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Thank you for visiting my website.  You may subscribe to postings using the "Follow by Email" app at the far right.  You can email me using the  "Contact Info" link in the Site Map to the right of this column.  I welcome your input. Many blog posts have been published in The Charlotte News and in The Citizen



Re-elect
Representative
Mike Yantachka
for
Charlotte-Hinesburg

Experienced! Effective!

Democratic Values!

I have worked hard for you in Montpelier for the past 12 years. My record of support for access to health care, working families and children, a healthy environment and working landscape, workers' rights, social equity for BIPOC and LGBTQ Vermonters, safe communities, and renewable energy resources is among the strongest in the Vermont Legislature. The right to reproductive freedom is essential and must be protected.

      Civic involvement:

Ø Charlotte resident since 1985
Ø Charlotte Central School Board member (1996 - 2002 )
Ø Justice of the Peace (1993 - 2018 )
Ø Chair of the Charlotte Democratic Committee (1997 – 2007)
Ø Chair of the Chittenden County Democratic Committee (2006 – 2009)
Ø Active member of Charlotte Community Partners
Ø Greenup Day volunteer
Ø Senior Center volunteer
Ø  Treasurer of the Vermont Disaster Recovery Fund Board 

 I have been a leader on legislation to:

ü expand access to mental health services

ü raise the minimum wage

ü support childcare and Pre-K opportunities

ü promote local agriculture and forestry

ü enact reasonable firearm regulations

ü promote social equity principles

ü require greenhouse gas reductions to combat climate change and save Vermonters money.

Please vote for me in the Democratic Primary to continue this work as your State Representative.

Voting begins June 25 for the August 9 Democratic Primary 

Register to vote at your Town Clerk's office or at mvp.vermont.gov

Paid for by Mike Yantachka for State Representative, 393 Natures Way, Charlotte, VT 05445

802-233-5238


       
        Rights And Democracy
Endorsements 



     

I will be voting for Mike Yantachka to continue as our state representative because he has consistently worked for the public interest, a healthy environment, and a sustainable local economy. He has kept us informed of upcoming legislative issues and has worked well with other community leaders.” – Louis Cox

“I'm voting for Mike because he has done such a great job representing Charlotte since he first became Charlotte's representative. He has been a champion of clean water, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and a supporter of healthy lives for all Vermonters. He is honest, hard-working, and does a great job keeping Charlotters informed of what is happening in the legislature.”

– Ruah Swennerfelt

“Mike has been our representative for much of the time I have lived in Charlotte. I am not a single issue voter, yet I agree with those who felt he made a big mistake with the abortion issue and I respect the fact that he changed his thinking on the topic when presented with a multitude of facts and opinions from his constituents. … I feel Mike is the strongest and most knowledgeable candidate and deserving of our vote again this August and in November.”      

  -- Frances Foster

"Mike Yantachka has represented Charlotte in Montpelier for 12 years. He is committed, accessible, and fully engaged in a range of important issues. … He is a respected legislator and an effective advocate on Charlotte’s behalf. Mike has earned reelection to the Vermont House."

--Peter Richardson


My answers to the Q&A of The Citizen 7/12/2022

 

Could you summarize your position on abortion rights and Prop 5, the Reproductive Liberty Amendment? If your position has evolved, please explain?

I support the right of a woman to make her own reproductive choices.  I voted for H.57 (Act 47 of 2019) preserving the right to abortion. I also voted for Prop 5 that year.  In February 2022 as Prop 5 came up for a vote, there was more controversy around this constitutional amendment that gave me concern. I felt the amendment was overly broad and voted against Prop 5.  As a result of the criticism I received on this issue from my constituents and the arguments presented as to why Prop 5 is important to guarantee reproductive autonomy without interference from the state, I reevaluated my rationale and came to the conclusion that I should have voted for Prop 5 the second time. Reproduction is a personal choice that cannot or should not be interfered with, trusting that each woman is capable of determining what is best for her.

