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Legislative Weekly 4/4/19

April 4th, 2019

For this week: here’s a summary of the broadband bill that passed last week, and a preview for S.169 which is currently in House Judiciary.

  • H. 513 - a bill that would address the lack of broadband access in Vermont, particularly in rural areas -  This bill passed last week but I waited for the write up due to the number of bills we discussed in the House. Please note: I’m borrowing directly from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns legislative report for this article. Kudos to VLCT’s for their excellent coverage of this important bill!

 

The House Energy and Technology Committee recognized that the health and safety of Vermonters is at stake when they do not have access to adequate broadband service in their homes, public places or businesses. These days, broadband infrastructure that connects people to the world as well as to vital services is indispensable. Department of Public Service data, cited in the findings section of H.513, show that almost 20 percent of addresses lack access to internet speeds of 10 Mbps download and 1Mbps upload.

 

Spending in this bill: In FY19 (the current fiscal year): $955,000 would be appropriated from the General Fund to the Connectivity Fund; $700,000 for a Broadband Innovation Grant Program that would fund feasibility studies and action plans on deployment of broadband in unserved and underserved areas;  $205,000 for grants through the Connectivity Initiative to provide basic service; $50,000 to the Department of Public Service to evaluate providing broadband service using electric utility infrastructure. An additional $45,000 would be appropriated for technical assistance grants to municipalities that plan broadband projects.

Additionally: A new Broadband Expansion Loan Program/Authority would be established in the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) to provide loans for start-ups and expansion of broadband service to unserved and underserved Vermonters. The bill notes that such loans may be high-risk and losses could be higher than is customary for VEDA. Loans could be made in amounts up to $1.8 million each; total available loan funds would be $10.8 million. In FY19, $540,000 would be appropriated to serve as loan reserves to administer the Broadband Expansion Loan Program.


S. 169 - a bill to require a 24 hour waiting period for the purchase of handguns - This bill has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple weeks. There was a hearing at the Statehouse on Tuesday where advocates on both sides of the issue were heard. I have appreciated the thoughtful emails and comments received from constituents on this issue. I’m waiting to make a decision on this bill until we hear from the House Judiciary Committee, because they will have had the opportunity to take the most direct and in-depth testimony. I am truly undecided on this bill. I believe we have more work to do on gun control in Vermont, but I would also like to shore up support for the bills passed in the 2017-2018 Biennium. This is a complex issue, please contact me with your opinion. Vermont has a long tradition of responsible gun ownership, and there are also improvements we can make to better protect citizens.