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Paperwork complete! Today Seth and I filed our ballot petition signatures — gathered from constituents all across our district — and our required paperwork to run for reelection in 2022!

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Bravo — keep going!!!

Yessss!!!

Click on the link to read our 2022 end of session report — learn about the progress weve made on important issues like housing, workforce development, climate action, broadband, childcare and more. Download report here: https://mailchi.mp/leg.state.vt.us/2022-eos-report
Neither rain nor snow nor 🔥HEAT🔥 could keep us from knocking on doors today in Arlington and Manchester! Out gathering signatures to get on the ballot for our re-election campaign with our friend and Secretary of State candidate Sarah Copeland Hanzas.Image attachment

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Thank you for a great day in Arlington and Manchester! It was fun to meet so many of your constituents!

A beautiful reflection on the end of the session from my colleague:The House floor is many things. When the seats are full and members are rising to speak or inquire, the energy in the space is palpable. At times that energy is light and vibrant. At times it’s tense and messy; sharp energy pinging off the immaculate plaster moldings and the Senate seats. As someone who is acutely sensitive to the energy around me, I feel it all.

Holding the emotional and energetic intensity of that space in my body is often uncomfortable. As life tends to have it, the moments that are the most difficult to hold are also the moments I am most honored to be a part of this legislative body. I am regularly awed by the collective willingness to hold this shared space; to move together through dense, messy, and uncertain work; to steer into and wrestle with palpable discomfort, make hard choices, and emerge intact.

But for all the humanity that a busy house floor holds, my favorite moments here are the quiet ones. Crossing the threshold of the silent House floor, I am struck with a reverence reserved for sacred spaces.

The legislature adjourned on Thursday night. After the final roll call and the speeches, after members scattered to their cars and local bars, I returned alone to the quiet House floor. I sat in meditation on all this space has held.

At the end of session there is grief for all that’s been lost and hope for all that we wish to gain. This space can hold all of it and then some. On Thursday night it held me with grace and love as I breathed my way into whatever comes next. I’m forever grateful for this space, for everyone who has imbued it with the utterly human capacity to hold all the truths at once and move forward nonetheless.
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A beautiful reflection on the end of the session from my colleague:
The House has concluded its business for the 2022 biennium and we are ...

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Great job this year Kath!

Thank you for all you do!

Used to be referred to as the "safest time of the year"

Thank you!!! Enjoy the break!

Awesome work! Thanks for all of it!

Thanks for all your efforts!!

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FY23 budget passed 133-3! Look for a rundown of this $8 billion investment in Vermont — and Vermonters — in our end of session report soon. 👏👏👏

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I was proud to vote yes on budget. 133-3 Disappointed it couldn’t have been unanimous!

S.226: Expanding Access, Lowering Barriers to Safe and Affordable Housing
 
Like many states across the country, Vermont is facing a housing crisis. Today the Vermont legislature gave final approval to S.226. This is an important bill that invests $22 million to expand access to safe and affordable housing in all 14 counties.
 
•      Supports first-generation homebuyers with down payment assistance
•      Facilitates new construction for middle-income homebuyers
•      Supports repairs and improvements to manufactured homes
•      Removes barriers to housing development in smart growth areas without compromising environmental protections 
•      Aligns state and local land use policy with new funding to enable more homes to be built in state designated centers and makes it easier for small towns to qualify for benefits, like Act 250 exemptions for affordable housing 
•      Extends tax credits to encourage denser development
•      Creates a pilot project to support integrated municipal planning 
•      Enhances Fair Housing discrimination and harassment protections
•      Protects homeowners from contractor fraud
•      Establishes an advisory Land Access Board to address systemic discrimination

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That isn't going to help if you don't get predatory banks under control.

H.737: SETTING THE PROPERTY TAX RATE

H.737, the annual yield bill, fully funds Vermonts PreK–12 education system and notably reduces education property taxes by $35 million. 

Because of unprecedented surpluses in our Education Fund, we were able to return $20 million to taxpayers while also funding universal school meals for 2022–2023, PCB remediation in our schools, and new investments in our public pension system. We’re also creating a new program through our career and technical education centers that will teach students the construction trades by building and rehabbing housing and other community projects. 

Despite strong statewide growth in education spending, the yield bill projects an average homestead tax rate of $1.385, significantly lower than last years rate.

H.510: SUPPORTING VERMONT FAMILIES WITH A CHILD TAX CREDIT

Today the Vermont House gave final passage to H.510 by an overwhelming 141–4 roll-call vote.

