This past Friday marked crossover in the statehouse. The day all policy bills must be voted out of committee to potentially pass to the other chamber (money bills have another week). Any bills not voted out will remain “on the wall” until next year. Our time quickly shifts from majority committee discussion to House floor debate. You can find the House calendar at hc210316.pdf (vermont.gov) and watch all proceedings on zoom at Vermont House of Representatives - YouTube.
Last week the Vermont House gave overwhelming approval, 144-1, to H.128, banning the LGBTQ+ "panic defense.” This bill prohibits the legal tactic of allowing a defendant to claim that a victim's sexual orientation or gender identify is to blame for the defendant's violent reaction, including murder. H.128 moves to the VT Senate for consideration.
A few of the bills passed out of House committees this week include:
H.210 an act relating to addressing disparities and promoting equity in the health care system is an important step forward in systematically transforming our systems of care.
H.171 an act relating to the governance and financing of Vermont’s child care system continues laying the foundation for Vermont’s future early childhood education system with an overarching, aspirational goal: that a family not spend more than 10 percent of its gross annual income on child care by 2025.
H.101 Grant funding for systems-driven, sustainable literacy supports provides grant funding to supervisory unions to build systems-driven, sustainable literacy supports for students with measurable outcomes. This bill offers additional support to supervisory unions in implementing Act 173 (landmark special education reform bill passed in 2017) and transitioning to best practices recommended in the District Management Group “Expanding and Strengthening Best-Practice Supports for Students Who Struggle.”
Because these three bills require money, they will move to the House Appropriations committee for testimony and a vote. You can read these, and all bills, at Bill, Act & Resolution Search (vermont.gov).
After a close outcome on the plan of merger vote a group of residents collected signatures for and presented petitions to both the Town Selectboard and Village Trustees. With both petitions the presenters requested that the votes associated with the petitions occur on April 13th when both communities are already voting on other subjects resulting in a substantial savings to our communities. This request was made within the necessary 30-day time for reconsideration votes allowed by state statute. The outcome of these petition requests for residents is outlined below.
Plan of Merger: All Town of Essex residents, which include Village residents, will vote again April 13th on the plan of merger. The plan is the exact same plan we voted on in March. A majority yes vote means the two communities will merge, a majority no vote means the two communities will not merge. A yes votes sends the plan to the Vermont State Legislature for approval.
Non-binding advisory vote on separation: Village residents only will vote to advise the Trustees ‘’if the current Plan for Merger with the Town of Essex does not pass, the Board of Trustees shall draft a charter to create the independent City of Essex Junction, for consideration by the Village of Essex Junction voters no later than November 2021.” This vote advises the Trustees on the resident’s desire for the future of the community. A majority yes vote means the residents want the Trustees to create a new charter to separate the Village from the Town. A yes vote does not mean an immediate separation as Village residents would vote again in November on the proposed charter. A no vote would leave the question of the Village’s future back at the Trustee table. A yes vote in November sends the plan to the Vermont State Legislature for approval.
On April 13th all Town residents will vote on the school board articles and Village residents will also vote on Annual Meeting articles including the Village budget.
Rep. Dolan and I will continue to provide updates on the upcoming votes, but please do not hesitate to reach out to either of us with questions.
Vermont is progressing steadily in our vaccination efforts. Please visit Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | Vermont Department of Health (healthvermont.gov) for the most up-to-date information.
If you or someone you know needs help during this difficult time, please reach out to Rep. Dolan or I and we will do our best to connect you with appropriate services. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or KNDolan@leg.state.vt.us.
Please continue wearing masks, washing hands, and practicing physical distancing.
Be kind to each other and yourself.
Rep. Lori Houghton