The number of Vermonters in the labor forceâ employed and unemployedâ decreased last month after rising steadily since last July, according to seasonally adjusted data released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.The unemployment rate ticked down in March, even though fewer Vermonters had jobs. Only workers who are actively looking for work or waiting to be recalled after a layoff are considered unemployed and counted in the labor force. Discouraged workers who have stopped looking are not counted. Fewer jobless claimsVermont had the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the country in March, even as more than 4,500 workers filed new claims for unemployment compensation. Initial unemployment claims hit a peak in December 2008, when more than 8,600 Vermonters filed. Typically, first-time jobless claims rise during the winter months and drop in the summer. The number of applicants at the peaks has declined since the recession officially ended, and the monthly average of new claims has fallen for two years. The end of extended unemployment benefitsBarring a sudden spike in unemployment, Vermonters will no longer be eligible for extended unemployment compensation after the end of this year. In the depths of the recession, jobless workers who had used up their 26 weeks of regular unemployment compensation could qualify for federal emergency unemployment compensation programs (EUC08 Tiers I-III) and a state program that together provided up to 60 weeks of additional compensation.After May, the Tier II programâ providing 14 weeks’benefitsâ will not be available in states with unemployment rates lower than 6 percent. All EUC08 programs are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.Source: Public Assets Institute, April 20, 2012 Download the Jobs Brief in PDF.
by Alicia Freese March 20, 2013 vtdigger.org Resistance from a handful of Republican lawmakers wasn’ t enough to prevent the House from passing a bill Wednesday that expands the state’ s equal pay act.H.99 requires employers to consider requests for flexible work schedules, and it prohibits them from retaliating against employees who request these arrangements or who inquire about co-workers’ wages.A small, vocal, and mostly Republican contingency voted against the bill. It passed, 115-22, during a roll call vote on Wednesday.The vote came one day after the state’ s original equal pay act, passed in 2002, made its debut in court.Prior to its arrival on the House floor, H.99 encountered pushback from several business trade groups that considered certain provisions ‘ too prescriptive.’House Minority Leader Don Turner was more blunt in his appraisal of the bill: ‘ It’ s anti-business.’Most of the objections coming from members of the Republican caucus are part of broader campaign to stem the tide of bills that unfairly target Vermont businesses, Turner said. ‘ They feel this bill sends the message that Vermont businesses are not treating their employees fairly.’Rep. Linda Waites-Simpson, D-Essex Junction, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said the bill was revised to address concerns raised by business representatives, and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce were content with the changes.While the Republican caucus didn’ t take a formal stance on the issue, a number of its members voiced concerns about the bill. Much of the dissent centered on the provisions that prohibit retaliation against wage inquiries and require consideration of flex time requests. Opponents to the bill argued that these stipulations would spawn unintended problems and besiege already overburdened small businesses.Rep. Michael Herbert, R-Vernon, said the bill could even discourage businesses from moving to the state.The bill requires employers to respond within 30 days of a request for flexible work schedules and to make a decision within two weeks of their response. It limits the number of requests an employee can make to two per year. Employers are free to reject these requests if they are ‘ inconsistent with its business operations or its legal or contractual obligations.’H.99 also prevents businesses from penalizing people from asking about other employees’ wages, though it does not require anyone to disclose this information.Other lawmakers took issue with the core concept of the bill ‘ that further steps should be taken to shrink the wage gap between genders in Vermont. The refrain ‘ this is a bill in search of a problem’ was repeated several times.Rep. Douglas Gage, R- Rutland City, said strengthening equal pay law doesn’ t make sense at a time when ‘ women are elevated to new levels all the time and men quite frankly on the decline.’(Rep. Richard Marek, D-Newfane, countered that if men face wage discrimination in the future, this bill would protect them as well.)Rep. Robert Bouchard, R-Colchester, said the bill tries to solve a problem that economic forces will eradicate anyway. ‘ I understand there may be a gender gap but I think the market is working and taking care of that on its own.’On Wednesday, Bouchard offered an amendment that would exempt small businesses ‘ those with 25 employees or fewer ‘ from the law.Waites-Simpson said Attorney General Bill Sorrell informed her committee that roughly 90 percent of Vermont businesses fall into that category. The amendment was rejected.Turner also made the case that the bill doesn’ t have the ‘ teeth’ necessary to make a difference. ‘ Why pass something that doesn’ t really do anything?’ he asked, pointing out that H.99 doesn’ t spell out specific ramifications for businesses if they don’ t comply with its provisions. Businesses could, however, face lawsuits for failing to comply.When the bill was first introduced in January, Sorrell described its primary purpose as ‘ giving teeth to what is our existing law.’
3) KPMG BURLINGTONIn KPMG’s Burlington office, they like to say that they have the best of both worlds with a small-company culture and large-company resources. Their people are engaged, energetic and absolutely committed to their clients, their team members, and their community.The culture of KPMG exemplifies open and honest communication, teamwork, respect, and integrity. They integrate the belief that their people are their greatest asset into their “Employer-of-Choice” corporate strategy. This strategy includes initiatives like their mentoring program, and corporate training and development.Get-togethers include bowling parties and summer celebrations.There are frequent group volunteer projects and charitable fundraisers, casual days, and Friday-afternoon ice cream socials. They do great work and have fun doing it. The wonderful people in the Burlington office make KPMG a great place to work! 7) ASIC NORTHASIC North provides design services for companies with semiconductor-based needs. The company was founded on the fundamental belief that providing for the needs of employees enables them to be productive and successful. This, in turn, strengthens the company.Their goal is to retain the best talent. They achieve this by:*Providing a generous compensation package*providing an annual incentive program based on the growth of the company*having an open door policy where employees meet quarterly to discuss and review the company’s health. RankingCompany ListingU.S. EmployeesLocation1Saslow Lufkin & Buggy, LLP75Burlington2Fuse, LLC35Burlington3Seventh Generation131Burlington 4the RehabGYM23Colchester5Vermont Public Radio59Colchester6Gallagher, Flynn & Company, LLP65South Burlington7ASIC North, Inc.62Williston8Wild Apple Graphics34Woodstock9Union Mutual Insurance Company87Montpelier10Vermont College of Fine Arts34Montpelier11Basin Harbor Club29Vergennes12SunCommon27Waterbury Center13Wells River Savings Bank60Wells River14AllEarth Renewables30Williston15Hickok & Boardman Financial Planning and HR Intelligence30Burlington16TPW Management107Bondville17Farm and Wilderness Foundation20Plymouth18Liquid Measurement Systems, Inc.29Georgia 8) WILD APPLE GRAPHICSWild Apple Graphics is casual and creative, fun and fast-paced. It has a “family first,” supportive mentality. People treat each other with respect.This is evident with best practices that include: *generous paid time off *health insurance premiums paid 100% * open book” financials*quarterly profit sharing*full staff meetings held biweekly*full employee participation in company planning *5 – and 10 – year incremental employee recognition gifts * surprise random acts of kindness, involving ice cream treats or field tripsWild Apple creates beautiful artwork as well as a beautiful physical workspace, both of which gets continuous improvement. They try to live by the Golden Rule, while consuming extraordinary amounts of chocolate! At SunCommon, they aspire for their work to be both fulfilling and fun. SunCommon is proud to be recognized among the Best Place to Work in Vermont.This is fun stuff. 16) TPW MANAGEMENTA property management, real estate and vacation rental company, TPW is a family-owned Vermont-based business that has served for 25 years.TPW provides paid incentives for growth in all positions in the company:*vacation rental representatives and managers receive bonuses for bringing in new vacation rentals*performance bonuses are awarded to managers who meet and exceed revenue goals* there is a company-wide incentive to bring in rentals for the winter season.Best practices include: * Reimbursement for college programs * company-wide meetings which feature accomplishments and successes of individuals and teams * free or discounted tickets to entertainment or sporting events, * flexible hours to accommodate family appointments and eventsTPW’s professional approach to management has made them a successful and valued resource for property owners and homeowners associations throughout the Northeastern United States. 