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Senate Calendar

Friday, april 13, 2007

101st DAY OF BIENNIAL SESSION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                                                                                                Page No.

ACTION CALENDAR

UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2007

House Proposal of Amendment

S. 124     Planning/evaluating options for inpatient psych. Hosp. services........... 658

NEW BUSINESS

Second Reading

Favorable with Proposal of Amendment

H. 274    Relating to adult foster care............................................................... 660

                              Health and Welfare Committee Report............................... 660

H. 400    Recapture of benefits by group C-Vt. State Retirement System.......... 661

                              Government Operations Committee Report........................ 661

                              Sen. Illuzzi amendment....................................................... 662

House Proposal of Amendment

JRS 22   Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, & Security Act of 2007....... 663

Joint Resolution for Action

JRH 22  Designating Sunday, April 15, 2007 as generosity Sunday in VT........ 664

NOTICE CALENDAR

Favorable

H. 528    Approval of amendment to the charter of the city of Montpelier......... 664

                        Government Operations Committee Report.............................. 664

Favorable with Proposal of Amendment

H. 137    Restore Dept. of Mental Health/Commissioner of Mental Health........ 665

                        Government Operations Committee Report.............................. 665

H. 526    Relating to education quality and cost control..................................... 666

                        Education Committee Report................................................... 666

House Proposal of Amendment

H. 360    Employment protection & training period for Vt. National Guard....... 676

ORDERED TO LIE

S. 70       Empowering municipalities to regulate application of pesticides........... 677


S. 102     Decreasing percentage to determine school dist. excess spending....... 677

S. 118     Fiscal review of high spending districts & special education................ 677

Concurrent Resolutions for Action

(For text of Resolutions, see Addendum to April 11, 2007 Calendar)

SCR 18   Honoring Robert “R.J.” George for outstanding public service........... 167

SCR 19   Reeve Lindbergh & Nathaniel Tripp 2007 Citizens of the Year......... 168

HCR 101 Katie Sullivan 2007 Vermont teacher of the year............................. 170

HCR 102 Congratulating UVM men’s basketball team.................................... 171

HCR 103 Stephan Morse for leadership of the Windham Foundation............... 173

HCR 104 In memory of U.S. Army Sgt. Carlton A. Clark of Sharon............... 174

HCR 105 In memory of Donald Maley............................................................ 176

HCR 106 Honoring Gary Palmer of Georgia for exemplary public service........ 178

HCR 107 Congratulating Burr & Burton Academy boys’ ice hockey team....... 179

HCR 108 Commending members of Act 133 technical advisory committee...... 180

HCR 109 Crossett Brook Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team............... 181

HCR 110 In memory of former Windsor town clerk Gloria Tansey.................. 182

HCR 111 Windsor High School championship girls’ basketball team................ 184

HCR 112 Mt. Abraham Union High School championship baseball team......... 185

HCR 113 Mt. Abraham Union H.S. championship girls’ field hockey team....... 186

HCR 114 Carol Eckels 2007 Vermont Elementary Principal of the Year.......... 187

HCR 115 Woodstock Union H.S. girls’ Nordic & boys’ alpine ski teams........ 188

HCR 116 Taylor Horn Vermont Champion of National. Geographic Bee......... 190



 

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ACTION CALENDAR

UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2007

House Proposal of Amendment

S. 124

An act relating to planning and evaluating options for inpatient psychiatric hospital services.

The House proposes to the Senate to amend the bill by striking all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  STATE HOSPITAL; PLANNING; INDEPENDENT EVALUATION

(a)  The general assembly recognizes that there are some regulatory and legislative constraints on the department of health’s planning efforts related to developing new inpatient psychiatric services.  Nevertheless, the general assembly finds:

(1)  There has been inadequate evaluation of the options available to the state regarding the provision of inpatient psychiatric hospital services which are now provided at the Vermont state hospital (VSH).

(2)  The projected costs to plan, construct, and privately operate a 40‑ to 60‑patient bed facility on the main campus of Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC) in Burlington have not been adequately analyzed and compared with the projected costs of a publicly operated state facility or several smaller private or public facilities across the state.  Furthermore, FAHC has not made the necessary 50‑year commitment to host and operate the facility.

(3)  As found by the Public Oversight Commission (POC) in its recommendation dated January 10, 2007 concerning the VSH Conceptual certificate of need (CON), the construction cost for new inpatient services approaches $100 million which, the POC suggested, is beyond the fiscal capability of the state if the overall components of the Futures Project, including necessary expansions to the community mental health system, were to be implemented and adequately funded.

(4)  No operating cost estimates of the proposed FAHC inpatient psychiatric facility or any other facility have been developed.

(5)  No determinative analysis has been made of the costs and policy implications that will be required to meet federal funding requirements associated with partnering or not partnering with a general hospital. 

(6)  Issues of concern to potential host communities have not been adequately addressed, including governance, accountability, and sustainability; design and development of the facility; public safety; the impact on municipal services, housing, community mental health programs, other community resources, and reimbursement to the host communities for the costs associated with such impacts.

