Politics

Final Reading: Lawmakers consider bill to cap cost of child care

Amanda Sanville from Part 2 Kids leads her young charges into the childcare hub at the Allen Brook School in Williston on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Senate Committee on Government Operations has ended discussion of residency requirements for statewide candidates.

Committee Chair Jeanette White, D-Windham, said Wednesday she would prefer to drop the conversation altogether and Sen. Kesha Ram, D-Chittenden, said it might be better to strip away the requirement for political office seekers.

“As someone who I learned today has been accused of causing World War III here with my suggestion, it was an attempt to not require someone to be property owning or other things that are kind of a class marker that would demonstrate that they are a resident,” Ram said, referring to this week’s Fair Game political column in Seven Days.

Ram said instead of waiting for a legal challenge, it might be better to remove residency from the equation. That change would require an amendment to the Vermont Constitution.

“Okay, well that would be something for the next biennium because that is when you can introduce constitutional amendments,” White said.

—Kit Norton

The House Committee on Human Services took a first pass Wednesday at H.171, which would ensure no Vermont family pays more than 10% of their income on child care by 2026. 

The legislation has tri-partisan support, and nearly two-thirds of House lawmakers are sponsoring it. 

The proposal would task the state treasurer, auditor, Joint Fiscal Office and commissioners of finance and taxes with analyzing the cost and identifying a long-term funding source. 

In testimony to the committee Wednesday, Sean Brown, commissioner of the Department for Children and Families, took pains to emphasize that the administration supported the “broad concept” of the bill. But he is concerned that setting policy goals before determining the cost puts the cart before the horse. 

“I don’t want to be the skunk at the garden party here,” Brown said. 

But based on a “high level” look at the bill, he said, administration officials believe the eventual cost of the legislation could be $300 million to $500 million annually. 

–Lola Duffort

The state released new details about identity protection services for unemployment insurance claimants in response to the Department of Labor data breach that resulted in thousands of tax forms being mailed out with incorrect Social Security numbers.

Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington told the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs that he plans to send information to all claimants by the week of Feb. 22 outlining the services offered by the state.

But that’s not soon enough for some senators.

“That’s not acceptable,” said Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, who chairs the committee. “At least get some preliminary word out to people.”

“I’m concerned that people aren’t getting the message that it’s going live next week,” he added. “Just give them some encouraging word that we’re on track and made the decision we’re going to pay for it.”

The services are open to all of the 100,000 Vermonters eligible to receive a 1099-G tax form from the state Department of Labor. The governor’s office said it had selected Identity Theft Guard Solutions, Inc. to provide services including identity monitoring, some credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and call center services. The service will last for 12 months.

—Anne Wallace Allen

In celebration of Black History Month, the Friends of the State House and the Vermont State Curator’s Office have selected an artist to paint the portrait of Vermonter Alexander Twilight, who is believed to be the nation’s first lawmaker of African descent.  

Middlebury artist Katie Runde has been selected to paint a large portrait for the Vermont Statehouse of Twilight.

Twilight was born in Bradford on Sept. 23, 1795. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1823, becoming the first known African American to receive a degree from an American university. He was elected in 1836 to the Vermont House.

The portrait is expected to take at least a year. The cost will be covered by a grant from the National Life Group of Vermont.

—Kit Norton

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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