6) COUNTRY HOME PRODUCTSCountry Home Products is very proud of their dedicated employees who make their company successful. All share a commitment to quality – in everything they do – and take great pride in the products they sell. They strive to treat their customers, vendors and one another with fairness, respect and appreciation with the service they provide.Everyone in the company has the opportunity to make a direct and meaningful impact on the company’s success and their own success as well.Factors that make them unique include:· a weekly fresh veggie delivery,· recognition for a job well done through their “People Power – Done Right” program,· their fun parties,· their product lending program …· their product development contests called “The DR Olympics”, · onsite foosball table and arcade games, · providing employees financial education, including FREE tax preparation. Country Home Products has created a sought-after work environment – one that continually attracts the very best people. That’s why they have won this Best Places to Work award! 5) DEALER.COMDealer.com is the automotive industry’s leading provider of a streamlined and intuitive solution for managing dealership marketing and operations.Dealer.com is headquartered in a LEED-certified building in Burlington. Dealer.com practices a cutting-edge approach to workplace wellness by focusing on the whole person. They achieve this by offering programs that include:· a full-service healthy café,· comprehensive on-site fitness facilities and classes,· indoor tennis and basketball court,· a rooftop solarium with mini putt-putt and on-site garden,· free weekly chair massage breaks,· nutrition experts,· and personal and professional seminars for self improvement.With its unique commitment to culture, health and wellness, Dealer.com is consistently recognized as one of the most desirable places to work. 3) SEVENTH GENERATIONSeventh Generation’s philosophy of “caring today for seven generations of tomorrows” applies not only to the products, but also to the people who help create them. A positive work-life balance remains a key part of Seventh Generation’s effort to build one of Vermont’s best places to work.The company encourages the use of flex-time and telecommuting options.Staff members are provided with a flex spending reimbursement pool to use on fitness purchases or energy efficiency improvements.The company pays 16 hours of paid time-off per year to do volunteer work of their choosing.Employee development centers encourage growth both in their current role and in preparing employees for future positions.Truly the biggest benefit is that folks get to work alongside friends and allies every day.In these, and many other ways, Seventh Generation has created one of the Best Places to Work in Vermont. 8) LORD MICROSTRAIN SENSING SYSTEMSLORD MicroStrain is a global leader in the design and manufacture of sensing systems for a wide variety of applications. The 60 employees in Williston create sensors for the aerospace industry, the military, civil engineering firms, and many others.Their workplace philosophy encourages innovation and collaboration. The company prides itself on ensuring that employees thrive in an environment of creativity, where teamwork is the order of the day.Among the employee benefits are:· a robust wellness program,· flex-time scheduling,· a “Volunteer Day” for community stewardship,· and the always-popular Bagel Friday.LORD MicroStrain is very happy to be a Best Places to Work award recipient! 2014 Best Places in Vermont CompaniesSmall to Medium Companies 1) SASLOW LUFKIN & BUGGYWith stunning views of Lake Champlain and a newly renovated office, Saslow Lufkin & Buggy’s employees have an enticing environment when they come to work.They are a progressive public accounting firm and they prove it. They are committed to their team. They foster an environment that allows employees to challenge themselves in their career as well as maintain a steady work/life balance.Benefits include:*tuition reimbursement*a bonus for passing the CPA exam*A flexible work environment,*jeans week, which is a fundraising event for local charities* a kitchen stocked with healthy snacks and plenty of coffee,*and fun activities like an ice cream break during busy seasonThe Firm is proud of the people they hire: Hardworking, committed and loyal, …employees are part of a tight knit family who enjoy spending time together outside of the office as well. RankCompany ListingU.S. Employees 2) FUSEFuse, LLC is a youth culture marketing agency that connects brands with teens and young adults. Fuse’s services include brand strategy, public relations, insights, event marketing, design, social media and digital services.Fuse provides a highly charged, creative environment that allows employees to share ideas… insights… and inspiration. They continually learn from one another. Various benefits and perks help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance, on both a social and community level.Full-time employees receive:· generous benefits, including health and dental· season’s pass to a local mountain resort· annual fitness reimbursement· rec space with a skateboard ramp, workout equipment and yoga studio· paid time off for volunteeringEmployees are also encouraged to make use of flex time, half-day Fridays in the summer, and comp days for weekend work.Fuse is honored to win this Best Places to Work award again! 1Edward Jones35353Location2Vermont Energy Investment Corporation308Burlington3KPMG Burlington22831Burlington4King Arthur Flour287White River Junction5Dealer.com820Burlington6Country Home Products195Vergennes7Okemo Mountain Resort156Ludlow8LORD Microstrain Sensing Systems2187Williston9Sonnax Industries, Inc.156Bellows Falls AsicNorth clearly value their employees’ opinions and continually strive to do their best! ASIC North is extremely proud to be named one of the Best Places to Work in Vermont once again. They could not be what they are without their employees! 9) UNION MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANYUnion Mutual of Vermont Companies have been providing quality insurance products for 140 years. They take great pride in focusing on providing superior customer service and they simply could not do this without their valued employees. They are the integral part of the company’s success.Union Mutual offers:* a professional work environment,* competitive salaries* comprehensive benefits package that goes well beyond the expectedTheir positive work environment allows for: * Flexible hours to accommodate school events, doctors appointments, etc * education workshops for leadership, seminars or classes,* a flu clinic* on-site health screenings with periodic chair massages * Employee Appreciation Day Boat Cruise on Lake Champlain,* free or discounted tickets to entertainment or sporting events* plus annual challenges with prizesThey work together to attain common goals, which includes their commitment to their community and to the industry. *On-site exercise room is accessible to all employees, including*use of tread mills, TRX units, yoga mats,*use of bikes when commuting between buildings, complete with baskets for carrying a notebook to their next meeting!* CSA shares to a local organic farm are subsidized*new this year: employee-owners will till, plant and harvest their on-site vegetable garden!They hire the best people, create a respectful and empowering corporate culture, and make it possible for the employees to thrive. King Arthur is honored to once again be recognized as a leader in workplace practices. 15) HICKOK & BOARDMAN FINANCIAL PLANNING & HR INTELLIGENCEHickok & Boardman Financial Planning & HR Intelligence was built on a culture of caring. They strive to create a workplace that is inclusive, fun and supportive. They have an active wellness committee which offers a variety of activities and programs. Activities include:*lunchtime walks,*participation in the Vermont Corporate Cup Challenge *fun competitions,*Friday breakfasts,*picnics,They celebrate ALL their successes – great and small.They have a very strong sense of community. They allow their employees flexibility so that they can use their strengths to help others in the community. They are proud to run a very strong United Way of Chittenden County Community campaign each year. Hickok & Boardman believe that happy employees lead to happier families, which in turn lead to a better experience for their clients. LARGE COMPANIES (150 or more Employees) 11) BASIN HARBOR CLUBBasin Harbor Club is a RESORT on Lake Champlain. Since 1886 Basin Harbor has been a family owned and operated business. The 5th generation Basin Harbor family includes not only members of the Beach family, but also fellow staff and guests. As FAMILY, everyone has a vested interest in the success of the company. Their long tradition of hospitality serves to remind them that going about their daily work means ensuring that their guests will want to return generation after generation.Basin Harbor’s family of employees enjoy a wide variety of non-traditional benefits which include:· free rounds of golf on the 18-hole course,· use of the tennis facilities and fitness center,· use of their bikes and their variety of water sports,· discounted meals at their five dining establishments,· “Basin Bucks” to redeem for goods and merchandise at the resort· AND during the operating season, three daily meals are prepared for them using Vermont …Fresh… ingredients! Each new day is an opportunity to learn and grow. Better yet, each day is a chance to make VPR a stronger, better community resource for Vermonters. 