2019 Novel Coronavirus update from VT Health
Current Status in Vermont:
The Health Department is closely monitoring the rapid developments in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (“COVID-19”). Vermont is prepared to respond to protect and support Vermonters. As of February 27, 2020 there are no known cases of novel coronavirus in Vermont.
While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat.
Act 250 Modernization Act passes House
After two days of intense debate, and a slew of amendments, H.926 An Act Related to Act 250 passed the House by a vote of 88-52. There are some really good aspects of this bill (seriously – these are good!) including:
- Providing an exemption to Act 250 for downtowns and growth centers.
- Providing an exemption for trails which the House’s Rural Caucus advocated for
- 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
There are additional criteria proposed for:
climate adaptation which means the project demonstrates it can withstand and adapt to the effects of climate change, including extreme temperature events, wind, and precipitation reasonably projected at the time of application and
environmental justice – no group will bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences of a project.
During my interrogation (and several other members) of the House Natural Resources Committee on the House floor, members were unable to satisfactorily explain how an entity seeking a permit would know how to satisfy these new criteria.
These are HUGE changes to Act 250 and I spoke about the need for government to have a customer service attitude when proposing changes of this scale. The committee heard from over 100 witnesses in the last 14 months. I asked how many businesses with Act 250 permits were asked to provide testimony on the new criteria and noted the value of the specific knowledge base that is gained by applicants who have gone trough the Act 250 process.
In addition, the bill also shifts the burden of persuasion for criteria 8 Ecosystem protection; scenic beauty; historic sites, which includes wildlife habitats, to the applicants. This means that the burden is on applicants to prove their project will not destroy wildlife habitat. The Committee was unable to provide estimates of how much proving that might cost an applicant.
The Governor had worked to provide a compromise governance mechanism to ensure that there was more consistency across the District Commissions. My constituents claim this inconsistency has been a chronic issue in District 2. Those compromise provisions were removed in the amended version of the bill.
Many important changes have been proposed, but for me the primary change that was needed was more predictability, streamlined process and consistency for applicants. While some progress was made, the need for improvement in the customer service experience is VERY SIGNIFICANT and as passed the House, this bill fell short in making enough of an improvement to earn my vote.
It is unclear what the Senate will do with this bill.
CUD Frequently Asked questions
For towns across the state voting to approve Communications Union District Legislation at this years Town Meeting – an FAQ list has been developed by the Vermont Department of Public Service to help provide general guidance.
It was messaged as a punishment rather then ‘hey we’re all in this together and how can we make it so all of our kids can move forward’Olga Peters talking about Act 60 on The Montpelier Happy Hour
Weighting on the wrong things in education funding
Tax and Regulate Cannibus sales passes House
The House had a lengthy debate on tax and regulation of marijuana this week. Though I did not vote to legalize marijuana two years ago, and it is still illegal federally, because Vermont does allow use and cultivation, I believe we need to regulate it. If we are going to regulate marijuana, we have to pay for the cost to manage that regulation.
For that reason I support taxing marijuana sales. I voted yes on S.54 which puts in place the Tax and Regulation of marijuana
It is unclear what the Senate will do with the bill, and Governor Scott has indicated he will not sign a bill that doesn’t allow for roadside testing.
Article: Vermont House backs legal market for marijuana sales
- If the House changes in S.54 are passed by the Senate, cannibus sales will be taxed at a 20% combined tax rate, including a 14% excise tax and a 6% sales tax.
- Legal sales in Vermont are projected to bring in about $13 million in revenues.
- A three-member professional Cannabis Control Board will regulate the market and decide which businesses receive licenses to sell or grow.
- Retail dispensaries could start selling cannabis in 2022.
- The state’s current medical marijuana dispensaries can begin selling five months prior to new marijuana businesses.
- Towns have to vote in favor of allowing dispensaries or “opt in”
- A saliva test for impaired drivers can be administered with a warrant
Fiscal notes help us understand the costs or fiscal impacts associated with a piece of legislation. Here are the fiscal notes associated with several bills we have passed in the House. Only the Minimum Wage fiscal note should be considered final as the rest of the bills need to be considered by the Senate and agreed to by the Governor.
- Preliminary FY21 Homestead Tax Rates
- S.23 – An act relating to increasing the minimum wage, Committee of Conference, Fiscal Note
- FY 2020 Budget Adjustment – As Introduced Highlights
- H.688 An act relating to addressing climate change – As passed the House Appropriations Committee
Senate Committee on Government Operations to Gather Public Input on State Code of Ethics
The Senate Committee on Government Operations of the Vermont General Assembly is holding a public hearing on Thursday, March 19, 2020, regarding the State Code of Ethics.
The meeting will take place in Oakes 107 on the Vermont Law School Campus in Royalton, VT. The session will last from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This will be a meeting to gather input on the State Code of Ethics and we invite the public to speak. If you have suggestions or comments, you are welcome to send your comments to email@example.com. Please indicate in the subject line, “State Ethics Code.”
Committee Chair Jeanette White (D-Windham) states, “Trust in government is an essential part of preserving our democracy and is always a goal of ours. Committee members are happy to hear from people about their experiences, concerns, and suggestions.” If you plan to attend and need special accommodations to participate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Hearing on HR.7: House resolution strongly opposing the basing of any nuclear weapon delivery system in the State of Vermont
The House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs will hold a public hearing on HR.7, House resolution strongly opposing the basing of any nuclear weapon delivery system in the State of Vermont, on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The hearing location will be in the Community Room of the VSAC facility at 10 East Allen St, Winooski, VT.
Witnesses may begin signing up to speak at 4:00 p.m., just prior to the hearing. Witness testimony is limited to two minutes per person. The Committee will also accept written testimony at email@example.com. Please indicate HR.7 in the subject line.
If you plan to attend and need accommodations to participate, please contact the Sergeant at Arms at 802-828-2228 by March 3, 2020, so that we can make arrangements in advance.
2020 Town Meeting Schedule and Report
Approximate Town Meeting Schedule Monday March 2nd evening:
- Searsburg Town Office 6:30 pm
- Stamford School Gymnasium 7:15 pm
- Readsboro School Gymnasium 8:00 pm
Approximate Town Meeting Schedule Tuesday March 3rd day:
- Wardsboro: 9:00 am
- Dover: 9:45 am
- Whitingham: 11:15 am
- Vermont House Approves Selling Weed — But Not Advertising It
- Governor creates task force to prepare for coronavirus arrival
- Vermont rural hospitals continue to suffer losses
Recently detailed posts on specific legislative issues
- Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act first votes 2/23/20
- Information on #Vermont 2A sanctuary town declarations 2/15/20
- A significant equity concern in Vermont’s current education funding system 2/02/20
Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham