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January 22, 2014     Journal Opinion
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January 22, 2014
 

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Senate Perspectives by Sen. Joe Benning Back at the Big House As the first day of session approaches a certain amount of excitement arises as we legislators anticipate seeing friends and colleagues again after the summer and fall break. That excitement peaks during the Governor's state-of- the- state and budget speeches. Somewhere during his budget presentation, as I gazed out over the packed House chamber from my Senate seat behind the podium, it dawned on me that we once again have a multi-million dollar obstacle in front of us. How did we get into the position of annually struggling to find ways to plug multimillion dollar budget gaps? For too long now Vermont has been too eager to accept federal grant money and use it the wrong way. Instead of devoting such funds to infrastructure (roads, bridges, building maintenance, etc.) we have developed a habit of using those funds to start new programs. That, of course, means new people on the government payroll and, simultaneously, others who become dependent on those services. While the initial start-up may address a specific perceived need or simply someone's "good idea," the fact is we all know those federal funds will eventually disappear. The end result is a constantly rising burden on state and local taxpayers. A classic example of that was reported in a Jan. 11 CaledonianRecordarticle featuring a discussion between Caledonia North Supervisory Union management and school board m embers from the union's seven towns. The article notes the state requires supervisory unions to monitor curriculum coordination. In response, CN S U created a $78,280 (plus benefits) managerial position called • a "curriculum coordinator" using federal money. This person does-not teach children. Their primary function is to coordinate the delivery of curriculum for teacher in-service training. The federal government, itself trillions in debt, has now cut funding through sequestration. Rather than absorbing the coordinator's function into other existing management, CNSU turned to the seven towns within its supervisory union to shift the annual cost of this position to the local taxpayers. The end result is a 20 percent increase in the CN SU budget and, correspondingly, a forced increase in the school As the Journal Opinion approaches its 150th anniversary in 2015, we will be bringing you snippets from the past editions each week. The intent is to explore the headlines, stories, and advertising to understand how much has changed and how much has remained the same. This column comes from the Jan. 19, 1994 Journal Opinion. Front page headlines included: Haverhill school cuts would hit hard; Wells River residents get into planning act; Orford discusses industrial development; Two families burned out in Warren blaze. ### A solicitation scam was reported by Vermont State Police. The said a male called was contacting businesses asking for donations for Camp T- Kum-Ta on behalf of state police. ### Sgt. Gene Martin of the Bradford Police Department reported t5o village trustees that the department logged 541 incidents in 1993. ### Richardson Insurance reminded everyone that seat belts are now mandatory for all vehicle occupants. ### Hovey's Shops was running a 35% off winter sale. Aging in Place January 22, 2014--JOURNAL OPINION--Page 5 The View from House Seat 87 by Rep. Chip Conquest Once again the Vermont Legislature began its roughly four-and-half-month long session in early January. We ve heard from the Governor about his priorities. The Legislative committees have been taking testimony on some bills and are deciding which of the many other proposals will receive attention this year. A couple of weeks into it seems like a good time to begin these reports again, with a brief overview of a few of the issues we'll be taking up. As you're probably aware, the Governor devoted his entire State of the State address to the i~ssue of drug abuse in Vermont. While there have been mixed reactions as towhether that was appropriate, there can be no doubt that the problem is a serious one in our state (as it is in many others) and I applaud the Governor's willingness to acknowledge it and work toward solutions. The Judiciary Committee, on which I serve, and the Human Services Committee will be directly involved in that work. Our Committee began with a hearing on the administration's proposals regarding "Pretrial Services" which involve risk assessment and needs screening for substance abuse before