial Branch, sentencing and incarceration, privacy and juvenile justice. I will hold hearings to follow up on bills we passed such as the status of bias free policing practices and civil rights protections. I will continue to serve on the Judicial Nominating Board and Joint Justice Oversight Committee.

DLS

I will introduce a bill that will build on the Driver Restoration Days and create statewide policy to reform our current system. Thousands of Vermonters are driving with suspended licenses for failure to pay fines and penalties that have harsh criminal and financial consequences. The system has resulted in what prosecutors describe as a “poverty trap that is clogging up our courts” and threatens highway safety. It impedes Vermonters from working. My bill aims to hold drivers accountable while providing a system that will enable Vermonters to drive legally, get back to work, and be active members of their communities and our economy. The bill is a result of a task force that is comprised of members from law enforcement, Agency of Transportation, DMV, Legal Aide, Human Services and the Judiciary. Please note these fines are not safety related like DUI, negligent operation or similar violations.

Other House Committee Work

House Appropriations Committee Work and Budget Adjustment Act Update: The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) met for three days in December to receive testimony on the FY16 Budget Adjustment Act (BAA), and continued testimony and discussions last week.

The budget adjustment act is a mid-year adjustment of the budget we adopt in the preceding year. After six months of the year, it is not uncommon to need to make changes in budgets because of the normal operating adjustments that any organization experiences. In addition, the need for some of state government’s services is hard to predict–either because of emergencies (like tropical storm Irene) or unanticipated events like an increase in demands for services.

There was a lot of good news in the governor’s proposed budget adjustment. We made a number of aggressive assumptions in the budget–that we would achieve savings in retirements, find savings in not filling vacancies, and reduce our operating costs. We achieved the targeted labor savings–both in vacancy savings and retirements. We achieved–and exceeded–our target of statewide efficiency savings. In addition there is not the anticipated demand for LIHEAP funding and we need to consider how to reallocate the un-obligated portion of this money.

In addition we are considering the governor’s proposal to convert 11 temporary positions to permanent and create an additional 24 positions to meet the urgent need to provide enough social workers and support staff in the Department of Families and Children. The need for these positions is associated with the increase in numbers of children taken into state custody, due in large part to substance abuse.

House Education

House Education reviewed the education fund outlook and understanding the impact that the allowable growth threshold from Act 46 is having on local spending, local and state tax rates, and student learning.

The committee is sympathetic to the unexpected spike in health insurance premiums which districts face this year. While premium cost-sharing agreements vary throughout the state, the cumulative increase in premiums is 7.9%. House Education is discussing a proposal that would raise the allowable growth threshold in every district by 0.9%, relieving the unanticipated premium pressure.

The committee is poised to make a decision next week, after reviewing the fiscal impact of this proposal more deeply.

 

Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us, 828-2228 (State House) 496-7667 (home).

Sincerely,

Rep. Maxine Grad
Washington-7: Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren

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.