 

How far should the state go in addressing climate change? What initiatives do you support that will move the state’s energy grid toward sustainable sources of energy? Do you support the Clean Heat Standard, and if so, how will you ensure that middle-income Vermonters aren’t hit with massive increases in home heating costs and weatherization requirements? Did it concern you that lawmakers seemed unable to explain how the standard would affect Vermonters financially?

Climate change is an existential threat to our lives and to the future of humanity.  It is happening now and will only get worse without effective measures to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We have to do all we can to reduce GHGs, 75% of which are generated primarily from fossil fuel use in transportation and heating in Vermont. In contrast our electricity generation is 65% renewable and is on track to become 75% clean by 2032. We must take measures like weatherization of our homes and using electricity driven heat pumps to reduce our heating dependence on fossil fuels, and we have to help Vermonters heavily dependent on personal transportation to move to more fuel-efficient vehicles, including EVs and hybrids.  Vermonters are already being hit hard by high and volatile fossil fuel prices.  The Clean Heat Standard is a way to help Vermonters transition to cleaner heating technologies with the assistance of fossil fuel suppliers. The CHS bill (H.715) tasked the Public Utility Commission and the Department of Public Service to define the criteria obligating fossil fuel suppliers to help with the transition.  The bill had special provisions to help inoculate low- and moderate-income households from untenable cost increases. The increased costs of fossil fuels due to the CHS, however, would be no where near the cost increases we have seen since February, which are generating huge profits for fossil fuel companies at the expense of the American people and economy.

 

What are the top three issues facing Charlotte and how would you propose to address them?

Charlotte is a very wonderful community but has very little to offer in affordable housing.  I hope that our village centers will be able to host more affordable housing options while maintaining our rural character. Charlotte residents will have an opportunity to present their vision of what Charlotte should be when the Community Heart and Soul project under consideration by the Charlotte Community Partners kicks off.

A second issue is maintaining a profitable agricultural base which helps maintain our rural character.  I sponsored the agritourism bill (H.89 – Act 31 of 2021) with 49 cosponsors - Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and Independents - which limits the liability of farms engaged in agritourism.  This provides another source of income from participating farms aside from their regular operations. Several farms in Charlotte are beneficiaries, including Philo Ridge and Sweet Roots Earthkeep Farmcommon.  Note: Earthkeep Farmcpmmon was misidentified by me in the printed version as Sweet Roots farm.

A third issue I think is important is making sure that every Charlotte resident has access to high-speed broadband.  The Vermont Community Broadband bill, which was developed by my committee in 2021, has a provision that allows small telecom providers like WCVT to have access to the federal funds for broadband.  I have been working with WCVT and our Selectboard to access funding to complete fiber cable buildout throughout the rest of Charlotte.

 

Currently, Vermont state lawmakers earn $774 weekly during the legislative session, with no health care benefits, for an annual base pay around $13,932. Do you think this prevents some Vermonters from serving and results in less diversity of thought in the Legislature? Should pay be increased?

Since legislators get paid only from January to about mid-May, it is difficult for younger individuals who must support a family to both serve and maintain a job that pays for living expenses.  A pay increase would help, but the challenge would remain depending on flexibility of employers or the ability of the individual to support themselves.

As for diversity of thought, the 150 members of the House put a lot of thought and study into issues and hear from every conceivable side of every issue through the committee process. Dialog is open and robust, and new ideas are exchanged not only formally but through the many caucuses one can participate in. I am a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, the Rural Economic Development Working Group, the Working Vermonters Caucus, the Social Equity Caucus, and the Tourism Caucus. All attempt to collaborate across demographic and party lines to propose policies that committees can consider.

 

The governor signed the Legislature’s new education formula into law, which could mean the Champlain Valley School District will have to face tough choices in coming years, either hefty spending increases, cuts to the education system, or a combination of both. How would you explain to a voter/taxpayer your support or opposition to this measure?

