March 2023 Newsletter
Let’s Make Barre Brighter!
2023 Legislative Update
We’re halfway through the 2023 legislative session! Our work officially began on January 4, when we returned for the first in-person opening week ceremonies in a few years. We’ve passed some significant legislation in these first two months, and this report provides highlights. Meanwhile, work on our key priorities will continue, across the House and in collaboration with the Senate, as we debate bills and consider investments prior to our anticipated May adjournment. It’s an honor to serve as your state representative. Please reach out anytime with ideas, questions, and concerns.
2023 Legislative priorities:
BUILDING A BALANCED BUDGET
The House is working on the next Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget, which covers the state government and its community partner organizations from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. The proposed budget is being worked on and will be presented to the full House for discussion later in March. We are seeing substantial revenue growth this year, largely due to the impact of federal pandemic stimulus and recovery dollars.
UNIVERSAL SCHOOL MEALS
During the pandemic, the federal government provided free school meals to all K-12 students. Last session, the legislature provided funding to continue offering universal school meals in Vermont for the current school year. The legislature must now determine the best path forward. Universal school meals offer many benefits, including more predictability for schools in meal planning and purchasing, less stigma surrounding school meals, and increased opportunities for partnerships with local farms, leading to the re-entry of dollars into Vermont’s economy. To learn more, see H.165.
More than 700 Vermont residents died of gunshot wounds in the decade from 2011 to 2020. 88% of these deaths were suicides. Children are 4.4 times more likely to die by suicide in a home with a firearm compared to a home without a firearm. Suicide among Vermont men and boys is 50% higher than the national average. However, 90% of the people who attempt a suicide, and survive, do not try again.
H.230 attempts to reduce suicide by lethal means with three distinct strategies. One, mandating the safe storage of firearms in places where they might be accessed by children and those legally ineligible to possess them. Two, instituting a mandatory waiting period for the purchase of firearms. Most suicides are impulsive acts, and having a bit of time to cool off will save lives. Three, extension of our current extreme risk protection order law to include family members. Follow the work on H.230 for more information.
CHILD CARE AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
The lack of affordable, high-quality early childhood education profoundly impacts Vermont and its economy. H. 208 develops a blueprint for a significant investment in our children, families, and communities. The bill would significantly increase state-funded financial assistance for children in child care; expand the current funding for part-time pre-K to a full-time program for all 4-year-olds; increase compensation for early childhood educators and provide financial support for community and home-based child care programs by reimbursing centers for enrollment; and elevate and streamline state-level oversight of early childhood education.
Rep. Williams' additional work:
- Sponsored H.140 a bill that standardizes state funding application forms for businesses, nonprofits, and towns, and lists all state grant programs on one website, among other things
- With Rep. Peter Anthony. co-sponsored H.4, a bill that would require VTrans to remove the pilings of bridge 308, a defunct rail bridge located in Barre City that threatens to create ice dams if not removed.
- Proposed a bill that expands the Municipal Energy Resilience Grant Program, allowing it to fund green equipment purchases in addition to city facility improvements.
- Co-sponsored many bills that address: right to repair, academic freedom of public educators, workforce housing, overdose prevention, ending pregnancy center fraud, workers’ protections and more.
- Serves on the House committee on Commerce and Economic Development which is currently dealing with business incentives improvements, unemployment insurance improvements, workers’ compensation amendments, personal data privacy protections, and captive insurance.