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Legislative Update - 17 FEB 2023 - Week#7

Dear Constituents –

This week began with co-chairing the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus monthly meeting. Retired Colonel and current Representative Michael Morgan of Milton presented a Guard 101 briefing to new and returning Caucus members on the mission and structure of the Guard. We also heard a presentation on the Honorary Commander Program and from the VT Chamber highlighting the importance of the Guard’s presence in Vermont and the civic and economic impact of their members in our communities.

Time in the Government Operations Committee was spent being introduced to new bills by their sponsors: H.180, standardizing opening time of polls and H.226, candidate information provided to the Secretary of State, and hearing from witnesses about the bills in committee and from the USS VT Support Group with respect to their budget request. It was a pleasure to hear former Representative and retired Captain Albert Perry on zoom as the group made their pitch for modest support of the namesake Navy sub’s crew and families. The majority of our time was focused on bill markup and discussion of a Committee bill making updates to the Office of Professional Regulation’s jurisdiction over certain regulated professions, a miscellaneous Elections bill, and H.127 an act relating to Sports Wagering. Both the OPR bill and the online sports-wagering bill passed out of the Committee and will make their way to the House Floor, after stops in other committees of jurisdiction or money committees.

The Rural Caucus met on Thursday to hear about transportation issues and a focus on framing discussions with a rural lens. In addition, our UVM interns each spent an afternoon, as they do each week, in person at the Statehouse following key bills such as childcare, paid family leave, housing, and universal school meals. It is an honor to be able to teach young people about my work in the Legislature and to help them learn about committees, caucuses, and the making of a bill.

I also attended a meeting of the Sportsman’s Caucus, a gathering of approximately 40 House and Senate members who have an interest in hunting, fishing, trapping, land conservation, and outdoor recreation. The Commissioner of Fish & Wildlife spoke to the group on various topics of interest, including bills on the wall, conservation efforts, and hunter education courses.

Very little action took place on the House floor, leaving us much more time for Committee work. A Joint Assembly of the House and Senate to elect the Sergeant at Arms and three UVM Legislative Trustees took place on Thursday. Janet Miller once again was elected as Sergeant at Arms and former Speaker of the House Shap Smith and Reps Monique Priestly (Bradford)and Tristan Toleno (Brattleboro) were elected Trustees.

It is an honor to serve. Please reach out to me at [email protected] with questions and concerns.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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Legislative Update - 10 FEB 2023 - Week #6

Dear Constituents –

This week in the Statehouse felt more “routine”, like a pre-pandemic week: press conferences in the Cedar Creek Room, breakfast sidebars in the cafeteria sponsored by various advocacy groups, some in the Card Room displaying posters and props outlining their policy positions, and off-site meetings hosted by others with the opportunity for more in-depth discussion on the issues. Both the Governor and the Lt Governor have resumed their coffee hours for constituents and legislators. All of these gatherings are excellent opportunities to learn in an informal manner what priorities various organizations and government agencies have for this legislative session.

The Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee continued hearing bill introductions from sponsors whose bills have been referred to our committee (a full listing appears on each committee’s webpage); I really appreciate that leadership is making an effort this session to introduce the majority of the bills on our wall – this is at the discretion of the Chair, and in my experience, it has not always been the case in other committees. The GO&MA portfolio is vast and varied, so we are learning about subjects affecting the liquor and lottery system, the state retirement systems, the Office of Professional Regulation, language access for non-English speakers, and interstate healthcare professional compacts.

Action on the House Floor was brief with the passage of H.161 an act regarding the issuance of burning permits and H.46 an act regarding the dissolution of the Colchester Fire District No 3. For those of us who live in rural areas and may have the need to burn brush,  H.161 gives the Commissioner of Forest, Parks, and Recreation the authority to instruct Fire Wardens not to issue any burning permits during specified periods of increased fire hazard.  This bill has gone over to the Senate for further testimony.

Another bill (H.89) took more time, and it wasn’t quite as inclusive as many of us like to see.  The bill aims to protect healthcare providers who offer legal medical services from out of state prosecution if the patient from another state resides in a state that has laws against that procedure. Vermont healthcare professionals already have protections, so this “shield bill” seemed duplicative. However, this presented the opportunity to suggest an amendment that would have protected healthcare workers who are conscientious objectors to not face retaliation or retribution for declining to perform certain services. That amendment never had a chance to come to the floor for a vote, being found “not germane” to the bill being debated, although it clearly affected the rights of healthcare providers as much as the actual bill does. H.89 also has passed to the Senate for their scrutiny.

