Rep. Bock: Five bills to build economy, families

By Rep. Tom Bock

As we get closer to the end of the 2019 session in Montpelier, pressure is building to get bills through the legislature. The goal of the House and Senate veto-proof Democrat majority, (which includes me), is to get their five top priority bills through the legislative process and onto the governor’s desk by the end of the session.

All five bills revolve around efforts to grow a strong economy and workforce, focusing on Vermont’s rural economy and addressing the challenges of those that are struggling to care for themselves and support their families.

Following is a brief description of these weighty and complex bills that are of such critical consequence to the growth of Vermont’s economy.

H107 establishes a PAID FAMILY LEAVE program funded by a payroll tax. Employees would receive 12 weeks of parental leave or eight weeks of medical leave. While on leave, they would receive 90 percent of their weekly wages if they make at or below the Vermont livable wage, which is currently $13.34 per hour.

S23, the MINIMUM WAGE bill, would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. Increasing the current minimum wage of $10.74 over the next six years would result in pay raises for nearly 90,000 Vermonters – many of them household breadwinners and single parents. These gradual wage increases over six years will give Vermont businesses time to plan and adjust.

H531, the CHILD CARE bill, invests more that $10 million toward making child care more accessible and affordable for families. Currently there is a shortage of high-quality, affordable spaces for infants and young children.

H513, the BROADBAND bill, would provide more funding for broadband development, particularly in Vermont’s rural areas. The money would come from a half cent increase in a fee levied on every phone bill in the state. A fast, reliable connection to the internet allows rural areas to grow economically.

S96, the CLEAN WATER bill, creates a framework for providing water quality services, but fails to specify a funding source. Between $8 million and $10 million in new revenue needs to be raised for long-term funding of cleanup efforts. Currently the House Ways & Means Committee is considering a wide range of tax sources.

In addition, we still need to tackle key measures such as abortion rights, cannabis regulation, a 2-cent fuel tax hike, waiting period for gun purchase, plastic bag ban and many others.

But being that this is the first year of a two-year biennium, any bills that aren’t passed before adjournment will get a second chance in 2020. Many will be put on the backburner to await next year.

Before closing, and with a heavy heart, I wish to inform you of the loss of a fellow House member. Bob Forguites died unexpectedly three weeks ago at the age of 80. Bob served three terms in the Vermont House representing the Springfield district. Bob took me under his wing in my first year as state representative showing me the ropes. He was a wonderful mentor and good friend. I and many, many others will miss him sorely.

For more information on any of the bills mentioned above, visit the legislative website by clicking here. You can reach me at tbock@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at home Saturday through Monday at 875-2222.

Tom Bock represents Andover, Baltimore, Chester and North Springfield in the Vermont legislature.

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  1. Mary Semones says:

    A question that I have is – what is being done and/or proposed to address the issue of Southern Vermont’s depressed business development and growth? It seems to me that there are more road blocks and hurtles for potential business, discouraging development that could provide employment and opportunities.

    Southern Vermont has very limited, in my opinion, incentives and opportunities to encourage and sustain our young people wanting to remain locally. Being Business Friendly offers increased, better paying job opportunities, in my opinion. And is an area I would like to see our legislature addressing.
    I agree that the bills addressed are important but feel that there is a need to boost opportunities in addition to adding additional tax requirements.

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