House Adjourns 2018 Session

The House adjourned the 2018 legislative session shortly before midnight on Saturday, May 12. The last weeks of the session are the time when legislators spend late nights on the floor as final bills are debated. A number of policies pass, but the only pieces of legislation that *must* pass is a budget and a bill to set tax rates to fund education at the level authorized by voters at their Town Meetings. Both the budget (H.924) and education tax rate bill (H.911) passed on their respective votes of 117-14 and 89-43.

I will be working up a summary of the major pieces of legislation that passed into law in the coming days and weeks, so I encourage you to keep an eye on my website, www.vtdylan.com. If you want to chat directly with more or Rep. Houghton, please join us at our next community conversation forum we’ll meet at the Essex Senior Center (2 Lincoln St) from 6:30 to 8:00pm on Monday, May 21.

I enjoyed serving my first legislative biennium on the House Education Committee. Our major focus in 2017 was providing oversight as Vermont schools worked to merge into unified school districts within the timeline created by Act 46. This year, we focused on developing a special education reform bill (H.897), which achieved final passage this week on a unanimous voice vote. The bill’s goal is to improve the delivery of special education services in Vermont schools, which is an entitlement under federal law. The bill seeks to realign funding and practices over a several year transition to provide improved services to kids.

Another priority that moved forward this session was a new grant program to fund school safety improvement projects. The House Education Committee reviewed the status of our school buildings, with a particular focus on building security. A new grant program, backed by a $4 million state capital investment and $1 million of federal Homeland Security dollars, was passed to help local school systems assess and update the safety of their school campuses. I want to thank the collaborative work that went on between the administration and legislature to move this effort forward.

My top education priority for 2018 was to create a program to provide free college for our neighbors who serve in the Vermont National Guard. I’m excited to report we were able to secure funding and final passage. As a member of the Education Committee, I view career readiness and training as an essential piece of our strategy to help Vermonters reach personal and professional success. Guard members should be given tools to achieve educational success while they serve their state and country. Last fall, I worked with Vermont Guard leaders, the Speaker of the House, members of the administration, and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation to identify a path to pass this initiative.

While the House included funding for Guard tuition in the budget we passed in March, it was stripped as the budget moved through the Senate. I worked closely with the Speaker and members of the House Appropriations Committee to make sure the House did not pull back from its negotiating position. At the eleventh hour we were able to reach agreement to fully fund this program, as requested by the Guard. These types of investments are only made when Vermonters reach out and make their value known. Thank you to everyone who has advocated for Guard tuition throughout the session. You’ve helped to create a program that is going to give a lot of our neighbors new opportunities to learn and achieve their postsecondary goals!

I’m grateful for everyone who has reached out during my first term. Please call or email if you have any questions. I’m always available at 802-734-8841 or at dgiambatista@leg.state.vt.us. Thank you it’s a great honor to serve Essex Junction!