(7)  The state’s community mental health system may be threatened by the cost to operate psychiatric inpatient services that are not adequately planned within the budgetary context of the full continuum of necessary mental health services.

(b)  The general assembly reaffirms its intent as stated in Sec. 141a of No. 122 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj. Sess. (2004) that all mental health programs, services, and supports, including inpatient psychiatric services, be provided to individuals with psychiatric disabilities or diagnoses or emotional disorders in a holistic, comprehensive continuum of care, that consumers be treated at all times with dignity and respect, that public resources be allocated efficiently and produce the best positive outcomes, and that direct services overseen and provided by the agency of human services and its community partners be client- and family-centered and -driven, accessible, and culturally competent, and it furthermore reaffirms the guiding principles identified therein for purposes of the Futures Plan.

(c)  Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the remaining balance of the $1 million appropriated in Sec. 271(a)(3) of No. 215 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006) shall remain subject to the requirements as directed in Sec. 4 of  No. 147 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006), subdivisions (a)(2)(A)(ii) and (a)(2)(B), for use by the department of buildings and general services for the agency of human services to continue planning, designing, and permitting associated with the creation of a new inpatient facility to replace the current Vermont state hospital, except such funds expended for consulting services described in subsection (d) of this section.

(d)(1)  The committee on committees of the senate and the speaker of the house are authorized to retain one or more consultants to:

(A)  compile, analyze, and review the planning that has been done to date for replacing the services now provided at the VSH, including a review of the feasibility of recertifying the existing state hospital and obtaining authority to secure federal funding to support its operations;

(B)  investigate and make recommendations on the necessary steps to secure federal funding for the development of one or more regional or satellite psychiatric facilities in conjunction with other general hospitals and institutions for mental diseases, or stand-alone facilities, or both;

(C)  review and make recommendations regarding the feasibility of all the options available to the state for providing inpatient psychiatric services, taking into account the capacity needed; the time required to achieve the delivery of services; projected capital and operational costs; assurances of quality of care; the extent to which there will be integration with the chronic care initiative and integration of mental health care with overall health care; and the alternatives of public, private, public-private partnership, or other combination of operation and ownership structures; and

(D)  analyze the impact of the population involved in the criminal justice system on the needs, services, and costs of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization.

(2)  The committee on committees of the senate and the speaker of the house are authorized to spend up to $100,000.00 from the appropriation referenced in subsection (c) of this section to accomplish the purposes of this subsection. 

(3)  The consultant or consultants shall report preliminary progress on or before September 1, 2007  jointly to the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations and Institutions Committees, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and the House Human Services Committee.  A final report shall be submitted to the above mentioned committee chairs, and to the Joint Fiscal Committee, the Mental Health Oversight Committee, the Secretary of Administration, and the Secretary of Human Services no later than November 1, 2007.

Sec. 2.  EFFECTIVE DATE                         

This act shall take effect from passage.

NEW BUSINESS

Second Reading

Favorable with Proposal of Amendment

H. 274

An act relating to adult foster care.

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator Racine for the Committee on Health and Welfare.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill by adding Secs. 3 and 4 to read as follows:

Sec. 3.  32 V.S.A. § 6061(5)(C) is amended to read:

(C)  without the inclusion of: any gifts from nongovernmental sources other than those described in subdivision (B) of this subdivision (5); surplus food or other relief in kind supplied by a governmental agency; or the first $6,500.00 of income earned by a full‑time student who qualifies as a dependent of the claimant under the federal Internal Revenue Code; the first $6,500.00 of income received by a person who qualifies as a dependent of the claimant under the Internal Revenue Code and who is the claimant’s parent or disabled adult child; or payments made by the state pursuant to chapters 49 and 55 of Title 33 for foster care, or the first $6,500.00 of payments made by the state or an agency designated in section 8907 of Title 18 for flexible family funding or difficulty of care payments made to an individual for the support of an eligible person with a developmental disability as defined in subdivision 8722(2) of Title 18 for adult foster care or to a family for the support of an eligible person with a developmental disability.  If the commissioner determines, upon application by the claimant, that a person resides with a claimant who is disabled or was at least 62 years of age as of the end of the year preceding the claim, for the primary purpose of providing attendant care services (as defined in section 6321 of Title 33) or homemaker or companionship services, with or without compensation, which allow the claimant to remain in his or her home or avoid institutionalization, the commissioner shall exclude that person’s modified adjusted gross income from the claimant’s household income.  The commissioner may require that a certificate in a form satisfactory to the commissioner be submitted which supports the claim.

Sec. 4.  EFFECTIVE DATE

Sec. 3 of this act shall apply to claims filed in 2008 and after.

(Committee Vote: 6-0-0)

(No House amendments.)

H. 400

An act relating to recapture of health insurance benefits by group C members of the Vermont state retirement system.

