The budget bill proposed by the House has been reviewed and amended by the Senate. and is on it’s way back to the House for further negotiations. This is a good sign that the regular session is nearing the end. A few important reminders:
Vote in Dover and Wardsboro: Elections for School Director are being held by ballot TODAY Monday, April 24th, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Dover Town Hall and Wardsboro Town Hall. Voters need to vote in the town where they live. Kate Rideout is running unopposed for a three-year term representing Wardsboro and incumbent Marc B. Schauber and newcomer Mike Urquhart are running against each other for one three-year seat representing Dover.
The annual meeting will be held at Wardsboro Town Hall Tuesday, April 25th at 7 p.m. On the warning is a proposed $6,532,635 budget for fiscal year 2024 as well as a non binding resolution to advise the Vermont Legislature and the governor that the district supports school choice and opposes discrimination.
Legal opinions on Carson v. Makin: On Monday, May 1st from 7-8 pm House Education Chair Rep. Peter Conlon and representatives from the Vermont ACLU will discuss the Carson v. Makin decision and it’s impact on Vermont school choice policies. The meeting will be via ZOOM
Jamaica Selectboard and GMP on outages: Similar to other ongoing meetings in the region, GMP will be at the Jamaica selectboard meeting on Monday, May 8th at 7 P.M.
S.100 Housing Bill (from VLCT’s weekly update)
The House Environment and Energy Committee and House General and Housing Committee held a one-hour joint meeting to air questions regarding S.100, the housing bill, on Tuesday. As the bill had already been moved from House General and Housing to House Environment and Energy, there remained some frustration about how legislators’ questions would be addressed by the committee in charge. The chair of House Environment and Energy assured attendees that they would take testimony and address the issues raised, and that committee continued to hear testimony through the rest of this week. Indeed, the chair said they would likely continue to do so into next week.
The Rural Caucus proposed an amendment to the Speaker of the House on Tuesday under cover of a letter signed by 33 House members. That amendment includes the same language requested by the VLCT and other entities for (a) recognition of the immediacy of the housing crisis in Vermont and (b) Act 250 relief in addition to changes in local land use regulations.
Reappraisal Bill (also from VLCT)
Senate Government Operations Committee took up a new strike-all amendment to H.480, the reappraisal bill passed by the House. The amendment would eliminate the requirement for the Director of Property Valuation and Review (PVR) to order a reappraisal if a municipality’s education grand list has a Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) that is below 85 percent or above 115 percent.
The bill would require that a municipality conduct a reappraisal every six years unless a longer period of time is approved by the PVR Director. If the PVR Director determines that a municipality’s education grand list has a coefficient of dispersion greater than 20 or that a municipality has not reappraised according to the new six-year schedule, then a reappraisal would be ordered. The six-year reappraisal schedule would take effect July 1, 2026.
If the proposed amendment were to pass, in FY24 $50,000 would be appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Taxes to contract with a consultant with expertise in statewide reappraisal systems. By December 15, 2023, the Department of Taxes would submit a progress report on the first six months of work on an implementation proposal for creating a statewide system for reappraisals of both municipal and education grand lists administered by PVR. The report would include a preliminary schedule to phase in full reappraisals for each municipality every six years beginning July 1, 2025; a study of existing municipal data metrics to identify properties based on property types and characteristics including use, occupancy or vacancy, square footage; and options for implicit bias training for listers and assessors.
This bill is scheduled for a possible vote out of the Senate Government Operations Committee on Tuesday April 25th.
Green Mountain Power Microgrid in Panton, Vermont Featured on PBS Nova
Last week the House gave final approval to S.37, an act relating to access to legally protected health care activity and regulation of health care providers, by a vote of 114 – 24. The bill will legally shield medical practitioners, insurers, and patients providing or receiving reproductive or gender-affirming care in Vermont. They will be protected from restrictions and professional disciplinary action by other states. A House floor amendment was added to ensure the abortion pill Mifepristone remains legal to prescribe and use in Vermont.
Vermont legislators hastily amend bills to protect abortion pill access
S.5 – Differing opinions on whether or not to implement the Affordable Heat Act are okay, but a refusal to share basic facts about the proposal is hurting Vermonters
This week I presented the Affordable Heat Act on the floor of the House for a vote. The debate on Thursday was more then three hours long, but was actually less of a debate, and more of taking turns to state inaccurate information and then to correct information and state facts. The floor proceedings were surreal, with some members refusing to acknowledge the plain language in the bill, and repeating debunked claims and untruths over and over.
