Feb. 16 - Feb. 19:
The Vermont House is right into the heart of the session with one week til the Town Meeting Day break.
A number of new bills were introduced which puts us close to the 300 mark of total House bills brought to the floor. Bill introduction should start slowing down rapidly as we are also approaching three weeks from “crossover” where bills have to be passed and sent to the Senate for their “look” and consideration.
One bill of note that was passed in the House this week was a bill relating to Agritourism which I think is of great value to our District. We have a great amount of agriculture, in many forms, and this Bill, if fully passed and signed by the Governor (which I fully expect will happen) will give great protection to all of our farmers. It removes liability if a customer is on their property and gets injured in any way.
Like many things, agriculture has certain levels of risk with machinery, animals, terrain etc. This would put customers on notice that they assume all the risk when participating in any activity on a farm.
As for my committee, the House Corrections and Institutions Committee, we had another very busy week of testimony as we continue to build on the Capital Bill.
We heard from folks from Public Safety as we consider upgrades to the Vermont Police/Fire Academy in Pittsford.
We also spent a bit of time on further review of Stormwater issues with the Agency of Natural Resources.
Another big piece of testimony was given for the “ask” on requested monies dedicated to supporting capital projects at our State University system with UVM and the Vermont State Colleges.
A very interesting testimonial was given on the property and buildings on the now closed, Southeast Correctional Facility in Windsor. It was originally slated to be populated by Fish and Wildlife, but they have declined to use it. So, we are faced with finding another tenant within the state or selling the property.
This one ought to be interesting as we move forward.
We are now in the seventh week of the 2021 legislative session. There will be the traditional recess the first week of March for Town Meeting. We will then be back in session until the middle of May when we will adjourn for the year. Of course this is all subject to change. Remember last year we had a special session late in the summer, so it all depends on the circumstances.
In all likelihood we will not be meeting in person at the Statehouse for the remainder of this session. Hopefully that will be a different story next January.
There is a bill in Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife that if enacted will have an affect on all of us. It is H.175-the bottle bill. This bill proposes to increase the deposit from five cents to ten cents. It has been at five cents since the deposit program was started around 1970. The bill also proposes to expand the deposit-redemption system to include water bottles, wine bottles, and containers for all non carbonated and carbonated drinks except for milk and other dairy products.
We are taking testimony and discussing this bill, but as of this writing no action or vote has been taken.
Thank you for your time.
Feb. 2 - Feb. 5:
It certainly has been very snowy this past week, but your Vermont House and Senate have been aggressively meeting via Zoom! Things are really starting to pick up rapid pace with many bills introduced and very engaged Committee meetings.
COVID-19 Vaccine rollout is still the hottest topic out there. We are still in the midst of those 75 and above able to sign up and get shots. So far, more than 2/3 of the 46,000 Vermonters in that age group have signed up.
Another hot topic is the 1099-G mix up that occurred with unemployment documents sent to folks. The latest update from the Department of Labor (DOL) has the following happening: DOL will mail a pre-paid/postage paid envelope to everyone that received these 1099’s and is asking for a recall of all of them. 1099’s will then be re-issued to everyone. Also, everyone affected will receive fraud/credit monitoring at no cost to them. All claimants should be notified by DOL in an e-mail.
On Friday, the House passed H.18 “A bill that proposes to include simulated conduct with the definition of sexual conduct for purposes of the crime involving sexual exploitation of children.” This bill seeks to tighten down and include other acts that are ultimately an endangerment to our children. This bill had bi-partisan support, as it should have.
Last, my Committee, House Corrections and Institutions continues to take a plethora of testimony on the Vermont owned buildings for renovations and potentially, even some new construction. One possible new construction project is a $11.6 M proposal to Complete the Middlesex Therapeutic Community Residence. In 2011, Hurricane Irene wiped out the old Waterbury State Hospital and residents were transitioned to other facilities throughout the state. This facility would be for those no longer in need of inpatient care but still need serious intervention in mutual crisis. The key is that this, like all other projects need to fit into the Capital Bill, which our committee constructs, and stay within budgets projected by the Governor (which was a no increased taxes budget from last fiscal year).
We have just finished the fifth week of the 2021 legislative session.
Many bills are still being introduced on a daily basis, and are being assigned to the appropriate committees.
My assigned Committee, Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife has received bills that are related to water quality, wetlands, herbicides, pesticides, hearing protection in relation to firearms, septic systems, beverage container laws, intentional release of balloons, licensing related to trapping, and Act 250.
The Act 250 bill is a 45 page bill that is more streamlined than the one that was vetoed last biennium. This bill is an attempt to update and modernize Vermont’s land use and development law that was enacted in 1970. It will be a time consuming process that I am sure will draw much attention as we work through this bill.
The Governor also gave his Budget Address to the Joint Assembly. He proposed a 6.8 billion dollar fiscal year 2022 budget using a 210 million dollar one time federal funding for economic recovery. There would be no increase in taxes, fees, or cuts in essential services.
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