Statehouse Watch

For newer members who may not yet understand how we engage legislatively, as a civil welfare organization, the Roundtable aims to inform and educate policymakers based on the recommendations contained within our working groups’ outputs/products, and so we are registered as a lobbying organization. We engage the legislative team led by John Hollar, Downs Rachlin Martin, to be our eyes and ears on those board-established policy priorities set each year by our Board of Directors, and identify opportunities for our CEO members to testify before committees of jurisdiction.

On our highest policy agenda, Education, the Roundtable has testified on several topics including:

  • Evidence-based home visiting: an extension of our pre-K work, this two-year push is aimed to improve the accountability, transparency and outcomes of the state’s home visiting programs. Vermont is spending over $5 million each year to help at-risk children and families improve the quality of care provided to children 0-3 years old in the home setting. Roundtable CEOs Laura Dagan, Chair of Champlain College Board of Trustees; Tom Dee, Southwestern Vermont Health Care; Bill Stritzler, Smugglers’ Notch Resort; and Steve Voigt, Board Chair and CEO of King Arthur Flour addressed the joint hearing of the House and Senate health and welfare committees.
  • Education Governance: efforts to improve the governance of Vermont’s public preK-12 education system were advanced when H.440 was approved by the House and now resides in Senate Education; the bill largely included a recommendation made by the Business-Education Alliance to improve the alignment of policymaking by elevating the Commissioner to cabinet-level Secretary. Under discussion now is the treatment of the State Board of Education, specifically whether or not to eliminate the board all together.
  • Dual enrollment: This has been a long-standing recommendation of the Roundtable to enable interested students to accelerate their post-secondary educational attainment while in high school. Of concern is the funding mechanism for the long-term support of the dual enrollment program; both House Ed and Ways/Means committees are working to craft a solution.

On other critical issues,

  • The Roundtable has testified before a Joint Hearing of the House Natural Resources/Energy and Commerce committees, against legislative interference in the GMP/CVPS merger docket currently before the Public Service Board. Our chief concern is to maintain the integrity and exclusivity of the PSB jurisdiction over regulatory matters, and thereby sustaining the predictability and stability of that rigorous, non-partisan process. For a copy of Lisa Ventriss’ testimony, click here.
  • Led by Frank Cioffi, GBIC, the business community, including the Roundtable and its affected members, has weighed in on the VT Tax Department’s new tax on the sales of cloud computing/software as a service (SaaS). A few issues of concern: (1) the Tax Department created this new tax via tax bulletin, however, taxation is the exclusive domain of the Legislative branch; TB#54 effectively denied the open and active involvement by affected parties prior to creation of any new law; (2) the economic/fiscal impact of this new tax has been difficult to quantify, but must be a part of the policymaking process; and, (3) VT is a member of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA) and is required to comply with existing SSUTA uniform definitions and rules, which does not consider the concept of “mere access” as applicable to the prewritten software definitions .

The House Speaker, Shap Smith, has indicated adjournment could be as early as April 27th. Seasoned State House denizens anticipate going a week longer to tidy up loose strings.