4) THE REHABGYMAs a company, The RehabGYM prides themselves on their honesty and integrity. Their team is more like a family, with the empowerment for any one individual to reach their potential. Encouragement is cultivated within the environment to each person to make their mark. As a result, the relationships they form with their clients and patients are grounded in trust and authenticity.Their team always allows time to reflect, share and recognize.5+ years of service are gratefully acknowledged at the holiday party.Every single person’s birthday is celebrated by all.Regularly scheduled fun outings occur throughout the year.The RehabGym believes that they won this award because of the combined hard work and dedication from their Physical Therapists, Athletic Trainers, administration, clients and patients alike. The bond is unbreakable. Relationships are their business. These are the reason they are one of the Best Places to Work in Vermont. 2) VERMONT ENERGY INVESTMENT CORPORATIONVermont Energy Investment Corporation is dedicated to reducing the economic and environmental costs of energy use. They work with all types of companies and organizations in the design and delivery of energy efficiency and renewable energy services.They continually challenge themselves to stay at the cutting edge of their work. They have diverse, talented, dedicated and passionate employees who apply their expertise to complex problems.Their best practices include: *an open workspace *many opportunities for staff to learn and grow * annual incentive plan designed to reward all staff for their performance. *small cash awards and small tokens of appreciation, like gift certificates, chocolate…*on-site fitness and wellness center* company bikes available to all staff* free flu shots *and staff members to organize support and educate different types of community service, things like hunger and domestic violence issues.VEIC is proud to have been named among the best places to work in Vermont four years running. 7) OKEMO MOUNTAIN RESORTOkemo Mountain Resort believes that this Best Places to Work accomplishment is a reflection of solid workplace benefits plus an environment with exceptional, hard-working teams focused on supporting each other and their guests.Company values focus on teamwork, safety, the environment and community.According to co-owner Tim Mueller, he and his wife Diane and are very proud of Okemo for being included in the list of Vermont’s Best Places to Work. The employees deserve all the credit. It is very easy to manage when you have hard-working, dedicated and loyal people working with you. It is because of THEIR work ethic and willingness to do whatever it takes, that Okemo is a great place to work.Okemo has 2,200 vertical feet of positive outlook. Service with a smile is the linchpin of their philosophy. The staff reflect this attitude by having fun doing what they do best: creating a memorable recreational experience! 10) VERMONT COLLEGE OF FINE ARTSVermont College of Fine Arts is a national center for education in the arts, fostering the excellence of emerging and established artists. The school offers the Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing, Writing for Children & Young Adults, Visual Art, Music Composition, Graphic Design, and Film.Vermont College of Fine Arts is a family-centric workplace that is committed to the all important work/life balance. Flexibility and transparency is fostered. There is a 100% open door policy, including in the President’s Office. Monthly staff meetings are held in which all staff and the President discuss current updates and upcoming events.Best practices include: *tuition remission for employees AND family members*compensatory time off even during busy times*generous health, retirement and vacation benefitsThere is respect and support for the creative lives and practices of ALL who are the staff and faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts. 18) LIQUID MEASUREMENT SYSTEMSLiquid Measurement Systems is a family-owned business where their employees come first. Founded in 1989, the company has grown to become a leader in the design and manufacture of custom fuel gauging systems for the aerospace industry.Teamwork is part of the fabric of both work and play at LMS. Employees are recognized for their accomplishments in their Quarterly Town Meeting. There is ongoing business education workshops and conferences.Community service plays a big role: Annually, the company donates to Vermont National Guard Charitable foundation in support of Vermont’s National Guard soldiers, airmen and families.Barbecue Wednesday comes every other week all summer long. Employees find a feeling of community and team spirit at LMS. They emphasize the importance of a healthy balance between work and personal life.The company does their best to nurture and grow those qualities with employee benefits and programs that reward and invest in their greatest asset, the employees! LARGE COMPANIES 1) EDWARD JONESEdward Jones values the people who make excellent client service possible.Located in two-person offices, branch teams work directly with clients to understand their personal goals and offer solutions.As Joni Bertram in Brattleboro said, “This large company manages to make every employee feel important. I know my opinions are respected and consistently asked for. I am a valued team member.”The Edward Jones culture is caring, supportive and family-friendly. When Lyndonville Financial Advisor Joe LeClair’s wife decided she wanted to enlist in the Air National Guard, Joe knew they could make it work even with 3 small children. When she left for basic training, he essentially became a single dad. He shortened his work week to provide for their kids. He didn’t have to check with anyone. Joe managed to tend children and serve clients well. This past year turned out to be his best year ever.Edward Jones is honored to be one of Vermont’s Best Places to Work, yet again! 17) FARM & WILDERNESS FOUNDATIONFarm & Wilderness Foundation is a non-profit, educational organization operating seven summer programs for children and young adults. They have a family camp. They also have educational programming year-round.All Farm & Wilderness activities are shaped by Quaker principles and the common belief that individuals and communities are strengthened by justice, honesty, self-reliance, diversity and respect for all persons.The alumni, community and staff ARE Farm & Wilderness. In appreciation, Farm and Wilderness contributes to employee satisfaction beyond the usual competitive salary.Perks include:*Flex time and flexible scheduling*generous leave time,*education reimbursement*summer camp discounts,*monthly lunches and cookie swaps,*farm workshops – things like cheese making and fiber arts,* supplies of organic milk and fresh produce from their farm* and ALWAYS encouraging the staff to enjoy the beautiful scenic outdoor setting during their daily breaks! 13) WELLS RIVER SAVINGS BANKWells River Savings is a locally owned mutual savings bank founded in 1892! The bank is dedicated to honoring their tradition of friendly, personal service with a strong commitment to the community.Various programs allow employees to integrate their personal, family, and community commitments with their work.These include: 5) VERMONT PUBLIC RADIOVermont Public Radio is a remarkable place to work because every member of the team is committed to excellence. Their mission IS public service. This drives and inspires ALL to help make their community a better place to live.As a member of the VPR Staff, you get a voice, and not just on the radio.Everyone: * participates in organizational planning *is given the guidance and resources needed to accomplish individual goals *is offered a flexible and casual work environment *is eligible for a “merit award” based on job performance *is offered a free gym membershipIn addition, community practices include:* bus passes to encourage leaving your car at home.* listing open positions on the Hero to Hire website, which reaches out to military veterans looking for work. SMALL/MEDIUM COMPANIES (15 – 149 Employees) 4) KING ARTHUR FLOURThe employees are at the heart of King Arthur Flour: they’re the folks responsible for making sure products are top-notch, educational programs are inspiring, and customer service is stellar. The employees are also the owners. So there is simply no one who cares more about ensuring the success of their company than the employees themselves!Workplace practices include: 14) ALLEARTH RENEWABLESEveryone at AllEarth Renewables has a good reason to come to work each day because they have a purpose. They are dedicated to defining our country’s energy future by designing and manufacturing innovative renewable energy systems. The company values their people as much as they value the innovative products they make. They show gratitude by offering a great benefits package that includes profit sharing,· they have a free healthy family-style lunch program,· a wellness benefit that will cover the cost of yoga or meditation classes or any other stress relief programs· free tickets to a variety of Flynn performances,· their innovative REWIRE program encourages a low carbon footprintAllEarth has an active biking culture. They have a company bike team! They have won the WayToGoVT workplace commuter challenge for 3 years running and expect to win again next year!AllEarth Renewables value their people as much as they value the innovative products they make. And that makes all the difference. 