Legislative Session Wrap Up

The legislative session is over, and what a year it has been for Main Street Alliance of Vermont! MSA businesses joined coalitions, testified in the statehouse, and wrote opinion pieces for their local papers - all of these actions helped inform the conversations our legislators were having. You put your name behind issues, and together we moved them forward. The voice of small business was heard in Montpelier this year! 

Thank you for your participation this legislative session. Please support MSA today so we can continue this work in the next biennium.

Screen_Shot_2016-05-09_at_2.47.29_PM.pngJaquelyn Reike, owner of Nutty Steph's in Middlesex, stands with the Governor as he signs Automatic Voter Registration into law.

Please find a summary of the issues we worked on and tracked this legislative session below.

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Legislature Approves Funding for Dr. Dynasaur Study

Dr. Dynasaur 2.0

MONTPELIER, VT - After days of negotiation, the budget conference committee decided to include financing for a study to explore expanding Vermont’s successful Dr. Dynasaur program to include everyone up through age 26 regardless of family income. The House and Senate approved the budget bill late Friday night.

“This is an important step toward addressing the out of control costs of health care in our state,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We believe this study will show a way to find real health care savings for Vermonters and appreciate the work of the legislature and especially the leadership of Speaker Shap Smith and Representative Johnson.”

As Vermonters and Vermont businesses continue to struggle with the rising costs of health coverage in our state, the Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 plan offers a solution: eliminate the need for costly family insurance plans. By expanding upon Vermont's highly acclaimed and widely accepted Dr. Dynasaur program, Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 aims to provide provide health, dental, vision, and mental health care to an additional 120,000 young Vermonters and relieve employers and families of the high costs associated with most family health plans. 

“In the decades I have been doing business in Vermont, I have witnessed health care costs skyrocket. For businesses like Main Street Landing that offer insurance, the high cost is taking a huge toll, and for people who don’t have employer sponsored health insurance, that toll is becoming a roadblock,” Melinda Moulton, founder and CEO of Main Street Landing, penned in an opinion editorial earlier this year.

The results of the study will examine the tax and public health implications of expanding Dr. Dynasaur, so that legislators may decide whether to move forward with the plan in the next legislative session.

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Governor Shumlin Signs Bill to ‘Ban the Box’

MONTPELIER, VT – This afternoon, Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill to ‘Ban the Box’ on employment applications. This new law will require employers to delay inquiring about criminal history until after their other qualifications have been assessed. Banning the box that asks about criminal history on an initial application form gives those with a criminal conviction a fair shot at employment.

“When the legislature began considering a bill to ‘Ban the Box,’ there was no shortage of interest and involvement from small
business owners,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We were happy to work with a great coalition of organizations on this issue, including Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and the Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty.”

Sue Bette, owner of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington, testified during committee hearings and gave a voice to business owners who support fair chance hiring practices.

Sue_Bette_Testifies_Ban_the_Box.jpg“During my seven years of owning a business in Vermont, I have employed community members who have a criminal record. In working with these individuals, I have witnessed the difficulties of recovering from this past. I have seen the challenges of balancing a healthy recovery, managing work, life, finances, and family obligations,” said Bette during her testimony to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. “I believe that this policy change will assist in creating a path to success for those who have served their sentence and have earned an opportunity for recovery and to pursue new dreams.”

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Main Street Alliance, Rights & Democracy, VPIRG: Shumlin Signs Automatic Voter Registration Bill

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MONTPELIER, VT - Today, Vermont became the fourth state with a secure automatic voter registration process on its books. The new law modernizes Vermont’s current voter registration system by automatically registering eligible Vermonters when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or other state-issued I.D.

Jaquelyn Reike, owner of Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex and member of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont, spoke at the bill signing. She said, “This new law will protect the right of every eligible voter in Vermont – be they Democrat, Republican, Progressive, or Independent – to have their voice heard and their vote counted.”

 

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Legislative Update - April 25, 2016

Workplace Policy

BAN THE BOX
On Thursday, the House voted to concur with Senate amendments to H. 261, the "Ban the Box" bill. It is now headed to the Governor's desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. The bill delays when employers are able to request criminal conviction history information from job applicants. Employers will not be permitted to ask the applicant on an initial application but can ask, if they choose, on subsequent applications or in an interview. The goal of this bill is to allow all Vermonters equal access to employment regardless of criminal history.

