People's Team Reports from the State House: February 4, 2013

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Update from People's Team Member Brittany Nevins 
– Last Friday I traveled to the State House with the People’s Team and sat in on not one, but two meetings! I attended a Senate Natural Resource and Energy Committee meeting and a joint House Health and Ways and Means Committee meeting, both of which were very different, yet very exciting and informative. I was able to get insight into the challenges that bills face in the process of implementation. 

In 2008, the Vermont legislature set a goal of achieving 25 percent energy savings in 25 percent of Vermont homes, which is about 80,000 homes, by the year 2020. In reference to this goal, Paul Zabriskie of the Central Vermont Community Action Council stated during the meeting that it was “sort of a big thinking goal.” He also mentioned Shumlin’s policy goal of Vermont becoming 90% renewable by 2050. Paul says that most of the work is done! He says, “We have a structure in place. What really lacks is the public awareness that we can do this!” The first presenter in the meeting, a representative from Efficiency Vermont, George, said: “Most items in the report do not require legislative action. Ultimately the legislative bill might be quite simple.” He gave a description of the history of thermo-reducing efficiency assistance programs for low-income households. Though over time this has gotten better, though there has been more things for more people, it is still “modest compared to need,” he said. There were two other presenters that spoke to the same topic, though provided different angles and insights to the issue of lack of weatherization. Most questions posed by the committee surrounded hypothetical scenarios where the organization was faced with no additional funding. It is difficult to say from the meeting if the necessary resources needed for meeting previous goals will be granted, allowing more attention to thermal energy, a sector that contributes to much of Vermont’s energy use.

Act 48 was passed in the Vermont legislature in May, 2011, which stated that the intent is “to create Green Mountain Care to contain costs and to provide, as a public good, comprehensive, affordable, high-quality, publicly financed health care coverage for all Vermont residents in a seamless manner regardless of income, assets, health status, or availability of other health coverage,” to be implemented in 2017. On Friday I was able to sit in on part of the financing proposal that Robin Lunge, Governor Shumlin’s director of health care reform, and Commissioner Mark Larson presented to the House Health committee and Ways and Means committee! They presented on both the 2014 and 2017 financing plans. Though I missed most of the presentation on the 2017 financing plan, I got a sense that there is much work to be done in the years to come. I was taken aback by the goals of the 2017 plan, sensing that they were not measuring up to the original intentions of Act 48. I gathered a sentiment that the goal has focused on making the people of Vermont better off than they were before, which is great, but shouldn’t the goal be for everyone to receive the access they need to be healthy? You can click here for more information regarding health care reform, a site that Robin Lunge recommended. 

I certainly learned today that the passage of a bill never means that the work is done. We need to keep pushing our legislators to be accountable to their promises. This is why the work of the People’s Team is so crucial during the legislative session! We are the essential watchdogs in this democratic process, representing the majority of the people in our house, the State House.

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The legislative report gives a weekly update on the Put People First People's Agenda.  For more background on the agenda, click HERE.

Healthcare Is a Human Right: "We must treat healthcare as a public good and a human right not because it will be cheaper, but in order to protect and care for people’s health," said the Vermont Workers' Center this week in a response to the Administration's recent report on healthcare financing options. Leader Devon Ayers spoke about our analysis before the House Committee on Healthcare on Wednesday.

People's Budget: The traditional way of doing the state budget pits us against one another. We came out strong on the Governor's proposal to cut $17 million from state earned income tax credits that benefit poor and working families to help fund childcare subsidies fow low-income parents. Long-time leader Heather Pipino stepped up to say that while our communities desparately need more accessible childcare, we can't make that happen on the backs of poor and working families. Check out Heather's comments on Vermont Public Radio and Channel 5 WPTZ. Stay tuned for a full response to the Governor's recent Budget Address coming soon. 

Work with Dignity & the Right to Organize: Next Friday testimony will begin in the VT Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs on s.59, the right to organize for Vermont independent direct support service providers.  It will be introduced by Senator John Campbell and Peg Franzen, VWC President Emeritus, will be testifying in support.

The bill for VT early educators right to collectively bargain has been introduced and is called s.52.  VT Early Educators United hope it will be taken up by the Senate Economic Development Committee within the next couple of weeks.

The VWC was also invited to testify on h.99, a bill related to equal pay in the work place that would create a study committee on paid family leave.

Human Right to Movement & Access to Transportation: Migrant Justice's grassroots organizing led to a report on 1/15/13 recommending legislation to create access to driver's licenses regardless of immigration status. Senator Baruth introduced the legislation on 1/16 (with Senators Ashe, Ayer, Cummings, Fox, Lyons, McCormack, Pollina, White and Zuckerman). The bill was referred to the Senate Transportation committee on 1/18. This Tuesday, supporters are invited to attend Migrant Justice's State House Day of Action, starting at 9:30 am in Room 11. The day starts with a two-hour training on how to talk with legislators about the Driver's License Bill, followed by 2 hours of talking with legislators in the State House cafeteria. Register here.

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                                FACES OF THE PEOPLE'S TEAM

"As a person who has lived in poverty my whole life, I'e never felt that my representatives ever listened to me, much less done anything about it. Being on the People's Team means I am doing something about being listened to." –Dave Przepioski, Chittenden County


"I'm on the People's Team because of a strong motivation to reform health care in Vermont and a goal of bringing equity and social services to Vermont’s residents!" –Tim DaGiau, Vermont Workers' Center intern

 

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Interested in joining the People's Team? The People's Team is our answer to corporate lobbyists in our State House. It's our way of holding government accountable by being in the room while the business of government is happening. Call the Vermont Workers' Center at 861-4892 to learn how to get involved.