Rep Stuart Reports on Legislative Accomplishments of Past Four Years

by Vermont State Representative Valerie Stuart

Over the last 8 years as West Brattleboro's State Representative, I have worked on legislation that supports youth and families; strengthens education; protects Vermont's agricultural and arts sectors; combats climate change; fosters economic development; generates jobs, particularly in the renewable energy sector; and raises revenue. This report outlines what I have accomplished, primarily during the last 2 bienniums. To find out more about my vision for Vermont, please go to valeriestuart.com, email me at vstuart@leg.state.vt.us or call 802-257-0249 to speak with me.

Launching the Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone

As a House Commerce and Economic Development Committee member for the past 4 years, I have spearheaded initiatives that grow jobs, generate revenue and employ Vermonters. By broadening our tax base and giving Vermonters marketable job skills, I believe we can create a brighter future for all Vermonters.

During the last 2 bienniums, my committee wrote a law that appropriated $50,000 to the Bennington County Regional Commission to enable Bennington to grow its capacity to partner with Windham County and the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) and develop a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Southern Vermont. The Zone gives our counties the ability to apply jointly for federal funding available to help rural states strengthen their economies. It also facilitates our counties’ ability to:

  • Establish an integrated investment strategy for retaining and recruiting businesses to Southern Vermont,

  • Implement a joint employee and business recruitment and marketing program, and

  • Create a structure for a public-private partnership that will aggregate capital and promote investment in small and medium size businesses in our region.

I also spearheaded an economic development marketing campaign for Vermont. The General Assembly invested $750,000 in the program targeted to make young people who attend college here, take part in apprenticeships, or obtain trade certificates aware of the roughly 4,000 jobs currently open in Vermont. The marketing campaign also is designed to attract new residents to our state by positioning Vermont as a great place to work, play, raise a family and found a business.

First-Time Home Owners Loan, Blockchain and Cyber Security

To help first-time home buyers address one of the biggest challenges young people in particular face — coming up with a down payment — House Commerce passed a First-Time Home Owners Loan Program 4 years ago. This $5,000 loan, issued by the Vermont Housing and Finance Agency, provides a $5,000 loan that gets repaid when the buyer sells the home.

House Commerce also passed several bills that put Vermont on the map as a leader in innovation. One created two new corporate structures: Personal Information Protection Companies (PIPC) and Blockchain Based LLCs that position Vermont as a haven for software companies using Blockchain technology. Blockchain uses a cryptographically secure global system similar to the Internet to permit the exchange of information and assets in a cyber secure manner. Major banks, Fortune 500 companies, and governments around the world are exploring the uses of Blockchain. The bill creates corporate structures favorable to companies that use this technology to avoid the fast growing disruption caused by cyber thieves and hackers.

Recognized as a Climate Change Champion by VBSR

I believe passionately in protecting the earth for the benefit of generations to come. I also believe we can grow Vermont’s economy in the Climate Change Solutions sector. Our state generated 17,000 renewable energy jobs in 2014 — more jobs per capita than any other state in the Union. Several years ago at the Vermont Council on Rural Development's (VCRD) Climate Economy Summit, I generated the idea for a national conference I knew would position Vermont nationally as a leader in this sector. This past fall, the VCRD brought my idea to life with the three-day “Catalysts of the Climate Change Economy,” which attracted over 500 entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders from across the country to the University of Vermont in Burlington. Attendees benefited from lectures, renewable energy site tours, and lively conversations about this rapidly growing sector. My advocacy as a lawmaker on such climate change initiatives won me recognition by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility as a Climate Solutions Champion.

As a creative person, I recognized early on the arts sector could become an economic driver for our state in terms of both tourism and the potential economic clout of creative enterprises. In 2012, the cumulative compensation (including benefits) generated by Vermont’s creative sector was over $158 million. The creative economy also generated $14.7 million in state and local taxes. In 2014, over 7,300 Vermonters were employed in jobs in or related to this sector.

As a House Commerce member, I presented our Committee’s bill on the House floor that supports the Vermont Creative Network (VCN) with a $50,000 appropriation. The funding is being used to build a communications, advocacy and capacity-building entity for the arts sector.