Several MSA-VT members testified and shared stories about why they supported this legislation. Big thank you to Sue Bette from Bluebird Barbecue, Jason Aprea from BBetter Inc, Matt Birong from 3 Squares Cafe, and Angela Earle-Gray from Chroma Technology. If you'd like to read their testimonies, click here.

Health Care

DR. DYNASAUR
On Friday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted the FY 2017 Budget out of committee without appropriating funding for the study to expand Dr. Dynasaur. However, the study was added to Sec. 20 of H.812, which passed out of the Senate Committee on Health & Welfare and has been committed to Senate Appropriations. Financing the Dr. Dynasaur study is a modest first step toward addressing the health care affordability crisis in our state. We will continue to advocate for inclusion of this important analysis as the session draws to a close over the next couple weeks.

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'Ban the Box’ moves to the Governor’s desk

Sue_Bette_Testifies_Ban_the_Box.jpgMain Street Alliance of Vermont applauds the legislature for passing H.261, legislation that will require employers to delay inquiring about criminal history until after their other qualifications have been assessed. Banning the box that asks about criminal history on an initial application form gives those with a criminal conviction a fair shot at employment.

“Once a sentence has been served, there is no need to create a ‘life sentence’ that prevents future growth and opportunity,” said Sue Bette, owner of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington and a member of the Main Street Alliance Board. “I believe that in order to create a strong, vibrant, and healthy Vermont community it is necessary to create a path toward success for this population so they can again contribute to our economy and rebuild their lives in a healthy and constructive way.”

Other MSA-VT members who voiced their support for the legislation include, Matt Birong, Owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes, Angela Earle-Gray, HR Director at Chroma Technology in Bellows Falls, and Jason Aprea,Co-Owner of BBetter Inc. in Brattleboro.

“The support for this legislation in Vermont has been inspiring,” said Ashley Moore, Business Outreach Manager for MSA-VT. “One member in particular shared a story about his decision to start a business with his wife because his criminal record prevented him from getting a job post-incarceration.”

The bill passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote, and it passed the House on a voice vote. It will now go on to Governor Peter Shumlin. He is expected to sign the bill into law. 

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Main Street Alliance of Vermont is a statewide non profit organization that works with small business owners on public policy issues that are good for business, their employees, and the communities they serve.


Nicole Grenier, Owner of Stowe Street Cafe, joins Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s state board

Nicole_Grenier.jpgBURLINGTON, VT - The Main Street Alliance of Vermont is thrilled to welcome business owner Nicole Grenier of Stowe Street Cafe in Waterbury to our State Board.

Nicole Grenier has worked in mental health for over 18 years and recently embarked on a new adventure as the owner of Stowe Street Cafe in Waterbury, where she continues her commitment to building community and advocating for issues affecting Vermont children and families.

“I am thrilled to be joining MSA-VT’s board. As a new business owner, it’s great to be a part of an organization that gives small business owners a voice on issues I cared about before entering this new role,” said Grenier.

“Nicole is a natural fit for our board. She has experience engaging in many of the issues we care about and we are excited to add her wealth of knowledge and experience to our team,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont.

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Gov. Shumlin Signs Healthy Workplaces Bill...Now What?

Main Street Alliance Releases Paid Sick Days Implementation Resources for Vermont Businesses

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(Left) Eliza Cain and Randy George, owners of Red Hen Baking Co. in Middlesex and longtime supporter of earned leave
(Right) Caleb Magoon, owner of PowerPlay Sports in Morrisville and Waterbury Sports

MONTPELIER, VT - With Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature on the Healthy Workplaces bill today, The Main Street Alliance of Vermont launched an informational webpage for businesses to use as a resource and to ensure they are in compliance with the new law. The page includes pertinent information for businesses, a series of frequently asked questions, links to research on paid leave laws in other states, and contact information for businesses to use should they have additional questions.

“We want this page to be a go-to for Vermont businesses as they consider their own leave policies, and we hope it will help bring businesses into compliance with the new law,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We welcome additional questions from business owners and plan to update and add to our page as the new law rolls out.”