I voted for the bill that bases the new funding formula on pupil weighting.  This system assigns more weight to students who are from low-income families, English language learners, and small rural districts. This is because the cost of educating those students to their potential are higher. The Champlain Valley School District is fortunate to have fewer students who fall into those categories, and so will have a smaller cut of the education pie.  It is important to remember that 1) it is the constitutional responsibility of the state to provide an equitable education to all Vermont students, 2) the amount of education spending is determined at the local level with input from voters in each school district, and 3) it is the obligation of the state to provide the revenues necessary to fund the budgets that were passed by the voters.  Achieving equity is always challenging and requires give and take. Hopefully, it results in a system that is fair as well as beneficial to all students.

 

Why should voters pick you over your opponent?

I stand on my record.  I have represented my district of Charlotte and part of Hinesburg effectively for 12 years.  I believe I have represented it well and contributed to a better, safer, more prosperous, cleaner, and healthier Vermont. While my work as a member of the Energy and Technology Committee focuses on energy, the environment, and telecommunications, I have not neglected other needs and concerns of our people, especially working families.  The endorsements of Vermont Conservation Voters, Rights And Democracy, and the Vermont State Employees Association are acknowledgements of my work. With the support of the voters of Charlotte and Hinesburg I hope to continue this work for the next two years.

Legislative Report 5/16/2022 - Legislative session comes to a productive end

 

The last couple of weeks of a legislative session are marked by a frenzy of movement as bills pass back and forth between the House and Senate with proposals of amendment and further proposals of amendment. When agreement can’t be reached through the amendment process, conference committees are appointed to work out a compromise acceptable to both chambers.  This year the processes worked smoothly, and agreements were able to be reached on most of the key bills.  But there were a few disappointments.

 

The governor used his veto pen liberally. An earlier veto of a housing bill resulted in going back to the drawing board to remove or adjust provisions he objected to. Another was the ban on firearms in hospitals which contained a provision to close the “Charleston loophole,” which allowed a firearm to be purchased if a federal background check didn’t complete in 3 days.  Senate bill S.30 required a completed background check, regardless of how long it took, for a sale to be legal, which the governor felt was unacceptable.  A compromise was reached to permit a sale after 7 business days if the background check didn’t complete, and the governor signed the bill.

 

After a summer of negotiations involving legislators, representatives from the teachers’ and state employees’ unions, the State Treasurer and the Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, a pension bill was passed with the agreement of all parties to the negotiations.  The bill, S.286, passed with unanimous support in the House and Senate. Because the bill didn’t include allowing defined contribution plans (401(k)-type plans) for new employees, a last-minute demand of the governor, he vetoed it. The consensus is that including that option would undercut the sustainability of the pension system and bring us back to square one.  For the first time in Vermont history, the veto was overridden by unanimous roll-call votes in the House and Senate.

 

Two more vetoes, one on a Burlington charter change that required a just cause for evictions and another on the Clean Heat Standard bill, H.715, which my committee worked on, were upheld by a one vote margin.  With 100 votes required to override, both override efforts failed on a 99 – 51 vote, very disappointing on both counts. The governor objected to the Clean Heat Standard bill after it was passed by the House because the costs are unknown, and there would be no chance for the legislature to weigh in after the Public Utility Commission designed the program.  With that objection in mind the Senate amended the bill to require legislative review and approval of the program before it could start. He vetoed the bill anyway.

 

Vetoes aside, the session was very productive because of the huge influx of federal ARPA and infrastructure bill money.  Bolstered by strong state revenues, many programs were enacted using one-time federal money to help low- and middle-income Vermonters, children, students, and workers who have been struggling in the COVID-impacted economy. These appropriations included $95M for broadband; $70M for housing, including $20M for the “missing middle” and manufactured housing; $26M for mental health, developmental disability services, and home health care; $138M for workforce development including nursing education, skilled trades and worker re-training;  $35M for the Vermont state college system; $50M for IT systems modernization; $215M for climate initiatives including weatherization, municipal energy resilience, advanced electrical metering, and EV incentives; $104M for clean water initiatives including municipal water and wastewater systems; and many other services for a total budget of $8.3 billion.  In his closing remarks to the House just prior to our adjournment on Thursday evening of May 12, Governor Scott praised the legislature for its work for the people and the economy of Vermont.


