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Legislative Update - 21 APRIL 2023

Dear Constituents –

This week in the Statehouse was defined by House floor action on S.5, the « Affordable Heat Act ». At this writing, Vermonters know that the House passed this bill, and it is headed back to the Senate for their approval before going to the Governor’s desk, where it is certain to be vetoed ; a veto session for late June has already been established. What most Vermonters don’t know, given the number of Representatives and Senators who voted in favor of this legislation, is that the « affordability » of this act is at best questionable. Despite repeated requests for a study weighing the potential costs and benefits, something any of us would do when contemplating a new proposal that directly affects our financial well-being, the costs of this bill remain unknown. Conservative estimates are in the multi millions, and they are projected to be on-going.  If this bill becomes law, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to enact such stringent requirements targeting the thermal sector.  During a press conference held by the Republican Caucus, concerns were raised about how this would affect Vermonters, particularly those on fixed incomes or who live in very cold pockets of the state.  The obvious answer is that, with a mandate to pass a balanced budget, and the influx of federal money coming to a swift halt, worthy initiatives will have to be cut to implement this new « Clean Heat » program. What those measures entail will be up to a future Legislature to decide, and that in itself feels wrong.  If we are making these decisions, we should own the consequences.  And by « we », I refer to the majority party who voted this behemoth in.  That being said, I want to thank the handful of my Democrat and Indpendent colleagues in the House who joined the minority in saying that this bill is unaffordable and punitive to their constituents and small businesses. For a detailed listing of how your Representatives voted, please see the General Assembly website for the April 20 House Journal.

In Committee, we continued to take testimony on Ranked Choice Voting, Sheriffs, fossil fuel divestment from State portfolios, and amendments to the charter of the City of Burlington. The next few weeks will be more of the same, and you can view our agenda on the Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee webpage on the General Assembly website.

The VT National Guard and Veterans Affairs Caucus met to hear updates on military pension and survivors’ benefits tax exemption legislation and on the military Burn Pit Registry, as well as  presentations from the USS VT Support Group and the VT Office of Veterans Affairs on their mission and outreach.  VT NG&VA Caucus leadership (myself and my two co-chairs) met with the staff of all three of our congressional delegation offices and were assured that our Senators and Congresswoman are doing their part to advocate at the federal level for an expansion of the PACT ACT to include deployment areas of Kosovo and perhaps others where our servicemen and women incurred exposure to airborne hazards.  It is also noteworthy that the PACT ACT includes our military veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Southeast Asia and water borne toxins at Camp Lejeune. If any servicemember was present in those locations, I urge you to contact the VA for assistance to sign up for the Burn Pit Registry. I would also like to thank our VT Adjutant General, Major General Greg Knight, who is tirelessly advocating for these inclusions. On Tuesday, the VSG was present in the House Chamber for a reading of a Resolution naming April 18 2023 USS VT Day, commemorating the day that the submarine was commissioned three years ago.  I had the honor of introducing on the House floor Retired Navy Captain and my former Representative Mr Albert Perry, of Middlebury and Lake Carmi, as well as other members of the VSG Board. The VSG also held a press conference announcing the date of Vermont Weekend to tour the boat in Groton CT on May 12-13. The VT Rural Caucus met and learned more on the topics of EMS, dispatch, outdoor rec, and the housing bill. I expect next week’s floor action to focus on the HOME bill, S.100, which has been controversial as it has made its way through Senate Economic Development, Senate Natural Resources, General & Housing, and Environment & Energy. Thirty-three members of the VT Rural Caucus signed on to a letter to House leadership calling for restoration of the good work that Senate Econ did around Act 250 reform, only to have Senate NR strip it out and House G&H rendered hog-tied when Representatives tried to put these measures back in. [email protected] Stay well, Rep Hango

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Governor’s Statement - 18 APRIL 2023

 This statement exemplifies the work that I have been doing with the Rural Caucus this session:

STATEMENT: GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT CALLS FOR FOCUS ON COMMUNITIES AND PEOPLE

 

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement:

 

“In my Inaugural Address, I asked legislators to join me to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have as a result of historic federal funds and state surpluses. I believe we do that by revitalizing our county economic centers and their surrounding communities that have been left behind for far too long.

