Paid Family Leave Update
The House Committee on General & Housing passed H.66, an act related to Paid Family Leave, out of committee on a 9-3 vote; strictly along party lines. While I support the concept of paid leave and feel Governor Scott's administration is making significant progress on a voluntary program, H.66 continues to remain mandatory for all working Vermonters. The legislation is also not complete and thus, I could not support the legislation in the current form out of committee.
At the onset, it was clear the speed and trajectory of the legislation and sought to make the bill better. I was able to have added the term "Miscarriage" as a clear definition of eligibility; which previous draft and passed legislation did not include.
The reasons why I voted no in committee today include:
I have received multiple phone calls and e-mails from constituents who expressed they cannot afford another additional payroll tax.
The current draft legislation includes a "placeholder" seed fund of $20 million. Based on costs seen in other states that implemented similar policies, this placeholder is likely significantly underfunded. Some estimates have the true cost around $100 million to implement.
The bill expands the office of Treasurer Mike Pieciak, and per them, adds a significant administrative burden they are not prepared for.
We did not receive or had a clear opportunity to receive testimony from businesses; especially those who are smaller in size (5 employees or fewer.)
The testimony from the Joint Fiscal Office suggested that the economic model may be incomplete and/or the assumptions cannot be verified.
The next step for the Legislation will be to head to the Ways & Means Committee; which Rep. Carolyn Branagan serves on. I support the Lake Champlain Chamber's desire to have this bill also visit the House Committee on Commerce & Economic Development, as they have done considerable work with the UI infrastructure, that if this bill becomes law, could see savings.
This legislation will likely be coming back to General & Housing before it heads to the Floor.
Breast Pump Legislation
Last week, I submitted for introduction legislation that allows those on Medicaid to receive a breast pump at the start of their third trimester. Currently, Vermont is the only state in New England that interprets federal regulations differently, and allows the coverage of breast pumps only after the delivery of a child. As many of us know, there is often no predicting when a baby might choose to arrive and sometimes, as was the case with me, they come early. Delaying the ability to obtain a breast pump that is covered under insurance could hamper the ability of a mother to build adequate supply in the first few days and creates health inequality for families on Medicaid.
This bill has tri-partisan support and I look forward to meeting with the House Committee on Health in the coming weeks. I also want to thank Chelsea Clark, a constituent from Fairfax, for bringing this issue to me. Common sense legislation like this helps real Vermonters, especially young working families. I am honored to be able to carry the torch on this issue.
Testimony in Senate Government Operations
Last week, I was asked to testify in the Senate Government Operations Committee with regards to my recent employment experience. That Committee is exploring the benefits and salary paid to legislators. I did not testify for or against the legislation; which has not come to the House for consideration yet.
You can read my testimony in its entirety here:
Joint Public Hearing On Housing
On Thursday, the House Committee on General & Housing held a joint public meeting with the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs on Housing. The topic: Housing.
Over the three hour meeting, we heard from over 45 Vermonters and organizations, all speaking on the need for more affordable housing, better living conditions, and ideas on how to get there. There was one overarching theme that was no surprise to me: permitting and ACT 250. There has been increased discussions on the need to rework Act 250, as has been for many years. I am eager to see how the conversations
Important Upcoming Dates
Town Meeting Day: March 7, 2023
The Fairfax Town/School meetings will be held on Saturday, March 4th, in the BFA Elementary School gymnasium at 75 Hunt St. The School Meeting will begin at 10:00 am followed by the Town Meeting.
Voting for items to be voted by Australian Ballot will take place on Tuesday, March 7th, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm in the BFA Middle School gymnasium at 75 Hunt St.
Not registered to vote? You can register at Town Offices or at the School/Town meetings or at the polls.
Going to be away? Absentee ballots are available at the Town Office or call 802-849-6111 ext. 10 or e-mail the Fairfax Town Clerk.