Dear friends and neighbors,
This legislative report is the second in a series that briefly summarizes some of the issues we, your state representatives, are addressing to date. We face a challenging budget this year and are being asked to make some very difficult choices. Our job as legislators is to make sure our decisions are informed, balanced, and thoughtful. We welcome your thoughts on these and other issues.
Joan and Kate
Vermont is the clear leader among all states for the number of captives that are domiciled here, and the other states are anxious to chip away at our lead. One of the things that some states have done to try to reduce our lead is to intentionally misapply a portion of the Dodd-Frank act to force captive companies to relocate to their home state or face double taxation. Our congressional delegation is working to eliminate this practice and we have now passed a resolution in favor of our captives to support their efforts.
Helping the unemployed start a business
The legislature has taken up a bill that would allow the Department of Labor to identify a small number of individuals to maintain unemployment benefits while working to start a new business and become self-employed.
Most Vermonters heat their homes with oil and other fossil fuels. This leaves us vulnerable to constant price increases, worsens our greenhouse gas emissions, and makes our homes less and less affordable. House bill H.216 aims to improve the thermal efficiency of our leaky housing stock. It bolsters low-income weatherization, takes steps to keep the price of oil as low as possible for people who receive heating assistance, and streamlines services for higher-income Vermonters who can more easily finance their retrofits. As the pace of home improvement picks up, we also anticipate local job growth for contractors, auditors, and other heating professionals.
Search and rescue
Although there is law describing what happens when a vulnerable person is reported missing, there is presently nothing in law regarding what must happen when a person is reported missing or lost “in the backcountry, remote areas, or waters of the State.” The House Government Operations Committee is working to address this, with a focus on a search and rescue response that is organized, immediate, and cooperative. The current proposed language would designate the Commissioner of Public Safety as having jurisdiction over all search and rescue operations, cooperating with and supporting all other agencies and parties involved, such as game wardens. A search and rescue database must be organized geographically and updated regularly, identifying all agencies and organizations having specific search and rescue response capability. The goal of getting search and rescue laws on the books is to save lives and recover lost Vermonters in as swift and cooperative a fashion as possible.
Vermont residents and small businesses will have access to the new insurance marketplace in 2014, allowing them to make apples-to-apples comparisons of their health-coverage options. Vermont Health Connect (the Exchange) will also provide tax credits to help Vermonters who may no longer have insurance through an employer pay their premiums.
Vermont is also on a path to apply for a Federal waiver that would allow the State to create a universal health-care system in 2017. The Green Mountain Care Board is working on quality, cost containment, and affordability. Still, many questions remain to be answered, among them how the new system will be financed.
Visit www.healthconnect.vermont.gov for answers to many questions regarding health care and insurance issues.
Visit www.leg2.vermont.gov/sites/legislature/Committees/HCommittees/HealthCare/default.aspx to follow the House Health Care committee.
Are you missing money?
The State Treasurer’s Office has more than $57 million in unclaimed property. Could some of this be yours? Financial property becomes “unclaimed” after a business or non-profit entity loses contact with a customer for a period of years. Unclaimed property may include cash, checks, security deposits, refunds, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and estates. There is no charge to claim funds through the State Treasurer’s Office. Search at www.MissingMoney.Vermont.gov or call (802) 828-2407.
“I Am Vermont Strong” license plates support the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund and the Vermont Food Bank. You can buy yours through the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.