 

“Because the fact is, the real majority in the Legislature is not about political parties. It comes from the more than 100 lawmakers who represent small communities that need our help.

 

“Unfortunately, despite the efforts of my team and many legislators from these small towns, initiatives that would help communities and families are being sidelined and sacrificed in order to satisfy political agendas and appease special interest groups. This includes an unwillingness to modernize Act 250 so we can increase housing in rural communities; removing funding I’d proposed for much-need community infrastructure like roads, bridges and stormwater; not considering tax relief for working families; and eliminating initiatives that would create jobs in the counties that need them most.

 

“It seems like a good time to share the conclusion of my Inaugural Address and once again ask for legislators to work with me to put our communities and people first.

 

“I appreciate those legislators who are stepping up to advocate for policies that will help their constituents, like members of the tri-partisan Rural Caucus. But as the legislative session comes to an end, they – and I – need Vermonters’ help to make sure all voices are heard.”

 

If you agree Vermonters can’t afford higher taxes, fees and penalties, and that we should use historic federal funds and state surpluses to address the basic fundamental needs to revitalize communities, share your story and perspective by writing the Governor’s Office and contacting your legislators.

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Legislative Update - 14 APRIL 2023

Dear Constituents –

In the Statehouse, Committees continue to work on bills, and the House floor has seen minimal action. Bills passed this week include : H.488, amendments to the charter of the Town of Ludlow ; H.495, amendments to the Charter of the Town of Middlebury ; H.148, amendments to raising the age of eligibility to marry as it came back from the Senate ; H.386, amendments to the charter of the Town of Brattleboro, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in their local elections ; and S.3, prohibiting paramilitary training camps. The last three are bills that I voted against after hearing compelling arguments about the constitutionality of the language (S.3) and the dichotomy between prohibiting youth to make life decisions at one age (H.148), yet codifying it into law at an even younger age (H.386).

In the Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee, we continued to take testimony on S.17, sheriff reforms ; more town charter changes, and ranked-choice voting.  We also received the Vermont National Guard Annual Sexual Assault Prevention Response Report with our colleagues in Senate Government Operations.

Bills to keep a close eye on as they make their way through money committees and to the House floor next week are S.5, the Clean Heat Standard bill and S.100, the Housing for Everyone  bill.  Both of these bills came out of the committees of jurisdiction lacking bipartisan support and should be concerning to all Vermonters .  Thank you all for your letters and phone calls regarding the unaffordability of S.5 and the lack of ACT 250 reform in S.100.  My vote is no on each of these bills.

In the VT Rural Caucus, we heard from the Vermont Natural Resources Council regarding their views on ACT 250 reform ; Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Coop on their efforts to make the electrical grid more resilient ; and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns on the vast number of municipalities that are under re-appraisal orders. The Rural Caucus leadership has also been grappling with S.100, the HOME bill, and how to balance the need for more housing of all types with the regulations that prevent that from happening.

Please contact me at [email protected] with your questions and concerns.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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Legislative Update - 7 APRIL 2023

