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Legislative Weekly, 2/13/19

Wednesday February 13th, 2019

Updates from Montpelier, and an upcoming local event:

In the Education Committee:

  • Act 46 Delay, H.39 - At the end of last week the Education Committee’s amendment to H. 39 passed in the House and has now moved to the Senate for consideration. This version gives a one year delay to some school districts but maintains the existing July 1st, 2019 deadline to merge for other districts. This bill was seen as a compromise by some, but not by all proponents of a blanket 1-year delay. It will be interesting to watch this progress (or not) in the Senate. We are also awaiting a court status conference this Friday the 15th in one of the main lawsuits brought by school districts over the forced merger issue. It’s possible that the courts will come to a decision that prompts a further legislative response.  

  • H. 140 - Relating to the Advisory Council on Special Education - The purpose of this bill is to reshape the existing Advisory Council on Special Education to bring the membership and a makeup of the council in line with Federal requirements. This process is overdue, and is particularly important as we get ready to implement Act 173, which changes the way we fund special education. With the adoption of Act 173 in 2018, it’s likely we’ll draw more scrutiny from Federal regulators in the coming years regarding special ed., and this Advisory Council will play an important role. The Advisory Council includes many special education students and parents of special education students. H.140 will increase the percentage of students and parents in the group.

Beyond the Ed. Committee,

  • H. 47 - An Act relating to the taxation of electronic cigarettes - This bill was introduced by Rep. George Till of Jericho and others. It imposes a new tax on electronic cigarettes as well as the electronic cartridges that heat the liquid. This bill was primarily passed in response to what has been described as an “epidemic” in teen vaping over the past 2 years. There is clear evidence that electronic cigarette companies are targeting young consumers with candy and bubblegum flavors, as well as targeted advertising. The hope in imposing this tax is that younger consumers will be more price-sensitive and that this will discourage adoption of this habit. E-cigarettes contain elevated levels of nicotine and are highly addictive, they are also shown to lead to tobacco use over time. I appreciate that some adult smokers have used these products to quit or cut back on tobacco use, and that caused me to have some ambivalence about imposing a new tax. However, the data around teen vaping is truly concerning and demanded some type of response. It will be interesting to see whether this tax is effective in curbing nicotine use in the Vermont middle and high school population.

  • H. 57 - An Act relating to preserving the right to abortion - This bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee, where they are taking testimony this week. It passed the Human Services Committee last week.

Upcoming Local Events:

  • Mari Cordes and I will be be holding our monthly constituent meeting on Monday February 25th in Starksboro at 6:30PM. I’ll post the exact location on FPF later this week.  Our meeting last month at the Bristol Firehouse was well attended, thank you for your engagement!