Summer Workload

Thank you to everyone who turned out for the dinner last Saturday, or even just thought of coming when the invite passed through your inbox. We celebrated making it through a difficult year, connected with old friends and new, and raised a pile of money for the House Democratic Campaign Committee. That’s the last you’ll hear from me on fundraising for a good long while but if you’re still interested in contributing— can I suggest becoming a sustaining donor to my campaign? Just a few dollars a month makes a huge difference for ongoing communication expenses. Just click on the donate link at the bottom of the page.

And now on to the good stuff—- what have we been doing this summer? After the session wrapped up in May, the Speaker appointed members to summer committees and task forces. I’m on three summer committees: Joint Fiscal Committee (this meets year round;) The Pupil Weighting Taskforce; and Unemployment Insurance Taskforce.

Act 59 of 2021 S.13 established the Task Force on the Implementation of the Pupil Weighting Factors Report. Our charge is to “recommend an action plan and proposed legislation to ensure that all public school students have equitable access to educational opportunities” while “taking into account” the 2019 Pupil Weighting Factors Report here.

In accomplishing this goal, the legislation establishes a broad list of things we are to consider, including: * How to integrate the report’s weighting calculations into our existing education finance calculations (equalized pupil, excess spending, yield)

  • How categorical aid can address cost differences across districts

  • What age ranges to include in our equalized pupil counts, and how best to define poverty

  • How the formula could be simplified

  • Whether the AOE’s powers and duties should be revised to ensure that all school districts are meeting education equity standards

  • How to transition to the new, recommended weights and categorical aid

  • How this all relates to Act 173 (special education funding) and Acts 60, 68 and 46

  • And how to mitigate the impact on property taxpayers and consider tax-rate equity between districts

The Act provides for 12 compensated meetings. Our draft work plan proposes topics for ten of these meetings, with two reserved for public hearings — one in September and one in November. As of August 12, we have met three times and will continue to meet approximately every two weeks through November. Our final report is due by December 15. I’ve written about some of the dynamics of pupil weights and ed finance in previous newsletters and will share more of my thinking on our work as we move closer to decision points this Fall.

Our work plan moves us through the list above, with informal decision points along the way. After quickly reviewing background material, we tackled our first significant question: how to define a student from an economically deprived background, and the best way to gather that information from households. This is highly relevant, as the UVM report identified the current weight (0.25) as the most inadequate in adjusting for differences in the cost of educating these students across school districts. (The report recommends a new weight of either 3.14 or 2.97, depending on how the special education census grant, to be phased in over the next few years under Act 173, is handled). We’re continuing to take testimony on the cost and logistics of educating English Language Learners and the most effective way of getting appropriate funding to districts.

At our most recent meeting (August 12), we reviewed the AOE’s Education Quality Assurance process, special education funding, and the PreK weights (which were not addressed in the UVM study). An informal committee discussion indicated we’re making progress toward identifying what core topics will — and will not be — included in the final legislation. It may be preliminary, for example, to make any changes to the ongoing Act 173 special-ed funding shift, while any change to the PreK weight in our complex but effective mixed-delivery system would require more information than is readily available.

You can follow our work, and find agendas and supporting documents, as well as the livestream links, at ourJFO webpage. I’m pleased to be chairing this committee with my colleague and friend Senator Hardy.

UI Taskforce Act 51 (S.62) established the Unemployment Insurance Study Committee to examine the solvency of Vermont’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, its benefit structure, potential grants of authority for the Commissioner of Labor to reduce or waive certain penalties, and potential measures to mitigate the liability of reimbursable employers for some benefit charges.

In accomplishing this goal, the legislation establishes a broad list of things we are to consider, including: 1. the solvency of Vermont’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund; 2. the adequacy and appropriateness of Vermont’s unemployment insurance benefits; 3. penalty periods and payments; and 4. potential statutory changes to reimbursable employers.

The UI task force will begin our work on September 14th. You can follow our work, and find agendas and supporting documents, as well as the livestream links, at our webpage. House appointees are me and Rep. Marcotte. Senate appointees are Sens.Sirotkin and Pearson. I’m chairing this committee as well.

The Joint Fiscal Committee has met twice this summer and will meet again in the fall. You can follow our work, and find agendas and supporting documents, as well as the livestream links, at our webpage. In these meetings we’ve monitored CRF and ARPA spending, authorized grants, hired a new Director of the Joint Fiscal Office (you’ve received a detailed email about this from Chair Hooper,) and received an update on our revenue projections following the E-board meeting. As you’ve likely heard, our revenues came in higher than forecasted. The budget, as passed, contemplated receipt of excess revenues (we often call this process a “waterfall.”) It provided that the first $100M would be used to swap out ARPA $--which will free up ARPA money for FY23. The remainder is allocated per 32VSA 308(c) which puts half into reserves and half into the State Employee OPEB. How we will spend the money will be decided when we return to some degree through budget adjustment but mostly through the budget. Unlike last year we did not give the administration or the Joint Fiscal Committee special authority to disburse money. You can find the Economic Review and Revenue Forecast Update (highly recommended reading) here.

More coming soon including Autumn Policy Forums. If you know anyone who would like to receive this newsletter, they can sign up on my website.

Do you want to get more involved in a political campaign or run for office yourself? There are a few great new opportunities for training and now is the time! Please reach out if you want to discuss any of them or if you would like to jump in and just start volunteering, you can sign up here.

The Bright Institute trains and support Vermonters who identify as Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to run and lead. You can learn more here.

Rights and Democracy trains movement champions to run and win. These trainings are inclusive of gender and racial identities and folks who identify as left-leaning movement builders regardless of political affiliation. You can learn more here.

Last but not least is Emerge Vermont. Emerge Vermont is the state's premier organization that recruits, trains and provides a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office. You can find more information about their menu of trainings here.

  • Vaccines are still available and you can bring a friend: ALL Vermonters 12+ are now invited to register for COVID vaccines! In Brattleboro there are appointments available this week. Register for a vaccine appointment here (preferred), or call 855-722-7878. You will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, address, email (if available), phone number, and health insurance information (if available, but not required). If you have any challenges with sign up please reach out to me. There are pop-up clinics all around the state so if an appointment sounds complicated, you can find open sites at the same link or just walk into any pharmacy.

  • We recently were able to reinstate both rental assistance and utility assistance programs. You can learn more about both locally through SEVCA or by going to the Vermont State Housing Authority website.

  • Unemployment assistance continues to be problematic— extended benefits should be available and new work search requirements are complicated— if you need any help, please be in touch.

  • As always, please connect with me through: My weekly virtual coffee hour every Sunday at 11am is on hiatus; registration link here if you want to be notified when we start back up.

  • The Montpelier Happy Hour where I unpack legislation with Olga Peters each Friday. We’re on ITUNES now, you can subscribe here. These last couple weeks we discussed the work of the Climate Council; and Vermont's IT infrastructure.

  • My newsletters and social media feeds (facebook, twitter, insta links below.) You can find past newsletters on the “blog” tab of my website.

And please keep in mind, I’m still available for help navigating any services (or lack thereof) with you: unemployment insurance, housing challenges, health care. Now more than ever, I’m honored to do this work with all of you. Thank you, and please be in touch.

Yours in solidarity,



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