As always, I welcome your emails (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com) or phone calls (802-233-5238).

Announcement 5/5/2022 - I am running for re-election to the House

 It has been my privilege to serve as the Charlotte-Hinesburg State Representative for the past 12 years.  I am taking this opportunity to announce that I will be running for re-election this year for another term.

During my time in office, my priority has always been to support policies that benefit Vermonters and make Vermont, and our community in particular, a better place to live and work. I believe in a strong democracy in which all citizens can participate through their right to vote. I have advocated for a livable minimum wage, for mental health benefits for first responders, and for sustainable pension funds for our hard-working teachers and state employees, as well as many other policies to support working families. During the worst days of the pandemic I helped many employees, small business owners and self-employed persons in Charlotte to access state and federal economic assistance programs. Through my work on energy and environmental policy, Vermont has taken significant steps to address climate change. However, much more needs to be done to further reduce our greenhouse gas emissions while helping folks save money on their heating bills and adapt to the changing weather patterns.

One of my most important responsibilities is keeping you informed through my bi-weekly Legislative Reports in our local newspapers and occasional Front Porch Forum posts. You can access those reports at my website, MikeYantachka.com, for a look at what I've been working on throughout my legislative career.

With your support I will continue working to support policies that will benefit the social fabric, the economic vitality, and the natural and lived environment of Vermont. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.


Rep. Mike Yantachka
Chittenden 5 District
 of Charlotte and Hinesburg

Legislative Report 4/18/2022 - Legislature takes responsibility for integrity and pension systems

 

Code of Ethics for state government

Back in 2015 the Center for Public Integrity gave Vermont a failing grade from the State Integrity Investigation ranking Vermont 50th out of 50 states in the category of ethics enforcement because it previously had no ethics body of any sort.  In response Vermont passed Act 79 of 2017, enacting its first comprehensive state ethics laws and creating the State Ethics Commission. This week the Legislature took another important step by passing S.171 which creates Vermont’s first statutory State Code of Ethics. Vermont was one of only five states without a code of ethics. In 2020, all six statewide elected officials, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer and Attorney General, called for passage of legislation to create a code of ethics for Vermont’s public servants in all three branches of government. 

 

The Code of Ethics applies to elected and appointed State officers, the General Assembly, members of the Judiciary and state employees. The Code of Ethics provisions include: 

    • disclosure and recusal for conflicts of interest; 
    • not using a state position, resources or information for personal or financial gain; 
    • limits on gifts to public servants; and 
    • limits on other outside and post-state employment.

S. 171 also provides protection for whistleblowers who report a Code of Ethics violation and mandatory training on the Code of Ethics. By setting out clear rules that public officials must abide by, Vermonters can have confidence in the integrity of our state government.

 

Pension systems find support

In 2021 the sustainability of the public pension systems covering state employees and teachers was called into question. State Treasurer Beth Pearce announced that the state pension funds for teachers and state employees were underfunded by about $3 billion and recommended that action be taken, including painful changes to pension benefits. These included increasing the retirement age, increasing employee contributions, and lowering the payouts. Teachers and state employees reacted immediately to protect the benefits they had earned by contacting legislators to plead their case. After a considerable amount of controversy within the Legislature and between the Legislature and the unions, a task force consisting of the Treasurer, legislators, and representatives of the unions and of the administration was created to address the problem. This task force worked throughout the summer of 2021 and hammered out a solution that all parties agreed to.

