2020 Town Meeting Report from Reps Maxine Grad & Kari Dolan

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Mar 3, 2020 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Vermont House Representatives Maxine Grad and Kari DolanWe are honored to serve Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield and Warren as your State Representatives. We want to thank everyone who has reached out to us thus far during the 2020 legislative session. Your input provides us with valuable perspective, as we work on legislation. This year, we are focusing on building a strong Vermont economy and healthy environment, protecting the needs of vulnerable Vermonters, combating climate change, and advancing policies that will enable families and communities to thrive. Please be in touch if you have any questions or feedback. You can contact us by email at [email protected] or [email protected] or leave a message with the Statehouse Sergeant at Arms at 802-828-2228.

Tourism and Marketing

Tourism is an important sector of our district’s economy. With encouragement from the Legislative Tourism Caucus, the Administration has requested $500,000 for increased Tourism and Destination Marketing, $250,000 to promote outdoor recreation, and an additional $250,000 for tourism marketing and economic development. Rep. Dolan is a member of the Tourism Caucus.

Justice Reinvestment II

Rep. Grad was a member of the Council of State Governments Justice Reinvestment II working group. The result of this work in evaluating criminal justice is legislation that will restructure furlough and parole to ensure better consistency and access to due process; strengthen policies to allow people to earn more time off their sentences for good behavior; strengthen connections to appropriate substance use disorder treatment and mental health services in the community, and develop re-entry housing that better fits the needs for people leaving prison. The goal of these policy changes and strategic investments is to ensure more successful re-entry for those leaving prison and lower recidivism and re-incarceration rates, which will result in cost savings and greater public safety.

Keeping Our Kids Safe

Rep. Grad’s committee continues its work on child protection. This includes updating Vermont’s child sexual exploitation laws. Current Vermont law does not address existing file sharing technology. This has resulted in the Attorney General’s office’s inability to prosecute very serious crimes due to this loophole. The House Judiciary Committee is working on legislation to eliminate the loophole so that those responsible for sexual exploitation of children will be held accountable.

H.99, Trade prohibition of Ivory and other Animal Parts

This bill would prohibit trade in covered animal parts from animals that are endangered including cheetah, elephant, giraffe, lion, jaguar, sea turtles, tigers, big apes, and other species.

H. 688, Global Warming Solutions Act

The House has spent considerable time focusing on strategies to address climate change. The House passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) to build accountability into our systems of reducing greenhouse gasses. GWSA lays the foundation for building a future of greater resilience, energy transition, and economic development. The bill focuses on establishing an accountability framework. It also directs the State to work with community experts to develop a roadmap for action. Taken together, these action steps will move our goals into action to address climate change.

Tele-health

Requires health insurance to cover a variety of forms of tele-health. The bill encourages healthcare providers to make use of technology to deliver some types of care remotely. This issue is closely connected legislative efforts to expand Broadband statewide.

H. 716, Fishing and Hunting Licenses for the Abenaki

This bill adds the citizens of the state-recognized Native American Tribes, including the Abenaki, to the list of people eligible for free Vermont fishing and hunting licenses. This action is in acknowledgement of hunting and fishing rights contained in King Phillip’s deed of 1796.

H. 926, Act 250 Modernization

Rep. Dolan’s Natural Resources Committee is focusing on updating Vermont’s 50-year-old Act 250 land use and development law. The bill incentivizes development in designated downtown and village center areas in municipalities with zoning using exemptions from Act 250 oversight. The bill strengthens protections for forest blocks and connected habitat to keep these lands forested. The bill also provides greater support for forest products-based businesses which are, along with agriculture, important elements of our working landscape and critical to our rural economy. The bill also supports a process to develop a separate statewide trails program that has wide support from 40 trails organizations and environmental organizations.