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator Coppenrath for the Committee on Government Operations.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill by adding a new Sec. 1a to read:

Sec. 1a.  3 V.S.A. § 477a(d) is amended to read:

(d) Any member may elect to have included in the member's creditable service all or any part of the member's service as a permanent state employee for which the member received no credit. Any member who so elects shall deposit in the annuity savings fund by a single contribution the amount or amounts determined by the system's actuary to be cost neutral to the system. Any group F member may elect to increase his or her retirement allowance for years of service as a group E member prior to January 1, 1991, for 1-1/4 percent of average final compensation to 1-2/3 percent of average final compensation. A member making an election under this subdivision shall deposit in the annuity savings fund by a single contribution an amount computed at regular interest to be sufficient to provide at normal retirement an annuity equal to 1-2/3 percent of the member's average final compensation multiplied by the number of years of service for which the member elects to increase his or her retirement allowance.  Any group F member who is actively employed on June 30, 2007, and who was a member of the group B plan prior to June 30, 1998, may elect to convert some or all of his or her group B service to group C service.  A member making an election to convert shall deposit in the fund by a single contribution an amount computed by the actuary to pay for the additional liability incurred by the increase in benefits between the group B and the group C plan multiplied by the number of years of service which the member elects to convert.

 (Committee Vote: 5-0-0)

(No House amendments.)

PROPOSAL OF AMENDMENT TO H. 400 TO BE OFFERED BY SENATOR ILLUZZI

Senator Illuzzi moves that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill by adding a new Sec 3. to read as follows:

Sec. 3.  3 V.S.A. § 455(a)(11)(C) is amended to read:

(C) "Group C members" shall mean employees classified under (B) of subdivision (9) of this subsection who become members as of the date of establishment, any person who is first included in the membership of the system on or after July 1, 1998, any person who was a group B member on June 30, 1998 who was in service on that date, and any person who was a group B member on June 30, 1998 who was absent from service on that date who returns to service on or after July 1, 1998.  Any person who was a group B member prior to June 30, 1998 shall have his or her service in the group B plan calculated as group C service upon retirement.

House Proposal of Amendment

J. R. S. 22

Joint resolution urging Congress to enact S. 340 the “Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act of 2007” (the AgJOBS Act of 2007).

The House proposes to the Senate to amend the resolution by striking the resolution in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Whereas, agricultural operations in Vermont require many labor intensive jobs, and

Whereas, in search of individuals to accept these jobs, Vermont’s agricultural managers have turned to foreign workers, and

Whereas, the federal H-2A program allows foreigners to enter the United States for seasonal employment in the agricultural sector, and

Whereas, for many years, Vermont apple orchards and other seasonal farm operations have availed themselves of the H-2A program with great success, and

Whereas, unlike the apple harvesting season that lasts for a limited period of time in the late summer and early fall, dairy farming continues 365 days a year, and

Whereas, there are now approximately 2,000 foreign workers who are essential to their employer’s business operations and who are employed year-round on dairy farms across the state, and

Whereas, the current H-2A program addresses the need for seasonal agricultural labor but fails to meet the needs of year-round dairy operations, and

Whereas, in order to enable these dairy farm employees and similarly situated persons in other states to remain on the job, S.340 and H.R.371, the AgJOBS Act of 2007, have been introduced in the United States Congress, and

Whereas, the provisions of the AgJOBS Act provide that undocumented foreign workers who satisfy further work requirements, have not committed serious criminal offenses, apply within the time limits provided, and are otherwise admissible under the provisions of federal immigration law, may be granted blue card status, and

Whereas, foreign workers granted blue card status would be considered “lawfully admitted for permanent residence” except for the receipt of certain federal benefits, and they would be afforded procedural rights and protections with respect to their employment, and

Whereas, the act contains provisions for a foreign worker who has been granted blue card status to gain permanent resident status subject to the completion of additional work requirements, the payment of any federal income taxes owed, and the absence of any major criminal activity, and

Whereas, the act also makes provisions for the residence of spouses and minor children, and

Whereas, the burden of producing documentation to qualify for an upgraded residency status would rest with the foreign worker, and

Whereas, the act also makes important revisions to the current H-2A temporary worker program that provide employment preferences for American citizens and green card holders while affording procedural rights and minimum working conditions for the covered foreign workers, and

Whereas, S.340 and H.R.371 represent a fair balancing of the interests of the agricultural community, American workers, foreign workers, and the federal government’s legitimate need to protect the integrity of our nation’s borders, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly urges Congress to enact either S.340 or H.R.371, the “Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act of 2007” (the AgJOBS Act of 2007), and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

Joint Resolution for Action

J.R.H. 22

Joint resolution designating Sunday, April 15, 2007 as generosity Sunday in Vermont.

(For text of Resolution, see Senate Journal for April 12, 2007, page 450)

NOTICE CALENDAR

Favorable

H. 528

An act relating to approval of amendment to the charter of the city of Montpelier.

Reported favorably by Senator Doyle for the Committee on Government Operations.

(Committee vote: 5-0-0)

(No House amendments)

Favorable with Proposal of Amendment

H. 137

An act relating to the restoration of a department of mental health and a commissioner of mental health.

