April 20, 2020 Legislative Update
Last week the state of Vermont, feeling the pressure of the stagnant economy and backlogs of unemployment claims, saw some progress in getting Vermonters back to work. On Friday at a press conference Governor Phil Scott announced that the state is ready to make “small steps” to reopening the state for business. Still feeling the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic the Governor cautiously reopened businesses in a few professions. These openings do not by any means mean “business as usual”, but rather just an attempt to get people back working and the economy to start seeing some movement.
The professions opening back up include low contact professional services like realtors, appraisers, municipal clerks, and attorneys. Outdoor businesses like property management crews and construction worker firms with two person crews will also be allowed to go back to work as long as they follow some strict guidelines. Those guidelines include working six feet apart and wearing face masks in public. The Governor also alluded to an opening date of May 1st for farmers markets to begin to reopen.
Vermont is also making national headlines with Governor Phil Scott’s easing of restrictions and allowing certain businesses to head back to work. Our very own state senator, Senator Corey Parent, went on Fox and Friends, a national news outlet to discuss how Vermont was doing during this pandemic. Senator Parent did a great job outlining the steps the state has taken to become one of the least hit of the pandemic. As I’m writing this right now Vermont has only seen 35 deaths resulting in coronavirus, although unfortunate deaths are, the numbers are much lower than states surrounding us. Governor Phil Scott and his administration have done a phenomenal job protecting Vermonters during this crisis.
On Friday we also received another major announcement from the Vermont State Colleges. They recommended closing three Vermont colleges - Northern Vermont University in Johnson and Lyndon as well as the Vermont Technical College Randolph campus. They cited financial problems that hit the system long before the Covid-19 outbreak as a reason for closure. This announcement seemed to shock the residents of this state and flooded our legislative emails, Facebook chats, and cell phones with messages and pleas to help save the colleges facing closure. There were two main concerns with the potential closings: loss of economic drivers in the rural communities and the loss of over 500 jobs. The large response prompted the VSC to delay their vote.
The biggest issue I’ve heard about from constituents is regarding unemployment insurance. This past weekend, Governor Phil Scott working with State Treasurer Beth Pearce mailed over 8,300 $1200 checks to people having issues with unemployment insurance. There is still much work to be done as the Vermont Department of Labor and the Agency of Digital Services attempt to fix issues that have prevented tens of thousands across the state from collecting their benefits.
The House Committee on Education will be meeting on Tuesday and Thursday of this week and the entire House is expected to vote on a proposal to vote remotely by the end of the week. The goal is to allow the Legislature to pass Covid-19 related legislation without having to meet in person and risk spreading the disease. Our work since mid-march has been done remotely from our home computers and leadership’s goal is to be able to conduct business from afar safely.
We still have a long way to go as a state. Our financial problems are evolving and starting to show clear signs of issues ahead. Our Education funding is short while eighteen schools haven’t even passed a budget. We have a lot of work ahead of us as a legislature. If you ever have any questions, comments or concerns, please reach out to me at [email protected]. Stay safe everyone.
Representative Casey J. Toof
Franklin 3-1 St. Albans
Update on Fiscal Note April 15th
Earlier this week the Vermont State Legislature received an updated fiscal note from our Joint Fiscal Office. This note updated the Legislature on our Fiscal Year 2020 budget, the upcoming 2021 budget, as well as some federal funds that should be coming to Vermont in the near future.
The state’s budget is an evolving document. Currently, our expected revenues change weekly, and with all of the deferments on tax payments and the state of our economy, the budget is most uncertain. Right now we currently see a $61 million shortfall in our General Fund, an $89 million shortfall in our Education Fund, and a $40 million shortfall in our Transportation Fund.
There is relief available in the form of the Federal CARES Act. The stimulus bill will be allotting $1.25 billion to the state of Vermont and is expected to arrive by April 24th. The money hopefully will be used to help ease the burden on our healthcare system, our K-12 education system, higher education and help fill the gap in other areas in our budget.
