Rep. Sibilia: Cannabis Sales, Use of Force, Expanded Hazard Pay Become Law

GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT ANNOUNCES ACTION ON BILLS

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced action on a range of bills, including the Legislature’s bill to create a regulated cannabis market in Vermont, which will be allowed to go into law without his signature. 

Throughout the Legislature’s four-year push to create a regulated cannabis market, Governor Scott has consistently called for any legislation to include a plan and funding for expanded education and prevention programs for Vermont kids, a plan for highway safety and the ability for communities to prohibit retail cannabis businesses. Governor Scott said the Legislature has moved slowly toward his position in these areas.

“This new bill requires cities and towns to authorize these businesses before retail establishments may open. It ensures local zoning applies to cannabis cultivation and production. It dedicates 30% of the excise tax, up to $10 million per year, to education and prevention efforts. And the sales and use tax on cannabis would fund a grant program to expand afterschool and summer learning programs,” the Governor said. “Additionally, the FY21 budget includes language I proposed to move toward a universal afterschool network, which is based on a successful model from Iceland and is focused on preventing drug use and improving academic and social outcomes.”

The Governor also highlighted several new provisions to enhance safety on the roadways, including allowing testimony of trained officers and Drug Recognition Experts regarding impairment to be presumed admissible in court, and accepting saliva testing as evidence if performed.

Though these provisions addressed many of Governor Scott’s longstanding concerns, he also called for additional action from the Legislature to address remaining deficiencies in the bill.

“The Legislature needs to strengthen education and prevention – including banning marketing that appeals in any way to our kids – otherwise they are failing to learn the lessons of the public health epidemic caused by tobacco and alcohol.”

While recognizing that some social justice elements are included in the bill, Governor Scott also noted concerns from communities historically most negatively affected by cannabis enforcement that the bill did not do enough to ensure more equity in this new market. He encouraged legislators to revisit these concerns and work with his Administration and these communities to address them in January.

His letter to the Legislature outlines specific areas for consideration on racial equity, changes to the board appointment timeline and accountability structure, creation of a special fund for education programming and a ban on the sale of vaping products and marketing that appeals to kids. 

“This has been a top priority for the majority in the Legislature for four years, but their work is not complete. They must ensure equity in this new policy and prevent their priority from becoming a public health problem for current and future generations. For these reasons, I am allowing this bill to become law without my signature,” concluded Governor Scott.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.54.

Governor Scott also allowed S.119 to go into law without his signature, noting he agreed with the goals of the legislation but urged lawmakers to revisit the hastily drafted bill with additional input from marginalized communities and public safety officials.

Click here to view the Governor’s letter to the Legislature regarding S.119.

In addition, Governor Scott signed several other bills today:

  • S.24, An act relating to a report on racial equity and bias in the Department of Corrections, which accelerates work to develop a racial equity plan that will include data collection, employment and supervision of people under the custody of the Department of Corrections;
  • S. 124, An act relating to governmental structures protecting the public health, safety and welfare, which makes changes to law enforcement training and policy;
  • S.234, An act relating to miscellaneous judiciary procedures, which orders the expungement of all criminal records relating to the possession of cannabis in amounts that have been decriminalized; and
  • S.352, An act relating to making certain amendments to the Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program, which updates the hazard pay program passed earlier this year.

More information on Lost Wages program, Regular Unemployment Insurance, or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES PROGRAM 

SFY 2021 Transportation Alternatives Program – Grant Application Materials (NEW!!)

Time to get your flu shot! Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19​

Drivers wanted: Bennington office of Vermont DMV reopens on appointment basis


VERMONT “HIGH” EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS SET TO CONCLUDE AT END OF WEEK

Montpelier – The Vermont Department of Labor has announced that the state is set to trigger off of the High Extended Benefits program, as of October 10, 2020. This determination by the U.S. Department of Labor follows the recent announcement of Vermont’s unemployment rate decreasing from 8.3% in July to 4.8% in August. 

A state’s unemployment rate is what drives its extended benefits program, and depending on how extreme the unemployment rate becomes, states can trigger on or off of what is called “State Extended Benefits” (State E.B.), which offers an additional 13 weeks of benefits, or “High Extended Benefits” (High E.B.), where the original 13 weeks are expanded to 20 weeks.

Vermont initially triggered onto “Extended Benefits” on May 3, 2020, which provided an additional 13 weeks of benefits to claimants who had already exhausted their 26 weeks of traditional UI benefits and 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). As Vermont’s unemployment rate grew through the months of April, May, and June, the state triggered onto “High Extended Benefits” on July 5, 2020, extending the benefit to 20 weeks.

With a steady decline in the state’s unemployment rate since June, Vermont no longer meets the threshold to offer High Extended Benefits (20 weeks), and was informed by the U.S. Department of Labor that it would be downgraded to Extended Benefits (13 weeks). Eventually, Vermont will trigger off of extended benefits altogether as the published unemployment rate continues to decline.

“This change in benefit eligibility comes at a very difficult time for many Vermonters” said Commissioner Michael Harrington, “The data reported, which is a compilation of a household survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, does not take into consideration the flexibility in UI eligibility or actions taken by Vermonters to protect themselves and their loved ones. We know there are more people receiving unemployment benefits than what is reported as part of the household survey, and unfortunately, this continues to highlight the disconnect between the federal government and what is happening on the ground in each state. Because of this calculation method, critical benefits will be cut short for many Vermonters.”

The Department has notified those claimants who are impacted by this change and will continue to provide information to claimants regularly as benefits are exhausted. 

