As fiscal woes continue, Alaska’s special legislative sessions aren’t so special anymore

JUNEAU – On Monday, the Alaska Legislature begins its fourth special session of 2021 with a record in sight.

If lawmakers work up to the 30-day sessional limit, they will have been in session for 217 days this year, the most in a year since Alaska’s first territorial legislature convened in 1912.

Since 2006, the number of special sessions has increased dramatically, due to budget struggles, increased polarization among lawmakers and the priorities of the last state governors.

This trend has increased the state budget and undermined the state’s goal of having a “part-time citizen legislature”.

Financial disclosure forms show that few of Alaska’s 60 lawmakers are working outside, in part because the sessions have become so long.

In 2016, many lawmakers already viewed the Legislature as a full-time job. That year saw them in session for 157 days. The following year they were in session for 211. This year’s count is 187 days.

Three of the five longest legislative years have taken place since 2014.

Nationally, special sessions are not unusual

The National Conference of State Legislatures considers Alaska to be one of 10 states with a “full-time” or “full-time” legislative branch, depending on pay, time worked and number of employees. ’employees.

This year, Alaska is the only state with a Legislature which held four extraordinary sessions, according to a schedule maintained by the NCSL.

This figure is somewhat misleading: eleven states do not limit the length of their regular legislative sessions. This avoids having to call most of the special sessions.

Alaska was like that too. As originally written, the Constitution of Alaska did not limit the duration of the ordinary session. According to Gordon Harrison, who wrote an annotated guide to the constitution, its authors believed the legislature should not be rushed because “the affairs of state government are too complex to be dealt with in rushed and infrequent sessions.” .

In the first decade after government accession, legislative sessions were relatively short. The first to exceed 90 days dates from 1969.

When oil revenues inflated the state budget, sessions increased and voters became unhappy with the length of those sessions.

In 1984, Alaskans voted 3 to 1 to approve a constitutional amendment to limit the length of a regular session to 120 days. (This was later changed to 121 days by a decision of the Alaska Supreme Court.)

Subsequently, special sessions became more common, although still infrequent.

In 2006, after three unprecedented extraordinary sessions, voters approved a voting measure reducing the ordinary session to 90 days.

Because this limit is not in the state constitution, it is effectively optional for lawmakers. They only reached the 90-day goal once without also calling a special session.

Blair Hess, spokesperson for the Council of State Governments, said by national standards, “it’s not too unusual to have four sessions per year. Last year (in 2020), several states held four or five special sessions, mainly due to the necessary COVID-19 policies and measures. “

But in Alaska, the special sessions were not motivated by COVID-19. They were caused by the state’s struggles with oil revenues and the Permanent Fund dividend.

“It’s all in the PFD and the budget. It is what it is, ”said House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

“When you don’t have money, it’s more difficult”

From the late 2000s to 2014, high oil prices meant that the state had enough revenue to pay the budget, develop infrastructure, and save billions on various accounts.

In 2014, prices plunged, as did state revenues.

“When you don’t have the money, it’s harder to do the things you think should be done,” said Mike Chenault, then Speaker of the House.

Chenault, a Republican, was in charge of State House for the first two years of Independent Governor Bill Walker’s tenure. There have been five special sessions in those two years, most of them occurring as Walker tried to get lawmakers to pass a tax and tax plan.

Chenault said Walker’s plans lacked support and he urged House lawmakers to put them to a floor vote. If they rejected them, it might have dissuaded Walker from calling additional sessions.

“And I couldn’t convince my guys to do it. So the governor kept calling us back. And then we sat there and spun our wheels, ”said Chenault.

The scheme continued in a different form after Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy was elected in 2018, beating Walker behind a pledge to pay a bigger dividend to the Permanent Fund.

In 2019, Dunleavy proposed significant budget cuts in order to pay this dividend.

Lawmakers rejected these ideas, and the debate between branches of government extended into several special sessions.

This year, the governor proposed using a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s record income to pay a larger dividend.

Lawmakers rejected the idea, in large part because it would force them to exceed the annual spending limit of the Permanent Fund. Because fund income is the largest source of revenue for utilities, they argue that spending more of the fund now will mean less income later, thus necessitating tax increases or service cuts.