Gun Sense Vermont Recognized My Role In Sensible Gun Laws' Passage

We passed several common sense gun laws in response to the ongoing mass shootings that plague our nation. One of the bills expands background check requirements to unlicensed (or private) firearm sales.

A second law empowers a State’s Attorney or the Attorney General’s office to petition a court to issue an order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they pose a danger to themselves or others.

A third law provides protection to victims of domestic assault by permitting, in specified circumstances, a law enforcement officer to remove a firearm from the scene if it's necessary to protect the victim, the officer or another person.  

Gun Sense Vermont awarded me a Certificate of Appreciation for my staunch support of this legislation.

Protecting Voters’ and Women’s Rights

Following President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity's demand that the state release sensitive voter information, Secretary of State Jim Condos requested that the legislature write a law that would make it illegal for his office to release any such data to any government agency. This bill protects all information not listed on Vermont’s publicly available voter list.

We also passed an excellent bill that extends pre-existing legal protections against workplace harassment to independent contractors, volunteers, freelancers, and interns. The bill makes it illegal for employers to force employees to sign away the right to file sexual harassment lawsuits in pre-employment contracts. This bill is near and dear to me; our daughter Lauren was sexually assaulted in Washington, D.C. while she was a student at American University. The incident occurred several years before she graduated and went overseas. Now, as a 1LT in the United States Army, she assists those dealing with the trauma caused by everything ranging from sexual harassment and sexual assault to rape after having completed the military’s SHARP training.

Helping Lower Income Vermonters and National Guard Members

As part of a tax bill we passed a provision that will progressively phase out the tax on Social Security benefits over the next 3 years for individuals making $45,000 or less and for couples making $60,000 or less. This is great news for low-income Vermonters of all ages!

To help Vermonters afford medications vital to their well-being, we passed a law that directs Vermont’s Agency of Human Services (AHS) to work with a Canadian wholesaler to identify the drugs Vermonters spend the most money on. AHS would then purchase such drugs on the Canadian market where profits are capped by the federal government. Vermont pharmacies that choose to participate in the program would be able to supply such drugs at a lower cost.  The federal government must grant permission before medications start crossing the border; if the  bill passes federal muster it will save Vermonters millions of dollars.

In an ongoing quest to provide more affordable higher education for all Vermonters, we passed a bill that provides National Guard members with free tuition at our state colleges as well as the University of Vermont. Tuition assistance for Vermont’s National Guard members is long overdue. Our goal is to encourage and prepare these service women and men for the nearly 400 of 3,500 positions currently available in the Vermont National Guard.

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3rd Annual 22-4-22 Suicide Awareness March

  1LT Lauren Stuart Mabie can be seen in the middle in navy blue, Valerie holding the pink "22" sign, and her husband John to the left in navy.

1LT Lauren Stuart Mabie can be seen in the middle in navy blue, Valerie holding the pink "22" sign, and her husband John to the left in navy.

Shortly after 1LT Lauren Stuart Mabie and her mother Brattleboro, Vermont State Representative Valerie Stuart led the 3rd Annual 22-4-22 Mile March on Sunday, July 8, 2018, WKVT (92.7) Reporter Olga Peters interviewed Lauren about PTSD and the high rate of suicide among American veterans.

The goal of the March, partially underwritten this year by the Brattleboro Retreat Uniform Service Program (Purple Heart Sponsor) and supported by the Warrior Connection (Gold Star In-Kind Sponsor) is to reduce veteran suicide by building public awareness about this tragic public and mental health issue. The event's objective is to encourage soldiers who suffer from PTSD and the physical and mental health ravages of war to step forward and get the support they deserve. Removing the stigma associated with seeking help is a key goal of programs offered by the March's sponsors.

Click here to hear more from 1LT Stuart Mabie on why she has come back to Brattleboro for the last 3 years to host the March.  Olga also interviewed Lauren's mother State Representative Valerie Stuart about the event. You can hear Valerie's perspective on this important public and mental health issue by clicking here.