The Rural Caucus met on Thursday, as we normally do, and heard from the Commissioner of Forests about the progress of the “Forest Futures Roadmap” that the Department was tasked with developing when the session ended last year.  A series of public hearings will be held with the goal of getting input from various stakeholders in the forest products industry, with a report due in January 2023.  I invite any constituents who have concerns to contact Commissioner Fitzco with your testimony. The Caucus also heard a brief overview of H.126, colloquially known as the “30x30” bill, aiming to conserve 30% of land in Vermont by 2030 and 50% by 2050.  This is a lofty goal with an untenable timeline, and I encourage all residents to learn more about this effort. The bill is currently on the wall in House Energy & Environment, and you can follow its progress on their website.

It is an honor to serve your interests. Please reach out to me at [email protected] with your questions.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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Legislative Update - 3 Feb 2023 - Week #5

Dear Constituents –

This week at the Statehouse seemed more like a “typical” week – committees have settled into taking testimony, advocates and lobbyists are in the Card Room and the cafeteria, and bills are being debated on the House floor.

On Tuesday, I was present at Governor Scott’s press conference highlighting the PACT (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins) Act.  The PACT Act is a federal program that gives all veterans who were deployed in certain regions of the world the ability to sign up on a registry that shows service that could be connected to airborne hazards (i.e. burn pits, Agent Orange): https://veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry/#page/home

I also had the opportunity to meet with various Communications Union District (CUD) members, including our own Northwest Fiberworx, to discuss the progress to bring broadband to the “middle miles” in Franklin County.

We learned in our committee that State Treasurer Mike Pieciak put out a release stating that February 1st was National Unclaimed Property Day.  Vermont has $119M in unclaimed property (forgotten bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, unpaid life insurance policies, etc).  Last year, Vermonters filed 15,000 claims that yielded $5.3M in payouts with the average claim exceeding $400. To learn more click on  [email protected] . We also heard extensive testimony on Sports Wagering, Elections, and the role of Sheriffs in law enforcement; these are all topics that the House and Senate Government Operations Committees anticipate weighing in on this biennium. It is important that we hear from as many witnesses as possible to ensure that we don’t pass legislation with unintended consequences, so I fully expect to spend many hours listening to the various sides of these issues.

House floor action primarily revolved around the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA). As I have explained before, this is typically a bill that doesn’t have much debate because it is intended to be a mid-cycle “true up” of the current budget year that we are in: how much of existing allocations have been spent and what the best use of the remainder would be based on current conditions.  This year, however, was a different story!  The House Appropriations Committee majority party members (8-4) voted to include an additional $90M for various programs, over and above what we passed for a balanced budget in May of 2022. For the 33 minority members voting, this was something that could not be supported, no matter how many other crucial programs the budget supports.

The Rural Caucus met on Thursday to review the components of the Rural Omnibus bill and the Recreation Omnibus bill that we hope to support and is in the drafting process, as well as updates on several other bills related to the rural economy.

It is an honor to serve as your State Representative. Please reach out any time at [email protected]. Stay well, Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

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Legislative Update - 27 Jan 2023 - Week #4

Dear Constituents –

For the first time since arriving in Montpelier earlier this month, I feel like we’ve finally gotten into a routine, and the pace has slowed down enough to catch our collective breath…

The focus of the Legislature is on getting the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA) out of the House Appropriations Committee, so it can pass through the House and on to the Senate.  In Vermont, we pass a balanced budget every Spring according to statute, and every January, the Administration proposes adjustments to that budget, based on actual expenditures and funds left in various accounts. It is the job of the Appropriations Committee to sift through those proposals and various requests from outside groups to best utilize the remaining funds. In order to do so, the Committee needs to take input from every committee of jurisdiction whose purview would be affected by those adjustments. My committee, for instance, weighed in on the progress at the Agency of Digital Services on technology upgrades for both the Department of Labor and the Judiciary and the rural administrative capacity initiative to assist towns that I’ve written about previously in this letter. I can assure you that the Appropriations members are working diligently to protect the interests of all Vermonters.

