Legislative Update – February 2, 2017

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Feb 2, 2017 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Budget Adjustment

The Vermont House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Adjustment Act, the first bill of the 2017-2018 Legislative Session, on a vote of 141-0. The Budget Adjustment Act built on the Appropriations Committee’s years of work to reduce reliance on one-time funds, achieve better outcomes, and lower overall costs. The final bill prioritized investment in the Vermont Veterans Home, the PFOA-Environmental Contingency Fund, the Department of Children and Families, and the Emergency Relief Fund. This bill is an investment in Vermont families and Vermont communities. It exemplifies our commitment to creating a stable, healthy economy, and prioritizes building a strong future for the next generation.

My Committee work: Judiciary

Protecting Victims of Sexual Violence Rights: Despite significant progress in strengthening Vermont’s laws against sexual assault, too many victims of sexual violence are not ensured access to effective justice, health care, and social services.  I sponsored 3 bills that the Judiciary Committee took up that aim to reinforce the State’s sexual assault laws.

H.25: Sexual Assault Exams: sets forth procedures and notification requirements related to medical forensic examinations of sexual assault victims. Each year, Vermont’s certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners perform approximately 250 sexual assault forensic exams. The forensic exam kits are analyzed by the Vermont Forensic Laboratory. The bill would establish the right of sexual assault victims to receive the examination without cost, set forth timelines for delivery of kits from law enforcement to the Lab, and establish requirements for notifying victims of results and available services. 

H.27: Eliminates the statute of limitations for sexual assault-related crimes. Sexual assaults can be some of the most challenging cases to investigate, charge and prosecute. For various reasons, many victims choose not to immediately report sexual assaults to law enforcement. Because it can take years for sexual assault victims to be ready to engage with the legal system, it is important to eliminate the barrier of the current six-year statute of limitations for such cases.

H.74: Establishes a new misdemeanor crime of lewd and lascivious conduct. This new crime is needed to address a recent Vermont Supreme Court Case.

Transportation Committee

The FY18 Governor’s overall recommended transportation budget is $615,021,019, a 0.4% increase over 2017. $249,382,048 are VT state funds, $327,568,972 are federal. Some highlights: $112 million will be used to pave over 200 miles of highway. A total of 59 bridges and large culverts will be constructed, and there will be safety improvements for intersections, signage and pavement markings.

Town highway aid is level funded at $25,982,744. State highway maintenance comes in at $91 million. Vermont does not have a “bare roads” policy, but rather a “safe roads at safe speed” policy.

Agriculture Committee

The Committee heard testimony from many farmers last week. It was interesting to learn about the Farmer Veteran Coalition that helps veterans heal and make livings through agriculture. The Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets presented a report on the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative. It is measured by Results-Based Accountability standards and is well worth the investment we make yearly. Enacted in 2012, the state has invested $3.8 million, which has leveraged an additional $7.4 million. 129 projects have been funded in all 14 Vermont counties and 428 full-time jobs have been created. The farms and businesses that have been awarded grants have realized $18.1 million in additional sales. 98% of the businesses have entered new markets, 33% have hired new staff, and 30% have increased wages for their employees, which in turn pumps more money into our local economy.

Commerce and Economic Development Committee

The Committee has taken testimony from state agencies, trade associations and other NGOs over the opening weeks of the session. A consensus has emerged on key issues on which to focus: workforce development, the related benefits cliff that makes it financially more difficult for people on any form of public assistance to reenter the workforce, and the issues related to the configuration of the modern workplace. The increasing importance of Vermont’s Centers for Technical Education and apprenticeship programs were reinforced by testimony from Human Services and Education, as well as the Vermont State Colleges and Workforce Development Board.

Public Hearings on  the Budget: Have your voice be heard on Vermont’s budget priorities!

The Vermont House and Senate Appropriations Committees are seeking public input on the FY 2018 Governor’s Proposed Budget and will hold community-based public hearings:

  • Winooski 2/13 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.‬ at CCV Janice Couture Room (108) and
  • 2/16 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.‬ in Room 11 of the State House in Montpelier. 

If you have a story you would like to share privately with the committee members, please contact Theresa to schedule this at the end of one of the hearings. For more information or to submit written testimony, call Theresa Utton-Jerman or Rebecca Buck, Joint Fiscal Office, 802-828-5767 or 1-800-322-5616; or e-mail: tutton@leg.state.vt.us or rbuck@leg.state.vt.us.

 

Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us , 828-2228, and 496-7667.