State rep. sees tackling poverty, jobs as the key to a thriving Vermont

Incumbent Valerie A. Stuart campaigns for her fifth term in state's House of Representatives

Originally published in The Commons issue #466 (Wednesday, July 4, 2018). This story appeared on page A1. Also available via Commons Online

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By Olga Peters/The Commons

BRATTLEBORO—Workforce development. Economic development. Revenue generation. Those three topics are what drive state Rep. Valarie A. Stuart, D-West Brattleboro, to run for her fifth term in the Vermont House.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s about people feeling good about their lives. Being able to feed their families. Going to a job. Pulling a Paycheck. Being able to put a house over their heads,” she said.

It’s what Stuart believes many people want. But, she added, the state needs “to make it accessible.”

She feels sad witnessing Vermonters struggle with poverty.

“We need to rebuild the middle class in this country — it’s always been our hope,” she said.

Stuart represents the Windham 2-1 district — essentially, West Brattleboro. She currently serves on the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development.

Stuart remembers even in high school wanting to do something to change the world and improve people’s lives. Working in the Legislature is a way to do that.

“It’s a big challenge but it’s also a big opportunity,” she said.

“This has been eight years of almost graduate school in civic engagement,” she joked.

If reelected, Stuart wants to continue her work focusing on job creation, workforce development, and increasing the state’s — and Vermonters’ — income. It’s a lack of these items that Stuart sees as the root cause of many sad struggles for Vermont families.

Vermont needs to support the people who live here with better wages, Stuart said. The state also needs to attract and keep young people.

Attracting new Vermonters while supporting current residents is one reason Stuart also supports the state’s efforts to market Vermont.

According to Stuart, she helped spearhead a marketing program targeting young people living in the state. The program built students’ understanding of skills employers are seeking now so that students can access the estimated 4,000 jobs currently open across the Green Mountains.

In a news release launching her campaign, Stuart wrote that during her four terms on the House Commerce Committee, she “has helped secure $750,000 in funding to create and, then, implement the campaign targeted to attract new residents to Vermont.”

According to Stuart, the campaign aims to stake out Vermont’s territory as an “innovative, green, and clean” state where people want to build businesses and raise families.

In her view, she brings multiple talents to her work in the Legislature. These include innovative thinking, creativity, and problem solving. She feels qualified to communicate with others and to be there for voters.

She worked in the design world and marketing before moving to Vermont. Collaborating on projects with other creative people strengthened her own natural problem-solving and creative skills, Stuart said.

“I love this work,” she said. “There are a lot of challenges and you’ve got to be ready for that.”

Stuart said she comes from “humble roots.” She thanks her parents and husband for their support.

If voters send her back to Montpelier in January, Stuart hopes to also continue her work in other areas, such as childcare, economic development, and climate change.

Vermont needs to make childcare accessible and affordable, she said. That way, women can work and be sure their children are in safe hands. Stuart noted that she herself worked full-time when her children were small.

“I’d really like it to be easier for other people than it was for me,” she said.

Workforce development is a key issue for Stuart. She wants to create programs for students that would help them receive the education and training they need to flourish in the job market.

According to Stuart, Vermont has 3,000 recent graduates who, every year, stay in Vermont.

“But they don’t get the good jobs,” she continued. “They get the retail jobs at Price Chopper and such. It’s good for people to have jobs, but we want people to have jobs that pay a livable wage.”

Stuart seeks to develop apprenticeship programs and certificate programs that offer alternatives to a four-year college degree.

“Not everybody needs a four-year degree, but there are a lot of people who could get a two-year degree,” she said.

During her four years serving on the House Education Committee, Stuart said she and her colleagues worked on ways to help first-generation college students access higher education or career technical training. The funding formula, however, needs “to be recalibrated.”

Until the “dust settles” from Act 46 and other education issues, Stuart doubts the state will make funds for technical training a priority.

“All problems are solvable with enough time and energy and focus, but we’ve been focusing on the problem of enrollment going down and costs going up,” she said.

Reducing the harmful impacts of climate change is also close to Stuart’s heart.

Stuart said she serves on the House’s Climate Solutions Caucus. She says she has generated the ideas behind “several successful initiatives” around climate change.

For example, she claims credit for generating the idea that eventually became the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s three-day “Catalysts of a Climate Change Economy” conference held last year in Burlington.