Building on the success of the federal CTC, H.510 creates a new Vermont Child Tax Credit. It will give $1,000 per year to parents and guardians for every qualifying child five years of age or younger. The bill increases the Child and Dependent Care Credit to 72% of federal CDCC, and increases our Vermont Earned Income Tax Credit to 38% of federal EITC — making us the highest state EITC in the country.

The bill creates a deduction for all interest paid on student loans, increases income thresholds for existing Social Security benefits exclusion by $5,000, and creates new exclusions for $10,000 of retirement income from military, Civil Service Retirement System, or other states’ noncontributory retirement systems. It increases funding for three programs: an existing housing tax credit to increase access to manufactured home purchase and replacement, the Aid for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program, and the Child Care Worker Retention Grant Program.

This bill is a big win for Vermont families. We’re creating a clear and significant message in our tax code that Vermont is a place that supports families and workers. We understand what it means to parent, to carry student loan debt, and to care for aging parents. We understand that government, and our tax structure, can be a force for good.

In presenting the bill on the House floor today, Rep. Janet Ancel, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, explained its impact:

“As the tax policy committee, one of our primary responsibilities is to protect the tax base — after all, that’s the revenue that allows us to make valuable investments and to provide a critical safety net. But our strong revenues and stable tax base have given us in the tax-writing committee an historic opportunity to recommend changes that will make a significant difference for Vermont seniors, low- and middle-income individuals, and families with young children. H.510 is the vehicle for making that happen.

In the end, we combined our own priorities with those of the Governor and those of the Senate. The result will provide more than $41 million in tax relief affecting at least 70,000 Vermonters, and likely more. In all my years here, this is the most significant tax relief package we’ve been able to offer Vermonters.”
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H.510: SUPPORTING VERMONT FAMILIES WITH A CHILD TAX CREDIT

Today the Vermont House gave final passage to H.510 by an overwhelming 141–4 roll-call vote.

Building on the success of the federal CTC, H.510 creates a new Vermont Child Tax Credit. It will give $1,000 per year to parents and guardians for every qualifying child five years of age or younger. The bill increases the Child and Dependent Care Credit to 72% of federal CDCC, and increases our Vermont Earned Income Tax Credit to 38% of federal EITC — making us the highest state EITC in the country. 

The bill creates a deduction for all interest paid on student loans, increases income thresholds for existing Social Security benefits exclusion by $5,000, and creates new exclusions for $10,000 of retirement income from military, Civil Service Retirement System, or other states’ noncontributory retirement systems. It increases funding for three programs:  an existing housing tax credit to increase access to manufactured home purchase and replacement, the Aid for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program, and the Child Care Worker Retention Grant Program.

This bill is a big win for Vermont families. We’re creating a clear and significant message in our tax code that Vermont is a place that supports families and workers. We understand what it means to parent, to carry student loan debt, and to care for aging parents. We understand that government, and our tax structure, can be a force for good.  

In presenting the bill on the House floor today, Rep. Janet Ancel, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, explained its impact: 

“As the tax policy committee, one of our primary responsibilities is to protect the tax base — after all, that’s the revenue that allows us to make valuable investments and to provide a critical safety net. But our strong revenues and stable tax base have given us in the tax-writing committee an historic opportunity to recommend changes that will make a significant difference for Vermont seniors, low- and middle-income individuals, and families with young children. H.510 is the vehicle for making that happen.

In the end, we combined our own priorities with those of the Governor and those of the Senate. The result will provide more than $41 million in tax relief affecting at least 70,000 Vermonters, and likely more. In all my years here, this is the most significant tax relief package we’ve been able to offer Vermonters.”
COFFEE HOUR: SATURDAY MAY 14 @ 9 am

Seth and I will be holding an online constituent coffee hour this Saturday, May 14, from 9 to 10 am. Please join us to discuss the 2022 legislative session, ask questions, and share your ideas.

Well hold these regular monthly get-togethers at the same time on the second Saturday of each month during the 2022 legislative session. 

May 14
June 11

For now, well continue to hold these meetings on Zoom. Please email KJames@leg.state.vt.us at least 30 minutes prior to each meeting for the link. 

Even more important: Please feel free to reach out to us anytime! Email is the easiest way to find us (KJames@leg.state.vt.us, SBongartz@leg.state.vt.us)

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I just requested the link hope I'm not too late

Whoops I got the time wrong ! Gahhhh

S.11: PROMOTING ECONOMIC AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

S.11 addresses the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 on our employers, workers and families and establishes opportunities to grow Vermonts economy for the future.

