In the News

By Lola Duffort,

Meanwhile, H.39 is expected to land in the House chamber next week. Anxious to move the legislation out of committee, where it has lingered for two weeks, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, who sponsored the bill, earlier this week negotiated a commitment from House Speaker Mitzi Johnson for a floor debate and vote on Tuesday.

Scheuermann called the proposed amendment “a new and interesting thought,” and said she was fine with postponing the vote a little longer.

“If it’s possible that we can get the support of the committee for a delay, by going in this direction, if I need to give it another day, and our group needs to give it another day, we’re happy to do that,” she said.

By Peter Hirschfeld, Vermont Public Radio

Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, the lead sponsor of the bill to delay the merger mandate, says efficacy for superintendents and other district administrators shouldn’t drive education policy.

“Easy isn’t necessarily right,” Scheuermann says. “And we need to do this right for the students.”

Scheuermann says in order to comply with the July 1 mandate, districts will need to move forward with merger plans prior to knowing the outcome of the court case.

And once they start down that road, Scheuermann says, “It’ll be virtually impossible to unravel these merged districts.”

By Tommy Gardner, News and Citizen and Stowe Reporter

After the state board decided in November to force dozens of districts to merge, a group of lawmakers is working to get a one-year merger moratorium passed, as early as mid-February.

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, said she’s “been fighting against state control of education for years,” calling it “an uphill battle.” She said it’s been complicated, as school districts — the arranged marriage of Elmore-Morristown and Stowe is one of the more prominent forced mergers in the state — work to fight the merger while simultaneously preparing for it.

“We’re in territory we haven’t been in before,” Scheuermann said.

By Lola Duffort,

Legislators in the group mostly hailed from the 50 or so districts facing forced mergers under the law, and they criticized the impact of consolidation on their communities. They emphasized that their only request was a temporary moratorium on forced mergers.

“We’re not re-legislating or re-debating Act 46 at this press conference. We’re simply asking for an extension,” said Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe.

Scheuermann said the group would be advancing two pieces of legislation for leadership’s consideration – H.39, which would simply delay implementation by a year, and H.42, which would delay implementation by a year or delay implementation until a judge had adjudicated the lawsuits. Parallel legislation will be introduced in the Senate, she said.

By David Delcore, Rutland Herald/Times Argus

A tri-partisan coalition of lawmakers is asking for time and money, though they only spoke about the need for the former during a Thursday afternoon news conference that set the stage for a legislative debate over what to do about Act 46.

With three lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the state’s school district consolidation law now pending and important deadlines looming, the group, led by Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, and Rep. Mollie Burke, P-Brattleboro, made the case for “pressing the pause button” on Act 46.

By Tommy Gardner, News and Citizen and Stowe Reporter

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, was assigned to the House Committee on Energy and Technology, her fifth committee in 12 years in the Legislature.

She’s been around the Statehouse a decade longer than the committee has. Formed in the last biennium, the committee, according to the Legislature’s website, “considers matters relating to energy, including the regulation of power generation, transmission facilities, energy efficiency, natural gas facilities, and siting of energy facilities; utilities, including rates and quality of service; telecommunications, siting of telecommunications facilities, the buildout of cellular and broadband services, and rates and quality of service; and the state's information technology systems.”

Scheuermann said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson determined, “correctly in my view,” that such a standing committee was needed. Historically, the issues her committee will address were the jurisdiction of other committees.

“As such, energy and technology items didn’t receive the proper attention,” she said.

She was eager to join the new committee because she thinks one of the key issues facing Stowe and the state is “high-quality, reliable” cellphone and broadband coverage.

“It is absolutely critical to our state’s economic growth to put into place policies that will ensure coverage is developed and deployed broadly, efficiently and effectively,” Scheuermann said.

In the last biennium, Scheuermann was on the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee. Before that, she was on the Commerce and Economic Development Committee for six years, and on House Judiciary before that, and House Transportation before that.

Scheuermann said Tuesday she remembers an old newspaper story talking about her and her family’s “athletic exploits,” in which her mother said Scheuermann was the most versatile athlete in the family.

“I’ve looked fondly back at that as I’ve been assigned to various committees during my service here,” she said, smiling. “Maybe, just maybe, I am the most versatile legislator.”

By Peter Hirschfeld, Vermont Public Radio

Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann said Thursday it would be irresponsible to move forward with involuntary mergers while those suits are pending.

“Because it will be virtually impossible, if the plaintiffs are successful in their suit, it will be virtually impossible to unravel those merged districts once they’re merged,” Scheuermann said.

Scheuermann and about two dozen other legislators held a Statehouse press conference to unveil two new pieces of Act 46 legislation. One bill would postpone the merger deadline for a year, to July 1 2020. The other would create a moratorium on forced mergers until the courts adjudicate the legal challenges filed by school districts.

By Tommy Gardner, News and Citizen and Stowe Reporter

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, said she wants the Legislature to tackle Act 46 in the first 30 days of the session, either through a stay or moratorium of the forced mergers.

“One of the most important issues facing our region is the forced merger of our school districts, so that is one issue at the top of my list,” Scheuermann said. “As always, however, my priorities continue to be greater understanding of, and investment in, our tourism industry, and public policy that encourages private-sector job and economic growth, including the development and deployment of better broadband infrastructure.”

By Tommy Gardner, News and Citizen and Stowe Reporter

"It may be a little over half a year before the two school districts within the Lamoille South Supervisory Union merge into one, but school officials will be in near-constant motion preparing for a series of important dates in those six months.

Superintendent Tracy Wrend recently laid out a timeline between now and July. Actually, two timelines; the two school districts are also preparing their own budgets and elections just in case they prevail in thwarting the merger."

By Tommy Gardner, News and Citizen and Stowe Reporter

"The Elmore-Morristown and Stowe school districts are suing the Vermont State Board of Education over its order that the two districts merge into one.

The lawsuit argues that the state board’s decision to dissolve the existing school districts violates the Vermont Constitution. It seeks a stay, preventing the state board from enforcing its Nov. 30 decision to force Stowe and Elmore-Morristown to merge."