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator White for the Committee on Government Operations.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill as follows:

First:  By adding a new Sec. 13a to read as follows:

Sec. 13a.  18 V.S.A. § 7401 is amended to read:

§ 7401.  Powers and duties

Except insofar as this part of this title specifically confers certain powers, duties, and functions upon others, the commissioner shall be charged with its administration.  The commissioner may:

* * *

(17)  ensure the provision of services to children and adolescents with a severe emotional disturbance in coordination with the commissioners commissioner of education and social and rehabilitation services the commissioner for children and families in accordance with the provisions of chapter 43 of Title 33;

(18)  ensure the development of community‑based prevention and early intervention services for children and adults and ensure the coordination of these services throughout all parts of the public and private health care delivery system;

(19)  ensure the development of chronic care services, addressing mental health and substance abuse, for children and adults and ensure the coordination of these services with other chronic care initiatives, including the Blueprint for Health, and the care coordination and case management programs of the office of Vermont health access;

(20)  ensure the coordination of mental health, physical health, and substance abuse services provided by the public and private health care delivery systems;

(21)  ensure the coordination of public mental health and substance abuse services with mental health and substance abuse services offered through the private health care delivery system, including services offered by primary care physicians.

Second:  In Sec. 23, after the last sentence, by adding a new sentence to read as follows:

The report shall address prevention, early intervention, and chronic care health services for children and adults, coordination of mental health, substance abuse, and physical health services, and coordination with all parts of the health care delivery system, public and private, including the office of Vermont health access, the office of alcohol and drug abuse, and primary care physicians.

(Committee Vote: 5-0-0)

(For House amendments, see House Journal for February 15, 2007, page 195.)

H. 526

An act relating to education quality and cost control.

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator Collins for the Committee on Education.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

* * * Findings * * *

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS

(a)  Vermonters expect excellence from their schools and are justifiably proud of the state’s system of public education.

(b)  Vermont has demonstrated a commitment to equity in public school financing.  Nevertheless, the state cannot sustain public school spending at its present rate of growth. 

(c)  The general assembly acknowledges the commitment of school boards to managing costs under difficult circumstances.

(d)  The effect that a school funding system has on taxes should be more transparent.

(e)  It is important both to understand what Vermonters expect of their schools (including the expectations that are beyond the provision of traditional academic subjects) and to quantify the cost drivers that are causing increases in school budgets.  It is equally crucial to identify ways for schools to deliver these services more effectively. 

* * * Excess Spending Threshold; Weighted Membership * * *

Sec. 2.  32 V.S.A. § 5401(12) is amended to read:

(12)  “Excess spending” means:

(A)  the per‑equalized pupil amount of:

(i)  the district’s education spending, plus any amount required to be added from a capital construction reserve fund under 24 V.S.A. § 2804(b); minus

(ii)  the portion of education spending which is approved school capital construction spending or deposited into a reserve fund under 24 V.S.A. § 2804 to pay future approved school capital construction costs, including that portion of tuition paid to an independent school designated as the public high school of the school district pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 827 for capital construction costs by the independent school which has received approval from the state board of education, using the processes for preliminary approval of public school construction costs pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 3448(a)(2);

(B)  in excess of 125 121 percent of the statewide average district education spending per equalized pupil in the prior fiscal year, as determined by the commissioner of education.

Sec. 3.  16 V.S.A. § 4011(h) is amended to read:

(h)  Annually, by October 1, the commissioner shall send to school boards for inclusion in town reports and publish on the department website the following information:

(1)  the statewide average district spending per equalized pupil for the current fiscal year, and 125 121 percent of that average spending; and

* * *

Sec. 4.  16 V.S.A. § 4010(c) is amended to read:

(c)  The commissioner shall determine the weighted long‑term membership for each school district using the long‑term membership from subsection (b) of this section and the following weights for each class:

Grade Level Weight

Elementary 1.0

Secondary 1.25 1.13

* * *

Sec. 5.  Sec. 6.  16 V.S.A. § 4010(h) is added to read:

(h)  The commissioner shall evaluate the accuracy of the weights established in subsection (c) of this section and, at the beginning of each biennium, shall propose to the house and senate committees on education whether the weights should stay the same or be adjusted.

Sec. 6.  SCHOOL DISTRICTS; ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING HIGH SPENDING

On or before January 15, 2008, the commissioner of education shall explore, analyze, and report to the general assembly regarding the reasons school districts exceed the excess spending threshold defined in 32 V.S.A. § 5401(12) and shall develop recommendations, including criteria, for exempting school districts from the consequences of exceeding the threshold in certain circumstances, including when:

(1)  The district has high costs for special education services, the department has recommended ways to lower the costs, the district has followed the recommendations, and the district still exceeds the threshold; or

(2)  The district has high costs for special education services, the department has been unable to identify ways to lower the costs, and the district still exceeds the threshold; or

(3)  The district pays tuition for all or most of its students to attend one or more schools outside of the district and the commissioner determines that it is not possible for the district to make alternative arrangements that would enable it to stay beneath the high spending threshold.

* * * School Construction * * *

Sec. 7.  16  V.S.A. § 3448(a)(2) is amended to read:

(2)  Approval of preliminary application.