6) GALLAGHER, FLYNN & COMPANYGallagher Flynn continually lives by their vision statement: “They strive to be the best by contributing profoundly to the success of their clients, employees and community.”They are passionate about their staff and they strive to treat all fairly and with dignity. The company keeps a healthy perspective about life and work. They foster a positive and enjoyable work environment.Incentives include:*managers awarded up to 13% of their base salary based on their personal goals* Seniors and supervisors given discretionary bonuses at year-end* Partner Pesos awarded to individuals who have gone above and beyondThere is a track located around the outside of the building for anyone who is interested in running or walking, plus a shower in the office for anyone who chooses to use it!The staff is encouraged to live by the company values by being of service to their community. Every year the office closes down so that all employees can participate in a community service project. The event concludes with food and fun! 12) SUNCOMMONSunCommon make going solar easy and affordable so that all Vermonters can together create a healthy environment. Their mission is to tear down the barriers that have made renewable energy inaccessible.SunCommon is committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. They are one of Vermont’s pioneering Benefit Corporations and recognized as a Certified BCorporation.Most of their 65 workers operate out of The Energy Mill, New England’s largest net-zero office building.Field staff are:· provided hybrid vehicles· honored with solid benefits· Lunch is provided during weekly all-company meetings· open-book financials are shared· frequent employee-organized parties Source: Vermont Business Magazine, March 27, 2014. Top Photo: Lesli Blount and Laurie Kigonya of VPR. Photos by Vermont Business Magazine. * paid short-term family leave* Day of Service given for volunteering at a non-profit of their choosing * opportunities for extra paid time off * educational assistance to support employees pursuing their degreesIn addition there are opportunites for camaraderie, like summer picnics with food, games, and prizes. Also, hams are given out to all at Christmastime. The EMPLOYEES at Wells River Savings Bank have created an organization that is more than just a place to work—it’s more like a family, full of caring and understanding people who support each other in times of need and in times of celebration. 9) SONNAXWith approximately 170 employees, Sonnax is recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in the state of Vermont.Sonnax Industries, Inc. is a leading international supplier to the automotive aftermarket – in designing, manufacturing and distributing.Sonnax encourages employees to find balance and success in their lives, and emphasizes prioritizing family, health and faith before work. The company became 100% employee-owned in 2011.Their best practices include:· outstanding benefits· generous paid vacation· healthy environment with a smoke-free campus· access to training, ergonomic solutions and an onsite gym.· company-wide events such as holiday parties, picnics, and casual contests.· registered nurse on site during each week. Vermont Business Magazine and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce announced last Thursday the top 27 Best Places to Work in Vermont for 2014. The awards program was created in 2006 and is presented in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management, Vermont State Council (SHRM), the Vermont Department of Labor and the Vermont Department of Economic Development and Best Companies Group. SEE LIST OF WINNERS BELOWThis statewide survey and awards program was designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Vermont, benefiting the state’s economy, its workforce and businesses. To be considered for participation, companies had to fulfill the following eligibility requirements:Have at least 15 employees working in Vermont;Be a for-profit or not-for-profit business or government entity;Be a publicly or privately held business;Have a facility in the state of Vermont; andMust be in business a minimum of 1 year. Companies from across the state entered the two-part process to determine the Best Places to Work in Vermont. The first part consisted of evaluating each nominated company’s workplace policies, practices, and demographics. This part of the process was worth approximately 25 percent of the total evaluation. The second part consisted of an employee survey to measure the employee experience. This part of the process was worth approximately 75 percent of the total evaluation. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final ranking. Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process in Vermont and also analyzed the data and used their expertise to determine the final rankings. Only those companies who reached a high level of recognition based on the evaluations are considered one of the “Best Places to Work” and are listed below.SEE MORE PHOTOSThe final rankings for each category were announced at a special awards presentation on March 27, 2014, at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. BEST PLACES TO WORK IN VERMONT – 2014
Comcast Cable,Comcast Business has announced that its full portfolio of Ethernet services is now available across five communities in Bennington County, Vermont. Capable of bandwidth up to 10 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps), these services are specifically designed for businesses, schools, hospitals and other organizations requiring more bandwidth, looking to network multiple locations together, or planning to connect their offices to a third-party data center.With this expansion, the communities of North Bennington, Old Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford can now take advantage of four different types of Comcast Business Ethernet(link is external) services, including:- Ethernet Private Line – point-to-point connectivity between two customer sites for bandwidth-intensive applications.- Ethernet Virtual Private Line – a point-to-multipoint connection that allows customers to tailor bandwidth, performance characteristics and cost to meet the needs of their applications.- Ethernet Network Service – multipoint-to-multipoint connectivity to connect organizations with high-bandwidth requirements and multiple locations across Comcast’s network.- Ethernet Dedicated Internet – continuous, high-bandwidth connectivity between customers’ LANs and the public Internet.“Whether it’s a hospital transferring large radiology files, a police department looking to monitor surveillance video feeds in real-time, or a library needing more Wi-Fi capacity, bandwidth is increasingly becoming the engine driving all businesses,” said Paul Savas, vice president of Comcast Business in Vermont. “Our fiber expansion in these five communities is the latest example of the significant investments we’ve made to increase the availability of our Ethernet services to help foster economic development and drive competition, innovation and value for our customers in the Green Mountain State.”All of Comcast’s Ethernet services are delivered over an advanced network that spans 140,000 miles across 39 states and the District of Columbia. Serving 20 of the top 25 U.S. markets, Comcast’s network features a 100 Gbps backbone and expanded local footprint through Ethernet over HFC. Bandwidth is available up to 10 Gbps and can be scaled in increments and offered in three different classes of service, backed by strict service level agreements and monitored 24x7x365 from Comcast’s dedicated Network Operations Centers. Comcast was the first service provider in the world to offer Metro Ethernet Forum CE 2.0 certified Ethernet services and was also the first service provider to achieve all three of the previous CE 1.0 certifications (MEF 9, 14 and 18).Comcast Business recently received four Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) Ethernet Excellence Awards(link is external), including the prestigious Best Service of the Year for North America. In addition, Comcast Business moved up two spots to the number six position and is now the second largest cable MSO in terms of Ethernet services in the Mid-Year 2014 U.S. Carrier Ethernet LEADERBOARD(link is external) from Vertical Systems Group. Source: BENNINGTON, V.T. – December 2, 2014 – Comcast Corporation. Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. NBCUniversal operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com(link is external) for more information.Comcast Cable is the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. Comcast has invested in technology to build an advanced network that delivers among the fastest broadband speeds, and brings customers personalized video, communications and home management offerings. Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com(link is external) for more information.
