The Mountain Times

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News from the Ledge

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."

Keep me informed of the impacts of the issues as they pertain to your life. Email or call 802-558-0612.