Legislative Update – May 15, 2018

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May 15, 2018 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

The Legislature adjourned early Sunday morning. The Governor promised to veto the budget, as well as other bills. I am disappointed that he will veto a budget that passed on a vote of 117-14. There are some very important components to the budget that respond to issues many of you have contacted me about, especially in terms of workforce development, mental health services, and caring for the most vulnerable.

Also, the budget includes National Guard scholarships for Vermont private and public colleges and universities. As a State Representative and Norwich University Trustee, I am sorry such a vital program could be lost by a veto.

This is a win-win for all of Vermont’s higher educational institutions. It recognizes that our public and private institutions offer diverse opportunities to guard members. Norwich University, for example, offers nationally recognized programs in cyber security, engineering, architecture, and social sciences. These educational opportunities are critical to retaining Guard members. It is critical to our workforce development.

Our Guard need the education and training that meet their needs and keep them here in Vermont to enhance our workforce. At Norwich, where 233 Guard students attend from 38 states, only 19 individuals list Vermont as their home state.

As a state surrounded by states that offer similar benefits, Vermont can and must do better. National Guard scholarships do just that, by creating more opportunities for Vermont students to serve our state and nation and receive an affordable education. A strong Guard makes for a strong Vermont.

We must remember how our lives how been touched by the Guard. I will never forget the feeling of relief to see the Guard arrive in the village of Moretown after Irene. I remember when my son went back to elementary school, school was held in a tent, as the elementary school was devastated by flooding. It was a cold, rainy and raw day. I didn’t know how the students and staff would survive 8 hours in such conditions. I was comforted to learn that the Guard was there with blankets and hot chocolate to keep our kids safe and ready to learn.

The budget we passed supports the Vermont National Guard, our private and public institutions of excellence and builds a workforce for a strong Vermont.

Paid Family Leave: this important measure passed and is also threatened to be vetoed. It received broad support in the House and the Senate. Here are some highlights:

  • Leave: 12 weeks in a 12-month period made up of a combination of 1) up to 12 weeks of parental and bonding leave. Two parents may take a combined total of 12 weeks, a single parent can take up to 12 weeks, and 2) up to 6 weeks of family care leave in a 12-month period (which can be combined with up to 6 weeks of unpaid leave). There are many different ways to combine these totals, but in no case can job-protected leave be more than 12 weeks, unless an employer chooses to be more generous.
  • Benefit: 70% of an employee’s average weekly wage, which is capped at $1,042/week. This is taxable income. After taxes, it is slightly less on a percentage basis than what one might receive from worker’s compensation.
  • Qualification: An employee must have earned over $10,710 in Vermont during the last 12 months. All employees are covered.
  • Cost: 0.136% of each employee’s wages, paid by employee, unless employer chooses to be more generous. This comes out to $0.57 weekly for every $10 an hour one makes. That’s 57 cents.
  • Coverage: Serious illness of a family member; employee’s pregnancy; birth of employee’s child, placement of child 16 years or younger for adoption or foster care.
  • Job Protection: Employees covered by existing unpaid leave law have protections, and for paid leave, employees may be eligible for reinstatement in a similar position within two years of return from leave. 
  • Covered wages: All employees who make wages up to $150,000/year, adjusted for inflation beginning in 2020.
  • Cannot receive this benefit if receiving worker’s comp or unemployment. No double dipping.

Other Budget Highlights that respond to YOUR concerns regarding mental health, healthcare and opioid crisis:

  • Reverses Administration’s proposed cuts to Developmental Services Program
  • Provides a 2% reimbursement increase to community service providers like the visiting nurses that enable elderly or individuals with disabilities to remain in their homes and communities (includes Adult Day, Meals on Wheels, Homemaker, Respite, Companion Services, Choices for Care, Hospice, Personal Care, and Enhanced Residential Care)
  • Increases judicial system resources to respond to growing child welfare workloads related to the opioid epidemic
  • Reverses Administration’s proposed cuts to Primary Care doctors and Community Health Clinics
  • Provides funding for Brattleboro Retreat to make capital improvements to add 12 Level 1 mental health beds
  • Provides $200,000 for supportive housing vouchers in mental health

 

Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us or 828-2228.