Week 17 of the Vermont Legislative Session

Constitutional Amendment Prop 5 has passed the Senate and House for the first time. It must pass a new legislatures House and Senate in 2021 and if it does will then go to a vote of the people on November 8, 2022

This week we took action on Clean Water and a Ban on Plastic Bags as well as Prop. 5 which seeks to enshrine reproductive freedom in the Vermont Constitution. I voted in favor of Prop 5 for two reasons. First, I do not support changing current access or current legality to women’s access to abortion. Secondly, the process for amending the Constitution is lengthy and ends with a vote by Vermonters. Vermonters will have the final say on this amendment.

S. 113 An act relating to the management of single-use products would ban retailers from providing single-use plastic bags beginning next year in July 2020.

Retailers will also be banned from providing cups and takeout containers made from styrofoam. Foam used in food packaged outside of Vermont and packaging for meat and fish is still legal.

The bill also requires that restaurants provide plastic straws to customers only upon request.

I voted yes to this bill for a number of reasons – first because I am a mom and our kids are going to be left dealing with cleaning up our environment. Second, I often grocery shop in Brattleboro and Wilmington both of which have this ban and the implementation has been unremarkable. Third, I have tremendous faith in the entrepreneurial spirit and believe any temporary minor challenges this bill may create for packaging materials is overcomable.

From the Lake Champlain Basin Atlas site

S.96 is a bill having to do with funding for clean water. I offered two amendments to the bill. The first amendment was to remove agriculture from a new regional water quality project program set up under the Agency of Natural Resources. The reason for this amendment was that the program will allow agricultural clean water projects to be undertaken outside of the Agency of Agriculture – potentially leading to challenges for farmers. Working with the Committee during the day, a process was put in place to address the potential disconnects and hazard.

The second amendment had to do with the financing of the clean water initiative which is coming out of the education fund. I wrote about this issue on my website last week: Ed financing and the accidentally-on-purpose gaps

We have a general fund and an education fund. Last year we changed how the education fund is funded.

From Joint Fiscal Office:
“Under prior law, the general fund transfer grew at the rate of inflation (except when it didn’t per legislative decision making). Under current law, the education fund receives whatever the sales & meals & rooms taxes generate (again, absent any legislative changes.) The general fund previously had to transfer money to the education fund regardless of how general fund revenues were performing – the education fund got the first bite. Now, both the education fund and the general fund will be impacted by how the dedicated revenues are performing.”

It has become clear there are (hopefully) major major unintended consequences to that change. I spoke to this issue on the floor and voted no. A number of my colleagues are defending using education fund dollars for non education fund expenses because we have also proposed to raise additional sales taxes which will go to the education fund. I hope to write more on this issue over the weekend, but for now I will say clearly:

The clean water proposal passed by the House is funded with revenues previously dedicated to the education fund. If S.96 passes, we will be taking funds out of the education fund for non-education expenses.

Since 2013, Reach Up, which offers financial benefits and employment counseling for low-income parents, has seen its caseload drop by 37 percent.
Factors including high employment and an aging population across the state could be driving down demand, some lawmakers say. And while the caseload has decreased, the financial benefits for families have been stagnant since 2004.”

Budget proposes eliminating Reach Up caseworkers VTDigger May 9, 2019

A new display in the statehouse celebrates Native Vermonters

next week

We are tentatively scheduled to adjourn next week. Bills that do not yet have agreement and that have to pass include the budgetcapital billtransportation bill and the revenue (tax) bill.

Bills I anticipate passing but are not guaranteed to pass include the broadband billminimum wagepaid family leaveretail sales of marijuana, and possibly waiting periods for gun purchases

In the news:

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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