Legislative Update – January 31, 2019

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Jan 31, 2019 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

My Committee/House Judiciary/My Bills and Resolutions

Juvenile Justice

It was an honor to have Judge Jimmie Edwards speak to our committee during his visit to VT for MLK week. Thanks to Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Reiber for making this happen. Judge Edwards reminded us of the importance of leading from the heart and our common humanity, and that education, not incarceration is often the most effective intervention, especially for youth.

Judge Edwards the founder of the Innovative Concept Academy, a school for at-risk youth, the subject of the documentary “For Akheem.”

TEDxStLouis – Judge Jimmie Edwards – Encouraging the Incorrigible

Fair and Impartial Policing

I held a committee hearing on this important issue. We heard from the following: Vermont State Police, Migrant Justice, VT Criminal Justice Training Council, Vermont Attorney General’s Office, Immigration Task Force, Justice for All, NAACP of Rutland, Chief, Montpelier Police Department, Vermont Police Association, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont and Vermont American Civil Liberties Union. The hearing was very informative. We will be following up this week.

Preserving Reproductive Rights

This is an issue many of you contacted me about. I am glad to be a lead sponsor of H.57. Last week H.57 was introduced with the intent to safeguard the right to abortion in Vermont by ensuring that right is not denied, restricted or infringed by a governmental entity. The bill is currently in Human Services and will then come to my committee.

H.57 has 91 sponsors, it includes Democrats, Progressives, Independents and Republicans. The Governor has also voiced support for the effort to codify Roe in Vermont.

For me, this is an issue of access to care and economics. When women are able to control their reproductive decisions, they are able to make their own decisions about their participation in the workforce, in their communities, and Vermont is stronger for it.

Stalking Awareness Month

I had the honor to introduce to the House Warren resident Anna Nasset who was present for the reading of HCR 8 recognizing January as National Stalking Awareness Month in Vermont. Anna is the owner and creator of Stand Up Resources, a business that provides marketing, communications and web design for victim service agencies. She is also an emerging international speaker on the subject of stalking and sexual assault. Anna moved to Vermont 2.5 years ago because she has been an on-going victim of stalking. In the last year she has turned her experience of sexual and psychological abuse into that of speaking, outreach and activism.

Other Committee Reports: Education—Ethnic Studies Bill

The House Education Committee voted to advance H.3, An act relating to ethnic and social equity studies standards for public schools, popularly known as the “ethnic studies” bill. Successful passage of H.3 will start a collaborative process that we hope will reduce bias, harassment, and disproportionate patterns of discipline of students from non-dominant ethnic and social groups. The bill convenes stakeholders to look at ways we can provide a fuller and more accurate representation of history for all students.

Ways and Means: Protecting Our Local Economy: Marketplace Facilitator and Online Travel Agent (OTA) Consequences

This is an issue critical to our district. Not all taxable items you purchase on Amazon are actually taxed. Additionally, when you book a hotel room through an Online Travel Agent (OTA), both the hotel and the State of Vermont currently lose out.

In the first example, Amazon is acting as a “Marketplace Facilitator” – a marketplace that contracts with third party sellers to promote their sale of goods and services through the marketplace. Vermont has not had a marketplace facilitator tax, but the Ways & Means Committee will be looking to change our statutory language to require Amazon and other marketplace facilitators to collect and remit these taxes. Many states have MF laws; most recently, Pennsylvania enacted such a requirement.

The OTA issue is created in part due to Vermont’s statutory definition of “Operator.” When the statute was created, virtually no one had a computer and companies like Expedia, Home Away, and AirBnB didn’t exist. So, operators were only the hotels themselves. Under our statute, the “operator” must collect and remit the rooms tax to the state. When you book a Vermont inn online through an OTA, the OTA keeps a fee for itself and sends the rest of the money to the inn, which is required to pay the 9% rooms tax from the amount remitted. Not only does the hotel get less money than if you book with them directly, but the state receives a lower amount in taxes.

Vermont has an agreement with AirBnB, so they collect and remit the rooms tax, but we have no such arrangement with any other OTAs. Consequently, we will be working to change the definition of “Operator” to include OTAs so that all OTAs will be responsible for remitting the appropriate amount of rooms tax.

Please stay in touch: [email protected] or 802-552-8065.