Labor

An act relating to early childhood educators (H.97)

Mollie Burke, Susan Hatch Davis, Sarah Edwards, and Chris Pearson sponsored H.97, An act relating to early childhood educators .

This bill proposes to allow child care employees representation in negotiating with the state over subsidies.

An act relating to requiring employment breaks (H.41)

Mollie Burke sponsored H.41, An act relating to requiring employment breaks .

This bill proposes to require that employers provide employees with work breaks for meals and rest.

An act relating to early childhood educators (S.29)

Tim Ashe and Anthony Pollina sponsored S.29, An Act Relating to Early Childhood Educators.

This bill proposes to allow the child care employees representation in negotiating with the state over subsidies.

Effective change requires effective leadership

Proposed cuts for Vermont's Agency of Human Services include making the service package "client-centric" and "results-based." Although most of us would agree that client needs are more important than program integrity, we have tried this script before. At the very beginning of Gov. Douglas’ tenure, he convinced the legislature to completely reorganize the agency. Departments were collapsed and missions were reassigned. The first goal of the enabling legislation specifically called for services to be “integrated, client-centered, outcome-based.” As we ponder implementation of the latest consultants’ report, “Challenges for Change: Results for Vermonters,” we must ask what has been happening for the past seven years. Certainly we have seen major turnover at the head of AHS – four different Secretaries since Jan. 2005. Although we have had the same governor at the helm, we have not seen the leadership necessary to address even the first goal of the 2003 reorganization plan. Apparently an agency that spends half of our state tax dollars never got the attention it deserved.

Bigger threat to public telecom

Burlington Telecom now has a much bigger threat than the City Council or the Douglas Administration to contend with. Freepress (not to be confused with the BFP) has come out in opposition to Comcast's plan to buy a controlling stake of NBC from GE. Their concern is that when the largest cable company owns one of the largest content creators, it will mean "higher prices, fewer choices and less innovation." Locally, Comcast is about to become a much larger rival to BT. I guess BT should just be glad that Comcast isn't buying GE's military aircraft division. Freepress director Josh Silver raises additional concerns on HuffPo:
"It should come as no surprise that Wall Street and Washington are saying this is already a done deal: The media and telecommunications industry is second only to drug companies in how much it spends lobbying Washington. Its army of PR firms, lobbyists and sock-puppet think tanks is already blitzing the press corps and Capitol Hill. It's readying Comcast CEO Brian Roberts for his close-up as a new media mogul and neglecting to mention the impact of this deal on everyday people."
He goes on to detail Comcast's record quarterly profits, anti-union activity, and attack on net-neutrality. But second in political spending only to drug companies? Should BT be concerned that Comcast tried to send Douglas more than $2000 for his last election? What is Comcast getting for their investment? Perhaps there is a connection to PSB Commissioner O'Brien's attack on publicly-owned telecom?

Merger Facts

Increasing Inability to Deliver

After my recent inquiry into state services and attempting to get information from Catamount for a constituent, I am imagining what it might be like for folks out there who have been laid off, forced into early retirement, or who are falling off the unemployment lines, trying to get state services to survive. On Friday, I was attempting to find information on the cost of Catamount for a family of two, the enrollment process, and the state's criteria for a subsidy with Catamount premiums. I have to admit, I was frustrated after an hour or so on the phone. Not to mention time spent on the websites, which eventually lead me to placing the call. During this grueling hour or so, I was on hold in a voice mail system with bad music, with a "canned" message promising to assist me soon all the while letting me know that they knew my time was important and thanking me for my patience. Out of that hour or so on the phone, I spent approximately 6 minutes total talking with three different individuals who ultimately sent me bouncing between two entities: Catamount and the State. In the end, I was referred to the Banking and Insurance Department's web site as a place where I might be able to find a contact for my questions, or a contact to send email. I didn't have any time left on Friday as State offices were closed by the time I got done, so I will pursue my quest for information on another day. Frustrated and "stretched-to-the-limit" with my own experience, I decided to do some research to try and find some public interest stories reporting how the working class folks losing their jobs have fared while applying for state services. Services that are being administered with bare bones and overworked staff to a growing number of unemployed and unemployed who have fallen off the unemployment lines. I was on a quest to find out how the desperate would go about applying for state services, what kind of problems they were experiencing, and what they could do if they encountered problems. I wondered just how many laid off working folks were experiencing the same problem as I was, except I wasn't the desperate one, my constituent was. Even more to the point, I wonder how many were having problems getting the service once they had the information. I thought surely the Vermont media would be covering these types of human interest stories, sharing real live stories about problems accessing critical services that are so important to the many Vermonters who are losing their jobs. I've seen and heard the media giving information on web sites, but simply pointing folks to a web site for assistance didn't work for me. And I may be more familiar with computers than many of my constituents. I couldn't imagine what a daunting task it might be for someone laid off, without a computer and without affordable access. Where does the media fit in with these human interest stories? After all, it is (to me and the thousands of unemployed) headline breaking news and current events. During my research, I came across an article that at least seemed to mention unemployment in the private sector and the state's ability to deliver services. The article, by Jack Hoffman and Paul Cillo, hit the nail on the head. It reads:
"Few among policymakers, opinion leaders, or the press have discussed, or even acknowledged, the effect of public sector layoffs on the state’s capacity to deliver services. The administration’s goal has been to reduce the payroll, not to improve efficiency or make state government more effective. The Legislature recently hired an outside firm to look at ways the state might save money through efficiency or perhaps through discontinuing specific services that no longer need to be provided by the government. Such research should be done before state jobs are eliminated and state employees are pushed into the unemployment lines."
I think it's the public's right to know how difficult it is during these tough economic times for someone to get help, and to know of the State's inability to deliver services to the growing numbers of folks being laid off in the private sector. Could headline stories concerning these issues replace headlines stories focusing on crime, violence, war or politics and who's running for Governor? Or at least share the front page? We are not reading about the finanial struggles of real folks. These stories should be important to folks with political aspirations of being our Governor. Real human interest stories from different walks of life. One description of a newspaper, is "a publication that appears regularly and frequently, and carries news about a wide variety of current events. A daily or weekly publication that brings news of general interest to large portions of the public in a specific geographic area". Right now, I think a large portion of the public is the unemployed and the geographic area is Vermont! The "Penny Press" made its debut on the streets of New York in 1833; its four letter-size pages filled with human-interest stories and short police reports. And it was popular. Most of the American penny papers were less interested in politics, nevertheless, history shows us that they did have the effect of bringing many working class people into the political process by providing them with a source of news they could use to keep well informed. I think human interest stories would also keep politicians informed. I wonder if the local newspaper sharing the different perspectives on Vermont's unemployed and the State's (in)ability to service them during reductions in force would carry any weight with the voters at the polls? Who knows, these stories just might wake up the politicians who are making the headlines!
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