The page, which can be found at vermont.mainstreetalliance.org/psd, primarily contains information for employers. However, it will also link to information that will be useful for employees.

“Offering paid time off to our employees was one of the best business decisions we’ve ever made,” said Eliza Cain, owner of Red Hen Baking Co. and longtime supporter of the legislation. “I believe that businesses who have remaining concerns about this new law will begin to see its benefits.”

Over the past few years, Main Street Alliance has worked to engage businesses across the state in conversation around earned leave, and in the years of debate and compromise, business owners have come around in support of the bill. One such business owner, Caleb Magoon, owner of PowerPlay Sports in Morrisville and Waterbury Sports, spoke at the bill signing.

“Initially, I was not a supporter of mandating paid sick leave, but today, I truly believe it’s one of the best benefits you can give,” said Magoon. “Because businesses were invited to the table to engage on this issue, we ended up with a policy that is good for employees and addresses the needs and concerns of Vermont’s small business owners.”

“This morning, the building is filled with early childhood educators who are ecstatic about the paid sick days bill because they know that without paid sick days parents will be forced send their kids to childcare and school sick,” said Representative Helen Head, who chairs the House committee that worked on the bill and who was the original sponsor of the first paid sick days bill introduced in Vermont roughly a decade ago.

Vermont is the fifth state to pass an earned leave law.

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Main Street Alliance of Vermont Welcomes New Research and Communications Associate

BURLINGTON, VT – Main Street Alliance of Vermont (MSA-VT) is pleased to announce the addition of Kaycie Miltenberger to their staff.  Miltenberger will serve as Research and Communications Associate for the small business organization.

“Main Street Alliance is such an important resource in this state, and I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the work they do,” said Miltenberger. “It’s a thrilling time to be joining MSA-VT – right on the heels of their strong work on the earned sick leave issue. I look forward to helping to elevate the voices of small business owners on state policy issues.”

Prior to joining Main Street Alliance, Miltenberger worked as Chief Editorial Writer for the New York State Assembly Majority, where she helped manage communications for the legislature. Most recently, she worked as a Marketplace Assister with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

“We are delighted to welcome Kaycie to the team and to continue to grow our organization here in Vermont,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “Kaycie’s background in communications working for the New York Assembly will be a tremendous asset to the work of our organization." 

Miltenberger joined the Main Street Alliance staff on Monday, Feb. 15 – just in time for the legislature’s final consideration of H.187, the Healthy Workplaces bill, in support of which the organization has organized a coalition of more than 250 Vermont businesses. The bill passed the House in a vote of 81-64 on Wednesday afternoon. 

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Main Street Alliance of Vermont is a statewide non profit organization that works with small business owners on public policy issues that are good for business, their employees, and the communities they serve. 


Vermont House Reviews, Approves Paid Sick Day Bill

MONTPELIER, VT – After the Vermont State Senate’s re-vote on the Healthy Workplaces bill (H.187), the bill landed back in the House, where it passed today with a 81-64 vote.

The legislation will require that all employees who work more than 18 hours per week are able to earn up to three days of paid time off in 2017 and 2018 and up to five days thereafter. 

“It was a long road to the Governor’s desk for this bill, but the work was well worth it. It has been truly gratifying to work with so many smart and dedicated business owners and legislators who have stayed committed to passing a strong and balanced bill,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont.

Five amendments were on the calendar, including an amendment by Alyson Eastman (I-Orwell) that would have excluded Vermont’s smallest employers from the requirements. Following committee votes finding all five amendments unfavorable, the sponsors of the amendments withdrew.

Reflecting on the amendments that were withdrawn in the House and the events in the Senate last week, Angela Earle-Gray, Human Resources Director at Chroma Technology in Bellows Falls, who said, “A small business exemption would have added unnecessary administrative confusion and sent the message to those working for smaller companies that they don’t deserve equal protection despite doing equal work. The House and Senate did the right thing ensuring that everyone is treated equally.”

“Offering paid sick leave to our employees has been a great investment in our employees that our business has benefitted from,” said Eliza Cain, co-owner of Red Hen Bakery and long time advocate for the earned leave bill. “It’s great to see Vermont making the same investment in all our people.”

The bill will now be delivered to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

  

Link to Bill Summary here





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