I remain concerned that citizens are not agreeing to the same set of facts, even when they have different opinions about how to proceed. With S.5 this has been particularly true. Why?
- Complex To be sure, the Affordable Heat Act includes complicated proposals that most legislators have limited experience with. This is not unusual. In S.5 we have processes that will assign a credit value through scientific analysis of the amount of green house gas emissions for various heating fuels, the creation of a credit market and proposals for Public Utility Commission proceedings.
- Detailed Some aspects of the bill are extremely detailed as I and other legislators have worked with the Scott Administration, stakeholders for large and small fuel dealers, environmentalists, legal experts and climate change analysts to carefully find a balanced starting point proposal for regulating heating fuels, reducing emissions and ensuring it is not just the wealthy who are able to participate in the ongoing energy transition.
Typically, the Affordable Heat Act concepts – if passed by the legislature and agreed to by the governor – would be passed into law, and then the Governor’s agency and department heads would work with scientists and specialists who are a part of state government or who are contracted, to develop the rules for how the bill would be implemented.
Those rules would be presented to a small committee of eight legislators to make sure the Rules match legislative intent. That committee could then, accept the rule, modify the rule, object to the rule or do nothing.
That is not what is happening with S.5, and this is because Governor Scott has insisted that all 180 legislators should have to vote on the new rules. Which brings us to reason #3 that we aren’t sharing the same set of facts: Political.
The Oil Industry funded scary ads on TV and radio using costs that are not based in reality and the governor keeps moving the goal posts for what he will agree to. For instance. this was the rationale for his veto of the policy last year:
I have clearly, repeatedly, and respectfully asked the Legislature to include language that would require the policy and costs to come back to the General Assembly in bill form so it could be transparently debated with all the details before any potential burden is imposed,VTDigger May 6, 2022: Phil Scott vetoes clean heat standard
Q: Why won’t the legislature give the governor what he has been asking for?
A. We have.
This year’s bill contains a “check back provision” rather then normal adoption of the rules, in order to meet Governor Scott’s request. Section 8131 of the bill prohibits the PUC from filing rules with the Secretary of State “implementing the Clean Heat Standard” without specific authorization enacted by the General Assembly. Enact means to make law, which requires the provisions of Chapter II, § 11 of the Vermont Constitution to be followed. This means a bill reviewed, debated and passed by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor to either be signed, allowed to become law without signature, or vetoed and then overridden by 2/3 majority of both bodies.
Despite giving the governor what he has asked for, on Friday he issued a statement which still claimed the proposals would not come back to the legislature in bill form in 2025 for debate and vote.
“I am particularly concerned that the PUC plan will not be returning to the Legislature in normal bill form and go through the full legislative process and, if passed, go to the Governor for signature. An initiative with such far reaching financial impacts deserves to be fully debated in a transparent way, with the opportunity for everyday Vermonters to weigh in, and legislators being given the opportunity to improve the bill with amendments. As it is with every piece of legislation, the executive branch should be able to provide input, as well.April 21, 2023 Corrected Statement from Governor Phil Scott on the Passage of S.5
While I am relieved that the Clean Heat Standard has passed it’s latest hurdle, I’m really disappointed by the politics being employed to confuse and scare Vermonters. If you have ANY questions about S.5, give me a call and lets set up a time to talk about your concerns and what is actually happening in the bill. Until then, my floor report explains what the House agreed to do.
Vermont House gives preliminary approval to ‘Affordable Heat Act’ climate bill
House supports bill that would set up and study a clean heat standard.
New bills enacted into law:
|H.148||4/11/2023||An act relating to raising the age of eligibility to marry||8|
|S.54||4/6/2023||An act relating to individual and small group insurance markets||7|
|H.28||4/6/2023||An act relating to diversion and expungement||5|
|H.466||4/6/2023||An act relating to technical corrections for the 2023 legislative session||6|
Monitor the bills I am sponsoring and recorded roll call votes.
As always, if you have suggestions, concerns or critiques please be in touch so we can schedule time to discuss. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com
Rep. Laura Sibilia – Dover, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton, Wardsboro