Aside from weighing in on the BAA, my House Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee has spent some time learning about the Offices of the Vermont State Treasurer, the Attorney General, the Agency of Administration’s Racial Equity Office, and the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office. We have also begun a deep dive into the workings of the Cannabis Control Board and the world of Sports Betting, both of which could potentially be sources of revenue for the State. I look forward to learning more and hearing constituent feedback on both of these issues.

The House Floor was very quiet this week, with bills being introduced up to H.124 for the session thus far. I have had a few relevant bills introduced and sent to committees of jurisdiction: H.11 requiring private insurers to cover the cost of epinephrine auto-injectors with no cost-sharing; H.26 a housing and subsistence tax exemption for members of the National Guard on State Active Duty; and H.99 a Tuition Benefit program expansion for the National Guard. I will continue to keep constituents informed about these and other bills that I am following closely. We also had our annual legislative ethics training during a House floor session Thursday.

The VT Rural Caucus met on Thursday morning and summarized the results of  member voting for the Rural Omnibus Bill that will be forthcoming and sponsored by many on this special issues Caucus. On Friday, H.124 an act relating to promoting rural economic development capacity, of which I am a co-sponsor, was released to committee. Other bills that I have signed onto in are in the housing and regulatory reform arenas.

I will continue to make connections and offer suggestions across the aisle to help build the best possible legislation for my rural district in an environment where I hold a profound minority political status.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]  It is an honor to serve!

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango

 

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Legislative Update - 20 JAN 2023 - Week #3

Dear Constituents –

Rural Vermont is certainly in the spotlight! This week in the Statehouse, the buzz was all about rural capacity and how we can put human capital to work to ensure in an efficient and effective way to make sure the remaining federal funds reach the neediest of communities in a timely manner before the rapidly approaching deadline of Dec 2026. The work of many folks on the VT Rural Caucus and  around the Statehouse has yielded a rural administrative capacity bill that should be introduced next week, as well as a comprehensive rural omnibus bill dealing with many issues particular to rural life that is in the works. Through collaborative, tri-partisan efforts, these bills and others like them seek to highlight the plight of many rural towns with respect to overwhelming public safety, infrastructure, and housing needs. All of the bills being introduced have a long road ahead of them as they move through the committee process, but I am encouraged to see so many legislators and advocates willing to work together for the common good of their collective communities.

In committee, several new bills were introduced by their sponsors, including one to return to mailing out general election ballots only to those voters who request them (H.23), sponsored by Rep Larry Labor. The House Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee received a Pensions 101 briefing by the Joint Fiscal Office, a subject area new to several of us, and an introduction to the operations of the Department of Liquor and Lottery and the Agency of Digital Services, new to our committee jurisdiction, the Department of Public Safety,  the Vermont Judiciary, and the Cannabis Control Board, all within our purview.

The House Floor was relatively quiet, with the introduction of new bills being referred to committees of jurisdiction, such as H.66 Paid Family Leave, H.68 a housing bill that I signed onto, and H.77 a bill establishing a Physical Therapy Interstate Compact, to name a few. We voted to pass H.48 an update to an act relating to diversion and expungement and H.1 an act relating to legislative oversight for case management for individuals with developmental disabilities. As a reminder, all bills can be entered by number into the legislative bill tracker tool on the Vermont General Assembly website if you are interested in following their progress.

Friday marked the Governor’s Budget Address and continued to highlight the needs that rural communities are facing. Much of what is proposed uses one-time surpluses for seed money to make investments in key economic drivers.  You can access the text of the Governor’s speech in multiple media outlets, and I encourage you to read about these investments in roads, water projects, working lands, brownfields, clean energy, health care and dental care stabilization, substance use prevention, mental health services, fair and impartial policing, housing, homelessness prevention, childcare access, trades training, the Vermont State College System, internships, scholarships for critical occupations, and more.

 The takeaway for all of us, elected officials and citizens, is what does this budget mean for your family and your town?

It is an honor to represent your interests in the Statehouse. Please reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

 

 

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Legislative Update - 13 JAN 2023 - Week #2

Dear Constituents –

This was the first full week in the Statehouse for legislators, and the pace was brisk! On Monday, UVM Legislative Interns joined their mentors for an introductory lunch and to complete their safety and administrative briefings. 