(A)  When reviewing a preliminary application for approval, the commissioner shall consider:

(i)  regional educational opportunities and needs, including school building capacities across school district boundaries, and available infrastructure in neighboring communities;

(ii)  economic efficiencies;

(iii)  the suitability of an existing school building to continue to meet educational needs; and

(iv)  statewide educational initiatives and the strategic plan of the state board of education.

(B)  The commissioner may approve a preliminary application if:

(A)(i)  The project or part of the project fulfills a need occasioned by:

(i)(I)  conditions which threaten the health or safety of students or employees;

(ii)(II)  facilities which are inadequate to provide programs required by state or federal law or regulation;

(iii)(III)  excessive energy use resulting from the design of a building or reliance on fossil fuels or electric space heat; or

(iv)(IV)  deterioration of an existing building;

(B)(ii)  The need addressed by the project cannot reasonably be met by another means; and

(C)(iii)  The proposed type, kind, quality, size, and estimated cost of the project are suitable for the proposed curriculum and meet all legal standards.

* * * Superintendents * * *

Sec. 8.  SUPERINTENDENTS; VACANCIES; COMMISSIONER’S ROLE

On or before July 15, 2007, the commissioner of education and the state board of education shall submit a report to the senate and house committees on education concerning their respective responsibilities under 16 V.S.A. § 241(a), 16 V.S.A. § 261, and state board rules 3220 through 3241, all of which are set forth below.  In particular, the report shall address:

(1)  The protocol followed when the commissioner is notified of a vacancy or impending vacancy in a superintendent’s position.

(2)  The inquiries made by the commissioner or board concerning the process by which the supervisory union advertises for and selects a new superintendent and the qualifications of was selected.

(3)  The independent inquiries made by the commissioner or board concerning the qualifications of the superintendents considered or selected by the supervisory union board.

(4)  The nature and frequency of the “advice” provided pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 241(a).

* * * Qualifications of Business Managers * * *

Sec. 9.  FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND SUPERVISORY UNIONS

(a)  The commissioner of education, in consultation with the Vermont superintendents’ association, the Vermont school boards association, and the Vermont association for school business officials shall:

(1)  Examine the systems of financial management currently used by Vermont school districts and supervisory unions.

(2)  Examine the range of training and expertise currently held by persons responsible for the financial management of Vermont school districts and supervisory unions.

(3)  Examine and assess the training or credentials required of financial managers employed by public schools or school districts in other states.

(4)  Develop proposals to ensure that all school districts consistently use uniform, high‑quality financial management practices.

(b)  On or before November 15, 2007, the commissioner shall submit a report to the senate committee on education outlining the results of the examinations required in subdivisions (a)(1)–(3) of this section and recommending proposals to ensure uniform, high quality financial management practices as required in subdivision (a)(4) of this section.  The report shall include both an analysis of the budgetary impact, if any, of the commissioner’s proposals and drafts of any proposed legislation. 

* * * Mandates * * *

Sec. 10.  MANDATES; REPORT

The legislative council and the joint fiscal office, in consultation with the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont superintendents association, the Vermont principals’ association, the Vermont – national education association, the Vermont council for special education administrators, superintendents, principals, school board members, and school personnel shall examine the requirements placed on local school districts resulting from state legislation, board rules, and interagency cost shifts implemented since January 1, 1997.  The examination will identify and quantify associated process requirements, staffing effects, and financial implications.  Legislative council and the joint fiscal office shall prepare a report for submission to the senate and house committees on education on or before December 1, 2007.

* * * Special Education Costs; Study * * *

Sec. 11.  SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES PROVISIONS; STUDY

As a continuation of the fine work contained in the Report on the Provision of Special Education Services issued in January 2001, the joint fiscal office, in consultation with the secretary of human services, the commissioner of education, the commissioner of employment and training, the Vermont superintendents’ association, the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont principals’ association, the Vermont – national education association, the Vermont council for special education administrators, the Vermont coalition for disability rights, the Vermont parent information center, and other members of the education community, shall study how the agency of human services, the department of education, and the department of employment and training should provide for special education services for eligible persons under 22 years of age in school or out of school.  They shall also:

(1)  assess the extent to which school districts have absorbed service costs for special needs children that were historically paid by other service providers, including the extent to which:

(A)  children formerly admitted to institutional care are now being provided services through special education;

(B)  costs now found in school budgets historically were part of the budgets of nonschool agencies;

(C)  costs now found in school budgets would be attributable to nonschool agencies; and

(D)  Medicaid funds are being used to provide services;

(2)  examine the interagency agreement regarding coordination of special education services entered into pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(12) to determine if services are currently provided and paid for in the most appropriate and cost-effective ways;

(3)  prepare an estimate of the number of children with individualized education plans (IEP) who lose health care coverage through Dr. Dynasaur because of nonpayment of a premium and the financial impact on schools because of the disenrollment in Dr. Dynasaur; and

(4)  report its findings and recommendations to the general assembly on or before November 1, 2007.

