Rep. Sibilia: Week 6 of the Vermont Legislative Session

February 14th at the Capitol

Next week will see us start to have a number of bills on the floor including a possible attempt to override the governor’s veto of an accelerated Minimum Wage increase plan (S.23) that had been worked out between the House and Senate.

A vote to override the governor’s veto of the minimum wage legislation, which the Vermont Constitution requires to pass by 2/3 of legislators voting, is likely to be extremely close.

I will vote to sustain the veto, which is consistent with my position the past 5 years.

This current bill makes the most sense in the one part of Vermont where the economy is thriving and there are a lot of national chains: Chittenden County and parts of Franklin County.

In our district, we have small business owners who are not drawing salaries in order to keep their businesses open and others who have closed due to the inability to find help for good paying jobs. These challenges are consistent with economic fragility plaguing many of America’s rural areas – shifts in the digitizing global economy, top heavy demographics from aging boomers leaving the workforce and younger workers choosing to live in urban America, inadequate modern infrastructure, a broken immigration system, not enough skilled workers and a failure across the political spectrum to address the issues above because we spend so much time on bills like this.

At the end of last session, I worked with a number of independents and “Blue Dog” Democrats to propose changes to the minimum wage bill which would have made the proposed bill much less likely to negatively impact our small rural businesses employees and home health care workers – proposals like a regional minimum wage for Chittenden County, a scale which treated employers who were paying their employees minimum wage but also benefits like tuition, childcare and healthcare benefits differently then employers just paying minimum wages. But these proposals are harder to explain and harder to staff and support. Harder to do does not mean “less good”.

While it is clear that our country has a serious wealth disparity, jeopardizing jobs in rural Vermont is not going to fix the wealth gap.

My Committee has spent most of it’s time this session working on H.688, An Act Related to Climate Change. The bill was voted out of our committee this Wednesday by a vote of 7-2 and is currently in the Appropriations Committee. I’m one of six lead sponsors of this bill which will likely be voted on by the whole House next week. I will be writing a comprehensive post this weekend about the bill and why I believe it is so critical for our district.

The marijuana retail tax and regulate bill S.54 is currently in the Appropriations Committee. It is unclear when that bill may come to the floor.

From testimony by the Vermont Department of Finance and Regulation to the House Energy & Technology Committee on the relationship between Insurance and climate change
Vermont Department of Health testimony to the House Energy & Technology Committee

Cybersecurity training for municipal employees

Cartoon by Zach Weinersmith

We have been taking testimony on a municipal cyber training bill H.692 which would require (and pay for) cybersecurity training for municipal officials accessing state IT systems. This is training separate from that done currently by Town Clerks and election officials with the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office.

Municipal governments have seen increased ransomware and malware attacks and are paying attention. Every level of government is dealing with not enough funds for cyber efforts and outdated equipment. There are few easy solutions other then consistent work and investment

You should not take this bill lightly. We are happy to help educate other communities why this is so important.

Norwich Town Manager Herb Durfee III

Overview of changes included in Act 250 bill are below. The bill is now in House Ways & Means.

H.926, An Act Related To Making Changes to Act 250 was voted out of the House Natural Resources Committee 6-3-2 this week
  • Amending the Capability and Development Plan Findings.
  • Reorganizing the air and water pollution criteria.
  • Amending the transportation, energy conservation, and public investment criteria.
  • Amending the criteria to address ecosystem protection through protecting forest blocks and connecting habitat. The bill also would increase the program’s ability to protect ecosystems on ridgelines by reducing the elevation threshold from 2,500 to 2,000 feet.
  • Adding new criteria related to climate adaptation and environmental justice.
  • Requiring that, to be used in Act 250, local and regional plans must be approved as consistent with the statutory planning goals and clarifying that local and regional plan provisions apply to a project if they meet the same standard of specificity applicable to statutes.
  • As part of a balancing of interests to support economic development in compact centers while promoting a rural countryside, supporting a working landscape, and protecting important natural resources, exempting designated downtowns and neighborhood development areas from Act 250 and increasing Act 250 jurisdiction at interstate interchanges and over certain new roads. Because the designation under 24 V.S.A. chapter 76A would affect jurisdiction, the bill provides for appeal of designation decisions.
  • Clarifying the definition of “commercial purpose “so that it is not necessary to determine whether monies received are essential to sustain a project.
  • Increasing the per diem rate for District Commissioners to $100.00 and raising the Act 250 permit fees.
  • Amending the permit process by giving the Natural Resources Board the power to issue major permits, in addition to the NRB’s current duties. The Board will have three full-time members. Major permit applications will be heard by a panel of the Board and two District Commissioners from the district where the project is located. Appeals of Act 250 permits would go to the Supreme Court. The Environmental Division of the Superior Court would continue to hear other permit appeals and enforcement.
  • Reaffirming the supervisory authority in environmental matters of the Board and District Commissions, in accordance with the original intent of Act 250 as determined by the Vermont Supreme Court.
  • Revising and clarifying the statutory authority on the use of other permits to 4demonstrate compliance with the criteria.
  • Creating a process that would allow properties to be released from Act 250 jurisdiction.
  • Requiring slate quarries to be added to the Agency of Natural Resources Natural Resource Atlas.
  • Establishing a pre-application process to allow municipal and regional planning commissions to weigh in on a project before the Act 250 permit application is filed.
  • Allowing forest-based enterprises to operate outside of permitted hours of operations and to mitigate primary agricultural soil on a 1:1 ratio.
  • Shifting the burden of persuasion to the applicant under criterion 8
  • Requiring the Agency of Natural Resources to establish a permit program for highest priority river corridors

Public Hearing regarding H.610, Firearms and Domestic Violence

Tuesday, February 18, 2020, 5:00–7:00 p.m., State House, Montpelier The Vermont Legislature will hold a public hearing on H.610, Firearms and Domestic Violence, on February 18, 2020. 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.

The hearing will be held in the House Chamber.  Witnesses may start signing up to speak at 4:00 p.m.  Witness testimonies are limited to two minutes.  The Committee will also accept written testimony. People who wish to testify must sign up. Those who wish to speak IN FAVOR of the bill must enter through the door at the WEST end of the State House (when facing the building from the front, the LEFT end). Those who wish to speak IN OPPOSITION to the bill must enter through the door at the EAST end of the State House (when facing the building from the front, the RIGHT end).

For information about the format of this event or to submit written testimony, contact the House Committee on Judiciary at 802-828-2257 or e-mail

If you plan to attend and need accommodations to participate, please contact the Sergeant at Arms at 802-828-2228 by February 14, so that any accommodations can be made in advance.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or 

Kind regards, 

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

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