We face an extremely hard uphill battle ahead of us as a state. People are still struggling to file unemployment insurance, with over 70,000 claims made thus far. We will get through this because we are Vermont Strong. If anyone has any questions please feel free to reach out to me via email at [email protected]. Stay safe and be well.
April 13, 2020 Legislative Update
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend and I hope you were able to enjoy the nice weather we had on Sunday. The Vermont State Legislature had another busy week working on bills related to COVID-19 relief as well as the state’s budget. On Tuesday, the House Committee on Education had a brief meeting about Senate Bill S.164 which is our Miscellaneous Ed Bill. We are currently only focusing on sections 10-14 which will help special education surrounding Act 173. You can follow along in any of our meetings by going to our committee website at https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/10.
On Friday, Governor Phil Scott extended his State of Emergency in Vermont and all existing mitigation orders and closures until May 15th. The decision was made to help continue to flatten the curve and protect the public from seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Everyone is still being encouraged to practice safe social distancing, work from home if you’re able to, and stay home as much as you can.
The Vermont Department of Labor has seen a significant increase in total claims, which has reached over 70,000 Vermonters claiming unemployment. I have received numerous complaints and issues from many of you during the last couple of weeks and I encourage anyone to continue to reach out to me and use me as a resource as needed. The VDOL has tried to fix these issues by increasing their staff, outsourcing their work, and they’ve also added a new voluntary system to help ease the number of people filing at one time. This will take some time, so please be patient. To learn more please go to the VT Department of Labor website: labor.vermont.gov.
On Wednesday we met as a committee with State House Chief of Police Matt Romei to train on how we can vote remotely. We will be using an online voting app to vote from home, while we meet as a floor via Zoom. We are still a few weeks away from being able to get everyone comfortable with the voting app before we can meet as a floor of 150 members, so we are making sure to spend our time wisely focusing on committee work and our state budget.
Friday we met with members from the higher education community, specifically from representatives of UVM, the Vermont State Colleges, and the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges. They gave us an update on the issues they were experiencing. Some of those issues were that some students were still on campus and couldn’t go home, specifically some international students who couldn’t return to their home country. Other concerns were financial issues with colleges and some even saying they might have to make some tough decisions on schools closing.
We also met with Superintendents, Vermont Principals Association, the VTNEA, and other educational leaders informing us of issues that our local schools are facing during this very difficult time. The issue of online teaching has proved to be very difficult. There are still major inequities with online teaching and learning, mainly with the lack of broadband access across the state. Many teachers and students struggle with broadband access and the schools are concerned about the students' social emotional issues. I applaud everyone’s effort for working for the betterment of our students and I thank you all for your continued hard work.
We are in some really troubling times as a state. More and more people are claiming unemployment as the state has received over 70,000 people filing for unemployment insurance. I hope everyone can stay optimistic as we’re currently making history as a society. I know we’ll get through this because we are Vermont Strong. I hope everyone is being safe and practicing proper social distancing and staying home.
If you ever need to reach me I am always available at [email protected].
Representative Casey J. Toof
St. Albans City & Town
April 6, 2020 Legislative Update
I hope everyone is staying safe during this state of emergency. Things have been really busy for the Vermont State Legislature while we work remotely from home. I have been receiving many questions and comments via phone calls, text messages, emails, and Facebook. I’ve been trying my best to share all the information I receive as quickly as I can, and I try to point people in the right direction to the best of my ability. I continue to encourage everyone to reach out to me with any inquiries.
Our House Committee on Education has been working remotely over the last few weeks using Zoom. We are taking up only one bill at this time, and that is S.164 which is a miscellaneous Ed bill. This bill will help special education issues regarding Act 173 that passed in 2018. I will also encourage everyone to tune into our YouTube live stream by going to https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/10.
Right now, the State of Vermont is focusing on how we can pass a budget during this pandemic. We received a fiscal note from our Joint Fiscal Office about the estimated revenue issues for the remainder of the fiscal year 2020. Currently, we are looking at a General Fund shortage of $202 million, a Transportation Fund shortage of $45 million, and an Education Fund shortage of $145 million. We have some big issues ahead of us as a state financially.