S. 54, Comprehensive Cannabis Regulatory System

This bill establishes a regulatory system for the production and sale of cannabis and cannabis products in Vermont. The fundamental purpose of the bill is to move as much of the illegal cannabis market into the regulated market for the purposes of consumer protection and public safety. The Board overseeing the system will require testing for contaminants and controls for degree of potency, and will provide funds for education and prevention. The bill contains a number of road safety measures to remove impaired drivers from the road and the process to conduct saliva or blood tests via warrant. The bill has a 14% excise tax onto the current 6% sales tax, resulting in a total tax rate of 20% on the retail price. Some of the funds will be used for prevention programs.

Expanding access to contraception

Data from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that only 54 percent of students used a condom the last time they had sex – and that overall condom use has decreased significantly among high-schoolers since 2007. To reduce “unintended” pregnancies, abortions, and a rise in sexually transmitted diseases, H.663 is legislation with tri-partisan support that expands access to contraception for Vermonters.

Recovery Housing

As Vermont grapples with the unprecedented crisis of people grappling with substance use disorders, Recovery Residences are a key component of treatment alternatives. Studies indicate the need for more than 1,000 additional beds, and communities are working hard to meet the needs of those grappling with substance use disorders. Bill H.873 creates statewide definitions and detailed expectations and operational policies for recovery residences.

H.1, Employee Agreements Not to Compete

This bill places limits on the application of non-compete clauses in employee contracts. While such clauses may make sense for executive positions to guard intellectual property and other business information, this bill focuses ensuring that lower pay grade-level employees will be able to find gainful employment in their area of expertise.

Apologizing for Vermont’s Eugenics Movement

The House is working on a joint resolution that would apologize and express regret to all Vermonters harmed as a result of discredited eugenics research, and its sterilization and institutionalization policies. Eugenics was a dark chapter in Vermont history. Members of Abenaki bands, Vermonters of mixed racial or French-Canadian heritage, the poor, and people with disabilities were targeted. The House is committed to breaking down structural racism to build a just and equitable society.

Universal Pre-Kindergarten (“PreK”) Updates

Universal PreK education is an important part of Vermont’s education system. The House Education Committee has taken extensive testimony on a committee bill to clarify Act 166, the 2014 initiative that provides 10 hours of publicly funded Pre-K for all Vermont students. Vermont employs a “mixed delivery” system where both public schools and private programs play an important role. Among other clarifications, the bill attempts to streamline Universal Pre-K administration by disentangling the dual oversight roles of the Agency of Education and the Agency of Human Services.

H. 683, a.k.a., The Hermit Thrush State Bird Bill

This bill addresses recent efforts at the federal level to weaken the 103 year old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In 2017 the U.S. Department of the Interior released a memorandum saying it will no longer interpret the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as prohibiting the incidental taking of migratory birds – such as warblers and thrushes – which changes the way the Act has been interpreted for the past 40 years. Facing significant decline in bird populations nationwide, this bill seeks to protect these birds at the state level.

H.934 Renter Rebate Reform Proposal

H.934 shifts the renter rebate program from a property tax rebate to a rental assistance credit for low-income renters. Rental assistance is based on county-level income thresholds and fair market rental rates as determined annually by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Overall, the new program achieves the following:

  • Reduces the complexity of the program for both renters and the Tax Department.

  • Tiers the income threshold by size of renter household. This provides recognition that families and individuals have different financial responsibilities and earning power.

  • Links the credit to fair market rents so that individual rental circumstances will no longer be factored into the calculation. Under the proposal, everyone with similar income and family size is eligible to receive the same credit, based on the average monthly cost of renting in each county.

  • Eliminates the requirement that the renter must have rented for all 12 months of the year.  A renter must have been domiciled in Vermont and rented for at least 6 months. This assists low-income renters who may experience temporary homelessness or relocation.

H.833, Interbasin Diversions of Surface Waters

This bill creates a Surface Water Diversions and Transfers Study Group to investigate and make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the environmental, economic, and recreational impacts of transferring surface water between watershed basins and of diversions of surface water in general.