Dear Constituents –
I will start by reporting that local Legislators and town officials met with Dr Levine and Commissioner Smith of the Agency of Human Services on Thursday afternoon, and we were told that COVID cases are increasing at a concerning rate in Franklin County. We have been so very fortunate to be spared the worst of this pandemic, so this was indeed troubling news. I hope that by working together, we can halt the spread of this virus. Masks on faces, six foot spaces, and proper hand hygiene go a long way towards prevention - and the latest trend is double-masking! If you suspect that you have been exposed in any way, self-isolate and make an appointment to be tested – testing sites in Franklin Co are managed through your primary care provider at NOTCH or NMC, the Vermont Department of Health, and Kinney Drugs. With an increase in cases, please expect some delays and take necessary precautions to keep your household and community safe. More information may be found at www.healthvermont.gov
The good news from the Health Department is that beginning on Tuesday, Feb 16, Vermonters ages 70 and up may begin receiving vaccines. The website also has this information, and others are asked to create accounts so you will be ready when your grouping is announced through media channels. For those who do not have access to the internet, you may call 1-800-464-4343.
The Legislative week began on Monday with two budget hearings – various advocacy groups and agencies made their cases to the Appropriations Committee to be included in the upcoming budget bill. Caucuses discussed pertinent issues – the National Guard Caucus heard a presentation about Family Readiness Groups that support service members and their families before, during, and after deployment; the REDWnG Caucus heard bill introductions pertaining to rural economic development; and the Tourism Caucus heard a presentation on Castleton University’s School of Resort and Hospitality Management Program at Killington, which is a workforce development program on a satellite college campus. If any of these issues interest you, I welcome your comments and questions.
In Committee, our time was spent listening to Budget presentations from the organizations that we have jurisdiction for – Housing, Military, and the Department of Liquor and Lottery. We also learned about the incoming Federal Emergency Rental and Utilities Assistance Program. Committee work included passing H.81 relating to collective bargaining for public school employee healthcare benefits, hearing bill introductions for J.R.H.2 pertaining to an apology for the eugenics movement of the 1920’s, H.168 eliminating Daylight Savings Time, H.157 requiring registration of residential construction contractors, and H.96 establishing a truth and reconciliation commission for past injustices. All are bills that I remain mystified that we are taking up while we should be focusing on COVID mitigation and recovery. I am pleased to report that members of the National Guard Caucus, along with officials from the National Guard, the Veterans Advisory Council, and the Department of Defense state liaison, identified and sponsored ten bills this biennium, addressing such issues as exempting military retirement pay and housing and subsistence allowances from VT personal income tax calculations, exempting veterans’ disability pensions from property tax calculations, aligning State Active Duty with federal employment protections, establishing qualifications for the Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, and establishing a student loan repayment program in exchange for years of service in addition to the existing tuition benefit program.
I am honored to represent you in the remote Statehouse. You are welcome to connect with me at [email protected] or www.hangoforhouse.com
Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5