The Legislature has temporarily adjourned. Our work allocating $1.25 Billion in Coronavirus Relief/ Economic Recovery Funds is complete, a Quarter 1 budget was approved, and the Transportation, DMV, Pay Act, and Capital Bills were all passed. Within those bills, assistance is provided to all sectors of our economy, including but not limited to: healthcare and human services entities, frontline workers, renters, homeowners, landlords, agriculture and forest products producers and processors, nonprofits, small businesses, restaurant operators, municipalities, schools districts, state parks. Funding was allocated for: mental health and legal needs, marketing and technology assistance, broadband and connectivity expansion, housing and food stability, cleaning and disinfecting public properties – all with respect to increased expenses due to COVID-19. I remain disappointed that more funding was not allocated to the Agriculture sector, and another Franklin Co member hoped to put forth an amendment raising the amount to reflect the Governor’s ask, but it was not to be.
Various Committee bills were also passed, including ones dealing with miscellaneous agriculture and alcohol laws that needed housekeeping. Others passed were S.219, addressing racial bias and excessive use of force, S.342, adding COVID-19 as a compensable condition under Workers Compensation, and H.750, creating a Provost Marshal Officer position in the Vermont National Guard who will have Level III law enforcement capabilities within the Guard.
The last bill I would like to focus on is the Pay Act, which this year was rolled into the Q1 Budget, rather than being a standalone bill. The Pay Act covers Legislative, Judicial, and State employees, some of whom are covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Executive Branch, and some whose pay is tied to that CBA. Contrary to what many have heard, the Legislature did not “vote to give itself a raise”, although the mechanism to do so remains in the legislation. The final vote included an amendment to fund the Pay Act for Year One of the CBA only, and to decide on the funding for Year Two until a date in the future when the economic outlook becomes clearer. Year One does not contain any raise in pay for Legislators, and I do not intend to vote for such an increase during this pandemic.
When we return on August 25, we will begin the difficult work on a nine-month budget based on tax revenues that will be taken in by July 15. The forecast for this is already of great concern.
I look forward to the time when we can safely attend public events together; in the interim, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, concerns, or community needs. I can be reached at [email protected] and www.hangoforhouse.comIt is an honor to serve Franklin-5.
Representative Lisa A Hango Berkshire-Richford-Franklin-Highgate