By HOUSE MINORITY LEADER DON TURNER (R-Chittenden-10)
We are in the final stages of the 2017 legislative session. This week I went to Montpelier hoping each day might be the last day of the session. It is well known that one item of critical importance needs to happen before we adjourn. Unfortunately, there was little movement toward resolution, and we will have to return next week to try once again to adjourn.
As I have previously reported, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save $26 million, year over year, in a way that does not harm anyone, and in fact is a win for all involved. A broad coalition of supporters — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — understand this proposal is a win and came together on the House floor last week to support what was called the Beck Amendment. All Republicans were joined by 16 Democrats and six Independents in favor of this common-sense proposal. While the proposal narrowly lost, it surely highlighted the importance of the issue. Returning to the State House this week gave us another opportunity to ensure it comes to fruition.
As most are aware, all teacher and school employee contracts are currently negotiated with the local districts. For the last several years, these contract negotiations did not include any significant discussion of changes in health benefits, as the federal Affordable Care Act and our own Vermont health care reform efforts prevented it.
This year, however, in an effort to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-end health insurance plans, the Vermont Education Health Initiative is transitioning to new plans, and all teacher/school employee contracts are under review. These new health initiative plans are projected to cost substantially less than current plans. However, to achieve the significant savings predicted, Gov. Phil Scott, in conjunction with the Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association, is proposing to transition the negotiations of teacher and school employee health care benefits to the state, thereby creating a statewide health care benefit for all and saving taxpayers $26 million. This is a win-win-win proposal, and I will continue to go back and forth to Montpelier until we secure these significant saving for taxpayers.
The session should adjourn next week. I can only hope the governor remains strong and will bring out his veto pen if the majority refuses to capture this once-in-a-lifetime savings.
I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I can be reached at the State House by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, and have a great week.
By SEN. CAROLYN BRANAGAN (R-Franklin County)
S.34 was one of two bills the Senate Committee on Agriculture spent a great deal of time on during the 2017 session, focusing on agricultural and rural economic development.
The bill establishes a Rural Economic Development Initiative within the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. This initiative will allow help in grant writing and finding funding opportunities for small towns, businesses in rural areas and industrial parks in small towns. Tasks in the new initiative will be paid for by the Agency of Agriculture.
The bill also requires the Vermont Milk Commission be convened for the purposes of evaluating proposals that might stabilize the fluctuating milk price. The commission could decide to submit the proposals to the federal congressional delegation for inclusion in the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.
Since saving energy often means saving money for rural businesses, the bill requires a report be prepared by the Commissioner of Public Service on the possibility of businesses self administering energy efficiencies. The goal would be to significantly reduce all energy costs; make sure customers receive back the full amount of their energy efficiency charge and lower costs for heating, electricity, transportation and process fuels.
The base fee for registration of anaerobic digestion of agricultural products has been stabilized at $1,000 annually.
Grants will be available from the clean water fund to help purchase of equipment that will reduce phosphorus. The owner of the equipment pays 10 percent.
The 6 percent sales and use tax on forestry equipment purchases is removed.
The Commissioner of Financial Regulation and others will study occupations in Vermont that experience a high level of injuries and high premiums in worker’s comp insurance. They will study and recommend potential reductions in rates and costs for these high risk occupations and submit their report to concerned legislative committees by November 15, 2017.
The Senate wrote this bill and the House contributed to refinement of these ideas, and currently the bill has been approved by both houses and is ready for the governor’s signature.
Please contact me at email@example.com for more information.