Vermont Business Magazine Merchants Bancshares, Inc (NASDAQ: MBVT), announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Geoffrey R Hesslink as the President and CEO of Merchants Bancshares, Inc. (Merchants), effective January 1, 2016. Mr. Hesslink currently serves as President and CEO and a Director of Merchants’ operating subsidiary, Merchants Bank. The Board of Directors also appointed Mr. Hesslink to serve as a Director on the Merchants’ Board, effective January 1, 2016.Michael R. Tuttle, who currently serves as President and CEO of Merchants, will step down from those positions at the end of 2015, but will remain on the Boards of Directors of both Merchants’ and Merchants Bank. Mr. Tuttle served as President and CEO of the Bank from January 1, 2006 until December 31, 2014 and has served as President and CEO of Merchants since January 1, 2007.Board Chair Jeffrey L. Davis said that the Board of Directors is “very pleased that Geoff will continue a tradition of extraordinary Merchants bankers and the Board expects this transition to enhance Merchants’ position as a superior community bank. Geoff will continue to bring his passion to leading the Merchants Bank organization during an era of continued change.” Mr. Davis also said, “We thank Mike for all he has done for the organization during his tenure, particularly in navigating the financial crisis, and his proven leadership in strategic initiatives. During Mike’s tenure as CEO, Merchants has established a steady forward momentum with a strong balance sheet, solid credit quality, and excellent growth prospects. He has had an extraordinary banking career.”Mr. Hesslink said, “I am honored at the confidence the Board has shown in me, and am looking forward to my additional responsibilities. The Company is well positioned and I am optimistic about our future. It has been an honor to work with Mike for over 20 years and I am delighted he will continue to contribute to the Company as a Director.”Mr. Hesslink graduated cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration-finance from the University of Vermont in 1987 and completed a management training program at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company in 1989. Mr. Hesslink joined Merchants Bank in 1995 as a Corporate Banking Officer. He was appointed Senior Vice President and Senior Lender in 2006, and Chief Operating Officer in 2013. He became the Bank’s President and CEO on January 1, 2015.Established in 1849, Merchants Bank is Vermont’s largest and sole remaining statewide independent bank. Consumer, business, municipal and investment customers enjoy personalized relationships, sophisticated online and mobile banking options, and 32 branches statewide. Merchants Bank (Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender, NASDAQ “MBVT”) and Merchants Trust Company employ approximately 300 full-time employees and 40 part-time employees statewide, and have earned several “Best Places to Work in Vermont” awards. American Banker ranks Merchants Bank a “Top 200” in America among 851 peers. www.mbvt.com(link is external)SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Merchants Bancshares, Inc
Automaster,Vermont Business Magazine The Automaster has completed the final details of their BMW showroom renovation and celebrated its completion with a ribbon cutting ceremony held on November 11, 2015. Deconstruction began on November 24, 2014. The total renovation included stripping the existing building down to the structural steel and rebuilding a completely updated showroom, with an expansion of 980 square feet of new showroom space to the existing footprint. Construction of the new state-of-the-art facility was completed in June.“The new BMW showroom features an open, airy and welcoming space for both our guests and our employees,” said Dale Fillion, General Manager of The Automaster. “The renovation included the addition of many new amenities, like the Isetta bar (a complimentary refreshment bar) and a lot of new, state-of-the-art technology, like the new iDisplay ,” Fillion noted.Liz Costandi, BMW Client Advisor, The Automaster; Jacques Lefrancios, BMW GSM, The Automaster; Joe Colangelo, Shelburne Town Manager, Ann Hogan, Shelburne Town Planning Commissioner, Randy Adams, BMW Client Advisor, The Automaster; Gerry Barker, BMW Senior Client Advisor, The Automaster; TJ Maynard, BMW Client Advisor, The Automaster; Dale Fillion, General Manager, The Automaster; John DuBrul III, VP The Automaster; Casey Webster, BMW Client Advisor, The Automaster; Steele DuBrul, VP The Automaster; Kyle DuBrul, VP The Automaster; Jenna Gagliasso, BMW Client Advisor, The Automaster; Mike McLaughlin, VP Bread Loaf Corporation; John Johnston, VP of MEP Services, Bread Loaf Corporation; Dutton Smith, Project Manager, Bread Loaf Corporation; Fred Bellucci, VP of Estimating, Bread Loaf Corporation.The BMW iDisplay is a new, interactive display platform designed to allow guests, without or without the guidance of a BMW Genius, to learn about and explore the features of the new BMW i3 electric vehicle (EV). The platform even includes a fully functional charging station.Bread Loaf Corporation of Middlebury, Vermont served as the architect and general contractor for the project.ABOUT THE AUTOMASTER(link is external)Founded by Jack DuBrul in 1968, The Automaster, Inc. is a family-owned and operated Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Honda dealership located at 3328 Shelburne Road in Shelburne, Vermont. A part of The Automaster family, MINI of Burlington is a stand-alone dealership located at 74 Champlain Drive in Shelburne, Vermont. The company looks to create a sustainable legacy that redefines luxury within the industry, inspires passion and confidence among their customers, allows for professional growth and security for their employees, and to continually increase their involvement in the communities they serve.ABOUT BREAD LOAF CORPORATION(link is external)Bread Loaf Corporation, located in Middlebury, Vermont, integrates planning, architecture and building solutions to help clients grow their businesses, campuses and cultural institutions. Thriving on innovative ideas and excellent work since 1968, our commitment to Bread Loaf’s mission begins again every day. Our professionals are the architects, planners and builders who translate each client’s vision, brand, and goals into remarkable spaces
Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has announced the syllabus of 2016-2017 migratory bird hunting seasons is now available. A printable copy of the regulations can be downloaded from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com(link is external)). A printed version also will be available from license agents and post offices by mid-July. A statewide Vermont open hunting season for Canada geese will occur September 1-25. The daily bag limit is five Canada geese in the Connecticut River Zone and eight in the rest of the state during this September season. The purpose of the September season is to help control Vermont’s resident Canada goose population prior to the arrival of Canada geese migrating south from Canada. A second Canada goose hunting season, for resident and migrant birds, will be held October 12-November 30 with a daily bag limit of three Canada geese in the Lake Champlain and Interior Vermont Zones. In the Connecticut River Zone, the Canada goose season will be October 4-November 6, and November 22-December 27 with a daily bag limit of three Canada geese. Duck season this fall opens on Wednesday, October 12 in the Lake Champlain and Interior Vermont Zones, and on October 4 in the Connecticut River Zone. The Lake Champlain Zone has a split season (October 12-16 and October 29-December 22). The Interior Vermont Zone is a straight season (October 12-December 10). The Connecticut River Zone is a split season (October 4-November 6 and November 22-December 17). Vermont’s youth waterfowl hunting weekend will be September 24 and 25. Resident and nonresident hunters 17 years of age or younger may hunt ducks and geese within the Lake Champlain and Interior Vermont Zones during this weekend while accompanied by an adult 18 or older. In the Connecticut River Zone, youth must be 15 years of age or younger. Both adult and youth must have Vermont hunting licenses. The adult may not hunt or carry a firearm. Youth ages 16 and 17 must have state and federal duck stamps. Woodcock hunting season is October 1- November 14 statewide with a three-bird bag limit. In addition to a hunting license, a waterfowl hunter 16 or older must carry current federal and Vermont duck stamps in order to hunt waterfowl in Vermont. Federal stamps are sold at post offices. State duck stamps are available on Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com(link is external)) and from license agents. The hunter must sign the federal duck stamp. All migratory game bird hunters must also be registered with the Harvest Information Program (H.I.P.) in each state they hunt. You can register on Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website or call toll-free 1-877-306-7091. After providing some basic information, you will receive your annual H.I.P. registration number, which you then need to record on your hunting license. The hunting season dates, bag limits and related regulations for all migratory birds are set annually within a framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and in coordination with New York and New Hampshire. Waterfowl season dates and bag limits are set in three zones: Lake Champlain, Interior Vermont, and Connecticut River. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department sets the season dates and bag limits for the Connecticut River Zone.