The governor does not agree with this assessment and has called the Legislative Assembly in extraordinary session. The Permanent Fund gained a record 30% last year.

“There has never been a time like this in history where some of our funds are doing extremely well, while the people of Alaska may not be,” he said. he declares.

Per day

The special sessions themselves come at a price.

Until September 23, the first three special sessions cost $ 1.49 million, according to figures from the Legislative Affairs Agency, the administrative arm of the Legislative Assembly.

This cost will increase as the fourth session takes place and lawmakers continue to submit expense claims for the third session.

Lawmakers who live outside of Juneau can claim $ 293 per day for shelter, food and other costs associated with maintaining a second household.

As of September 23, lawmakers had requested and received $ 217,113 in per diems for the third session. It is on par with the daily allowances of the first two special sessions.

Lawmakers are regularly criticized for demanding per diems. Chenault said the same thing happened when he was in office.

“If I was in Juneau, I will collect the per diems that are owed to me, and I have expenses there that I have to pay,” he said.

As for current legislators, “they have to live with it. They have to live with their constituents. And if the voters in their constituency agree, then apparently that’s OK.

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Colorado Legislature Bill Would Dramatically Expand Employment Discrimination Act

United States: Colorado Legislature Bill Would Dramatically Expand Employment Discrimination Act

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On March 8, 2021, Senate Bill 21-176, “Worker Rights and Opportunities Protection Act (POWR),” was introduced in the Colorado Legislature. This bill, if enacted, would make it easier for employees to sue employers for discrimination, harassment and retaliation and much more difficult for employers to defend themselves. The following provisions are particularly important:

  • Employees would not need to go through the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) accusation and investigation process before filing a complaint, as required by applicable law, but could instead file a complaint with the court 14 days after serving a written request on the employer. The CCRD process, which has been around for decades and is modeled on the EEOC process, has significant advantages, such as promoting prompt settlements.
  • Discrimination laws would apply to contractors and subcontractors who, in most cases, are in a significantly different position from that of employees.
  • An employer would not be able to invoke a defense that an employee has not used an anti-harassment policy unless he can demonstrate that his anti-harassment policy has been “successful.” documented ”and that no employee has made any complaint of harassment in the past 6 years. Documented success is a vague term that would be difficult to establish. Requiring an employer to demonstrate that there has been no reprisal complaint for 6 years is unreasonable and subject to abuse by employees who seek to deprive employers of the defense.
  • One incident would be enough to create a hostile work environment, be it “serious and intrusive”, which is required by applicable law. While some cases have argued that an extremely serious incident may, in certain circumstances, justify a claim, this provision is unduly onerous on employers and could encourage unfounded claims.
  • The definition of hostile work environment would be broadened to cover anything that “undermines a person’s sense of well-being”. Like the previous provision, this would expose employers to unreasonable liability for minor incidents and encourage unfounded claims.
  • It would be discriminatory employment practice for an employer not to investigate a harassment complaint. While in most cases employers should investigate harassment complaints and risk adverse litigation decisions by failing to do so, a decision not to investigate a complaint, per se, does not. should not be illegal. It should be up to the employer to decide whether to investigate a particular complaint, for example in cases which, in their opinion, do not warrant a full investigation.
  • Confidentiality agreements would be prohibited in settlement agreements except for the amount of a settlement payment and at the request of an employee. This would discourage employers from entering into settlement agreements, which are often beneficial to employees and employers, and increase litigation costs.
  • The bill would limit an employer’s ability to investigate disabilities and require medical examinations in a manner inconsistent with federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

While few would dispute that workers should be protected from harassment, discrimination, retaliation and other illegal behavior, there are already strong laws and reasonable procedures in place to protect workers from such behavior. In any dispute, there should be a level playing field. This bill, however, would stack the bridge in favor of employees.

The bill was due to be heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 25, 2021, but the hearing has been postponed and a new hearing has not yet been scheduled. More information can be found here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.


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The proposed maps are now available for public review ahead of the SD Legislature Redistribution Tour

PIERRE, SD (KELO) – Two different statewide proposals for election boundaries have been released for the public to consider before Legislature Redistribution Committees visit six more South Dakota communities late this month.