According to Stuart, the summit drew 500 investors and entrepreneurs to the state last fall.

Her work around finding solutions to climate change won her recognition from Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility as a “Climate Change Solutions Champion” last year.

“I came up with the idea for such a national conference at one of the VCRD’s Climate Economy Summits several years ago as a way to position Vermont as a renewable energy job creator and leader,” Stuart said. “Vermont generated 14,000 jobs in that sector in 2014 — that was more jobs per capita in the renewable energy sector than any other state in the Union had created at the time.”

“As a marketing person,” Stuart continued, “I knew it would be a great way to attract the kinds of clean, green, renewable energy companies and entrepreneurs we want to live here or move to Vermont and establish businesses.”

Stuart’s work on helping to build gun legislation in the current session also received recognition. Gun Sense Vermont awarded her a Certificate of Appreciation.

Stuart also expresses pride for her efforts to raise awareness of the economic disparities in the state.

Early in her legislative career, Stuart supported a concurrent House/Senate Poverty Awareness Day Resolution. Then governor, Peter Shumlin, proclaimed April 1 as Poverty Awareness Day in Vermont.

“I believe that the best way to safeguard our state’s future is to grow our population, create jobs, and educate our workforce to do the jobs of today and tomorrow,” she concluded.

Stuart is running in one of several contested races in Windham County. In the Aug. 14 Democratic Primary, she squares off against newcomer Emilie Kornheiser.

When asked how Stuart and her opponent may be similar, or, how they may be different, Stuart had little to say.

“I’m not really sure, I don’t really know what Emilie’s platform is,” Stuart said.

According to Stuart, she had never heard from her opponent until she learned Kornheiser would run against her.

Stuart guessed she and Kornheiser agree on core issues around childcare and workforce development.

Still, Stuart said that Kornheiser’s platform isn’t clear. “I’m not really sure what she proposes to do.”

For her part, Stuart said that she does everything with her whole heart and gives it all she’s got. Creative thinkers are needed to solve the issues facing Windham County and Vermont, she added.

“I think my core values are really strong,” Stuart said.

Stuart said she and her family moved to Vermont 24 years ago. She relocated to the Green Mountains from New York State because she viewed it as a “beacon of hope.”

“I’m a brave person and I’ve always fought hard for the things I believe in,” she said.

2018 Re-Election Campaign Launched

BREAKING NEWS – June 2018

West Brattleboro State Representative Valerie Stuart Launches Campaign for Fifth Term; Stuart’s Vision for Vermont Focuses on Workforce and Economic Development, Job Creation and Revenue Generation, Marketing Vermont, and Combatting Climate Change

  Eight-year veteran West Brattleboro State Representative   Valerie Stuart as she launches her campaign for a fifth term.

Eight-year veteran West Brattleboro State Representative Valerie Stuart as she launches her campaign for a fifth term.

Brattleboro, Vermont — West Brattleboro State Representative Valerie A. Stuart is pleased to announce her campaign for a fifth term as West Brattleboro’s State Representative in Montpelier. Stuart looks forward to continuing to champion workforce and economic development, job creation and revenue generation. Another one of the eight-year veteran lawmaker's priorities is continuing to fund an economic development marketing campaign to promote Vermont — both internally and externally. As a member of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee Stuart helped spearhead an economic development marketing campaign for Vermont. It's goals: to keep young people in the Green Mountain State by building their awareness of and giving them the skills necessary to fill the 4,000 jobs currently open here in Vermont. The economic development marketing plan also is designed to build public awareness outside of Vermont about what a great state Vermont is to work, play, raise a family and "grow" a business.  

Over her 4 years on the House Commerce Committee, Stuart has helped secure $750,000 in funding to create and implement the campaign. A key goal of the campaign is to retain Vermonters in state and attract new residents to the Green Mountain State.  Positioning Vermont as a leader in innovative high-tech and renewable energy sectors is another goal of the program.  