arraignment, so that judges and prosecutors can make more informed charging, bail and treatment decisions. This proposal is based on successful existing in-state models which have proven to provide prompt treatment for receptive defendants, increased public safety, and less costly case outcomes. As almost every police force in the state has said, "We can't arrest our way out of this problem." These proposals will be given careful scrutiny and consideration in our committee. Two of the big questions around education--how we pay for it, and how much we pay for it--will also be highlights of this session and continue to be priorities for me. I think we have reached a mining point, both in the public's and the Legislature's willingness to continue with the status quo. Two of my primary concerns are identifying cost drivers that are not contributing to better education, and putting provisions into the funding formula that allow for a degree of local control over budgets in each of the towns that make up its supervisory union, spending decisions without those decisions burdening other towns. Now here' s where I really shake my head (as if the above were not enough!), by Scott Funk While the issues of cost and funding are critical, as important are questions about School board members objected to that cost shift. In response, CNSU threatened One of the things I'm learning about aging is that it is like riding aroller coaster-- what we're paying for. I fear though, that this question will not get the same attention to eliminate two classroom teachers so they could keep this managerial position, you can stand by and study it for years, butuntilyougetonforarideandcomeout as the first two. Untilweallspendthetimeandefforttocometosomeconsensus Think about that for a second: sacrifice two ofthe people who actually teach our oftheloop-the-loop, youreallydon'tknowanythingaboutridingarollercoaster, aboutwhatconstitutesagoodeducationandawaytotellifwe'reachievingthat(and children in order to salvage a managerial position! All of us age and react to our aging differently. There are also markers that l'd submit that better scores on standardized assessments that focus only on math Will the state step in to pick up the cost ofthat position created with federal confirmtheprocessandsp.arkourreactions.Noneofuscanbecertaininadvance andlanguageskillsshouldnotbetheprize)wewillbeperenniallyunhappywithhow funds? No. Wil l taxpayers in those seven towns be angry about an increase in their h°wwewillexperienceagmg'Butwhilewecan'tc°ntr°leverytumanddipwewill much it costs. school budgets? Yes. But if their anger doesn't rise above their desire to "support encounter, we do have a choice about how we let them affect us. Legislation aimed at improving water quality in the state's lakes andrivers is also the children," then nobody should wonder about why our school costs continue to Now, it should be said I don't ride roller coasters. That's not because l've gotten likely to attract attention this session. Largely in response to the EPA's requirement rise. We need to start thinking seriously about how we use federal money, too old for it; I've never enjoyed the terror of being surprised by the combination that Vermont immediately address phosphorous levels in Lake Champlain, and ### of speed and height. I'm not enjoying all the twists and turns of aging, either, pollution of other state waters, including the Connecticut River, the Fish, Wildlife Benning is one of two senators from the Caledonia-Orange District and a co- For me, the toughestpart isn't finding outmy knees have lost their bounce or my and Water Resources Committee has put forth H.586, a wide-ranging proposal sponsor of S.30. He can be reached at (802)274-1346 or hairisinventingnewplacestogrow.Thehardestpartofagingformeishavingthe aimedprimarilyatmitigatingstormwaterrun,0fffromavarietyofsources, mcluding jbenning@leg.state, vt. us. courage to acknowledge and embrace what is happening in my life as I change, agriculture, roads and municipalities. They retakingtestimonynowinresponseto Some things just make me feel like I am 210, and that takes me to a difficult place, this proposal (of which there promises to be no shortage). The recent icy weather is a good example. Shuffling along on the ice-covered Two other front burner issues that have been inthe news enough that I'll mention sidewalk with the dread of a high wire walker just didn't feel like 'me.' I was so them only as a reminder here, are the need close a $70 million dollar gap in order VSP recruiting class boosts diversity afraidoffalling, Ijust stayed indoors. Even getting from the house to the garage felt to produce a balanced