****************************************************************************** Colin J. Moffett Office Phone: 802-656-2053 SGA President Home Phone: 802-865-2862 University of Vermont FAX: 802-656-7719 Burlington, VT EMAIL: [log in to unmask] ****************************************************************************** ---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Tue, 18 Feb 1997 11:53:04 -0500 (EST) From: Newserve <[log in to unmask]> To: [log in to unmask] Subject: Legislative Update, Feb. 15, 1997 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE Volume 7, No. 6 Published by the Office of Government Relations Ruth Wallman, Director 656-8627 FAX: 656-3203 [log in to unmask] February 15, 1997 Now that the euphoria surrounding the Supreme Court ruling regarding the property tax as a funding source for higher education has subsided, grim reality has dawned on legislators, the leadership and the Governor. The House Ways and Means Committee, charged with designing a bill to be passed this session, had thought they would have a draft available for the week of Town Meeting, in two weeks. Now they're talking St. Patrick's Day! Still, snippets of information are available: the Committee is leaning toward a Guaranteed Yield formula, much like last biennium's H. 351, also authored by Rep. John Freidin. This device guarantees that a certain tax rate will yield a certain number of dollars per student. Therefore, towns could count on raising a certain amount of money for, say, a 1% property tax, and the state would make up the difference in what 1% can bring. There is still talk of new taxes on gasoline, services, and junk food. All of these have their opponents. With no specific plan floating to keep a lid on costs, Ralph Wright's statewide teachers contract is again in the wind. The Governor, meanwhile, has been quoted as saying that Vermont already spends enough on education, and that it is merely a matter of redistributing the wealth. The conventional wisdom, however, says that more spending will be necessary in order to hold harmless the high-spending towns while bringing up the low-spending towns to the foundation level, or some other level of spending agreed to as "equal" as opposed to "adequate". No one wants to propose the solution put forth by New Jersey Gov. Whitman recently, which would have capped spending in property-wealthy towns in order to equalize spending in all towns. She withdrew her proposal. This is probably the most-covered story in the media in the past ten days, and will probably continue to be so until a draft is available for public review. Meanwhile, the Ways and Means Committee will be receiving testimony at public hearings, and legislators will be talking with their constituents during the week of Town Meeting. House Appropriations President Salmon, accompanied by Ray Lavigne and Jon Crystal, testified before the House Appropriations Committee last Tuesday. Salmon gave an overview of his six years as President, highlighting some of the major advances such as new compacts with the State Colleges to coordinate programs and offer IBM a full spectrum of education and training courses, as well as the Vermont Technology Council's activities to support economic development in the state. Salmon indicated that a 5% increase will be needed to help address a budget imbalance caused by an increase in Vermont student need. He said that the increase will ensure access and quality. The Governor has included in his budget a 3% increase in the appropriations for UVM, VSC and VSAC. An additional 2% would increase this amount by approximately $525,000. The House Education Committee this year asked to review the budgets of the three higher education entities in order to be able to recommend its priorities to the Appropriations Committee. After hearing budget presentations from UVM, VSC and VSAC, the Committee voted to give VSC $1.3 million more than the Governor's Recommend, an 8.3% increase; VSAC an extra $1 million, an 8.2% increase; and UVM a $525,000 increase, or 2%. This decision was partly based on the fact that VSC and VSAC asked for 20% increases, and UVM asked for 5%. One legislator remarked that $525,000 was enough because "it is what they asked for." It raises the old question of whether to ask for what you need or what you think is possible in a year of lower revenues. On Friday two members of House Education, Rep. Crawford of Burke, and Rep. Krasnow of Charlotte, made the above recommendations to House Appropriations. It is unlikely that Appropriations will vote those huge increases, as there is no funding source except "cutting someone else," but the recommendation does put forth the idea that UVM only asked for what was needed, rather than what might be possible. House Appropriations will not be marking up the education portion of the budget for at least a week. Rep. Francis Brooks of Montpelier will be reporting that part of the budget. Sen.Illuzzi Gets Involved in the Mountain top Sen. Vince Illuzzi, Chair of Senate Institutions, has brought to his Committee the issues involving the top of Mt. Mansfield, owned by UVM and host to broadcast towers for the major media in Vermont. Suspicious that the Mt. Mansfield Collocation Association, which is responsible for planning the future of the mountain top, has denied access to a new TV station, Champlain Valley Television, or Channel 44, Illuzzi called in a panoply of station owners to respond to his challenge. After determining that the Act 250 process was not guilty of denying access, Illuzzi queried all the other parties. Channel 44, meanwhile, has hired high-powered lobbyists Kimball and Sherman to represent its interests in the Statehouse. Althissioner of Health Care Administration. A report is called for to evaluate the impact of this bill on health care costs. S.78 Confidentiality of Medical Records This bill is being substantially rewritten. UVM's Office of Sponsored Programs pointed out some problems in the construction of the bill, which will be addressed in the next draft, out next week. S.28 Moratorium on Herbicide Spraying This bill, which passed the Senate, contains a section calling for the Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation, in consultation with UVM, to report to the legislature in 2003 on the current status of scientific and technical literature . New Bills H.318 Enacts three computer crimes: 1) access to computer for fraudulent purposes, 2) intentional access, alteration and damage, and 3) computer theft. The crimes call for imprisonment and fines. S.107 Requires Lobbyists to Wear Identification Badges "Each badge shall include the word 'lobbyist' in bold print" says this bill, sponsored by Sens. Ready and Ptashnik. An annual fee of $5 will be charged,, and the color of the badge will be changed each legislative session. Public Hearing Monday, February 24, on Vermont Interact TV, 7:15 to 9:45 p.m. The Senate Appropriations Committee will be hearing from citizens on the FY 98 Appropriations Bill.