Press

All the latest news, press releases, and commentary from Heidi E. Scheuermann.

With just seven weeks remaining in the 2017 Legislative Session, there remains a great deal to do.  And, while much of what might be on the horizon is problematic, there is some good news to report.

One of the most challenging tasks before us this year – to develop a budget without increasing taxes and fees – seems to be relatively on track, at least on the part of the House.

While the budget that will be presented to the full Vermont House this week has not been completed as of this writing, from all reports, it will be a budget that does not rely on any new taxes or fees.  This is very good news!

In all of my years in the House, I do not recall a time when the Democratic leadership in the House did not fight for (and pass) significantly increased revenues to pay for significantly increased spending.  This year, however, with Governor Phil Scott in the corner office, it has been made clear that a veto is imminent if it increases taxes and fees on Vermonters.

As Vermont Legislators return to Montpelier this week after the Town Meeting Day break, there are a number of items on the docket.  I, for one, am hopeful that one of them is going to be significant progress on the important issue of independent contractors.  Specifically, I would like to see progress on H. 119, a bill I introduced with a bipartisan group of cosponsors.

 

As Vermonters know very well, our state has a long tradition of independence.  One manifestation of that independence throughout the years has been in work. 

 

For greater flexibility and autonomy, and greater control over their destinies, many Vermonters have chosen to work for themselves, and be what we now call independent contractors.

 

Over the course of the years, conflict has arisen with our worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance laws.  In the past, this conflict has mostly been in the construction industry – with general contractors hiring sub contractors to do specific parts of the job.  The Department of Labor or insurance companies themselves then determine through an audit that a subcontractor should have been classified as an employee.

 

This conflict has now reared its head in our new economy as well.  This new 21st century economy is fast growing, but is very different.  Instead of the traditional economy of an employer with many employees, in many ways it is an independent workforce coming together to collaborate on projects.

Couple this with the sharing economy, and we’ve got a new kind of independent workforce around which we must tailor our laws. 

 Every state in the country is trying to address this issue, but I have fought for years to have Vermont lead the charge.  If we can position ourselves as the place to come to work both independently and collaboratively, and do so successfully, we can attract this new workforce and start to address our significant demographic challenges.

One critical way to do this is to establish a common definition for independent contractor under both workers compensation and unemployment insurance.  This would do three things:  1) alleviate some of the incredible confusion among employers surrounding the various definitions and bring absolute clarity to the definition; 2) encourage and grow the independent workforce; and 3) ensure that those who should be classified as employees are classified as such by their employers.

Throughout the two months we have been in session this year, I have been focusing much of my attention on the implementation of, and time-frame within, Act 46 – the school district consolidation bill that was passed in 2015.

While I did not support the bill, and, in fact, fought vigorously against its passage, Act 46 is now law, and we must deal with it.  Unfortunately, many school districts are really struggling in this regard right now.

Make no mistake, communities throughout Vermont are working diligently to comply with the law in a way that works for their communities and students, but dozens are having significant issues doing so.

As this relates to Stowe and the educational opportunities we offer our students, we must be sure that any rules written to govern the creation and approval of Alternative Structures under Act 46, are conducive to our goal of being approved as an Alternative Structure.