Dear Constituents –

This week in the Statehouse we saw relatively little action on the House floor, as committees dug into the bills sent from the other chamber. Tuesday marked the beginning of the Month of the Military Child, and a Resolution was passed honoring the sacrifices our military families make for our freedoms. Retired Air Force Colonel and current Representative Michael Morgan of Milton welcomed guests from the National Guard Family Support Program and Vermont military families on the House floor after the reading of the Resolution. Bills that passed were largely without debate, and several of them came from the House Government Operations Committee : H.146, amendments to the charter of the Northeast Kingdom Waste Management District ; H.271, amendments to the charter of the Town of Springfield ; H.418, amendments to the charter of the Town of Barre ; H.150, amendments to the charter of the Village of Alburgh ; H.495, an act relating to the approval of the amendment to the Town of Middlebury ; H.98, an act relating to approval of the amendments to the charter of the Town of Ludlow ; S.54, an act relating to individual and small group insurance markets ; and H.282, an act relating to the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact. We were able to vote for H.282, a worthy bill extending reciprocal licensure within compact states to psychologists who want to practice in Vermont who hold licenses in other states, after House Ways & Means withdrew a $7M increase in Office of Professional Regulation fee increases from this bill. There is no reason to raise fees and taxes in this time of surplus money in the State’s coffers !

In House Government Operations & Military Affairs, our work continued to focus on amendments to Town Charters, which are brought to us by municipalities after a positive vote at the polls. We also took up S.17 dealing with sheriff reforms and took a drive through of S.6, an act relating to law enforcement interrogation policies  which  is in House Judiciary, and we are beginning to look at S.9, an act relating to the authority of the State Auditor to examine the books and records of State contractors. These bills all came to us from the Senate, and at first glance, they appear to be addressing very specific issues, rather than being Statewide solutions.

I was invited to introduce three bills to committees of jurisdiction this week : H.328, an act relating to requiring licensed athletic trainers at secondary school athletic events and practices, in House Education ; H.99, an act relating to the Vermont National Guard Tuition Benefit Program, which is now part of H.461, the miscellaneous education bill, in Senate Education ; and H.255, an act relating to  exempting all military retirement and military survivor benefit income from State income tax, in House Ways & Means. I also spent time working with our UVM intern students on their assignments supporting the GOP Caucus, met with the Northeast Regional Defense State Liaison Officer from the Department of Defense on national priority policy issues, and the National Guard and Vermont Workforce Development Coordinator on growing Vermont’s workforce through partnerships with the Guard.

Also this week, a group of students from Sheldon Elementary School were touring the Statehouse, as well as a contingent of students and advisors from MVU who are part of the OVX advocacy network.  It was great to see so many young people learning how government in Vermont works !

As always, it is an honor to serve you. Please reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5

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Legislative Update - 31 MARCH 2023

Dear Constituents –

The story of the week is budgets.  To be specific, budgets that go far beyond a fiscally conservative Governor’s recommended spending that raised no new taxes or fees to add  approximately 70 new state government positions and a 12% increase in appropriations to the Big Bill, H.494 ; an increase of $22.2M, which is a 20% increase, in DMV fees to the Transportation Bill, H.479, (not typically where these fees would be authorized and not requested by the DMV) ; and a Capital Bill, H.493, that aims to keep costs down but has to address ballooning deferred maintenance needs across State-owned assets. On Thursday, in the midst of long days spent on the House Floor, the Republican Caucus (Representatives and Senators) held a press conference laying out objections to the overspending of money that isn’t there, the raising of fees during a time of high inflation and an influx of federal funds, and the apparent disregard for Vermonters who are struggling to make ends meet. While there are many worthy line items in the Budget and Transportation Bills (housing, education and workforce development, mental health, food insecurity, and infrastructure projects), the Republican Caucus made a statement by voting against both of these bills on the grounds of fiscal irresponsibility. To spend upwards of $65M above and beyond the budget that the Governor built with care and consideration for all Vermonters was a shock and a disappointment to my constituents. Also included in this budget is an additional $115M allocated for one-time uses that were not included in the Governor’s recommend, obligating the State for ongoing funding, and there was no money left in reserve to use in the future for matching funds to draw down federal grants, which is particularly concerning. On top of last week’s proposed spending on H.66 Paid Family Medical Leave ($118M), and H.165 Universal School Meals ($30M), I just don’t know where all of this money will come from !  By tacking on $22M in increased DMV fees to an otherwise conservatively crafted Transportation Bill, and another $7M in increased professional licensing fees, I have the sinking feeling that the way we will pay for this new budget is by increasing regressive fees that disproportionately affect the most vulnerable Vermonters. And this does not even begin to address the estimated $500M that S.5 the Affordable Heat Act and various childcare proposals will cost taxpayers in the near future.

