Legislative Wrap-Up 2

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May 29, 2014 No Comments ››

The following is the second of a two part series summarizing some of the Legislature’s Accomplishments.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you. I am proud of our work that will help expand economic growth and opportunity for Vermonters while enhancing public safety and wellbeing.

PUBLIC SAFETY: MY COMMITTEE WORK

Addressing Our Opiate Crisis: (S.295) this bill recognizes that many offenders have substance abuse or mental health issues that drive their unlawful behavior. Until those issues are effectively addressed, those offenders will keep coming back into the system. By targeting services at critical points in the criminal justice system, we can improve public safety, lower rates of incarceration, reduce recidivism and get offenders on track to lead lawful and productive lives.

Successful pilot programs in two Vermont counties have shown positive results from timely referral to treatment with oversight of the offender’s compliance. This bill requires that all Vermont counties begin to offer risk assessment and needs screening to a specified list of offenders. This applies just to offenders who have actual addiction and/or mental health issues.

S. 295 includes a number of other provisions, including enhanced penalties for burglary of a home and heroin trafficking. Other provisions relate to medication-assisted therapy, increasing access to naloxone (the opioid overdose antidote) and improving substance abuse services in prisons.

Parental rights (H.88) Victims of sexual assault may petition the court to prevent a perpetrator from having parental rights and legal contact to a child conceived as a result of the sexual assault.

Safety for Domestic Violence Victims (Fee Bill) Federal law requires the storage of weapons of someone subject to a Relief From Abuse case, but often compliance is limited by storage options. This new law allows the gun owner to relinquish his or her weapons to a third party agreed upon by the judge.  It can be a federally licensed firearm dealer, or a law enforcement agency.  It allows peace of mind for the victim of abuse in times of escalation and threats.

Child protection: (H.885) Creates a Legislative Committee on Child Protection to evaluate the state’s system of child protection for the purpose of protecting children from abuse and neglect. The committee is in response to the deaths of two young children in Vermont this year whose families had been under investigation by state caseworkers. I served on a similar committee after Brooke Bennett’s tragic death.

Drugged driving (H.501) I heard from many of you, especially cyclists and runners about your concern about people driving under the influence of drugs.  This law creates a definition for illegal drugged driving.

Human trafficking: (H.88) Includes sexual conduct in the definition of forced behavior regarding human trafficking. This is intended to allow those running “massage parlors” to be charged with human trafficking for forcing foreign women to perform any sort of sexual contact with clients.

Licensing Of Precious Metal Dealers (H.308): There has been an increase in burglaries in our district and statewide, especially of jewelry.  These crimes are believed to be a result of drug seeking behavior. The bill requires precious metal dealers to undergo a criminal history check and be certified by the Public Safety Department, requires a ten-day waiting period before resale, payment to sellers only with check or money order, requires dealers to keep records of all precious metals they buy, including information about sellers. It directs the Public Safety Department to come up with a system of sharing information about stolen goods.

Animal cruelty (S.237) Expedites the civil forfeiture process to more quickly resolve the future for animals seized in cases of suspected neglect and cruelty. This bill was at the request of the Humane Societies.

HEALTH AND CONSUMER PROTECTION

Child Safety (S.239): The Children Safety Act requires manufacturers of products sold to or for use by children to notify the Department of Health (DOH) if their product contains chemicals that can harm children. The law requires the DOH to list chemicals on the DOH web site and possible labeling or prohibition of sale.

Lyme Disease (H. 123):  Lyme disease is increasingly widespread in Vermont. Historically, physicians are held to a limited number of treatment options many Vermonters did not find adequate.  Starting in July, long-term sufferers may seek treatments recognized by the Center for Disease Control as well as the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society without putting their health care provider at risk for discipline.

Changes to tobacco laws:  Starting in July, tobacco products and tobacco substitutes will be prohibited in or around childcare centers and smoking in a motor vehicle occupied with a child may result in a $100 fine. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes will be required to use child-resistant packaging to sell liquid nicotine in Vermont.  Smoking in and around State buildings will be prohibited in a 25′ zone from the property.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND RENEWABLE ENERGY

Net Metering Program (H.702)

In H.702, the Legislature:

  • Increased the cap on net metering from 4% to 15% of a utility’s peak load;
  • Raised the 10 day-registration eligibility for a certificate of public good from 10kW to 15kW;
  • Kept the solar adder at $.20/kwh for smaller projects of 15kW or less;
  • Achieved cost savings for utilities by reduced net metering payments to $.19/kwh for projects over 15kW, representing about two-thirds of all capacity built;
  • Eliminated the requirement that group net metering projects must be located on the premises of a group member.

Recycling–batteries:  Alkaline batteries: Starting in 2016, consumers will be able to drop off single-use batteries at a variety of locations including solid waste facilities, municipal buildings and participating retailers. The program will help keep the 10 million batteries sold in Vermont each year out of our landfills and allow for the more efficient recovery of steel, zinc, and other materials compared to mining them.

Support for Green Up Day: We created a new income tax return check-off that allows Vermonters to donate directly to Vermont Green Up, Inc.  The Green Up check off will appear on next year’s income tax form.

Act 250 Changes: Promotes downtown development by amending Act 250 to place new restrictions on strip development and help communities target growth in downtown. Also addresses traffic mitigation in developments.

VETERAN’S ISSUES: 

I am pleased that the two bills I sponsored on behalf of the Department of Defense to address economic needs of military families passed.  One will allow unemployment insurance for a spouse who “voluntarily” leaves a job to accompany a spouse who is on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces.

The other allows for:

(1) accepting education, training, or service completed by a member of the U.S. Armed Forces toward the requirements of professional licensure or certification;

(2) creates a process for educational institutions to award educational credits to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces for courses taken as part of the member’s military training or service that meet the standards of the American Council on Education; and

(3) expedites the issuance of a professional license to a person:
(A) who is certified or licensed in another state;
(B) whose spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and who has been subject to a military transfer to Vermont; and
(C) who left employment to accompany his or her spouse to Vermont.