As a member of the House’s Climate Solutions Caucus, Stuart has helped launch several successful initiatives. Notably, she generated the idea that culminated in the Vermont Council on Rural Development's 3-day "Catalysts of a Climate Change Economy, held at the University of Vermont in Burlington last fall. The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) transformed Stuart's idea into a national innovation summit that attracted 500 entrepreneurs, thought leaders and investors from across the nation to the “Queen City“ in the fall of 2017.

"I came up with the idea for such a national conference at one of the VCRD’s Climate Economy Summits several years ago. I figured it would be an excellent way to position Vermont as a renewable energy job creator and leader. Vermont generated 14,000 jobs in that sector in 2014 -- that was more jobs per capita in the renewable energy sector than any other state in the Union had created at the time.  As a marketing person, I knew it would be a great way to attract the kinds of clean, green renewable energy companies and entrepreneurs we want to live here or move to Vermont and establish businesses. I believe that the best way to safeguard our state’s future is to grow our population, create jobs and educate our workforce to do the jobs of today and tomorrow."

“Everywhere we turn in Vermont, we confront a revenue shortage. As a people, we have a tremendous amount of creativity and energy. We need to harness those assets by investing in initiatives that position Vermont for a stronger economic future. As a member of the House Commerce Committee for the past 4 years, my goal has been to spearhead and champion initiatives that grow jobs, generate revenue and employ Vermonters so everyone can earn a livable wage, put a house over their families’ heads and put food on their table. I believe creating jobs, generating revenue and giving Vermonters marketable job skills are the best ways for us as lawmakers to create a brighter future for all."  Stuart’s climate change solutions work garnered her the honor of being named a Climate Change Solutions Champion by Vermont Businesses for Responsibility (VBSR) this past fall. 

This past session, Stuart was an out-spoken proponent for sensible gun legislation. Her leadership role as an advocate for protecting our children and all public spaces so people can go about their daily lives in peace paid off in the sensible gun legislation Governor Scott recently signed into law. Gun Sense Vermont awarded Stuart a Certificate of Appreciation in gratitude for her advocacy for common sense gun laws. 

Representative Stuart’s seat mate during the past 2-terms on the House floor, South Burlington Representative Martin LaLonde, was the lead sponsor of many of the gun control provisions the House championed, the Senate ultimately approved, and the Governor signed into law. “In my view, one of our key responsibilities as lawmakers is protecting those we serve. I am proud of the sensible gun legislation we passed. It strikes a balance between helping protect Vermonters and honoring Vermont’s heritage of hunting and responsible gun ownership."

Representative Stuart began her tenure in the legislature in 2011 as a member of the House Education Committee . She served on that committee for 4 years. During that time, the House Education Committee spearheaded ground-breaking legislation, including Universal Pre-Kindergarten, the Free Breakfast and Lunch Programs, Dual Enrollment, the Flexible Pathways Initiative, the Vermont Strong Scholarship Program, and the use of solely “green” cleaning products in Vermont’s schools to reduce children's exposure to harmful chemicals. 

Stuart also is known in the General Assembly for her ongoing advocacy on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. During the first few years she served in the House, she spearheaded a concurrent House/Senate Poverty Awareness Day Resolution. Governor Shumlin, Vermont’s Chief Executive at the time, proclaimed one day in May of 2013 and another in May of 2014 as Poverty Awareness Day.  Her goal was to build awareness in the General Assembly that the shift of income upward in American society was an insidious and ongoing trend. “I read a prediction in The New York Times over two decades ago by M.I.T. economist Lester Thurow forecasting that the shift of income upward would have deleterious effects on America and our middle class. Sadly, we have seen his  prediction come true. Our nation’s middle class continues to shrink as our country’s underclass grows. America’s billionaires now control an obscene percentage of America's wealth. This is a trend that is eating away at America’s greatest strength  --  the middle class. Our shared values as a nation and a strong middle class have always been the backbone of our country. We are a nation of immigrants where all people deserve the right to a good life. I believe we must all work together to make the beacon of hope and possibility America has always represented shine bright again.”

For more information about Representative Stuart, her background and her legislative accomplishments go to valeriestuart.com . She also welcomes you to contact her with your thoughts and concerns. Email: vstuart@leg.state.vt.us or Phone: 802-257-0249. You also can "friend" her on Facebook.