In Committee business, we have started learning about the crisis in the Emergency Communications system, Ranked Choice Voting, and we completed several amendments to municipal charters. As a Dillon’s Rule State,  any time a municipality wants to make a change to their charter, they have to seek permission from the Legislature by having that change go through the bill-making process, which originates in the House Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee.

Thank you for your questions and concerns at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

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Legislative Update - 24 MARCH 2023

Dear Constituents –

This was the week of the deadline for money bills to « cross over » to the other Chamber – we spent many long hours on the House floor hearing debate and voting on bills, as well as Committee meetings  scattered throughout our days to hear amendments from money committees to bills that previously passed out of Goverment Operations & Military Affairs.

As a reminder for the next section of this report, to find the text of a bill, one can type in the bill number on the General Assembly webpage and see several iterations of a bill – please click on the bill as passed by the House for the most up to date version ; if it is an S. bill at this time of year, click on as passed by the Senate.

Among the bills that passed throughout the House are the following, listed by bill number and title. Those that I voted in favor of include : H.55 unemployment insurance amendments ; H.110 extending the sunset on siting telecommunications towers ;H.171 adult protective services ; H.471 technical and administrative changes to VT tax law ; H.476 radiologist assistants ; H.178 commissioning Department of Corrections personnel as notaries public ; H.288 liability for the sale of alcoholic beverages ; H.476 miscellaneous changes to law enforcement officer training laws ; H.481 public health initiatives to address death by suicide.

Those that I did not support include : H.230 implementing mechanisms to reduce suicide, which the Defender General has testified is unconstitutional ; H.482 Vermont Criminal Justice Council recommendations for law enforcement officer training, which reflects changes that this appointed body has oversight of and makes no provision for how the transition in training practices will roll out ; H.126 community resilience and biodiversity protection, which requires that 30% of land will be conserved by 2030 and 50% will be conserved by 2050 by purported voluntary means ; H.66 paid family and medical leave, which has an estimated cost of $118 million/year and requires an employer-funded payroll tax ; H.270 miscellaneous amendments to the adult-use and medical cannabis programs, which passed through my committee with disregard to the recommendations of the Vermont Medical Society ; H.165 Universal School Meals which is another high cost program ($28-33M per year) to be paid out of the Education Fund that could be managed at a lesser cost by utilizing non-identifying swipe cards and a more detailed screening tool.

For a complete listing of bills passed this week, please see both the House and Senate Journals on the General Assembly website, which lists all action taken each day.

As always, it is an honor to represent you at the Statehouse, and I welcome your questions and concerns at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5

 

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Legislative Update - 17 MARCH 2023

Dear Constituents –

Crossover week at the Statehouse marks when all bills must « cross over » to the other chamber in order to have a chance of survival for the rest of this session. It began with a snowy, early morning meeting of the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus, which I co-Chair, along with a Democrat and an Independent Representative. We heard from the Adjutant General about the expansion of the Provost Marshal position to full-time (necessary so traditional drill members can access this office), we discussed our frustrations that neither Chamber’s tax committees have taken up the military survivors’ benefits and pension tax exemption bills (S.118/H.255), despite overwhelming bipartisan support, and heard an impressive presentation from CAPT Anne Turner on her role commanding a military base in Qatar during  the first wave of evacuation of Kabul (Afghanistan).

On the House floor, despite it being Crossover, we passed relatively few bills compared to other years ; bills of note that were passed : H.461 miscellaneous changes to education law, which contained the expansion of the National Guard Tuition Benefit Program that I proposed in H.99 ; H.175, modernizing the Children and Family Council Prevention Programs ; H.465, amending regional emergency management committee’s meeting quorum requirement ; H.466, a technical corrections bill for the 2023 legislative session ; and three Interstate Compact bills : H.62 for Counseling services, H.77 for licensed Physical Therapists, and H.86, for audiologists and speech-language pathologists, making it simpler for those profressionals to move into Vermont and continue their licensure (think military spouses who move frequently as an example), as well as allowing for interstate telemedicine work.