budget, andaddressingtheongoingissueswiththehealth like it wasn't worth the risk. care exchange. To the latter I'll add ensuring that CGI (the IT company designing PITTSFORD--A three-week pre-basic academy began for 25 Vermont I used to be fairly adventurous, but now, not so much. Falling just isn't worth it. the exchange) is held fiscally accountable for failing to meet many of its contract State Police recruits on Jan. 16. When they complete that course, the The getting down is too quick, the getting back up has become harder, and the obligations. recruits will join the 16-week 98 Vermont Police Academy class along getting over it takes a lot longer. So, I'm growing more cautious. Finally, I want to mention that the Legislative Committees nowall have their own with 27 other officers from departments around the state. It wasn t until the sun was out and the temperature back up that I realized how web pages which can be reached from the Vermont State Legislature home page. Colonel Tom L'Esperance, who is the director of Vermont State much my fear of falling had caused a loss of mobility and choice. Once I considered These Committee pages have links to weekly agendas, bills under consideration, Police, said that when the recruits successfully complete their training, things, it did seem I probably overreacted a bit (which is not uncommon with me). written testimony and other documents. They should provide easy access for those they will be integrated into the state police force. The state police force Therewere other options than hiding in the house until spring. Buttobeableto interested in followingaparticularissue closely. consider them, I needed to be aware of the problem so I could work on a solution. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or comments. will then be fully staffed with 327 members. It isn't just a matter of ice, it is a matter of brain engagement. You can't solve what ### Out of the 25 state trooper recruits, 11 are from Vermont and 11 have you don t think about. , Conquest represents Groton, Newbury and Topsham in the Vermont House. military experience. The ethnic composition of the new class of recruits Thereistherub. I,don twanttothinkaboutgettingolder, butI'dbetter. Whether He can be reached at conquest@sover.net or at (802)757-3803. is 21 white males, one white female, one Latino female and two African- I participate or not, I m getting older every day. By embracing the scourge o, ftime, American females. The Latino and African-American women are the first one has a better chance to compensate for changes. This is my life and I don t want female Latino and African Americans to be hired by Vermont State Police. to miss out on any of it, no matter how old I become. SENIORS EXPO ' th Increasing the diversity of the police force is part of the strategy to So, I m trying to learnto listen to my body and pay attention to my reactions to BURLINGTON-On Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 19 annual Vermont 50-Plus reduce bias in the police force and create opportunities for qualified aging. That should help me to make adjustments along the way. There is a world and Baby Boomers Expo will be held at the Sheraton-Burlington Hotel and applicants who are not white, according to Curtiss Reed, executive between falling on the ice and staying in the house till spring. Between those two Conference Center. Exhibits, seminars, workshops, diverse food options, a concert extremes is where we can age successfully. Aging in Place, it doesn't happen by with the Starline Rhythm Boys in concert, a Condor flight simulator and much more director of the Vermont Partnership. accident, will be available. Tickets are $5 at the door or $4 in advance by calling (802)872-9000, • AUTO • HOME • BUSINESS • RECREATION Offering low premiums, excellent coverage, and courteous, professional & efficient service. CALL US TODAY! Chelsea • 685-3885 ### Funk writes and speaks around Vermont on issues of concern to retirees and their families. ext. 18. Items Bought & Sold: • Rare Coins • Old Watches • Diamonds • Jewelry • Wedding Rings • Gold Class Rings • Damaged Gold Jewelry Sterling Silver Items • Platinum Items Tues.-Fri., 9:30-4:30 Sat. 12-4:30 or By Appointment Colonial Plaza Nest Lebanon, NH w~,| i - --- lid" • 2 Comm. Buildings -~ O.06+_A-. Town Water & Sewer 3 bdrm *" 2 bath "- 57+_A * 1,872 S.F. * Barn 2 bdrm * 3 bath ~ 1.65_+.A - 2,947 S.E * Private ,000 5 bdrm ~ 1 bath ~ 0.55+_A- Waits River Frontage 3 bdrm * 2 bath = 0.48+_A -- 1,552 S.F. 3 bdrm* 2 bath-- 7.7_+.A ~ 3,347 S.E * Separate Office iii~i "i,~i,,iiiiii?i 3 bdrm ~- 2 bath ~ 6.4+_A * 1,104 S.E * Views 3 bdrm* 2 bath* 1~-~ 2,216 S.F. * Separate Studio