Layouts are now given generic names of birds, rather than the lawmakers who proposed them.

The Blackbird proposal describes the 35 districts, including six for Sioux Falls and four for Rapid City.

Merle card

The Hawk Proposal shows only 31 districts, with seven for Sioux Falls, but does not detail the lines for Rapid City districts.

Falcon card

The cards are also different from each other in the way they would treat many other parts of South Dakota.

Neither was shown publicly on Thursday when the committees held their last joint meeting.

Blackbird looks like the senator Casey crabtree proposed Thursday. Falcon appears to at least resemble parts of a Senator’s proposal Jim bolin and Representative Drew dennert.

Disagreements between committees for the Senate and the lodge Thursday led to many unplanned breaks in the action.

Reed Holwegner, director of the Legislative Research Council which serves as a non-partisan staff to lawmakers, was called into the boardroom at one point to brief over the microphone about the dispute.

Members of the House adjourned at 3:55 p.m. and left frustrated, while Senators stayed and drew up lines for the legislative districts of Rapid City.

One of the disagreements was whether the Senate alone could come up with a statewide map.

A statewide map was not on the official agendas of the two committees. Members of the House voted against taking the plunge because it was not on the agenda. Senators defended the decision, arguing that something needed to be shown to the public during the tour.

The committees then hold a series of public listening sessions October 11-13 across South Dakota. Details are on the legislature official redistribution page. The Blackbird and Falcon proposals are however on a separate document page for the Senate committee.

The Legislature plans to meet in special session on November 8 to consider the final redistribution plan. The boundary changes would apply to House and Senate elections over the next decade, starting in 2022.

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County legislature lukewarm over proposal to officially oppose vaccination warrants

FONDA – The Montgomery County Legislature had mixed reactions this week to the introduction of a resolution by Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort proposing that the county formally oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates .

The resolution was presented to the Legislature at Tuesday’s meeting for consideration. Ossenfort said the resolution focuses primarily on the pending federal mandate announced by President Joe Biden in September.

The federal mandate would require private employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their staff are fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated workers to produce a negative coronavirus test every week before coming to work. The mandate was announced amid rising infection rates associated with the easily transmitted delta variant and declining vaccination rates.

Biden tasked the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement the requirement through an emergency temporary standard that has yet to be released. The effective date of the new rule has not yet been announced.

Ossenfort said Thursday he supported the coronavirus vaccine and had vaccinated himself, but believes the mandates make it more difficult for individuals and businesses to overcome the impacts of the pandemic.

“I think it’s a chicken game, a method of trying to get people vaccinated, but there is a very real impact on people and their daily lives,” Ossenfort said. “The vaccine is certainly an important piece of the puzzle, but it is not the only one. Many people have suffered in one way or another. Taking this step is going to make things more difficult for people in the community, that’s where my sympathies are. “

The mandate, he said, will place an additional burden on local employers who were already struggling to hire and retain before the pandemic worsens conditions. Ossenfort called the mandate a disservice to the businesses and employees who have struggled to continue over the past year and a half.

“A lot of these big companies have been very responsible and have gone out of their way to keep their businesses running and keep employees safe during the pandemic. I don’t think these mandates send the right message, ”Ossenfort said.

He said several large local employers had expressed concerns about the impacts over the past year, but could not point to any specific companies that have spoken out on the pending federal mandate.

Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Kilmer said on Friday he had heard concerns about the vaccination mandates of a few large employers in the two counties and he suspects there are d other businesses with 100 or more employees who oppose the federal rule on hold.

“The majority of our companies who are concerned about the safety of employees and the community at large are unlikely to be in favor of the mandate,” Kilmer said.

Although the local market is primarily made up of small businesses falling below the federal mandate threshold, Kilmer said there are still many distributors, manufacturers, construction companies, trucking companies and retailers in Montgomery County that will be affected. .

Kilmer suggested that business owners will worry about the hiring and retention issues made worse if they implement a vaccine mandate, the logistics of implementing weekly testing instead, and their own beliefs that can make them resistant to the application of the federal mandate.