In committee (Government Operations & Military Affairs), much of what we worked on pertains to the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council.  We have several draft bills that are in the works, and I have some concerns about each of them that are gradually being addressed, as I question the witness list. We also passed H.291, creating a Cybersecurity Council ; H.125, an act relating to boards and commissions ; H.178, commissioning Department of Corrections personnel as notaries public ; and H.270, miscellaneous amendments to the adult-use and medical cannabis programs, which I was opposed to on the grounds that several of the proposals were either not well-vetted or they were strongly opposed to by various medical and public health prevention advocates.

Thursday brought the weekly meeting of the Rural Caucus, of which I am also a tri-partisan co-Chair, where we had a presentation on Tourism in Vermont, as well as an overview of H.263, relating to emergency medical services. I am a co-sponsor on this important bill that starts the conversation on how to modernize and sustain our essential EMS infrastructure.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions and concerns at [email protected]

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Statehouse.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

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2023 Town Meeting Week Report

                                                       Town Meeting Week Report, Franklin-5

 

Dear Constituents –

If I was unable to attend your Town Meeting in person, I’ve prepared this report for your awareness of legislation in the Vermont General Assembly. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions and concerns.

My committee, House Government Operations & Military Affairs, according to our webpage: “considers matters relating to the structure, organization, and oversight of State, local, county, and regional government, and municipal corporations; the administration of public safety; compensation and retirement benefits for public officials and employees; elections and reapportionment; liquor and lottery; military affairs; public records and open meetings; information technology and cybersecurity; and other similar policies.” This is a broad and varied portfolio with a steep learning curve.  For the first eight weeks of the session, we have taken a deep dive into several of our policy areas, including elections, cannabis regulation, law enforcement officer training and administration, and professional regulation.

In addition to learning about one’s policy areas of jurisdiction, a legislator must learn how their committee’s policy decisions affect the State’s statutorily mandated balanced budget, and we must be mindful of other committee’s legislation that interacts with ours and with the overall budgeting process.  It is a complex dance, and the challenge is to work together to benefit all Vermonters.

With the Democratic Party once again in a super-majority position, and being of the minority Republican Party,  I made it my goal for this biennium to work with members, regardless of party affiliation, if the end result would benefit my district and not adversely affect other regions of the State. To that end, I am co-chairing the VT Rural Caucus with an Independent and a Democrat to address issues pertaining to rural Vermont.  With the hard work of the Administration and House and Senate leadership to hammer out the details, the Budget Adjustment Act (H.145) contains a $3M appropriation for rural technical assistance capacity that, if passed and signed by the Governor, will benefit the towns in Vermont that have the most need for administrative services to identify grants and other funding for infrastructure projects, prepare the paperwork for those grants, plan and manage those projects, and see them completed by the ARPA deadline in 2025.  There is an immediacy for municipalities to make decisions on what their needs are and how to act on them because they stand to leave that money on the table if they don’t meet the deadline.  Many of our towns, without adequate administrative capacity to take on these critical roles, will miss out on unprecedented federal funding for long-neglected projects, such as drinking water and wastewater upgrades, as well as for broadband, roads and other infrastructure needs.

Additional work that I do on behalf of Vermonters at the Statehouse also involves co-chairing the VT National Guard & Military Affairs Caucus (with a Democrat and an Independent). The primary goal of this Caucus is to be a liaison between the National Guard, the General Assembly, and our constituents and to advocate for legislation to honor and assist current military members, veterans, and their families. This work has been rewarding and challenging, and I am humbled by the opportunity to serve in this way.  Current legislation is in support of reduced property taxes for disabled veterans (H.264), a 100% income tax exemption for military pensions and survivors’ benefits (H.255), and an expansion of the National Guard Tuition Benefits Program (H.99).