I will continue to offer my contact information to anyone who is looking for answers. I can be reached at [email protected] any time or you can follow my Facebook page to receive daily updates. I appreciate everyone’s patience and civility during this time. Please stay home and stay safe.
Representative Casey J. Toof
2020 Town Meeting Report
As always, it is my honor to represent you in the Vermont House of Representatives. This session, I have continued my focus of making Vermont a friendlier place to live, work, raise a family, retire, and do business. These efforts closely mirror my desire to stimulate economic growth, reduce the cost of living, and protect the most vulnerable Vermonters.
The session got off to a fast start, with a number of gubernatorial vetoes for the House to consider overriding or sustaining. The most notable issues were paid family leave and raising the minimum wage. The paid family leave veto was sustained, while the minimum wage veto was overridden.
I’ve been hard at work as a member of the House Committee on Education, where we’ve focused on a Universal Prekindergarten program and improving literacy in the classroom. We’ve briefly spoken about proficiently based learning and grading, but we’re waiting on the Senate to send us their work.
I’ve also sponsored and co-sponsored a number of pieces of legislation, including H.817 which is a Universal Afterschool Program. This bill is very exciting for me as it focuses on giving children of every age access to afterschool programs across the state using the tax revenue from the sale of cannabis.
Throughout the remainder of the session, I look forward to continuing to advance pro-affordability and pro-growth priorities as we debate issues like the upcoming budget, tax policy, and more.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, I am always here to listen. Feel free to contact me at:
Representative Casey J. Toof
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (802) 309-3522
Thank you for your continued support.
Representative Casey J. Toof
Franklin 3-1 St. Albans City & Town
First Legislative Update
We have started the 2020 Legislative Session I am happy and excited to be back serving the people of St. Albans. I spent most of the last few months chasing my two boys around the ball fields and hockey rink.
When Speaker Mitzi Johnson gaveled in the 2020 session last week she spoke of civility and urged us to work with our fellow legislators. Vermont is unique where we can have civil discussions and disagreements without all the rhetoric.
Governor Phil Scott, who also spoke of civility, gave his State of the State address last week setting the administrations agenda for the year. I was encouraged by his priorities, including expanding afterschool programs, which is one bill I’ve introduced to the House Education Committee, the committee in which I serve. I know we are also going to focus our attention on proficiency based grading and proficiency based learning and expanding our vocational technical education programs to help build our work force. I’m excited and honored to be able to tackle these issues.
I plan on being as transparent as I can this legislative session. Weekly updates will be found on my website, Facebook, and available through email. Please take the time to sign up for my newsletter at caseytoof.com and contact me any time at [email protected]. I look forward to the upcoming session and I think you for your time.
Rep. Casey Toof
Getting Ready to Serve
On Wednesday, I along with others from across Vermont, chosen by their neighbors will be sworn into the Vermont House of Representatives, a job that I am both looking forward to and honored to have. Over the last two months, I have taken a lot of time to reflect on the campaign and the conversations I had with so many of you. I’ve also spent a significant amount of time with my family, my wife Ashley and my two boys Callan and Lukas, attending great community events like the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery’s Tractor Parade.
I understand that the first weeks will be about us getting our committee assignments and drafting and introducing legislation, but I commit to building a line of communication with all of you so that you can have input and know what is happening on your behalf. Communication is critical to our collective success. When I was campaigning door to door, I left my personal contact information so that you could reach out to me to further understand my platform, I will continue that now as your State Representative. I would also like to invite everyone to our legislative breakfasts, the first being Monday, January 28th at 8am at the Swanton Village Complex.
I am very excited and eager to get to work for the people of St. Albans. I invite anyone to reach out to me to ask questions and start real dialog and conversations about issues important to you. If you don’t have my information already, you can contact me via email at [email protected].
St. Albans Franklin 3-1