Claimants who have exhausted their benefits and need assistance with reemployment services are encouraged to contact the Department of Labor’s Workforce Development Division at labor.vtjobs@vermont.gov, or by contacting their local career resource center. More information can be found atlabor.vermont.gov/workforce-development

Individuals in need of additional support services such as housing or heating assistance, food assistance, or other emergency resources, are encouraged to contact Vermont211 at www.vermont211.org or by dialing 2-1-1

The Vermont Foodbank’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program is launching its third phase of distribution starting in October. For those of you who don’t know, Farmers to Families is a federally funded program that was created as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The USDA funds distributors from around the country to source, pack, and distribute boxes full of fresh foods; including produce, dairy, and meat products.

During the upcoming phase, the Foodbank won’t have the support of the National Guard so we are issuing a call for volunteers to help get this food to people in need. Specifically, we are looking for people who can consistently lift 32 pounds. 

Events Seeking Volunteers:

·       10/12 Brattleboro

·       10/15 Springfield

·       10/19 Hartford 

·       10/23 St Johnsbury and Bennington

·       10/27 Barre

·       10/30 South Burlington, Bethel, and Brattleboro

To Sign-Up:

Please visit Volunteer Hub at https://vtfoodbank.volunteerhub.com/. Once your application has been approved, please visit our event calendar to view and register for Farmers to Families food distribution events.

If you have any questions about volunteering, please reach out to Kate Steward, Volunteer Services Coordinator, at ksteward@vtfoodbank.org or at 802-498-8323.


GMP’s Energy Storage Programs Deliver $3 Million In Savings for All Customers During 2020 Energy Peaks

GMP’s Growing Network of Batteries Is a Cost-Effective Path to Resiliency and Carbon Reduction

COLCHESTER, Vt. – Green Mountain Power (GMP) announced today that its growing network of stored energy reduced about $3 million in costs for all GMP customers so far in 2020 by cutting power demand during energy peaks, especially during the hot, dry summer. This network includes home batteries, utility-scale Tesla Power Pack batteries at solar sites, and carbon-reducing devices like electric vehicle smart chargers. This builds on more than $2 million in savings over the last two years as GMP pioneered industry-leading battery programs in partnership with its customers.

“We are focused on growing this innovative work, as it is a key part of an affordable energy future for Vermont. Energy storage programs like this are delivering meaningful results, showing a path to help the economy, while reducing costs and carbon at the same time,” said GMP president and CEO Mari McClure.

This summer after regulatory review and approval, GMP started offering two home battery programs. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Powerwall programs were developed in partnership with local solar companies and build on the success of GMP’s popular BYOD and Powerwall pilot programs.

“We’re glad to partner with GMP on these home battery programs which are jumpstarting the future right now. GMP is creating business for us in home batteries that would not be there otherwise, and there is demand – customers are interested and want energy storage,” said Catamount Solar’s managing partner Kevin McCollister. In addition to solar power systems, Catamount also sells and installs battery back-up power systems, and is a certified Tesla Powerwall installer.

This year, batteries in GMP’s programs provided more than 16,000 hours of backup power to customers – offering comfort, convenience and safety through outages, which is increasingly important as Vermont sees more severe weather due to climate change and Vermonters are home more due to the pandemic. Home battery storage is also part of building a flexible and resilient grid. GMP is launching a series of resiliency and system hardening projects as part of its recently approved Climate Plan. The work aims to help communities prepare to stand up to the increasing number of severe storms.

“The peace of mind is great with these batteries. They’ve kept the lights on for short outages this summer and during frigid conditions last winter,” said GMP customer Katherine Silta, of Weathersfield, Vermont, who has two Powerwall batteries through GMP’s early pilot program. “Also, it is great knowing you are helping other customers.  You could see on those very hot days that our stored energy was helping to reduce demand on the grid during peak times, reducing costs.”

GMP’s BYOD program still has some 2020 spots available for customers to enroll. It offers the largest discounts in the country up to $10,500 when you buy home batteries from a retailer of your choice and agree to share stored energy with GMP during power peaks. GMP’s Powerwall program is full for 2020, and you can join the waiting list for 2021. Each program can enroll about 500 customers per year. Details are available on GMP’s website:

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program  https://greenmountainpower.com/rebates-programs/home-energy-storage/bring-your-own-device/

Powerwall program  https://greenmountainpower.com/rebates-programs/home-energy-storage/powerwall/


New law shifts Efficiency Vermont into higher gear on transportation, thermal efficiency

New law shifts Efficiency Vermont into higher gear on transportation, thermal efficiency by Dan Reilly, Public Affairs Director 
Recently, Governor Scott signed legislation that will help reduce the costs Vermonters face to heat their homes and drive using less fossil fuels. The Energy Efficiency Modernization Act is a step forward in modernizing our energy efficiency utilities to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions for Vermonters.

Vermont’s 2019 energy burden report found that Vermonters spend 80% of their energy budget on transportation and how they heat their homes.
Because of the investments hundreds of thousands of Vermonters have already made in efficiency, today the average home in Vermont uses nearly 40% less electricity a month than the national average–the third lowest household electricity consumption in the nation.

The Energy Efficiency Modernization Act, which the Legislature passed in early September and Governor Scott signed into law on September 23rd, takes an important step towards aligning energy costs and greenhouse gases. Over the course of a three-year pilot, the bill allows Efficiency Vermont to use up to $2 million per year of its existing funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the thermal and transportation sectors.


Sibilia: 2020 reelection announcement

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. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com
Kind regards, 
Rep. Laura Sibilia Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

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