Other bills that I’ve sponsored or co-sponsored this year may be found by searching the General Assembly website under my profile; a sampling of those include: H.11, relating to commercial insurance coverage of epinephrine auto-injectors; H.48, relating to solid waste management; H.68, relating to removing State and municipal regulatory barriers for fair zoning and housing affordability; H.109, relating to reimbursement for home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels); H.111, relating to workforce housing; H.124, relating to promoting rural economic development capacity; H.128, relating to removing regulatory barriers for working lands businesses; H.234, relating to regional support for animal control services; H.263, relating to emergency medical services; H.278, relating to post secondary opportunities for Vermont career technical education students; H.340, relating to the Child Care Financial Assistance Program; H.348, relating to requiring licensed athletic trainers at secondary school athletic events and practices; H.367, relating to promoting economic development, administrative capacity, and vitality in rural communities. Many of these bills address the critical needs of Vermonters throughout the State in areas of childcare, housing, food insecurity, and education, as well as capacity needs of small municipalities. With regard to any “S. bills”, at this time, please direct your questions to our Senators, Randy Brock and Robert Norris.

It is an honor to serve you in the Legislature.  I welcome your comments at [email protected] or at www.Hangoforhouse.com              

Stay well, Rep Lisa A Hango, Berkshire

 

 

 

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Legislative Update - 24 FEB 2023 - Week#8

Dear Constituents –

The Statehouse was full this week with many groups visiting during Southern Vermont’s public school break – after three years of silent hallways, it was nice to see so many young people and their families visiting the People’s House. While we in northern Vermont are on school break this week, I highly encourage families with school-aged children to make the trip to Montpelier – our Statehouse is a living and working museum, and we are always happy to visit with constituents and have them feel welcome in our beautiful surroundings. Our doormen, our Pages, our Capitol Police, and the Sergeant at Arm’s office staff are more then willing to speak with everyone who enters the historic lobby with its unique Isle la Motte fossil flooring and soaring ceilings and to share their knowledge of the building and its inner workings. There is also an option for a self-guided audio tour.  If you do plan to be in the building, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Representatives and Senators!     

In the Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee, we continued to take testimony and re-work a bill containing changes to certain elections statutes, which started as a comprehensive committee bill draft, was combined with H.97, and ended as a much watered-down version. As of this writing, it did not have the support of the three Republicans on the committee or of members of the Progressive party, the Independents, or some members of the Democrat party. The discussion was lively and interesting, from all points of view, but in my opinion, this was a bill looking to solve a problem that either didn’t exist or didn’t solve the right one. Other committee activities revolved around: hearing bill introductions (H.105 establishing a Community Resilience and Disaster Mitigation Fund; H.140 establishing requirements for State-funded grants); listening to Budget presentations; and taking more testimony on H.270, miscellaneous amendments to the adult-use and medical cannabis programs.

The House Floor remained fairly quiet, as many committees are still working on getting the nearly 1/3 new members up to speed on areas of jurisdiction, so they aren’t passing out many bills yet. One bill of note that did pass by voice vote unanimously was H.76, relating to captive insurance, an industry that brings much-needed revenue into the State of Vermont and allows businesses to self-insure.

In the Rural Caucus, we heard presentations from Vermont Council on Rural Development in support of the Working Lands Initiative, the Regional Development Corporations, the Regional Planning Commissions, and the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont, all with specific asks for the rural community.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your questions and concerns at [email protected]

It is an honor to serve.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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2023 GNAT-TV interview on Rural issues

Please click on the following link to view the interview I recently participated in to learn more about the work I am doing as a tri-partisan Co-Chair of the VT Rural Caucus:

https://gnat-tv.org/the-news-project-in-studio-rural-caucus-advocates-for-rural-communities/

 

Also please read about the VT Rural Caucus at this link:

https://www.vtruralcaucus.com/

 

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

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