Message from Montpelier: June 1

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With the veto session scheduled for late June, everything feels unfinished. Much has been written about the issues, the ones resolved and unresolved. Here are bits and pieces of some legislation you may have missed. These bills passed both houses and await the governor’s signature. Vetoes aren’t expected!

The Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan is established. It’s a voluntary multiple employer plan. Social Security payments may be insufficient, especially when depended upon as a sole source of income.

About 45 percent of working Vermonters have no employer-provided pension plan. Nearly half do not have an IRA or other private plan. The plan proposes a portable, voluntary, simple and affordable way to supplement Social Security income in the retirement years. Employees will fund the plan, but employers may offer to contribute as a benefit. All employees will be auto enrolled in the program, with the option of withdrawing their enrollment.

The Public Retirement Plan Study Committee will work out the details of the plan. It is charged with developing specific recommendations on the design, creation and implementation timeline of the MEP. They will report their findings to the legislature on or before Jan. 15, 2018.

This legislation is endorsed by Treasurer Beth Pearce who is herself a Vermont treasure.

Vermont is one of a handful of states without an ethics commission and has consistently received a very low grade when it comes to government accountability. The vast majority of our state and local elected officials are trustworthy, dedicated individuals who put the interests of Vermont and their constituents first. However, corruption, even in small doses, can undermine public trust in government.

The legislation establishes an independent State Ethics Commission. It prohibits legislators, statewide office holders and executive officers from becoming lobbyists for one year after leaving office. It imposes restrictions on no-bid contracting and related campaign contributions involving statewide candidates/office holders. It requires financial disclosures for legislative and statewide candidates including executive officers. It requires the creation of a state code of ethics. Also required is that municipalities adopt a conflict of interest policy for all its elected officials, appointees and employees. While considered by many only a modest step forward, this legislation nonetheless helps to provide the public assurances of governmental transparency, integrity and propriety.

The cost of workers’ compensation is one of the biggest challenges to a business. In a bit of good news, the business contribution rate has been lowered from 1.75 percent of their workers’ compensation insurance premium to 1.4 percent.

There are developments regarding workforce development that I don’t have space for this time but will include later. Stay tuned while you enjoy Vermont’s beauty, and, as always, keep in touch!