* * * High Special Education Costs; Departmental Review * * *

Sec. 12.  16 V.S.A. § 2974 is amended to read: 

§ 2974.  SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAM; FISCAL REVIEW PANEL OF HIGH SPENDING DISTRICTS

(a)  Annually, the commissioner shall report on:

(1)  special education expenditures by school districts;

(2)  the rate of growth or decrease in special education costs, including the identity of high and low spending districts;

(3)  outcomes for special education students;

(4)  the availability of special education staff;

(5)  the consistency of special education program implementation statewide; and

(6)  the status of the education support systems in school districts; and

(7)  a statewide summary of the special education student count, including:

(A)  the percentage of the total average daily membership represented by special education students statewide and by school district;

(B)  the percentage of special education students by disability category; and

(C)  the percentage of special education students by in‑district placement, day placement, and residential placement.

(b)  The commissioner shall review high spending districts to determine Annually, but no later than October 1, based on the previous year’s expenditures, the commissioner shall notify high spending districts that they have been designated as such.  Each designated district shall respond within 60 days with an explanation of its spending to address whether:

(1)  costs could be decreased while still providing needed special education services;

(2)  the district made reasonable efforts to provide, purchase, or contract for goods or services that are the most reasonably priced yet appropriate for its students;

(3)  the district reported special education expenditures appropriately; and

(4)  all expenditures identified as special education expenditures were properly attributed to eligible students and the services for which the expenditures were made were included in the students’ individualized education plans;

(5)  the district’s special education staff‑to‑child count ratios were higher than the state average, including a breakdown of ratios by staffing categories;

(6)  the number of students in more restrictive environments such as day programs and residential placements was above the state average of special education students in those placements and, if so, information about the categories of disabilities for the students in such placements;

(7)  the district was in compliance with section 2901 of this title; and

(8)  if the district’s proportion of its average daily membership who are enrolled in special education exceeds 20 percent of the statewide average, any unusual community characteristics contributed to this condition.

(c)  The commissioner shall review low spending districts to determine the reasons for their spending patterns and whether those districts used cost‑effective strategies appropriate to replicate in other districts.

(d)  For the purposes of this section, a “high spending district” is a school district that, in the previous school year, spent at least 20 percent more than the statewide average of special education eligible costs per average daily membership.  Also for the purposes of this section, a “low spending district” is a school district that, in the previous school year, spent no more than 80 percent of the statewide average of special education eligible costs per average daily membership.

(e)  For the purpose of advising the commissioner and providing technical assistance to school districts, the state board shall appoint a fiscal review panel of seven people who have expertise in the areas of data collection and finance, and in the fields of special education, business or health and human services. The panel, at the request of a district school board, shall work with the department of education to review spending patterns and provision of special education services in the district and provide advice to the school board and staff concerning cost control mechanisms and cost‑effective practices. In addition, the panel shall make recommendations on what types of data to collect for purposes of the annual report required under subsection (a) of this section, and how the data should be analyzed.  If, after a review of a high spending district’s explanation, the commissioner finds that the explanation is not satisfactory, the commissioner shall conduct a performance review to include one or more of the following:

(1)  a review of the district’s special education student count patterns over time;

(2)  a review of the district’s compliance with section 2901 of this title and any unusual community characteristics that exist;

(3)  an on‑site review to examine a sample of special education student records and related financial and business records;

(4)  a review of the district’s compliance with federal and state requirements to provide a free appropriate public education to eligible students; and

(5)  a review of other factors.

(f)  Within 60 days of completing the performance review, the commissioner shall notify the district in writing of his or her findings and whether the results of the performance review are satisfactory or not satisfactory.  If the results of the performance review are not satisfactory to the commissioner, the commissioner and the school district jointly shall develop a remediation plan.  The district shall have two years to make progress on the remediation plan.  At the conclusion of the two years or earlier, the district shall report its progress on the remediation plan. 

(g)  Within 30 days of receipt of the district’s report of progress, the commissioner shall notify the district that its progress is either satisfactory or not satisfactory. 

(1)  If the district has failed to make satisfactory progress by the conclusion of the remediation plan, the commissioner shall notify the district that in the ensuing year the district will be subject to a withholding of up to 10 percent of its special education expenditures reimbursement under section 2963 of this chapter.

(2)  If the district has failed to make satisfactory progress by the end of the year in which a portion of the special education expenditures reimbursement was withheld under subdivision (1) of this subsection, the commissioner shall notify the district that in the ensuing year the district will be subject to a withholding of up to 20 percent of its special education expenditures reimbursement.

(3)  If the district has failed to make satisfactory progress by the end of the year in which a portion of the special education expenditures reimbursement was withheld under subdivision (2) of this subsection, the commissioner shall notify the district that the state board of education will impose a plan of remediation. 

(4)  If the district makes satisfactory progress under any subdivision of this subsection, the commissioner shall release to the district any special education expenditures reimbursement withheld for the prior fiscal year only.

