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Legislative Weekly 3/28/19

March 28th, 2019

This week I will take a break from reporting on the Education Committee, because there has been a lot of action on the House Floor. Here are some highlights from the past few days.

  • H. 205 - This bill proposes to regulate the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations - I wrote about this bill in last week’s edition. It passed the House yesterday without further amendment.

  • H. 162 -  An act relating to removal of buprenorphine from the misdemeanor crime of possession of a narcotic - I wrote about this last week as well, it was pulled from the floor Tuesday so no vote as of yet.

  • H. 439 - An act relating to the Home Weatherization Assistance Program - This bill passed the House yesterday after extensive debate. Essentially this bill increased the tax on all heating fuel from $.02/gal. to $.04/gal. 100% of this tax goes to fund an existing, successful weatherization program. Currently that program is available to lower income families, but I would like to see the eligibility expanded in future years because it is great program that should be available to middle income Vermonters. A floor amendment resulted in an exemption from this tax for agricultural and forestry uses.

  • H. 531 - An act relating to Vermont’s child care and early learning system - This tripartisan bill seeks to address the fact that Vermont has a shortage of high-quality childcare. We know that child care workers are not earning a livable wage and that working families are spending up to 40% of their household income on child care. This bill invests $10.5 million in VT’s child care and early learning system, while expanding income eligibility for low and middle income families seeking child care assistance. For example, this bill raises the assistance from 15% of costs to 50% of costs for families at 200% of the Federal poverty level.

  • H. 533 - An act relating to workforce development - This is a bill big, that brings many different parts into play. Some of these include training for weatherization work, career technical education funding for apprentice programs, incentives for relocation of VT guard members ending their service, and other training programs. This passed the House yesterday with strong tri-partisan support. There is a shared commitment between parties, and also between the legislature and the Scott Administration to develop our labor force in Vermont by investing in those who are already here and also attracting new residents.

  • H. 529 - The Transportation Bill - This is the annual budget for transportation in VT, a big bill! It passed the House earlier this week. A small piece of this bill is a technical analysis to look into the feasibility of a commuter rail system in Vermont. This was interesting to hear about on the Floor this week, since it prompted an amendment form the Committee’s former chair seeking to remove the analysis. That amendment was not successful, but it was interesting to hear about this study. Aspirationally, I would really love to see commuter rail as an option in Vermont so I think it’s great we’re taking a look at the possibility. Full disclosure: my former employer, AllEarth Renewables, is involved in the train service concept.