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Barbara
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« on: January 12, 2018, 02:20:48 PM »

Monday afternoon the House Chamber was honored to hold the 2018 Vermont Presidential Scholars Ceremony. BFA Fairfax’s senior Shannon Mahoney was one of the twenty six students chosen from Vermont to receive this award for her strong academic work and community service. It was inspiring to be present to listen to the introduction of each recipient and hear of their accomplishments and aspirations. Vermont’s future is in good hands.
Upon the falling of the gavel Tuesday morning a presentation on the House Sexual Harassment Policy took place. This ensured that all members are now informed as to expectations of conduct and how to handle improper behavior. Following the presentation the political party caucus’s weekly meetings were held. The flow of a typical week is that floor is at 10 AM Tues, 1 PM Wed and Thurs and 9:30 AM on Friday with committee work throughout the week.
Tuesday afternoon the Transportation Committee was given a general overview and update of the agency by Secretary Joe Flynn and several division directors. A few highlights include an 85% success rate in on-time delivery of advertised VTrans projects, a heads up for the intent to move to not accept checks at DMV based on a five year average of $60,000 in returned checks annually, and the sale of the state airplane.
Updates on winter maintenance focused on a shift in the enhancer used to give salt brine better adherence to the road surface. The “brown sticky” substance has been replaced with one that is as effective in lesser quantities, inhibits some of the corrosive properties of the salt and is less opaque. Snow and ice control on the highways was challenged by the week’s temperatures but our winter maintenance crew worked diligently to meet Vermont’s safe-roads-at-safe-speeds policy.
Information was presented to the Transportation committee on the status of aspects of the Rail program. An inspection/study tour in July provided agreement on what is left to be done to finalize the return of Amtrak’s Montrealer. A representative for Operation Life Saver spoke to this organization’s work through volunteer speakers at schools and organizations in bringing awareness to the danger at railroad crossings and noted that in 2017 there was one death at a crossing.
Other witnesses before the Transportation committee included representatives of the Associated General Contractors of Vermont who spoke to the current Administrations understanding of the needs of the transportation world, including greater support for technical and trade education and the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance who presented the Governor’s Highway Safety Plan update. It was stated that the message has been changed from ‘don’t drink and drive’ to ‘don’t drive impaired’ and highlighted the need to combat distracted driving and to enhance seat belt use.
Joint Fiscal and Legislative council staff is holding Tax Workshops every Friday in January during the lunch hour.  The hour allows for a limited amount of information but the first two have been informative and helpful. Today’s was on income taxes and federal tax reform, following up on last week’s topic, principles of a high quality tax system. The Ways and Means committee instituted the series to give the members of the General Assembly at large a basis of understanding some tax basics.
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