Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday March 19th

Yesterday, even as the statehouse focused its attention on the marriage bill, there were three other events of interest to the VBA. First, Defender General Matt Valerio presented his office's budget to the Senate Appropriations Committee. His request was uncontroversial and actually the conversation drifted off into other areas. As a nice compliment to Matt, the Chair asked him, somewhat facetiously, if he would do a seminar for other agency heads on management of budgets! Matt was followed by Vermont Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Avildsen who spoke about FY 2010 funding for VLA through the Agency of Human Services. VLA doesn't appear directly in the state's budget but AHS contracts with VLA to provide representation to state hospital committed people,etc. The balance of the state funding goes for general poverty law work. VLA has been funded since 2001 at just about $1 million. In the last three years, VLA with VBA support has lobbied for and won small COLAs of $25,000 each year. VLA's state funding is always matched with equal federal funding; so, that meant an increase of $150,000! Then the rescissions of 2008 came and VLA lost a combined total of $170,000; they're now back at 2001 funding. Eric made his most passioned plea to the committee that I've ever seen him make. His most imporatnt point was that the administration made the rescissions without ever consulting with him on caseloads, etc. The committee heard him and said "we'll take care of you". It was some reassuring news in these bad times.
While this was going on, Paul Hanlon was across the hall in Senate Finance witnessing their 7-0 vote to send S. 86, the Uniform Trust Code to the full Senate for passage. It's the beginning of the ennd of a two year project to get our trust laws updated.

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