“I think this is going to frustrate some of our members because they won’t know what to do,” Kilmer said.

Ossenfort said the county has been proactive in distributing the coronavirus vaccine to residents since it became available. The Montgomery County Public Health Department has also organized several clinics at large local businesses to encourage members of the workforce and the general public to get vaccinated.

Still, only 28,584 county residents are fully immunized, representing 68.4% of the population aged 12 and older eligible to receive the vaccine, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, 177 new coronavirus infections have been reported among county residents and 38 new hospital admissions in the past seven days.

Ossenfort suggested that more focus should be placed on ensuring that companies have appropriate supplies of personal protective equipment to keep employees safe instead of vaccination warrants, noting that people vaccinated can become infected and spread the disease. virus.

However, the CDC said that vaccinated people are less likely to be infected than unvaccinated people and that the vaccine significantly reduces the likelihood of serious illness, hospitalization or death.

The resolution to formally oppose vaccination mandates presented to the Montgomery Legislature on Tuesday received mixed reactions, with District 6 lawmaker John Duchissi questioning the intent of the legislation.

“Other than making a statement on an opinion, what’s the point,” Duchessi said.

District 9 lawmaker Robert Purtell has spoken out against passing county resolutions purely to make a declaration.

“They never did anything other than create some kind of polarization,” Purtell said. “I can’t stand sending a letter that has no teeth or other purpose than to make a statement. I don’t think it’s productive.

Legislative Assembly Speaker Michael Pepe has asked other lawmakers to comment on whether they want the resolution formally presented at a future meeting. In the straw poll that followed, five members voted to send the bill to committee for formal review and discussion.

Among those interested in discussing the resolution were District 1 lawmaker Martin Kelly, District 2 lawmaker Brian Sweet, District 5 lawmaker Daniel Wilson, District 8 lawmaker Joseph Isabel and Pepe. None of the five indicated whether they were in favor of the resolution itself.

Despite the straw poll result, Pepe said on Friday that the resolution was unlikely to be on the agenda for the next committee meeting due in part to the mixed reaction from the Legislature and the need to focus on preparing the county budget this month.

“I think for now we are going to let the sleeping dogs lie and move forward with the budget unless another lawmaker lifts it up and categorically wants to vote on it,” Pepe said.

Pepe said he had not fully trained on the resolution despite his support for the measure for formal discussion in the straw ballot.

“I thought if half the members were interested in entertaining him, it might be worth bringing him back for a formal vote,” Pepe explained.

Passage of the resolution, Pepe admitted, would be purely symbolic in nature.

“The reality is that this type of government cannot take precedence over federal and state mandates, so there is no real value in a resolution of this nature other than making a statement,” Pepe said. “It’s not like we can challenge the federal government and the state governments, because the majority of us think it may not be necessary.”

Still, Pepe sympathized with business owners who will incur the expense of implementing weekly testing for unvaccinated employees or face the prospect of losing staff who would refuse vaccination if it is mandatory for employees. .

“In the opinion of some of these big companies, there is a bit of disbelief as to why now, when we are at a totally different stage of the virus than in the last 18 months where it was not necessary “said Pepe.

Ossenfort disagreed with the view of some lawmakers that the resolution would serve no purpose, indicating that such activities are aimed at influencing policy at the state and federal levels.

However, Ossenfort said the resolution’s presentation was a valuable way to get the views of lawmakers on the issue. Especially since he is due to meet Governor Kathy Hochul at the end of next week with other county leaders where he anticipates vaccination mandates will be part of the discussion.

Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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Abbott calls on Texas legislature to increase penalties for illegal voting

Governor of Texas Greg AbbottGreg AbbottNoem denies Tory site report on affair with Lewandowski: ‘A disgusting lie’ Texas doesn’t hire private contractor for election audit calls on state lawmakers to toughen penalties for illegal voting.

A massive elections bill signed last month turned illegal voting in Texas from a second degree felony to a class A misdemeanor. The change was due to go into effect in December.

But in a message to the state Senate secretary on Thursday, Abbott urged lawmakers, currently in special session, to pass legislation that would effectively reverse the change.

