Legislative Update – April 5, 2018

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Apr 5, 2018 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

This week I am reporting on other House committees’ work. The bills I discuss will benefit our district’s workforce and economic development. I also provide information on a bill that aims to address the motor vehicle inspection issue many of you have contacted me about.

Agriculture and Forestry

The committee is considering two bills that would greatly benefit our district. First, the committee began consideration of S.101, a bill that would create a Vermont right to conduct forestry operations by creating a rebuttable presumption that a person conducting conventional forestry practices, in compliance with the Acceptable Management Practices for Maintaining Water Quality on Logging Jobs in Vermont and other applicable law, does not constitute a public or private nuisance. House Agriculture took considerable testimony on this important bill and heard from:

  • forestry businesses around the state,
  • counsel for the Vermont Natural Resource Council,
  • farmers with some forestry practices incorporated into their operations,
  • a New England-wide forestry consultant,
  • the president and a board member of Vermont Woodlands Association, and
  • citizens with land in current use about the importance of forestry management services required by their current use plans.

Second, the committee is reviewing S.276, an act relating to rural economic development. The bill would create a Rural Economic Development Initiative, to be administered by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The bill would provide facilitation of grant funding and technical assistance in obtaining those funds. Priority projects would include those involving:

  • certain dairy operations
  • outdoor recreation and equipment enterprises
  • value added food and forest products enterprises
  • farm operations, including phosphorus removal technology for farm operations
  • co-working or business generator and accelerator spaces
  • commercial composting facilities; and
  • restoration and rehab of historic buildings in community centers.

Other sections of the bill propose:

  • the creation of an Outdoor Recreation-Friendly Community Program, designed to provide incentives for communities to leverage outdoor recreation assets to foster economic growth within communities;
  • adjustments to environmental permitting fees relative to the conversion of Class II wetlands or wetland buffers relative to the installation of a pipeline for the transport of manure for the purposes of farming;
  • request for a report on electric utility demand charges in Vermont and their effect on the ability of industrial enterprises to locate in rural Vermont towns;
  • changes to the Purchase and Use Tax relative to certain forestry equipment;
  • updates to 6 V.S.A. chapter 34 (“Hemp”) that incorporate changes in federal law and proposes a Pilot Project to research the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp, as well as proposing testing guidelines for the presence of THC in hemp and, if present, allow a hemp farmer to work with a dispensary to remove the THC and return the hemp to the farmer for processing;
  • provides for the establishment of a cannabis quality control program for several listed purposes; and
  • proposes the creation of an Industrial Park Designation for application in rural areas.

Commerce and Economic Development

S.85 –I am glad to see attention to this much needed bill. I hear from many of you how frustrating it is as a small business owner to navigate state government. This bill authorizes the Secretary of State and other stakeholder agencies to work towards creating a single web portal for businesses to contact the state of Vermont. It includes the departments of Tax, ANR, Labor, ACCD, Secretary of State. 

S.94 – An act relating to promoting remote work. The committee will be considering this bill this week. It would establish tax credits for qualified expenses for persons moving to Vermont but working for companies outside Vermont. The Senate supported this overwhelmingly. This is an important workforce development bill.

Transportation – Vehicle Inspection Process

I have heard from many of you how burdensome the new inspection process is. S.272, The Miscellaneous Transportation Bill, includes proposed language to authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to revise its Vermont Vehicle Inspection Manual. A collaborative effort by a group of industry subject matter experts, inspection station owners/mechanics, and DMV personnel have attempted to identify items in the inspection process that are not directly related to safety. The manual itself would be shortened from approximately 600 pages to 200.

A new inspection format would create a third ADVISORY category added to the two old PASS/REJECT options. The new ADVISORY category would include those items no longer considered critical to safety that formerly caused a REJECTION. An example might include tinted windows, where the consumer would be advised there is a potential Title 23 violation, but their vehicle could pass inspection because operational safety was not directly compromised

The inspection emissions test currently being performed follows US EPA guidance, is not a Vermont developed test, and is exactly the same as performed in other states. Collaboration with the Department of Environmental Conservation is ongoing to explore affordability waiver opportunities for 2019 and beyond.

 

Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us; 828-2228 or 496-7667.

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