 

S.286, as passed by the Senate, implements the final recommendations of the task force which are expected to reduce Vermont’s long-term unfunded retirement liabilities for state employees and teachers by approximately $2 billion by prefunding other post-employment benefits (retiree healthcare), modifying the pension benefit structure and making additional State and employee contributions into the retirement systems. The bill contains a $200 million one-time General Fund appropriation to the state employees and teachers’ pension systems to pay down unfunded liabilities. An additional $13.3 million one-time Education Fund appropriation for FY 2022 is made to the Retired Teachers’ Health and Medical Benefit Fund to begin prefunding health care benefits for retired teachers. S.286 was voted out of the House Government Operations Committee and sent to the Ways and Means Committee for review. It is expected to pass and be sent to Governor Scott by the end of this week. 


As always, I welcome your emails (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com) or phone calls (802-233-5238).

Legislative report 4/4/2022 - Security requires being prepared

Having finished our work on bills initiated in the House, committees turned their attention to bills coming from the Senate and to other matters of importance. The Biden Administration recently issued a nationwide alert for Americans to elevate their cybersecurity posture in anticipation of a Russian response to economic sanctions imposed by the West because of the invasion of Ukraine. Vermont is vulnerable to such an attack on many fronts, and it is imperative to be prepared to both minimize vulnerabilities and respond quickly if an attack is successful. The House Energy and Technology Committee started taking testimony on the state of preparedness of critical IT infrastructure in both the public and private sectors. 

"It's not if, it's when, our systems get breached" is a line the House Energy and Technology committee heard repeatedly during our two days of testimony on Vermont’s cybersecurity defenses. Cyberattacks can take many forms: phishing scams, malware, spyware, data breaches, ransomware, and others. It is the responsibility of every entity that relies on a computer system connected to the internet to take the best precautions possible to prevent a cyberattack in the first place and to have a plan of action in case a breach is successful. In addition to hearing from leadership at the Agency of Digital Services and the Departments of Public Safety, Public Service, and Financial Regulation, we heard from UVM Health Network about lessons learned from the ransomware attack they experienced in October 2020. We also heard from representatives from Vermont utilities and banks about their cybersecurity efforts to prevent loss of confidential information, financial resources, and service. We explored how these organizations are working together to share best practices, intelligence on cyber threats, and how they are coordinating with state and federal governments to protect Vermonters’ data and infrastructure.

Banks and other financial institutions, regardless of size, are required by the federal government to maintain strong security measures for their systems and to have incident response plans in place.  The Vermont Bankers Association told us that inter-bank competition stops at the cybersecurity door, that there is excellent sharing of information among its members.  Vermont’s electric utilities are subject to National Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection requirements. Also, the Vermont Public Utilities Commission requires Vermont utilities to report annually on their cybersecurity programs.

Be alert and be aware

The testimony we heard gave us considerable assurance that strong protections are in place.  But it also brought to our attention that we as individuals also have a part to play. We need to know how we can be used and how to protect ourselves. The entry point for a breach is often accomplished by “phishing” a user, that is, sending an email or text that seems to be from a legitimate website, colleague, or company with a link or attachment to open. The result is the surreptitious installation of malware or spyware on the user’s computer or asking a user to verify a userid and password or other personally identifiable information to allow the hacker to bypass security in a system.  With the possibility of attacks coming from many directions, protection of our data and the systems we depend on is both a collective and a personal responsibility.  Here are some steps we can all take:

  • Never click on a link or open an attachment unless you are expecting it or can verify that the sender is who they purport to be.
  • If the email is from a company you have an account with, go to the website and log in there instead of clicking on a link.
  • Use two-factor authentication if possible. This is an option that requires not only a password, but a verification code sent to your phone or email account to successfully log in.
  • Maintain different passwords for different accounts.  Password managers like Lastpass, Keeper or Zoho can remove the anxiety of having to remember multiple passwords.

As always, I welcome your emails (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com) or phone calls (802-233-5238).