(h)  Within 10 days after receiving the commissioner’s notice under subdivisions (g)(1), (2), or (3) of this section, the district may challenge the commissioner’s decision by filing a written objection to the state board of education outlining the reasons the district believes it made satisfactory progress on the remediation plan.  The commissioner may file a written response within 10 days after the district’s objection is filed.  The board may give the district and the commissioner an opportunity to be heard.  The board’s decision shall be final.  The state shall withhold no portion of the district’s reimbursement before the state board issues its decision under this subsection.

* * *

* * * Governance * * *

Sec. 13.  EDUCATION GOVERNANCE; COMMISSIONER OF
  EDUCATION; COUNCIL ON EDUCATION GOVERNANCE

(a)  In May 2006, the commissioner of education released a white paper outlining a plan for changing education governance in Vermont and initiating a year of facilitated public discussions throughout the state.  The final discussion session is scheduled for May 2007. 

(b)  On or before December 1, 2007, the commissioner shall submit a report to the house and senate committees on education that describes insights obtained from the recently concluded public engagement process.  The report shall consider other governance models and shall also outline any proposals the commissioner wishes to make for restructuring governance in Vermont.  Any proposed changes should foster increased cooperation and collaboration among public schools and provide support for the new demands and expectations placed on schools by an increasingly technological and global society. 

(c)  The commissioner shall request the following organizations to submit, jointly or independently, recommendations regarding the future governance of school districts:  the Vermont superintendents’ association, the Vermont school boards association, the Vermont principals’ association, and the Vermont national education association.  The commissioner shall include the recommendations in the report to the house and senate committees on education required in subsection (b) of this section.

* * * Small Schools Grants * * *

Sec. 14.  16 V.S.A. § 4015(e) is amended to read:

(e)  In the event that a school or schools which have received a grant under this section merge in any year following receipt of a grant, and the consolidated school is not eligible for a grant under this section or the small school grant for the consolidated school is less than the total amount of grant aid the schools would have received if they had not combined, the consolidated school shall continue to receive a grant for three years following consolidation.  The amount of the annual grant shall be:

(1)  In the first year following consolidation, an amount equal to the amount received by the school or schools in the last year of eligibility.

(2)  In the second year following consolidation, an amount equal to two‑thirds of the amount received in the previous year.

(3)  In the third year following consolidation, an amount equal to one-third of the amount received in the first year following consolidation.

* * * Education Property Tax Implications; Study * * *

Sec. 15.  EDUCATION PROPERTY TAX IMPLICATIONS; STUDY

The commissioner of taxes shall study the impact that the education property tax on homestead and nonresidential property has on various groups of taxpayers.  The commissioner shall design the study and select the groups of taxpayers in consultation with and upon the advice of the department of education and the joint fiscal office.  The commissioner shall submit a written report detailing the results of the study to the general assembly on or before January 15, 2008.    

* * * Effective Dates * * *

Sec. 16.  EFFECTIVE DATES

(a)  Secs. 2 through 4 of this act shall take effect on January 1, 2010 and shall apply to budgets beginning in the 2010–2011 school year.

(b)  Sec. 12 shall take effect on July 1, 2008 and the commissioner’s annual review shall begin with expenditures made during the 2008-2009 academic year. 

(c)  All other sections of this act shall take effect on July 1, 2007.

(Committee Vote: 5-0-0)

(For House amendments, see House Journal for April 3, 2007, page 488.)

House Proposal of Amendment to Senate Proposal of Amendment

H. 360

An act relating to employment protection and training period for Vermont National Guard members.

     The House proposes to the Senate to amend the proposal of amendment by striking Sec. l, and  inserting a new Sec. 1 to read:

Sec. 1.  21 V.S.A. § 491(a) is amended to read:

(a)  Any duly qualified member of the “reserve components of the armed forces,” of the ready reserve, or an organized unit of the national guard who leaves a position other than a temporary position in the employ of any employer, for state active duty or to receive military training with the armed forces of the United States and who notifies the employer of the date of departure and date of return for purposes of military training 30 days prior to the date of departure or as soon as practical after being called into state service by the governor shall be granted absence with leave with or without pay.  If the employee provides evidence of the satisfactory completion of the training immediately upon return and is still qualified to perform the duties for such position shall upon request be entitled to 15 days of leave of absence in any calendar year for the purpose of engaging in military drill, training, or other temporary duty under military authority.  A leave of absence shall be with or without pay as determined by the employer.  Upon completion of the military drill, training, or other temporary duty under military authority, the employee shall be reinstated in that position with the same status, pay, and seniority, including seniority that accrued during the period of absence.

ORDERED TO LIE

S. 70

An act relating to empowering municipalities to regulate the application of pesticides within their borders.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading of the bill.

S. 102

An act relating to decreasing the percentage to determine a school district’s excess spending.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading of the bill.

S. 118

An act relating to fiscal review of high spending districts and special education.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading of the bill.

Concurrent Resolutions for Action

     The following concurrent resolutions have been introduced for approval by the Senate and House and will be adopted automatically unless a Senator or Representative requests floor consideration before the end of the session of the next legislative day.  Requests for floor consideration in either chamber should be communicated to the Secretary’s office and/or the House Clerk’s office, respectively.


