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Legislative Weekly 4/24/19

April 24th, 2019

Dear Readers,

Sorry for the miss last week! Here’s the latest happenings in Montpelier:

In the Education Committee:

H. 209 - An Act relating to ending the statewide moratorium on public school construction aid - This bill is now being turned into a vehicle for study, in the near term. Following input from the Vermont Superintendents Association, we are defining the membership and the charge for a group who would meet over this coming summer to define a clearer framework for a statewide school capital needs plan. At this point, there does not seem to be appetite for ending the actual moratorium on state funding, but this group might be able to provide further direction for our efforts next year.

Outside of the Education Committee:

S. 68 -  An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day - This bill came over to the House from the Senate, and seeks to formalize the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ day as a State Holiday. Governor Peter Shumlin designated the day several years ago, saying at the time that this was an effort to, "recognize the sacrifice and contributions of the First Peoples of this land."

Quoting from the bill: “Vermont was founded and built upon lands whose original inhabitants were the Abenaki people and honors them and their ancestors. The establishment of this holiday will aid in the cultural development of Vermont's recognized tribes, while enabling all indigenous peoples in Vermont and elsewhere to move forward and formulate positive outcomes, from the history of colonization.”

H. 207 - Approval of an amendment to the charter of the City of Montpelier regarding non-citizen voting in City elections. - There have been conversations in a few Vermont municipalities in recent years about non-citizen voting. The City of Montpelier is the first to advance this conversation to the stage of requesting a change in their charter. In Vermont a charter change requires the permission of the legislature, so that’s the reason this bill was necessary. Montpelier’s charter change would allow city residents who are non-citizens to vote in municipal elections and local bond votes. These new voters would not be able to vote in State or Federal elections, nor could they vote on multi-town school district budgets.

Non-citizen voting has a long history in the United States, and I was happy to vote to approve this charter change. If this helps non-citizen residents in Montpelier feel a greater sense of agency and ownership in their adopted home state, so much for the better.

S.86 - An act relating to increasing the legal age for buying and using cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age. The bill description pretty much says it all. This bill raises the legal age to smoke to 21. I voted for this bill, given the preponderance of evidence that this will reduce teen smoking.