Gringo Jack’s,At Healthy Living today, Jack Gilbert discussed his effort to expand his line of Gringo Jack’s products with a “CHIP IN” local investment campaign. VBM photoVermont Business Magazine Vermont-based specialty food producer Gringo Jack’s announced today at Healthy Living market in South Burlington plans to expand their line of locally produced and sourced specialty food products. Gringo Jack’s, known throughout the Northeast for their “Flaky Chips,” “Sassy Salsa” and Craft Beer BBQ Sauces, launched the “CHIP IN” local investment campaign to help finance this expansion.CHIP IN utilizes the newly authorized Vermont Small Business Offering (VSBO), a program that allows Vermonters to make small investments in local businesses with a goal of growing the local economy. As with any investment CHIP IN provides investors with the potential for a financial return. Additionally, CHIP IN provides Vermonters the opportunity for true “impact investment” because, if successful, it will help grow jobs both at Gringo Jack’s as well as the company’s local suppliers and circulate wealth within the community. “CHIP IN will raise capital to expand our product lines and distribution networks.” said Jack Gilbert, Founder and CEO of Gringo Jack’s. “It will also allow us to build new partnerships with local farms, producers and retail establishments. In addition to building a regional food system and growing jobs in Vermont.”CHIP IN will utilize Milk Money VT for the local investment campaign. Milk Money is a Vermont-based crowdfunding platform that specializes in VSBO.“We are very excited to be using VSBO to expand Gringo Jack’s,” said Gilbert. “Not only are we growing our business, we also hope to create jobs and invest back into our local economy. A core value at Gringo Jack’s is support local, buy local and invest local.” Gringo Jack’s invites all Vermonters interested in investing to visit www.milkmoneyvt.com(link is external) to learn more.Gringo Jack’sA selection of Gringo Jack’s famous “Flaky Chips.” VBM photo.Gringo Jack’s is owned and operated in Manchester, VT. In 2012, we formed Gringo Kitchens as a manufacturer of a unique line of all natural chips, salsa and sauces. Our principal office is located in Manchester, Vermont and our production facility is located in Sunderland, Vermont. Gringo Kitchens has grown from $5000 in sales at Gringo Jack’s Bar and Grill to $500,000 in 2015. In 2012 GK LLC was formed as separate entity from the restaurant to focus on distribution through the natural, Grocery and foodservice channels predominantly in Vermont and East Coast.Source: Gringo Jack’s South Burlington 8.18.2016
BUDGET + TAXES SOCIAL MEDIA FOR EMPLOYEES (H.462/ACT 27)The Governor signed the bill into law on May 17, 2017. This act prohibits an employer from requiring, requesting, or coercing an employee to provide a social media account username or password, or to present or divulge social media content to the employer. This act also prohibits employers from requiring or coercing an employee to add the employer to his or her list of contacts for a social media account. This act includes exemptions for certain activities conducted by law enforcement agencies and for social media accounts provided by employers. It also allows an employer to request an employee to disclose specifically identified content necessary for compliance with legal or regulatory requirements, or as part of an investigation of unlawful harassment, threats of violence, or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. BUDGETH.518 appropriates $2.48 billion in state general funds, a 0.7 percent increase over FY17. The proposed overall budget in H.518 is $5.75 billion, a $1.3 percent increase over FY17. Click here(link is external) to read the conference committee budget highlights. ACO MEETINGS (S.4)This bill(link is external) sets forth new standards for an accountable care organization (ACO) regarding public access to information being discussed by the ACO governing body. ENERGY + ENVIRONMENT TRANSPORTATION PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD (S.52)S.52 is the outgrowth of legislation enacted in 2016 (Act 174) calling for a workgroup study of Public Service Board processes and recommendations on how to modify those processes in order to make them easier to understand for lay people. Act 174 reflects the fact that in the last five plus years the Board has seen a significant increase in applications to develop renewable energy facilities. Some projects have been controversial and opponents who do not have an energy background have had difficulty navigating the PSB process. Following the recommendations of the Act 174 work group S.52 makes modest changes to PSB processes for the permitting of both energy and telecommunication projects. The bill also establishes a new, more simplified enforcement process that is designed to make it easier to enforce permit conditions. Finally, S.52 changes the name of the Board to the “Public Utilities Commission” in an attempt to make it more distinguishable from the Public Service Department and requires a study and report on whether the Board (Commission) should be completely exempt from the state’s Open Meeting Law.As passed by both chambers(link is external). MENTAL HEALTH (S.133)The Senate Health and Welfare and House Health Committees spent significant time discussing mental health reform in 2017. The discussion stemmed from concern that pressures on the current system are caused by a mismatch between patient needs and provider capacity. There was a strong feeling that more should be done to increase staffing levels and expedite the process of getting patients in crisis to the appropriate care setting. These considerations resulted in S.133, which creates a number of studies of the mental health system and reports for the legislature to consider in 2018. These studies cover the following policy areas:Involuntary treatmentEmergency room stay time for mental health patientsStaffing issues including wage levels and retaining employeesIntegration of the mental health system into the ACO modelImproving efficiency within the systemAHS rate setting practices for designated agencies and substance abuse servicesIncluding designated agency employees on the state employees health plan DUTY TO WARN (S.3)A decision by the Vermont Supreme Court in 2016 set higher warning standards for health care providers who believe individuals leaving their care are dangerous. The ruling, commonly known as the “Kuligoski” decision, was seen by mental health providers and caregivers alike as too stringent. Under Kuligoski the risk of harm did not have to be serious or imminent to trigger the warning and caregivers could be held liable for the actions of the person under their care. Also, a potential victim did not need to be identifiable and mental health professionals could be held responsible for patients no longer under their care. S.3 effectively negated the Kuligoski decision and reverted back to the previous warning standard. This was established in 1985 by the “Peck” decision and requires a mental health professional to issue a warning if they believe there is an imminent risk to an identifiable person. EDUCATION MINIMUM WAGE STUDY COMMITTEEMinimum Wage Study Committee – Section F1 of S.135(link is external) creates a minimum wage study committee that must report its findings and recommendations for legislative action by December 1, 2017. H.494 was relatively uncontroversial and the House and Senate versions did not vary greatly. The bill requires VTrans to conduct a study on how to regulate automated vehicles. The agency will convene a stakeholder group of experts on automated vehicle technology and make policy recommendations to the legislature in 2018. The bill also requires the agency to consult with utilities prior to requiring utility relocation for highway projects. The agency is required to give the utility a “reasonable” amount of time to relocate. If the utility fails to meet the deadline they are held accountable for damages. H.494 makes a number of appropriation tweaks, including increasing town highway class 2 roadway spending authority by $600,000. MISCELLANEOUS EDUCATION BILL (H.513)H.513 makes changes to Act 46 as well as a host of small changes on a variety of education policies. A major focus of the legislation is to alter Act 46 to create alternative structures that can be approved to help districts struggling to meet the requirements of the law. Other provisions in the bill relate to pre-k, the state colleges and the Next Generation initiative, the current law governing Professional Educators, definitions related to adult education and several others. The most controversial provision relates to the ongoing rulemaking process at the State Board of Education (SBE) related to independent schools. The majority of legislators were concerned about the SBE’s proposed independent school rules so they directed the SBE to pause their work until a separate working group examining this issue could wrap up. Click here(link is external) to review the bill in its entirety. CONSUMER PROTECTION TRANSPORTATION BILL (H.494)The annual transportation budget bill (H.494) appropriates $594.4 million in transportation funding in FY18. This is a slight $1.6 million increase over FY17 funding levels. The paving program is funded at $112.8 million, a $1.7 million increase over FY17. ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (H.508)This bill(link is external) creates an Adverse Childhood Experiences Working Group “for the purpose of investigating, cataloguing, and analyzing existing resources to mitigate childhood trauma, identify populations served, and examine structures to build resiliency.” The working group must submit any proposed legislation to the Senate Health and Welfare and House Human Services Committees by November 1, 2017. TAX INCREMENT FINANCING DISTRICTSTax Increment Financing Districts (S.135). Under S.135, the economic development bill, up to six new tax increment financing districts, or “TIFs,” may be created, with no more than two in a single county. TIFs allow municipalities to use a significant portion of new property tax revenue generated by a development project to service debt incurred by the municipality in order to finance public infrastructure that needs to be built or improved in connection with the private development project. NEXT GENERATION ACO REPORTING (H.507/ACT 25)Governor Scott signed H.507(link is external) into law on May 4, 2017. Act 25 requires the Department of Vermont Health Access to report on a quarterly basis information related to the implementation of the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization.The Act also requires the Green Mountain Care Board to report information regarding the implementation of the All-Payer Model and the board’s plans regarding ACO regulation. Finally, the Act addresses issues surrounding bronze plans sold on the health care exchange. HOUSING BOND + WATERGovernor Scott proposed the use of a $35 million bond to promote housing, with a significant portion of the funds being directed to affordable and workforce housing projects. The proposal received significant support in the Statehouse but ran into challenges due to the need for a $1 million revenue source to pay down the bond debt. Attempts to impose an occupancy fee on visitors at lodging establishments to raise the necessary $1 million were quickly defeated in large part due to Governor Scott’s no new fees or taxes pledge. DMV MISCELLANEOUS (S.127)The bill that passed the House and Senate(link is external) makes numerous changes to DMV laws including the following:Preserves the current requirement that vehicles have two license plates and authorizes Vermont Strong license plates to be displayed indefinitely on the front of a vehicle. (Sec. 24)Requires the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, in consultation with the Commissioner of Corrections, to estimate the cost savings that would result from eliminating the requirement that most vehicles display front license plates and examine whether the redesign of Vermont’s license plate could lead to cost savings associated with the production of the plates, among other things. A report is due back to lawmakers by January 15, 2018. (Sec. 24a)Changes the standard for the issuance of “exhibition plates” (Sec. 8)Increases penalties for certain “distracted driving” offenses (Secs. 12 & 13)Revises the standard from “average book value” to “clean trade-in value” in NADA’s Official Used Car Guide when calculating the amount of a used vehicle trade credit for purposes of the purchase and use tax. (Sec. 21)Allows for the extension of the three month period for obtaining a used vehicle trade credit to purchase and use tax owed in certain instances involving VW, Audi or Porsche vehicles that were bought back by the manufacturer because they violated Vermont’s vehicle emission standards. (Sec. 23)Requires the Secretary of Transportation to develop educational resources for property owners related to the prevention of injuries arising from recreational use of property. (Sec. 30) MEDICAL MARIJUANA (S.16)Vermont first enacted its medical marijuana program in 2004. One major complaint from Vermonters is the geographic distance between patients on the registry and the physical locations of the dispensaries. S.16(link is external) addresses this concern by adding one new dispensary license, bringing the total to five, and allowing each dispensary to manage up to two retail locations. That brings the total retail locations for medical marijuana up to ten from the current four. The committee of conference report can be found starting on page 1520 of the Senate Journal. Due to the fiscal environment and unknown budgetary pressure that may come from federal cuts, the investment appeared less likely to happen. But, a couple of weeks before adjournment, the housing bond was revived in the form of S.100. The bill as modified by conference committee, proposes to divert revenue from the property transfer tax to fund the bond, reallocating money from the clean water fund. The bill set up a fight between housing and clean water advocates. Language from S.100 was ultimately added to the budget to increase the likelihood of the bond proposal becoming law and was an attempt to make it more difficult for Governor Scott to veto the budget. MENTAL HEALTH PARITY FOR WORKERS COMPENSATIONOne of the more contested issues during the 2017 session was the issue of how the workers’ compensation system should handle claims for mental injuries. The issue was the subject of a stand-alone bill, H.197, which passed the House but not the Senate. The Senate, however, added the language of H.197 to one of its own bills, S.56, once it came back to the Senate. As enacted, S.56(link is external) creates a presumption that a diagnosis of PTSD for certain emergency personnel is work related. It also broadens the control group for so-called “mental-mental” claims (a mental injury unrelated to any physical injury). In doing so it effectively overrules a 2003 Vermont Supreme Court decision that required a “mental-mental” claimant to show that his or her job related stress exceeded the stress a person in the claimant’s occupation would normally experience. Under the bill a claimant now only needs to show that the stress exceeds what an average person in the entire workforce typically experiences. PUBLIC RETIREMENT PLAN (S.135)Two of of the many provisions in S.135, the economic development bill, provide for the implementation, by January 15, 2019, of a multiple employer public retirement plan. The plan is to be called the “Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan” and overseen by seven person board chaired by the State Treasurer. The plan is to be available on a voluntary basis to employers with 50 or fewer employees who do not offer a retirement plan and to self-employed persons. Employees of participating businesses will be automatically enrolled unless they affirmatively opt out. The plan is to be funded exclusively by employee contributions. Further details of the plan are to be developed by the existing Public Retirement Study Committee. The Committee is to provide the legislature with a report by January 15, 2018 concerning the details of the plan. MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION (S.22)On Wednesday, May 24, Governor Scott held a press conference to announce he would veto S.22, the marijuana legalization bill. S.22 would have legalized small quantities of marijuana for personal use, and created a commission to study and report on how the state could move forward with a regulated market for marijuana. The Governor cited several concerns with the bill and said that if the legislature addresses his concerns, he would be willing to sign the bill, even suggesting that the legislature could send a new bill to his desk during the veto-override session scheduled for June 21 and 22. If the veto-override session lasts just two days as anticipated, both chambers would need to suspend rules to take up, act on and send a bill to the Governor’s desk. House Republican leadership has said it will not suspend rules on a new legalization bill. CONSUMER PROTECTION (S.136)The final version of S.136, a consumer protection bill, includes the following: A report on how other states address consumer protection in home improvement contracts.A section dealing with property tax escrow accounts associated with home mortgages.A section regulating Fantasy Sports and requiring Fantasy Sports operators to pay an annual registration fee of $5,000 to the Secretary of State. Click here(link is external) to read the final version of S.136. MERGER OF LIQUOR & LOTTERY/ALCOHOL MODERNIZATION (H.238)The bulk of this lengthy bill(link is external) modernizes Vermont’s alcohol laws in Title 7. The bill also creates a plan to merge the Department of Liquor Control with the State Lottery Commission as Governor Scott proposed by Executive Order 07-17 in January, 2017. The House rejected the executive order and opted to study the issue. The Senate, which supported the merger, included language approving it in H.238. The final compromise in H.238 creates a Task Force to Create the Department of Liquor and Lottery and states that the task force “shall develop a plan and legislation necessary to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the State Lottery and create a new Department of Liquor and Lottery on or before July 1, 2018.” Legislation will be needed in 2018 to complete the merger. FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY (S.135)One of the provisions in S.135, the economic development bill, relates to financial technology, Bitcoin is one example. It contains findings concerning the importance of changes in financial technology and calls for a report, by November 30, 2017, from the Center for Legal Innovation at Vermont Law School. That report, which must be developed in consultation with Department of Financial Regulation, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the Attorney General’s Office, is to: (1) provide findings and recommendations on the potential opportunities and risks presented by developments in financial technology, (2) make suggestions for an overall policy direction, and proposals for related legislative and regulatory actions and (3) set forth measurable goals and outcomes that indicate success in the implementation of such a policy. INTERNET MISCELLANEOUS TAX BILLThe 2017 tax bill does not create new taxes or increase existing ones. However, it does include provisions that enable the Tax Department to enhance its collection and compliance rates. This is estimated to raise $4.9 million in FY18. H.516 lowers the “safe harbor” amount for reporting use taxes due on purchases from vendors who do not collect Vermont sales tax, such as online and out of state retailers. This change is anticipated to increase use tax collections by $1.8 million. Other provisions require increased reporting by third party settlement organizations and vendors who do not collect Vermont sales tax. These provisions are collectively estimated to raise $3.1 million. Another notable feature of the bill changes how state income tax is calculated. Beginning in tax year 2018, state income taxes will be based on federal adjusted gross income (AGI), rather than federal taxable income. [No standalone version of the bill as passed by both chambers is available yet.] PAID FAMILY LEAVE (H.196)The House passed H.196(link is external) late in the session by a 88-58 vote.The bill was sent to the Senate Rules Committee because it missed the crossover deadline. The Senate will likely take up the bill in 2018. The bill:Applies to all employers with ten or more employees who work an average of at least thirty hours per week.Expands the group of family members an employee could take leave to care for to include grandchildren, grandparents and siblings. Establishes the Parental and Family Leave Insurance Program that provides employees with six weeks of paid family leave benefits.Imposes a payroll tax equal to 0.141 percent of each employee’s covered wages (up to $150,000) that an employer must withhold from its employee’s wages. HEALTHCARE MISCELLANEOUS BILLS OF INTEREST KEY BILLS THAT PASSED ONE CHAMBER IN 2017 AND WILL HOLD OVER UNTIL 2018 ETHICS COMMISSION (S.8)S.8(link is external) creates a five-member State Ethics Commission and standards of governmental ethical conduct. The commission will review cases of unethical behavior and then have the power to send cases to the attorney general’s office. The bill also requires statewide candidates to release their tax returns. Lawmakers must also disclose sources of income above $5,000. Opponents of the bill say the disclosure requirements will turn some people away from running for office. Supporters say the bill will rebuild confidence in the political process and help lawmakers avoid conflicts of interest. TELEMEDICINE (S.50)This bill removes the limitation in existing law that health care services delivered via telemedicine are covered by insurance only when the patient is at a health care facility. Under S.50(link is external), the patient is covered regardless of where they are. The bill also addresses the issue of informed consent to receive health care services by telemedicine. EDUCATION PROPERTY TAX RATE BILLH.509(link is external) sets the education property tax rates for FY18. This annual bill is not normally the center of attention, but this year was different. With Governor Scott’s proposal to shift negotiations for teacher health benefits to the statewide level, H.509 became one of the year’s most controversial bills. H.509 reduces the non-residential education property tax rate from $1.59 to $1.55 per $100. The bill also establishes the Vermont Educational Health Benefits Commission to determine whether and how to establish a single statewide health benefit plan for all teachers, administrators and other employees of supervisory unions and school districts. DATA BROKERS (H.467)As introduced, H.467(link is external) would require data brokers – any commercial entity that collects one or more items of a wide variety of information about Vermonters for sale to a third party – to register with the Department of Financial Regulation. It would also require data brokers to file annual reports detailing the sources of the information. Finally the bill would require data brokers to implement a customer identification program and require public agencies to maintain a record of the sale of information to a data broker. The bill was intended to identify and hold accountable entities that collect information on vulnerable individuals and share that information with bad-faith actors. After weeks of consideration and debate the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee determined that the definition of data broker was too broad and the Attorney General should study the issue in the off-session. Study language was added to S.72(link is external), a bill that would require telemarketers to provide accurate caller identification numbers. NEWS MEDIA PRIVILEGE (S.96)In a highly unusual circumstance, Vermont’s press corps became the primary advocates for a piece of legislation. S.96 protects journalist from having to turn over information or sources to government agencies. It prohibits these agencies from issuing subpoenas to obtain information except in narrow circumstances where there is high urgency and information is not available any other way. The bill originated in part from an incident related to the investigation of former state Senator Norm McAllister. Authorities subpoenaed reporters to turn over information obtained during interviews with alleged victims. PREGNANCY ACCOMMODATION (H.136/ACT 21) Governor Scott signed this bill into law on May 4, 2017. Act 21(link is external) requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy-related condition, unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer. The Act extends the law to women with healthy pregnancies who are not otherwise disabled. Act 21 is effective January 1, 2018. INTERNET PRIVACY (S.147)S.147(link is external) was introduced late in the session in response to Congressional repeal of a yet-to-take-effect FCC regulation that would have required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to get customers’ permission before selling their data. S.147 would have directed the Attorney General, in consultation with the Commissioner of Public Service, to adopt privacy and data security rules similar to the FCC rule. Ultimately, the Senate Finance Committee decided to move forward with a study, and included the language in S.72(link is external). Through a special arrangement with VBM, Leonine Public Affairs (link is external)provides a summary of legislative activity in Montpelier for the week ending May 25. 2017. This is the final installment for the session.Leonine Public Affairs Little will be remembered about the 2017 legislative session beyond what happened during the last four weeks. The end of session debate over teachers’ health insurance contracts and Governor Phil Scott’s subsequent threat to veto the budget largely defines the first year of the biennium. Most State House observers expected a leadership adjustment period given the state has a new Governor, House Speaker and Senate President pro-tem. For the first 14 weeks of the session, this read appeared to be correct. Bills were introduced and passed with little fanfare and little to no controversy between the parties or the branches of state government. The pace of the session allowed for each of the new leaders to get their feet underneath them and get comfortable in their new roles.As is typical with politics, when one thinks things are predictable, the unexpected happens. Governor Scott and his team began advocating in earnest to implement his plan to shift the negotiation of teachers’ health benefits from the local to state level. With the upcoming implementation of the Obamacare “Cadillac tax” on health insurance benefits, teachers’ health care plans need to be pared back. This created an opportunity to achieve savings and mandate how those savings would be utilized. Governor Scott argued his plan could save as much as $13 million in FY18 and $26 million annually for the next four years. However, for his plan to be implemented it would require the end of collective bargaining for teacher health insurance contracts at the school district level. That was a non-starter for the Vermont National Education Association, for the state’s unions in general and for many within the Democratic and Progressive Parties.After several attempts to negotiate a solution it was clear that the Governor and legislature were at an impasse. Legislative leaders decided to move on and send the budget bill and a property tax bill to Governor Scott and await the all but certain veto.This sets up a two-day veto session scheduled for June 21 and 22. Legislative leaders have recently stated they want to reach an agreement with Governor Scott prior to the veto session. If they are successful it could be a relatively short veto session. Governor Scott’s recent statements that he will not allow state government to shut down for lack of a deal by July 1 make this all the more likely. With that “nuclear option” off the table there will be a resolution by the end of the second day of the veto session.The question remains whether a resolution to the budget will further divide the legislature and the governor and thus set up a very contentious second year of the biennium, or whether the commonly accepted notion that Vermont civic discourse is different from national politics is validated. With 2018 being an election year, everyone’s patience and political aspirations will be on full display. LONG TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN (H.265/ACT 23)Governor Scott signed this bill into law on May 4, 2017. The Act(link is external) updates the Long Term Care Ombudsman statutes to conform with federal law. It also creates a private right of action for a vulnerable adult who is the victim of financial exploitation. MARIJUANA + ALCOHOL LABOR CHEMICALS (S.103)Members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee introduced legislation early in the session that would have made sweeping changes to how chemicals and manufacturing are regulated in Vermont. As introduced, S.103 set up reporting and regulatory regimes for the use, storage and transport of chemicals in Vermont, changed water testing requirements, changed penalties and litigation standards and changed the chemicals of high concern in children’s products statutes (Act 188). The committee spent a couple weeks debating the legislation but at the crossover deadline felt more consideration and additional input from other committees was needed. Ultimately the Senate decided to create an interagency task force that would look at all the proposals included in the original bill.GENDER-FREE BATHROOMSThis bill(link is external) requires that a single-user public bathroom in a public building or a place of public accommodation be identified as gender free. The bill passed the House by a vote of 123-19 late in the session and is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. The Senate will likely work on it in 2018.
Vermont Business Magazine US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) will deliver the commencement remarks during Champlain Valley Union High School’s graduation early afternoon on Friday at the University of Vermont.Who: Sanders and graduating class of CVUWhat: CVU commencementWhen: 1 p.m.; Friday, June 16Where: Patrick Gym; University of Vermont, Burlington