The bill creates or enhances programs to increase workforce participation, and to reinforce and sustain workers in nursing, mental health care, childcare and the trades. It includes scholarships, forgivable loans, education, training and internship programs. 

S.11 helps Vermonters. It provides for economic development programs to support businesses and municipalities, sick leave related to COVID-19, tax credits, and assists specific sectors, including the creative economy. 

In total, $113.5 million is appropriated using ARPA, General and Education Funds to achieve these goals. A few highlights include:

• Forgivable loans for businesses ($19M)
• Support for creative economy ($9M)
• Nursing and healthcare $12.5M
• Support for trades ($4.5M)
• COVID paid family leave ($15.18M)
• Unemployment insurance ($8M)
• Encourage new Vermonters ($5.93M)
• Community recovery and revitalization grants ($10M)
• Downtown and village tax credit ($2.45M)
• Continuation of Everyone Eats program ($1.3M)

From here, the bill goes to the Governor.
HOUSE VOTES UNANIMOUSLY TO OVERRIDE PENSION VETO

This morning, the House voted 148-0 to override Governor Scotts veto of the pension deal. It was a fitting vote for this week, when we celebrate and thank our states teachers! The pension bill is not perfect, but it represents months of hard work, compromise and negotiation with legislators, the administration, and union reps. Over time, this deal will eliminate $2 billion of unfunded liability, while guaranteeing a secure retirement for Vermonts hard-working teachers and state employees. Its an important step forward.
S.226: Expanding Access to Safe and Affordable Housing

Like many states across the country, Vermont is facing a housing crisis. S.226 is an important bill that invests $22 million to expand access to safe and affordable housing in all 14 counties.

• Supports first-generation homebuyers with down payment assistance
• Facilitates new construction for middle-income homebuyers
• Supports repairs and improvements to manufactured homes
• Reforms zoning and tax credits to encourage denser development
• Creates a pilot project to support integrated municipal planning 
• Enhances Fair Housing discrimination and harassment protections
• Protects homeowners from contractor fraud 
• Establishes an advisory Land Access Board to address systemic discrimination 

This bill provides safe, healthy and affordable housing and makes a dent in our critical housing needs, while establishing pilot programs that could provide a template for future investment on a state and federal level. We’re also building in ways to make certain those receiving these benefits are spending them wisely.

From here, S.226 goes to back to the Senate for final review.

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So needed! 👍

What is going to be done about banks forcing foreclosures on Black and Asian home owners and then exclusively purchasing those homes to sell to white people?

So proud to have worked on this bill! Thank you all for championing this work.

S.139: NONDISCRIMINATORY SCHOOL BRANDING

Today the House gave final approval to S.139. This bill aims to ensure that all Vermont schools offer positive and inclusive learning environments — for all students — by eliminating the use of discriminatory school branding. This includes any name, symbol or image used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, team name, slogan or motto.

The bill requires the Secretary of Education to work with relevant stakeholders to develop a model policy. The policy will prohibit any school branding that references or stereotypes a person — or group of people — based on race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity. It also prohibits branding based on any person or group that’s associated with the repression of others. 

The Agency of Education must adopt the new policy by August 2022. After that, school boards will have until January 2023 to review their own branding and adopt the model policy, or to adopt one that’s at least as comprehensive. The bill also sets up a complaint and appeal process through AOE.
S.234: UPDATING ACT 250

Yesterday the House gave final approval to S.234, an act that improves Act 250 governance and makes it easier to build housing in Vermont’s designated Downtowns and Neighborhood Development Areas (NDAs).

Vermont has a serious housing shortage. To address this crisis — to support our residents, our economy and our communities — we must pursue both short- and long-term solutions. S.234 begins to loosen Act 250 jurisdiction in communities that have adopted strong local mechanisms to support the construction of well-located housing, while looking more closely at resources — like unfragmented forest blocks — that are regional or statewide in nature. The bill gives small, rural towns the same access to housing programs and benefits that larger communities have enjoyed for years, while paving the way for more housing and mixed-use development in all NDAs.

S.234 also makes Act 250 more functional by replacing the Natural Resources Board with a professional five-member Environmental Review Board. This board would hear appeals, rather than the current practice of having appeals heard by the court system. This new board would build up expertise and, in turn, provide guidance to the entire system.
S.148: Environmental Justice for All Vermonters

Today the House gave preliminary approval to S.148, an environmental justice bill, by a roll-call vote of 109-31.