House Floor sessions were brief, mainly for the introduction of bills, several of which have been referred to my Committee on Government Operations & Military Affairs, including bills that seek to do the following: amend the definitions of “cider” and “hard cider”(H.7),  modify the reapportionment process (H.20), dissolve the Colchester Fire Dept No.3 (H.46), establish a statewide retirement system for voluntary firefighters (H.49), and establish creditable service for Temporary State employment (H.52). Please recall that any member may introduce bills on behalf of constituents and advocacy organizations, but House leadership determines which bills “come off the wall” and are actually taken up.

The bulk of Committee time this week was devoted to bringing members up to speed on various organizations that will interact within our jurisdiction: State Human Resources,  union groups, Association of Municipal Clerks, Vermont League of Cities and Towns, Regional Planning and/or Development Corporations, and the Vermont National Guard, to name several.

Our committee took up one bill this week, H.42, an act relating to temporary alternative procedures for annual municipal meetings and electronic meetings of public bodies. This bill seeks to extend pandemic provisions for municipal bodies to continue to offer the option to meet remotely if desired, which are set to expire on January 15, 2023.  The impetus for this extension came from town clerks across the State who have found this to be a good option to allow for more individuals to access public meetings. The current iteration of the bill extends this provision out to July 1, 2024, and contains the same guidelines around public access that ACT 157 of 2022 set forth. This bill then went on to House Ways and Means for further refinement.

The Rural Caucus, of which I am a Co-Chair, met this week and offered overwhelming support for the Governor’s inclusion in the Budget Adjustment Act a line item for $3M to support rural communities with respect to accessing and utilizing ARPA funding and other State and Federal grant programs over the course of the next three years.

The VT National Guard & Military Affairs Caucus, of which I am also a Co-Chair, met this week and heard presentations from: the VT Director of the US Selective Service, who highlighted a relatively poor compliance rate for men aged 18-26 in Vermont compared to other states and the lack of individuals willing to serve on regional boards that hear conscientious objector cases, the downfall for failing to register for Federally mandated Selective Service is not only a violation of Federal law carrying a fine and a jail sentence, but also the lifetime exclusion from being considered for all Federal jobs, such as with Homeland Security and the Veterans Administration; the VT National Guard on the new national Integrative Primary Prevention Program (IPPP) in each state that will focus on the prevention of assault, harassment, substance misuse, and suicide; the Adjutant General also provided an update on the Provost Marshal position transitioning to full-time, and the efforts of the VT Guard to recruit New Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents into service.

Lastly, the first Franklin County Legislative Breakfast will be held on Monday, January 23 8-9:30am in the Richford Town Hall. Please consider joining local legislators to discuss what is important to you.

It is an honor to serve you in the Vermont Statehouse. Please reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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Legislative Update - 06 JAN 2023

Dear Constituents –

The first week of the 2023-24 Legislative biennium is behind us, and it was a busy one in Montpelier! This personally was my first time experiencing the pomp and circumstance of the swearing in of Constitutional officers and the entire General Assembly in person, having been appointed after the fact four years ago and legislating remotely two years ago. It was a momentous occasion, and I am honored to have been a part of it.

 

For those of you who have followed Statehouse goings-on in the past, you will find that much has changed this year: committee room locations are moved, jurisdiction of committees has evolved (as an example, there is no House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee; these policy areas have been rolled into other committees), and members have their legislative lounge workspace back after three years of pandemic relocation to empty committee rooms. Many of us were assigned to new committees based on these changes and the need to balance the number of new members with returning members on each committee. My new committee assignment is House Government Operations & Military Affairs, which reflects its new policy jurisdiction to include Military Affairs and the Department of Liquor and Lottery.  The General Assembly website lists all standing committees, a description of their areas of jurisdiction, and their membership. You can find email addresses for all members on this site, as well.

 

Government Operations & Military Affairs (Gov Ops & MA) is chaired by Franklin County delegate Rep Mike McCarthy and vice chaired by Rep Matt Birong – Vergennes.  I have worked closely with Rep Birong on our previous committee, and he is one of my co-chairs on the tri-partisan VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus, and I am pleased to be able to work with him and Rep McCarthy on our new committee.  We have not begun our committee work, but I know we have a full slate of hearings scheduled for next week. You can find Committee agendas on the General Assembly webpage for each committee, which will give you information on hearing times, witnesses, and upcoming committee votes, as well as supporting documents concerning the topics at hand.  All committee hearings are live-streamed from the General Assembly website, and you can find those recordings on YouTube for review at a later time.

