Legislative Update - 10 FEB 2023 - Week #6

Dear Constituents –

This week in the Statehouse felt more “routine”, like a pre-pandemic week: press conferences in the Cedar Creek Room, breakfast sidebars in the cafeteria sponsored by various advocacy groups, some in the Card Room displaying posters and props outlining their policy positions, and off-site meetings hosted by others with the opportunity for more in-depth discussion on the issues. Both the Governor and the Lt Governor have resumed their coffee hours for constituents and legislators. All of these gatherings are excellent opportunities to learn in an informal manner what priorities various organizations and government agencies have for this legislative session.

The Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee continued hearing bill introductions from sponsors whose bills have been referred to our committee (a full listing appears on each committee’s webpage); I really appreciate that leadership is making an effort this session to introduce the majority of the bills on our wall – this is at the discretion of the Chair, and in my experience, it has not always been the case in other committees. The GO&MA portfolio is vast and varied, so we are learning about subjects affecting the liquor and lottery system, the state retirement systems, the Office of Professional Regulation, language access for non-English speakers, and interstate healthcare professional compacts.

Action on the House Floor was brief with the passage of H.161 an act regarding the issuance of burning permits and H.46 an act regarding the dissolution of the Colchester Fire District No 3. For those of us who live in rural areas and may have the need to burn brush,  H.161 gives the Commissioner of Forest, Parks, and Recreation the authority to instruct Fire Wardens not to issue any burning permits during specified periods of increased fire hazard.  This bill has gone over to the Senate for further testimony.

Another bill (H.89) took more time, and it wasn’t quite as inclusive as many of us like to see.  The bill aims to protect healthcare providers who offer legal medical services from out of state prosecution if the patient from another state resides in a state that has laws against that procedure. Vermont healthcare professionals already have protections, so this “shield bill” seemed duplicative. However, this presented the opportunity to suggest an amendment that would have protected healthcare workers who are conscientious objectors to not face retaliation or retribution for declining to perform certain services. That amendment never had a chance to come to the floor for a vote, being found “not germane” to the bill being debated, although it clearly affected the rights of healthcare providers as much as the actual bill does. H.89 also has passed to the Senate for their scrutiny.

The Rural Caucus met on Thursday, as we normally do, and heard from the Commissioner of Forests about the progress of the “Forest Futures Roadmap” that the Department was tasked with developing when the session ended last year.  A series of public hearings will be held with the goal of getting input from various stakeholders in the forest products industry, with a report due in January 2023.  I invite any constituents who have concerns to contact Commissioner Fitzco with your testimony. The Caucus also heard a brief overview of H.126, colloquially known as the “30x30” bill, aiming to conserve 30% of land in Vermont by 2030 and 50% by 2050.  This is a lofty goal with an untenable timeline, and I encourage all residents to learn more about this effort. The bill is currently on the wall in House Energy & Environment, and you can follow its progress on their website.

It is an honor to serve your interests. Please reach out to me at [email protected] with your questions.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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