Throughout the past week, the House General Affairs Committee, the committee on which I serve, took testimony on three proposals about which I have significant concerns.
I am sharing these proposals here, as I want to be sure Stowe families and businesses – and families and business throughout the State – are aware of the initiatives being proposed. And, I’d urge those who share my concerns to make your voices heard.
Minimum Wage Increase to $15.00 Per Hour
The House Committee held a Public Hearing on Thursday, February 9th on the two proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.
Keep in mind that just three years ago, the Legislature passed (with my support), an increased minimum wage that would go into effect over the following four years. It, therefore, went from $8.73 per hour (already almost $1 above the federal minimum) to $9.60 in 2016, $10.00 per hour in 2017, and will go to $10.50 per hour in 2018. Thereafter, the wage would be indexed to inflation.
So, right now, we are in the middle of that progression.
As is usually the case with Public Hearings on issues such as this, the majority of the people testifying are in favor of such proposals. And, that was the case again last week.
But, I have learned over the years to not mistake the support expressed at the Public Hearings, necessarily, for widespread support among Vermonters of such proposals. In fact, I have heard from many Vermont small businesses, the owners of which cross the political spectrum, their serious concern over these proposals. After all, this would be a 50% increase in the minimum wage from what it is currently.
I was pleased our committee had the chance to hear from Mark Vandenberg, owner of Sun and Ski Inn, at the hearing. Additionally, owner of Commodities Market, Audra Hughes, submitted written testimony.
Both of these small business owners from Stowe share compelling insight into the impact these proposals could have.
Mandated Paid Family Leave Insurance
On Friday, the Committee heard from Rep. Matt Trieber (D-Bellows Falls) on his bill to create a Paid Family Leave Insurance Program in Vermont.
While I am skeptical that this proposal has the kind of support needed to move forward at this time, I bring it up now, because this $2.00 occupancy has been proposed many times over the years to support various programs – from higher education to housing. And, I’m afraid one of these days, the proposal will have legs.
As somebody who knows well the small margins on which our hospitality industry works, and the incredible impact this could have on that industry, you can rest assured I will fight it every step of the way.
Again, if you share my concerns about any of these proposals, I urge you to make your voices heard.
Since last week, a great deal of attention has been paid to the
Specifically, a great many inquiries and concerns have been directed at me as the House Republican who joined the Democratic Leader and Progressive Leader in introducing the bill in the House. So, I would like to clear up a few things about the bill itself, and then explain why I decided to co-sponsor it.
First, this bill is a very carefully crafted, limited bill that was developed by, and supported by, a wide range of critical stakeholders. These include Vermont Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police, Public Safety officials, numerous state agencies, and the Attorney General’s office.
To be clear, it does not establish Vermont as a “Sanctuary State,” and it makes very clear that we will comply with all federal laws.
What it also does, however, is protect our Constitutional rights – specifically with regard to the 4th Amendment and the 10th Amendment.
10th Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
In my view, and in the view of many, this part of the President’s Executive Order is an overreach of Federal authority.
Instead, this legislation would require approval of the Governor of the State of Vermont for local or state law enforcement officials to be called upon to enforce federal immigration laws.
4th Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The second, more controversial, aspect of H. 228, is that it ensures that the state will not collect or release personal identifiable information for the sole purpose of creating a national registry. This is more proactive than a reaction to the EOs, but it is an important step; an important message to send that Vermont is going to protect the civil liberties of our residents.
The Governor said it best when he asked us all to think of the precedent the Executive Order sets. Take away the issue of immigrants, and the current issues at hand. Imagine, four years from now, or eight years from now – and we have a new President. And, let’s imagine that President decides he is going to deputize local law enforcement in order to collect information on where guns and ammunition are throughout the country. I can assure you, I would join that Constitutional fight to uphold the 2nd Amendment too.
To be clear, we must, absolutely, ensure the safety of our citizens, and do all we can to prevent terrorists from entering our country. And, the President has the authority to put into place initiatives that will do just that. Vermont, however, also has the authority to protect our state’s rights and the rights of our residents afforded in the U.S. Constitution.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of the items above, or any other issues that arise, please feel free to contact me.
Representative Heidi E. Scheuermann
True North Radio
P.O. Box 652
Burlington VT 05402-0652