This was a busy week on the house floor with many thoughtful debates on important legislation. Below are a few of the bills and you can find all bills passed HERE.
H.294 - Prevents employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history while still allowing an employer to inquire about a prospective employee’s salary expectations and providing information about the wages, benefits, compensation or salary offered in relation to the position. This is an important way to help close the pay gap in Vermont. Women in Vermont are paid 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to an annual wage gap of $7,787. The practice of having to disclose ones current salary only reinforces the pay gap by gender or race in our state. By eliminating this step, we can help level the playing field. The bill passed 137-0. I of course voted yes.
H.624 - Prohibits a public agency from knowingly disclosing any information pertaining to a registered voter that is maintained in the statewide voter checklist. When President Trump announced a Commission on Voter Fraud and asked for voters personal information Vermonters were outraged and wanted to protect their personal data. The outpouring of contacts to the Secretary of State’s Office from Vermonters was by far the greatest for any issue seen since Secretary Condos has taken office. Virtually every contact was asking that their individual data not to be shared, or that VT not comply with the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity’s request for the voter checklist data. It's important we
have protections in place for Vermonters’ sensitive and personal data contained in the statewide voter checklist and this bill provides that protection. The bill passed 94-37. I voted yes.
H.673- An Act Relating to miscellaneous amendments to the Reach Up Program restores consistency between overlapping state and federal rules with the overarching theme being to invigorate workforce development efforts and improve efficiency and effectiveness of our state agencies. Reach Up helps eligible parents to gain job skills and find work so they can support their minor, dependent children. Besides the alignment of
rules our changes create more flexibility. For example, right now a single parent household can only have one vehicle and doesn't take into account an older child that can drive. It also adds completion of a literacy program as a qualifier for benefits. This bill passed with a voice vote and I voted yes.
H.764-An Act Relating to data brokers and consumer protection seeks to protect Vermont consumers through requiring companies trading in their personal information to register in Vermont and comply with data security standards. The highlights of the bill includes removing the fees for consumers to place AND lift security freezes with credit reporting agencies. Currently those fees are set in statute at $10 to place a security freeze and $5 to lift one. The bill also prohibits the unlawful acquisition of personally identifiable information and prohibits the use of personally identifiable information to commit unlawful acts; requires “data brokers” who buy and license or sell consumer data to register with the
Secretary of State as to whether or not they have an opt out process or a “credentialing” process on their customers; requires “data brokers” to report annually on the breaches of personal information they experienced, and the number of Vermonters exposed; and requires “data brokers” to institute and follow minimum data security processes, borrowed largely from Massachusetts statute. The bill passed 92-46. I did not vote on
this bill as I work for LexisNexis which is defined as a data broker under this legislation.
While not on the floor our House Healthcare Committee continued hearing testimony on the Governor’s proposed budget and made our final recommendation to the Appropriations committee. We could not support proposed cuts that would reduce access to affordable health care services for vulnerable Vermonters. At this time of uncertainty and change in the State and federal health care systems, it is critically important to support affordability, access to primary care services, the Office of the Health Care Advocate, and the core functions of the Green Mountain Care Board. We also recommended that $170,000 of State funds be appropriated to the Vermont Coalition of Clinics for the Uninsured. This money leveraged with federal dollars will enable these nine clinics to continue providing essential health care to uninsured and underinsured Vermonters without imposing charges or fees. The number of patients they serve annually has more than doubled over 10 years, but they have not received any increases to their annual funding allotments during that time. Our full budget recommendation can be found Here.
The next step in the budget process is for the Appropriations committee to review all policy committee recommendations to create a final budget to be presented to the full House for a vote.
Questions about the budget or any legislation, please join Representative Giambatista and I at our community conversation on Monday February 19th from 6:30 pm to 8:00pm at the Essex Senior Center, 2 Lincoln St. Can’t make it, feel free to reach out directly 802-373-0599.
It’s an honor to serve our community!