S.C.R. 18

     Senate concurrent resolution honoring Robert “R.J.” George for his outstanding public service as the Newport City fire chief.

S.C.R. 19

Senate concurrent resolution congratulating Reeve Lindbergh and Nathaniel Tripp on their designation as the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce’s 2007 Citizen of the Year.

H.C.R.  101

House concurrent resolution congratulating Katie Sullivan on being named the 2007 Vermont Teacher of the Year

H.C.R.  102

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006–2007 University of Vermont Catamounts men’s basketball team on an outstanding season

H.C.R.  103

House concurrent resolution honoring former speaker of the house Stephan Morse for his outstanding leadership as president of the Windham Foundation

H.C.R.  104

House concurrent resolution in memory of U.S. Army Sgt. Carlton A. Clark of Sharon

H.C.R.  105

House concurrent resolution in memory of Donald Maley

H.C.R.  106

House concurrent resolution honoring Gary Palmer of Georgia for his exemplary public service as the St. Albans City fire chief

H.C.R.  107

House concurrent resolution congratulating the Burr and Burton Academy Bulldogs 2007 Division II championship boys’ ice hockey team

H.C.R.  108

House concurrent resolution commending the members of the Act 133 technical advisory committee for the outstanding work in response to its mandate under the act


H.C.R.  109

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2007 Crossett Brook Middle School Odyssey of the Mind state championship team

H.C.R.  110

House concurrent resolution in memory of former Windsor town clerk Gloria Tansey

H.C.R.  111

House concurrent resolution congratulating the Windsor High School Yellow Jackets Division III championship girls’ basketball team

H.C.R.  112

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Mt. Abraham Union High School Eagles Division II championship baseball team

H.C.R.  113

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Mt. Abraham Union High School Eagles Division II championship girls’ field hockey team

H.C.R.  114

House concurrent resolution congratulating Carol Eckels on being named the 2007 Vermont Elementary Principal of the Year

H.C.R.  115

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2007 Woodstock Union High School Wasps girls’ Nordic and boys’ alpine state championship ski teams

H.C.R.  116

House concurrent resolution congratulating Taylor Horn on winning the 2007 Vermont championship of the National Geographic Bee

CONFIRMATIONS

The following appointments will be considered by the Senate, as a group, under suspension of the Rules, as moved by the President pro tempore, for confirmation together and without debate, by consent thereby given by the Senate.  However, upon request of any senator, any appointment may be singled out and acted upon separately by the Senate, with consideration given to the report of the Committee to which the appointment was referred, and with full debate; and further, all appointments for the positions of Secretaries of Agencies, Commissioners of Departments, Judges, Magistrates, and members of the Public Service Board shall be fully and separately acted upon.

Robert Britt of South Burlington - Member of the Vermont Economic Development Authority - By Sen. Condos for the Committee on Finance.  (1/25)

David E. L. Brown of Shelburne - Member of the Board of Libraries - By Sen. Giard for the Committee on Education.  (1/31)

John Rosenthal of Charlotte - Member of the Board of Libraries - By Sen. Doyle for the Committee on Education.  (1/31)

Kenneth Gibbons of Hyde Park - Member of the Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency - By Sen. McCormack for the Committee on Finance.  (2/2)

David R. Coates of Colchester - Member of the Municipal Bond Bank - By Sen. Condos for the Committee on Finance.  (2/21)

Paul. Beaulieu of Manchester Center - Member of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency - By Sen. Maynard for the Committee on Finance.  (2/21)

Susan Davis of Shelburne - Member of the Travel Information Council - By Sen. Mazza for the Committee on Transportation.  (3/13)

Jireh Billings of Bridgewater - Member of the Capitol Complex Commission - By Sen. Campbell for the Committee on Institutions.  (3/14)

John LaBarge of South Hero - Member of the Travel Information Council - By Sen. Mazza for the Committee on Transportation.  (3/21)

Susan K. Blair of Colchester - Alternate Member of the Parole Board - By Sen. Mazza for the Committee on Institutions.  (3/23)

William J. Pettengill of Guilford - Member Parole Board - By Sen. Coppenrath for the Committee on Institutions.  (3/23)

Jeffrey Larkin of Duxbury - Member of the Travel Information Council - By Sen. Scott for the Committee on Transportation.  (3/28)

Barbara Zander of St. Johnsbury - Family Court Magistrate - By Sen. Cummings for the Committee on Judiciary.  (4/4)

Celine F. Champine of Newport Center - Member of the Community High School of Vermont Board - By Sen. Starr for the Committee on Education.  (4/6)

Richard Fraser of South Ryegate - Member of the Community High School of Vermont Board - By Sen. Nitka for the Committee on Education.  (4/6)

Blanche Kelley of Rutland - Member of the Community High School of Vermont Board - By Sen. Giard for the Committee on Education. (4/6)


PUBLIC HEARING

     Wednesday, April 18, 2007 - Room 11 - 5:00-7:00 p.m.  Re:  Retirement-Cost of Living Adjustment - Senate and House Committees on Government Operations.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us