State News

Haircut?

By Rep. Jim Harrison

I must say that the potential reopening of barbers and hair salons on May 29 got my attention. As we were recently sorting through some old books, we came across our college yearbook. I couldn’t help thinking that the longer hair I had then was indeed making a comeback!

Last week, I saw the announcement of more openings, albeit with restrictions.

Outdoor dining with guidelines began May 22, in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

Effective May 29, hair salons and barber shops may reopen by appointment with limits on occupancy.

Additional medical procedures and health services have been allowed to resume, including: inpatient surgeries and procedures; outpatient services, including clinic visits, diagnostic imaging and limited outpatient surgeries and procedures; and selective dental services.

Pools, beaches and swimming facilities may open in accordance with previously issued outdoor recreation and fitness guidance.

Vermonters may hold yard sales and garage sales with 10 or fewer people.  The governor’s latest order also cancels all traditional fairs and festivals until further notice.

Other highlights

Governor Phil Scott announced a $400 million economic relief and recovery package, using funds from the $1.25 billion the state received from the Federal CARES Act. The two-phase proposal, which is expected to be the first of multiple packages necessary to fully recover, will start with $310 million for immediate emergency relief to the most impacted sectors and businesses to be followed by $90 million in long-term recovery investments. The proposal needs be reviewed by Legislature in the coming weeks.

The Senate’s bill to provide bonuses for March and April to front line workers earning less than $25/hour is stalled in the House out of concerns of whether the $60 million can come from the federal CARES Act money the state received.

The Senate Natural Resources Committee may not have time in the coming weeks to take all the necessary testimony to review the House-proposed changes to Vermont’s Act 250 land use law. They could, however, focus on areas where there is widespread agreement.

The Vermont Dept. of Health is opening nearly two dozen additional pop-up sites to test people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 for the virus. To make an appointment to be tested visit  humanresources.vermont.gov/popups, or by calling 2-1-1 or 802-828-2828. All clinics operate from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Senate leader Tim Ashe has indicated the Senate may move ahead with legislation allowing the secretary of state to proceed with all-mail balloting for the November elections and remove the governor from the conversation. The governor has said it is premature to make a decision to mail ballots to all voters until after the August primary. He also said  anyone concerned about voting in person can request an absentee ballot under Vermont’s early voting law.

A key House committee is reviewing a draft bill, which would increase the statewide education property tax yields and non-homestead rate for fiscal year 2021 by an average of 4.3% (local rates will vary depending on school budgets passed). It is not clear where the Education Fund deficit would be paid back.

And finally, speaking of haircuts, the state budget may be getting one. The Scott administration presented legislative budget committees with a first quarter budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that reduces spending in most areas of state government by 8% from last year.

Jim Harrison is a state representative for Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington and Mendon.He can be reached at JHarrison@leg.state.vt.us.

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