“The state of Texas has made tremendous strides in maintaining the integrity of our elections,” Abbott said in a statement. “By increasing the penalties for illegal voting, we will send an even clearer message that voter fraud will not be tolerated in Texas. “

A Class A misdemeanor can include up to one year in prison, but can also simply result in a fine. In comparison, a second degree felony in Texas can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Abbott’s message is just the latest in a string of election action taken by Republicans in Texas. Last month, Abbott enacted Senate Bill 1, a sweeping move that seeks to tighten state election laws and restrict local control over the process.

This bill was the subject of a months-long fight between Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature which at one point saw Democrats in the State House flee. in Washington, DC in an effort to break the quorum and pressure members of Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.

As recently as last week, the Texas Secretary of State’s office announced it would launch a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election in four of the state’s largest counties. The announcement came just hours after the former president Donald trumpDonald TrumpNigerian President To Lift Twitter Ban If Conditions Are Met Grisham Calls Kushner “Rasputin In Fitted Suit” Federal Court Orders FEC To Rule On NRA PLUS Shell Entity Campaign Claim publicly demanded that Abbott support legislation creating such an audit.

Texas’ illegal voting sanctions have come under scrutiny in recent years. In one notable case, a Tarrant County woman named Crystal Mason was convicted of electoral fraud for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election, she says she did not know she did. was not eligible.

Mason was sentenced to five years in prison and appealed against his conviction.

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New pay equity law for employees comes into effect on Friday

CARSON CITY, Nevada (KOLO) – Changes are coming for those looking for work.

“I think this is a fair and just policy that will really make a difference for some employees who have been willing to take jobs that pay less than what they were qualified for,” said the senator. State of Nevada, Julia Ratti, representing District 13.

On Friday, SB293 will become law that will create transparency and pay equity for those in need of a job. Employers cannot ask about salary history, and now the salary or salary range for a position must be disclosed.

In the past, when a candidate frankly said how much money he had made in previous jobs, the employer did not have to show him how much he could earn.

Ratti had his say on the bill.

“An employer looks at that salary and says, ‘I know if I offer just a little more, I’m likely to hire this employee.’ This is carried on work after work after work.

Employees and employers will now begin their salary discussions on an equal footing. The amount that someone will earn depends objectively on qualifications and not on what they earned before. Ratti says the SB293 will primarily benefit women.

“This is really one of the concrete things we can do to close the gender pay gap that still seems to persist regardless of the other things we do,” she said.

The bill was not passed by the legislature due to demand for workers arising from the pandemic.

“This concept is one that has been talked about for years and has been implemented in other states for years,” Ratti said. “It was a priority for the legislature during the session and that is why it was passed during this period.”

Employers can face fines of up to $ 5,000 if they violate the terms of the law.

Copyright 2021 KOLO. All rights reserved.

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Legislature’s plan to fund medical marijuana program raises “serious concerns” from MSDH

Mississippi’s top doctor has “serious concerns” about the Legislature’s plan to fund a medical marijuana program.

State health official Dr Thomas Dobbs said on Tuesday that the role of the state health department in the proposed program would cost millions of dollars a year, which could reduce care for the necessities provided by the department.

The Legislative Assembly’s platform would replace Initiative 65, a ballot proposal passed by a majority of voters last November that was rejected by the state’s Supreme Court in May for constitutional technicality.

Under Initiative 65, Mississippi’s medical marijuana program was reportedly self-funded through fees to all parties involved in the production and sale of the product, as well as to patients. The legislative proposal does not contain any such mechanism and instead places all sales and excise tax revenues from the program in the general state fund.

The proposal calls for the program to be regulated by the MSDH, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC), and the Department of Revenue.

The MSDH estimated that the role of the Ministry of Health in the program would cost the agency $ 3.5 million per year. This includes the patient and physician registry, laboratory and product safety, as well as packaging and advertising regulations. At a meeting of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus committee, Dobbs said the MSDH was ready to take on these functions since the majority of the regulations had already been drafted by the Department of Health in preparation for the coming into force of the ‘Initiative 65. What they don’t have, says Dobbs, is money.

