As expected, it has been an extremely busy couple of weeks in Montpelier.

 

Our new Governor, Phil Scott, and his team are working in earnest to ensure his priorities are front and center, and in doing so, are making it very clear that things are going to change.

 

In one of his first orders of business, he issued three Executive Orders that would restructure State Government.  The goal is to “create more responsive, nimble organizational structures that allow us to more directly align our economic development and workforce efforts, and provide more efficient, effective, and outcome-driven service to Vermonters.”

 

The first order (EO 05-17) is to create an Agency of Economic Opportunity.

 

This new Agency would take on all of the functions of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, in addition to many of the labor, workforce, and economic development functions of the Department of Labor.  The remaining responsibilities in the Department of Labor (VOSHA, Project Worksafe, and Passenger Tramway Safety) would be transferred to the Department of Public Safety.

 

The new Agency of Economic Opportunity will have four departments:

  • Department of Marketing and Tourism
  • Department of Economic Development
  • Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Department of Labor and Workforce Development

 

The purpose of this change is to bring together, for purposes of efficiencies and better service to Vermonters and better outcomes for the State, entities that share clients and serve similar policy interests and objectives.  In addition, his thought is that it will more closely link together the business needs with the labor and workforce needs. 

 

I, myself, have long argued for the transformation of government so that it is more aligned to the clients (Vermonters) each of the divisions, departments, and agencies serve, so I commend the Governor for taking this on, and believe it moves us in the right direction.

 

To be clear, since the announcement, there have been some expressions of concern locally about the reorganization and what impact it will have on tourism – financially and otherwise.

 

Res assured, I understand those concerns, and will continue my efforts to ensure people across the political spectrum know the importance of tourism to our communities, and state as a whole, and to ensure the necessary resources are allocated to get our message out.

The Governor himself, has also made it clear that he is absolutely committed to the tourism industry and to the continued funding of our tourism promotion.  He knows we compete in a global tourism market, and that it is critical we continue our efforts very aggressively.

In addition, however, he wants a bigger, stronger, more robust marketing effort across the board.  He wants to build upon our tourism marketing (not dilute it in any way) to market the Vermont brand in a way that will help economic development efforts and tackle our very troublesome demographic issues.

I very much look forward to working with the Governor's Administration on this endeavor.

The Governor’s other two Executive Orders were to create an Agency of Digital Services that would bring together all of our Information Technology portfolio under one roof; and to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the Vermont Lottery Commission, both of which are ideas that seem to make sense to me.

On another front, as I have made clear numerous times, one of my first priorities this year is to make changes to Act 46, the school district consolidation law.  Toward that end, I have cosponsored two pieces of legislation that are critical to Stowe, and communities throughout the State.

H. 7, led by Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), would extend the Act 46 time frames by one year for school district consolidation and associated dates.  Given the challenges that so many communities are experiencing with regard to Act 46, and the likely changes that are coming over the next couple of months (new Secretary of Education and two new members appointed to the State Board of Education), this extension is simply the right thing to do.

I have also joined Ancel on H. 15, a bill that would facilitate the approval of Alternative Structures under Act 46.  Like H.7, this bill would extend the time frames by one year, but it would also, among other items, eliminate the requirement that the proposed Alternative Structures be deemed to be the “best means” of meeting the goals established in Act 46.

There is some concern among many, however, that this legislation (H. 15) won’t get the attention it deserves.  So I have joined a number of legislators from across the political spectrum on an H. 15 Working Group.  Our fist meeting will be this week to develop a strategy for getting this bill into law this session.