Dear Constituents –
This week, although shortened by the weather on Friday (there were no bills for consideration on the House floor, and my Committee Chair canceled all meetings), was full. Tensions ran high on Wednesday as House majority leadership scrambled to pull together enough votes to override a veto by Governor Scott on Paid Family Leave, and minority members did their own vote-counting. The vote ultimately came down to the wire with the veto being sustained by ONE VOTE. For those who say that no one person can make a difference in Montpelier, I beg to differ; this vote could have gone either way and is proof to me that everyone’s voice is heard. Had the veto been overridden, we all would have been faced with a new, mandatory $29 million payroll tax deducted from our paychecks with the possibility of never having to use this benefit. The Governor’s office will be moving forward with a voluntary plan, the details of which will be forthcoming once Requests for Proposals are returned. In anticipation of a similar situation in the next couple of weeks around raising the Minimum Wage, I urge you to contact your Representatives to voice your opinion. We work for you, our constituents, and we need to hear from you loudly and clearly. Please remember that you can call the Sergeant at Arms at 802-828-2228 to get a message delivered to any of us immediately; our 8th-grade Pages do an excellent job making sure that we are connected to our constituency in a timely manner.
In other news, my Committee has been taking emotional testimony on lived experiences with homelessness and recovery in response to proposed bills on defining a Recovery Residence and a Homeless Bill of Rights. Shifting gears, as we do several times a day, we heard a status report from the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington, which is a State agency that is not run by the VA, as many assume it to be. The good news there is that they continue to serve Vermont veterans and their families in a dignified manner at an increasing rate and have recently been able, along with other state agencies, to significantly decrease their workmen’s compensation costs, a savings that is passed on to all of us. We also heard from the Dept of Taxes about proposed Rental Rebate Reform, in the form of changes to simplify the complicated paperwork that is currently required, several sponsors of bills making it easier for veterans to self-identify when seeking assistance from any State Agency, modernizing statutes around Veterans Affairs, and creating the position of Provost Marshal in the VT National Guard, which would serve as a Human Resources compliance officer for the Guard. The ever-present employment and alcohol bills also had their time in Committee this week. On Thursday, I attended a Tourism Caucus presentation on diversifying the tourist experience to include marketing around back country skiing, paddle boarding, and other, less-common but growing pass times that Americans are spending their leisure dollars on and are widely available in Vermont. The takeaway from this is that every state is vying for the same tourism market, and we need to be proactive in getting visitors to choose Vermont. Lastly, I attended a meeting of the Rural Economic Development Caucus and learned of some new programs around community revitalization, which I have shared with your town officials.
It is an honor to serve your interests in Vermont’s Legislature.
Representative Lisa A Hango