“Every time these big pots of money go into our general state fund and there is a cut, it ends up cutting off care for pregnant women and babies, and these other things are fully funded.” , said Dobbs. “So I just want to make sure we’re very careful about how we budget this money so that it doesn’t hurt the public health mission. ”

State Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson, who has said he opposes his agency’s involvement in the regulation of marijuana, has raised similar concerns about the funding problems of the project. law.

Under Initiative 65, the entire program would have been managed under MSDH, an approach that Gipson continued to advocate. If the bill passed as drafted, the MDAC would be responsible for regulating the cultivation, processing and transportation of marijuana. Gipson estimates that it would cost his agency $ 2.9 million per year to accomplish these tasks, a huge undertaking for a department that is currently operating on a budget of $ 7.5 million.

“We have nothing in place today to do what this bill would require,” Gipson said.

Gipson also raised concerns about potential corruption within his own department. Its inspectors earn between $ 25,000 and $ 35,000 a year, and Gipson said they could be pressured into accepting bribes for compensatory inspections that do not meet regulatory standards.

It would also be inefficient to give MDAC tasks that could be better performed by other agencies, according to Gipson. He argued that the Department of Public Safety could more easily regulate transportation under existing programs and that the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics would be better suited and equipped to handle the disposal.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for the Agriculture Department to have to buy equipment and things that other agencies are already doing,” Gipson said.

Gov. Tate Reeves said on Wednesday he would call lawmakers to a special session on medical marijuana legislation “as soon as possible,” and noted that funding was one of the details yet to be completed. be settled before a session is convened.

– Article credit to Will Stribling of Mississippi Today –

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Montgomery County Legislature Supports Local CDTA Service

FONDA – The Montgomery County legislature approved a resolution by a 7-2 vote to support the transfer of the CDTA bus service to the county on Tuesday, a month after officials sent the legislation back to committee when they failed were unable to reach consensus.

Local officials, organizations and residents have been active this year to seek support from state leaders to bring CDTA bus services to the area. The CDTA has studied local needs and is supporting the expansion of bus services locally with an interim route that would serve dense residential areas and employment centers in the city of Amsterdam and Montgomery County.

CDTA is a public utility company created by the state legislature to provide transportation services that are partially subsidized by annual state funding allocations. The counties that receive services provide a share of local financing through an annual contribution from the collection of mortgage taxes.

The resolution approved by the county legislature affirms its commitment to “take the necessary steps” to join the CDTA, including providing a local share of $ 300,000 from the collection of mortgage taxes. In fact, the approval of local funding of the service by resolution and the finalization of the details of the bus routes would come later in the process of introducing CDTA to the region.

In August, lawmakers indicated that the local contribution was one of the sticking points in supporting the introduction of CDTA in the county. Montgomery County Director Matthew Ossenfort said last month he would provide additional information to the organization on how the funding would be provided.

Ossenfort has suggested in the past that increasing the county’s mortgage tax rate from 0.75% to about 0.5% would be enough to fully cover the local financing share without any reallocation.

The approved resolution primarily demonstrates the county’s support for the service to encourage heads of state to endorse the extension of the CDTA in the region and the state’s annual commitment of $ 5 million needed to cover the cost of public transport.

Another point of contention for some lawmakers has been the location of transport services mainly benefiting Amsterdam and the areas around the Rug City. District 3 lawmaker Roy Dimond and District 4 lawmaker Robert Headwell, Jr. renewed those arguments on Tuesday. The pair provided the only votes against the resolution.

“There still haven’t been any answers on how this CDTA would help people who are miles and miles outside of the bus loop,” Headwell said. “It’s not going to help them. “

Dimond further argued that the benefits for communities and residents living along bus routes would be disappointed with the level of service they receive, citing his own experience in the transportation industry.

“It’s a lot of sizzle and no steak. I don’t think the city of Amsterdam will get what they are looking for, ”Dimond said.

District 1 lawmaker Martin Kelly acknowledged that plans currently being made to bring CDTA service to the county would not immediately address local transportation issues, but said it was a step in the right direction to start. solve the current problem.