Environmental justice is a lens to ensure equitable sharing of environmental benefits, such as clean air and water. S.148 establishes a state environmental justice policy and strengthens public engagement using a citizen-based advisory council and interagency committee. The bill also supports the development of a mapping tool to visualize environmental harm — ranging from contamination and exposure to toxins to unsafe housing, lack of open green space, or vulnerability to flooding — that impact some of our communities.

Many communities suffer disproportionately from environmental harm, including low-income Vermonters, people with disabilities or limited English proficiency, and Vermonters who are Black, indigenous and people of color. The work supported by this bill will help the state to plan for and target our investments and restoration activities to ensure that no community is left behind.
CAREER EXPO AT BBA: COME ONE, COME ALL!

Excited for tomorrows Career Expo at BBA! Close to 70 employers, entrepreneurs and organizations will be there to talk about open positions or how to pursue a career in their field. If youre thinking about changing jobs, going back to work, or just curious, please show up to support our local economy and our local workforce. This free event is open to all adults and high-school students in Bennington County. Flyer attached, plus link to  sample questions that will help you make this event fun and engaging. See you at BBA, and gratitude to the many employers who are taking an afternoon to be there. Hope its a success!

GOOD QUESTIONS TO ASK AT A CAREER FAIR: SEE LINK!
https://kathjamesforstaterep.com/wp-content/uploads/Career-Fair-Questions.pdf

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North Star Healing Institute will be there 💆‍♀️ massage school and spa opportunities! Serenity Spa Vermont

Super fun to hang out with Senate pro tem — and superstar Congressional candidate — Becca Balint today at the inaugural Fly Fishing Festival at The Arlington Common! Then off to a climate forum at the The Manchester Community Library— good conversation and impressive turnout on a sunny spring afternoon!

S.287: Advancing Equity in Our Education Funding System

Today the House gave final approval to S.287, a bill to update our education funding system. The bill passed by an overwhelming roll-call vote of 132-11.

Vermont’s commitment to equitable access to education is enshrined in our state Constitution and has been advanced by landmark legislation such as Act 60 of 1997 and Act 68 of 2003. Taken together, these bills maintained our state’s longstanding tradition of local control over school budgets, while setting up a far more equitable school funding system.

One of the built-in equity mechanisms is “weighting,” which adjusts for the varying costs of educating different categories of students. The weights acknowledge that it’s more expensive, for example, to educate high school students or children who are living in poverty.

In 2019, a peer-reviewed study concluded that our Vermont weights do not adequately account for the different costs — from district to district — of meeting students’ needs. Based on the recommendations of a 2021 legislative task force, S.287 updates the weights to provide greater taxing capacity for many districts, while creating a glide path for districts that will experience reduced taxing capacity. The new weights will be implemented in FY25, which gives districts time to plan and prepare.

This bill also creates stronger Agency of Education oversight and district accountability — creating new standards for governance, financial management, school facilities, and English Learning statewide. It supports English Learners, not only with a far greater weight, but with a supplemental grant program to help districts with limited EL enrollment to stand up a high-quality program.

In Vermont, we have a shared commitment to education: No matter where we live, we’re all responsible for educating all of our students. By updating our funding system through S.287, we take another important step toward making that promise a reality.
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S.287: Advancing Equity in Our Education Funding System

Today the House gave final approval to S.287, a bill to update our education funding system. The bill passed by an overwhelming roll-call vote of 132-11.

Vermont’s commitment to equitable access to education is enshrined in our state Constitution and has been advanced by landmark legislation such as Act 60 of 1997 and Act 68 of 2003. Taken together, these bills maintained our state’s longstanding tradition of local control over school budgets, while setting up a far more equitable school funding system.

One of the built-in equity mechanisms is “weighting,” which adjusts for the varying costs of educating different categories of students. The weights acknowledge that it’s more expensive, for example, to educate high school students or children who are living in poverty.

In 2019, a peer-reviewed study concluded that our Vermont weights do not adequately account for the different costs — from district to district — of meeting students’ needs. Based on the recommendations of a 2021 legislative task force, S.287 updates the weights to provide greater taxing capacity for many districts, while creating a glide path for districts that will experience reduced taxing capacity. The new weights will be implemented in FY25, which gives districts time to plan and prepare. 

This bill also creates stronger Agency of Education oversight and district accountability — creating new standards for governance, financial management, school facilities, and English Learning statewide. It supports English Learners, not only with a far greater weight, but with a supplemental grant program to help districts with limited EL enrollment to stand up a high-quality program.

In Vermont, we have a shared commitment to education: No matter where we live, we’re all responsible for educating all of our students. By updating our funding system through S.287, we take another important step toward making that promise a reality.