The most significant legislation to move through the House of
Representatives last week was the bill defining the selection
process for Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard. Vermont
is one of few states that involves the legislature in the selection
process, and after the experience with a civilian candidate, making
a strongly political statement in running this year, the process
was revamped. Future candidates will be from the ranks of the
military and will be able to use their understanding of the
military to keep us in a strong defense-ready position. The idea of
a civilian leader appealed to some as a way to alleviate war
readiness and focus on other means to solve conflict. The majority
agreed that a candidate with experience in the military
organization was necessary for effective emergency readiness. The
bill passed unanimously.
One of the bills coming up this week is the agency fee bill,
proposing non-union member assessments of "fair share" fees that
will go toward negotiations. Those negotiations are already
conducted to the benefit of union and non-union members alike.
Union members feel that they carry an unfair financial burden that
supports those who do not pay to join. The bill proposes a fee of
85% of membership dues to help carry the negotiation efforts.
Research has questioned this formula, believing it to be higher
than necessary, while it is also deemed necessary to keep union
membership at current levels (without tempting some to opt for the
lesser agency fee.) Agency fees would not constitute union
membership, and there are lots of questions about the need for
legislative intervention on this matter.
Another bill that will likely come to the floor is the Pre-K
bill. The majority of Vermont's preschool population are already
enrolled in public or private programs that provide ten hours of a
curricular program. For those not enrolled, it will ensure that
they can pay for enrollment in a program convenient to them. The
policy on this is wise, but the stumbling block seems to be in the
projections for financing. The initial cost seems to be an
affordable million dollars, but the years following are expected to
add another 1% to property tax rates that are already projected to
grow another 5-6%.
Policy should drive budget, but there are times when the budget
raises questions. This bill does not require any changes for
schools, but intends only to increase school readiness across all
regions. Discussion will be lively.
The transportation committee will present a miscellaneous DMV
bill which spells out a number of changes in registrations, driving
safety laws, and other motor vehicle issues. The bill, S. 150, can
be reviewed on the Vermont Legislature website with a search under
"Read the Bill."
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