“We have to move on. Do I think the transport will be resolved immediately? No, but doing the same thing over and over again makes no sense. So I support this resolution, ”said Kelly.

To regard the interests of the city as separate from those of the county is a mistake, argued District 6 lawmaker John Duchessi. He argued that the reorganization of county government from a supervisory board to a legislature was in part aimed at resolving past conflicts between leaders representing individual municipalities by electing legislators from larger districts working for the good of the county in his outfit.

“I think this argument about the benefits to the city is unfair, mean and misguided,” Duchessi said. “It’s really the county that is served and the county that will benefit from it.”

Duchessi also noted that about a third of the county’s residents live in Amsterdam.

Several local officials appeared before the Legislature during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, urging lawmakers to endorse the resolution that would be crucial to securing state support to bring much-needed transportation services to the county. .

Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti said the city is one of the largest municipalities in the state without public transport services, indicating that other major cities in the region are only able to provide services that ‘with the support of CDTA.

“It is important that we all understand that the towns, cities and towns in the counties of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and even Saratoga would all be in the same boat without the state-subsidized CDTA coverage in these areas,” Cinquanti said. .

John Sumpter, director of youth outreach at the Creative Connections Clubhouse and co-founder of Wishful Thinking, said the lack of public transportation options has a huge impact on the quality of life for local families without a car who can pass by. a full day of traveling on foot for basic groceries or laundromat.

Lack of service can cause children who walk to school to skip class in bad weather, hampering their path to education. Adults may miss out on employment opportunities at businesses outside of city limits that they cannot reach without access to transportation, Sumpter argued.

Montgomery County Office for Aging executive director David Jordan said transportation is the greatest need of older people in the area. Although the agency currently offers some transport services, Jordan said the agency cannot fully meet demand. Lack of transportation can sometimes cause seniors to postpone medical appointments or trips to the grocery store.

“Our agency’s mission is to serve seniors and help them maintain their independence, dignity and quality of life. Having the CDTA as another transportation option would help us fulfill our mission, ”Jordan said.

Amsterdam Director of Community and Economic Development Amanda Bearcroft said the availability of public transport is usually one of the first questions private investors and developers ask when considering a potential project in the city. . The lack of on-site transportation can sometimes end the conversation altogether.

Bearcroft said the CDTA will provide a necessary source of reliable transportation for residents, students and employers. The interim route proposed locally by CDTA would connect to Schenectady and provide easy access to transfer opportunities reaching Albany, and provide access to a potential new pool of employees for local businesses across the region. The service could also be expanded further into the county in the future if it is established.

“As this develops and becomes a success in Amsterdam, we hope it translates into the rest of Montgomery County and the western section… so that we can have a totally cohesive look at transportation,” Bearcroft said.

Ossenfort celebrated the resolution’s approval by the Legislature and the potential future arrival of CDTA in the county after Tuesday’s meeting in a social media post.

“Joining CDTA is a huge opportunity for Montgomery County to meet a major transportation need and will increase connectivity between our county and the rest of the Capital Region. The CDTA would connect residents and visitors with business and employment. This is exciting news for our community and I am grateful for the support of the County Legislature, ”said Ossenfort.

Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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Polis appoints Kara Veitch as Chief Legal Officer, succeeding Jacki Cooper Melmed | Legislature

Kara veitch

Kara Veitch is Gov. Jared Polis’ new chief counsel, succeeding Jacki Cooper Melmed, the governor’s office said Wednesday afternoon.

Veitch has become the governor’s chief legal adviser since taking up the post of executive director of the Department of Personnel and Administration since 2019.

“Kara brings a wealth of experience to our legal team and administration,” Polis said in a statement. “She will continue to serve the people of Colorado in this important role, strengthen our work to ensure that Colorado’s legal system reflects our communities, and continue to build a Colorado for all.

Melmed was the chief legal adviser to Polis and Governor John Hickenlooper. She becomes head of UCHealth’s legal office next month

“I enjoyed working with Jacki and will miss her,” Polis continued. “Jacki is one of the greatest jurists I have had the pleasure of working with and the Coloradans are forever grateful for his service, leadership and commitment to our state in these unprecedented times.

