Rep. Sibilia: Week 10 of the 2019 Vermont legislative session

Busy weeks and late nights as we pass the halfway mark on the session- a number of bills of interest are moving through the legislature…

Bills of note

S.169 An act relating to firearms procedures has passed the Senate and is headed to the House. The bill does five things:

  1. makes technical changes for possession and transfer of large capacity magazines with regard to law enforcement, shooting contests and transfer through wills.
  2. adds parent-in-law and sibling-in-law to definition of immediate family
  3. creates a 24 hour waiting period for transfers of handguns which require background checks
  4. for extreme risk protection orders- allows a health care provider to notify a law enforcement officer when the provider believes in good faith that disclosure of the information is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public
  5. adds reporting requirements for extreme risk protection orders

If I am asked to vote on this, I will carefully consider what – if any – language the House Judiciary Committee puts forward on this bill for constitutionality and the rationale for creating an inconsistent 24 hour waiting period regulation for handguns – but not for rifles and shotguns. Folks can email me at lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us regarding their thoughts on the bill or changes you think are needed if the bill passes. It is not necessary to send multiple messages if you are simply asking me to support or oppose the legislation.

Public Hearing Regarding S.169, Firearms Procedures The Vermont General Assembly will hold a public hearing on S.169, Firearms Procedures, on April 2, 2019. The hearing will be held at the State House in Montpelier from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The hearing is being held by the House Committee on Judiciary. Details

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“Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.”

John McCain

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S.106 An act relating to establishing the Municipal Self-Governance Program has advanced in the Senate. On Tuesday, the Senate Government Operations Committee unanimously voted out S.106, the bill to establish a pilot program for self-governance authority at the local level. As voted out of committee, the bill would:

  1. establish a five-year pilot program to allow up to ten cities or towns to make a proposal for self-governance within the territorial boundaries of their municipality;
  2. create a 12-member Municipal-Self Governance Commission that would recommend participating pilot program towns and cities representing a range of populations, geographic locations, and governance structures, to the legislature;
  3. allow applicant cities and towns to develop a proposal for self-governance that does not conflict with the U.S. or Vermont constitutions or federal laws and listed state laws (such as crimes and criminal procedure, public records, open meeting, banking, securities and insurance) and that provides for the health, safety, and welfare of the applicant’s population.

Vermont League of Cities and Towns is working hard to see passage of S.106 this year.

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H.460 An act relating to sealing and expungement of criminal history records has passed the House and moved to the Senate. The bill would allow those convicted of certain nonviolent crimes, who have served their sentences and met the conditions for expungement (five years not re-offending, restitution made, expungement serves the best interests of justice) to have their record cleared through expungement and sealing of the record.

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Climate Change: New report on Renewable energy and a proposed increased fuel tax

To end our week, the Energy and Technology Committee was provided an overview of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Programs and how we are progressing on those goals.

Vermont utilities are required to provide programs that reduce fossil fuel use by their customers. This is called a Tier III requirement under Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standards.

We have made a lot of progress on renewable energy transformation in Vermont and that work continues.

To make progress on Vermont’s emissions reductions goals (burning less fossil fuel), two areas are being focused on in many policy committees and by many advocates:

  • reducing fossil fuel uses for heat through weatherization and
  • increasing the amount of electric vehicles and public transportation options on the road.

Next week we will take up H.439 An act relating to the Home Weatherization Assistance Program. This bill would double an existing tax on heating fuels, kerosene, and other dyed diesel fuels, coal and natural gas (raising an additional $4.6 million annually) to provide double funding for an existing program, the Home Weatherization Assistance Program . We are hearing that the expected increase in cost for an average household is $15 per year. We are also expecting to see the municipal and non-profit exemption on fuel tax removed in a revenue bill next week raising an additional $850,000 for weatherization.

This will probably be billed as a new carbon tax by opponents, and I would not agree with that assessment. I believe we need to reduce fossil fuel use as quickly as possible and by managing the negative impacts of that change – to poor and rural residents and businesses – as best as we can.

Unfortunately, while I do understand how removing the fuel tax exemption will impact municipalities, I do not yet have a clear enough sense of how many of my constituents would benefit by qualify for additional weatherization assistance from this proposed increase in funding, (or how many qualify now and aren’t taking advantage of the programs), or how this might impact farms, forestry and other rural industries that are already under great economic duress in our changing global economy. For that reason I will likely have to vote no next week.

It is my hope that this bill, if it passes, will have more policy work done in the Senate to quantify these impacts with more specificity so we can understand if we have struck as careful a balance as possible.

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House Rural Economic Development Working Group

ACT 250 REFORM This week the Rural Economic Development Working Group – a non partisan group of Representatives in the House that focuses on issues impacting rural Vermont – heard from Representative Amy Sheldon, the Chair of the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife on the Act 250 reform bill in her committee. The bill is a committee bill and is currently on version 6.1. Visit here for all related information on the bill.

ACT 250 REFORM This week the Rural Economic Development Working Group – a non partisan group of Representatives in the House that focuses on issues impacting rural Vermont – heard from Representative Amy Sheldon, the Chair of the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife on the Act 250 reform bill in her committee. The bill is a committee bill and is currently on version 6.1. Visit here for all related information on the bill.

Rep. Sheldon said that she hopes to have the bill pass the House this session and make its way over to the Senate for consideration in 2020. She broke down the bill into three major buckets:

Forest Fragmentation: The House bill in the last legislative session promoting continuous forest blocks was not passed by the Senate.  

Modifying the Criteria for Act 250 Jurisdiction:  Modifies air quality criteria to include climate change and greenhouse gases.  Also establishes an energy standard. The proposal to subject any development that is above 2,000 feet to Act 250 Review (down from 2,500) has been modified to exempt forestry and agricultural practices under 2,500 feet.   Identifying critical resource areas in which any development would be subject to Act 250 review is still under consideration.  .

Governance and Appeal Process:  The proposal to establish the Vermont Environmental Review Board for appeals of Act 250 permits reflects the committee’s intent to have citizen review be primary, and give the Natural Resources Board flexibility to adapt to the needs of the different regions.  Amy posited that most of the issues with delays are a result of local permitting issues and not Act 250.  ANR has been working to streamline its permitting process and has now put things into 5 major areas of focus.  

Rep. Sheldon said that the current version of the bill does not give forestry operations the exemptions for which they are looking, and the current exemption in the law for slate quarries is in question.

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In the news:

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How a bill becomes a law infographic

What steps does a bill have to take to get passed? Download the House Clerk’s Infographic on how a bill becomes a law in Vermont

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Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us

Kind regards,

Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

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