 

On the House Floor, we had several trainings and Joint Sessions with the Senate to prepare us for our work this biennium, mostly dealing with House Rules and procedural measures. Twenty bills were introduced and referred to committees. If you recall from my bill explanations in prior years, a bill will now be “on the wall” in a committee until House leadership determines that it should be taken off the wall for discussion and testimony.

 

To support my Republican Caucus, I applied for and was granted two UVM Legislative Interns who receive 5 credit hours for completing coursework and a 200-hour internship with a Legislator. The interns will be participating both in-person and remotely by attending committee hearings, doing research, and submitting reports to the Caucus.

 

In addition to co-chairing the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus with Rep Birong (D) and Rep Laura Sibilia (I- Dover), I was elected to co-chair the VT Rural Caucus with Rep Sibilia and Rep Katherine Sims (D-Craftsbury). Our caucus has over fifty members and takes up any issue that affects rural Vermonters. If there is something you feel is important to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]

 

Thank you again for the honor of your support and the opportunity to represent you in the Vermont General Assembly.

Stay well – Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

 

 

 

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2022 Election Thank you

To Franklin-5 voters and supporters –

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you again in the Legislature and to all who supported my campaign - with lawn signs, donations, and kind words. I look forward to working with my colleagues to balance the needs of the State with available resources through a reasonable, meaningful, and thoughtful process. Please feel welcome to reach out to me at [email protected] with your questions and concerns.   It is an honor to represent the people of Highgate, Franklin, Berkshire, and Richford in the Vermont Statehouse.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango

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County Courier Candidate Forum #10

QUESTION: As voters go to the polls, or prepare their ballots for mail-in voting, what do you feel voters should know that makes you a better candidate than those you are running against?

 

ANSWER: Although I am running unopposed in this election, I want to take this opportunity to renew my commitment to my constituents and thank you for your support. In times like we have been experiencing over the past few years, I feel that it is important to have continuity and understanding of the issues, and I am grateful to be able to serve in that way.  I am always available to constituents by phone and email, [email protected], and I strive to answer every message; if I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who does to connect you with. The most rewarding part of legislating is helping people, and it is gratifying to assist constituents with their requests. During the off-season, I attend School Board and Selectboard meetings, community forums, and other events to learn learn more about my constituents’ needs and to network with advocates so I can formulate my policy decisions in an informed way. I also serve on local boards and advisory councils, which keep the issues at the forefront for me. I take my commitment to voting according to my constituents’ best interests very seriously, and I appreciate the emails and phone calls I receive that help to guide my work. My goal is to be reasonable, reliable, and understanding of what Vermonters need, and I am honored to represent you in the Vermont Statehouse.

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2022 County Courier Candidate Forum #9

QUESTION: In Governor Phil Scott’s six years in office, Phil Scott has used his power of the veto 11 times in the past two years, making Scott the governor who has used the power of the veto more than any other Vermont governor in state history. Most recently, those bills include S30, S40,  S234, S286, H157, H177, H196,  H277, H361, H505, H534, H606, H708, H715, H728.

With a supermajority (not quite a veto proof majority) democrats and progressives have had their hands full trying to overturn these vetos, many coming down to just a vote or two in the legislature. That makes each and every seat (especially in the house) a powerful one. 

It is highly likely that Governor Phil Scott will get reelected with his high job approval ratings, so If you are elected, and these bills (or versions similar) come back up into the legislature, would you support the initiatives these bills work to accomplish, why or why not?

 

ANSWER: As a sitting legislator who had the opportunity to weigh in on supporting Governor Scott’s vetoes, I will continue to uphold those positions if re-elected. Most vetoes were borne out of the need for a common-sense approach to legislation because the bills as written went too far and represented unwarranted government overreach. With one exception - the state employees pension bill - I supported all of the Governor’s vetoes, and we worked very hard to bring awareness to voters about those issues. If these initiatives are brought back in the new biennium, it is my hope that with new members taking their seats, there will be better collaboration across the aisle on issues that affect all Vermonters. 

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