“Jacki’s forward-thinking legal approach and public service spans two jurisdictions and we know there is still work to be done to ensure greater justice in our legal system. “

Veitch is a member of the Colorado Legal Services Board of Directors and was previously the President of Beyond Our Borders and the Women’s Bean Project. She is also the past president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado.

She has also received numerous professional and civic distinctions. Veitch holds an MBA, law degree and undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado.

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Labor Commissioner accuses legislature of failed unemployment benefits

Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington speaks during a press conference at Barre on March 16, 2020. File photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington blamed the Legislature on Tuesday for an unsuccessful attempt to increase unemployment benefits by $ 25 a week.

The US Department of Labor ruled that the money was an additional benefit at the start of the month and declared it illegal because of the way it would be funded.

Harrington has been criticized for the time it took him to brief the legislature on the potential problem. But in a hearing Tuesday, he said the legislature should have ensured, when drafting state law, that it did not break federal law.

“The legislature has moved extremely quickly on this,” Harrington told the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs. “He didn’t do his due diligence.”

Committee Chairman Senator Michael Sirotkin D-Chittenden opposed Harrington’s charge.

“When you accuse the legislature of failing to exercise due diligence, I cannot believe this statement that you criticize us for failing to exercise due diligence, which we should have found out in advance,” Sirotkin said. in Harrington.

Sirotkin used the hearing to put pressure on Harrington and Unemployment Insurance Director Cameron Wood on why they had not informed the legislature sooner that there might be a problem with the ‘allocation.

The US Department of Labor first indicated in emails to Wood in early and mid-June that the benefit could go against federal law. Harrington did not alert legislative leaders until August 24.

Sirotkin and other lawmakers argued that had they been aware of the potential problem, they could have amended the law to make it consistent with federal law before the legislature adjourned in late June.

Harrington has apologized to the legislature for not advising them of the potential problems sooner.

On Tuesday, he revealed that others were involved in deciding when to notify the Legislature of the issues.

“I was not the only person making the decision to inform the legislature,” Harrington said. “It was a time agreed upon between myself, other members of the administration and other members of the [Vermont Department of Labor]. “

Others involved in conversations about when to brief the Legislature, Harrington said, included Wood and Brittney Wilson, the governor’s deputy chief of staff.

Harrington said they made the decision to notify the Legislature five to ten days before he told them on August 24.

Harrington acknowledged that on August 6, in a conversation he had with the U.S. Department of Labor, it became clear that federal officials would rely on the Vermont Department of Labor’s determination that the $ 25 constituted an additional service.

Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Labor decided that because the allowance was additional and was not part of the normal weekly allowance calculation for the unemployed in Vermont, it could not be paid, as envisioned by the legislature. , by the Vermont Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

Tuesday’s hearing included a grueling exchange between Harrington and Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden, who called for her resignation.

“I don’t feel like you intended to develop a partnership with the Department of Labor or the administration and that you were combative enough,” Harrington told Ram Hinsdale.

“I have constantly looked for a partner,” replied Ram Hinsdale. “I don’t think you were that partner. “

The hearing was the first time that Wood, who throughout the summer was in most frequent contact with the U.S. Department of Labor over the benefit, spoke publicly about the chain of events that drove the federal officials to declare the benefit illegal.

“We assumed the benefit would qualify,” Wood said. “At the time, I was sure that what we were doing was allowed. “

It wasn’t until early June, when he received the first email from federal officials saying they might have a problem with the delivery, that Wood realized he might be in trouble. , did he declare.

“We knew we had to talk on the phone with USDOL and have another conversation,” Wood said.

He said that at that time it had not been considered to contact the Legislative Assembly.

“I wouldn’t say that at that point there was a conclusion that we weren’t going to be able to move forward,” Wood said. He added that he had not informed anyone in the governor’s office at the time either.

“We just wanted further clarification from USDOL on the reasons for this [benefit] would not be allowed, ”Wood said.

“So by the time of this phone call it becomes more and more clear that there is a problem,” Sirotkin said. “Did you notify anyone other than the commissioner?” Sirotkin asked.

“I didn’t warn anyone else, no,” Wood replied.

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