Dear Constituents –
This week in the Statehouse was defined by House floor action on S.5, the « Affordable Heat Act ». At this writing, Vermonters know that the House passed this bill, and it is headed back to the Senate for their approval before going to the Governor’s desk, where it is certain to be vetoed ; a veto session for late June has already been established. What most Vermonters don’t know, given the number of Representatives and Senators who voted in favor of this legislation, is that the « affordability » of this act is at best questionable. Despite repeated requests for a study weighing the potential costs and benefits, something any of us would do when contemplating a new proposal that directly affects our financial well-being, the costs of this bill remain unknown. Conservative estimates are in the multi millions, and they are projected to be on-going. If this bill becomes law, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to enact such stringent requirements targeting the thermal sector. During a press conference held by the Republican Caucus, concerns were raised about how this would affect Vermonters, particularly those on fixed incomes or who live in very cold pockets of the state. The obvious answer is that, with a mandate to pass a balanced budget, and the influx of federal money coming to a swift halt, worthy initiatives will have to be cut to implement this new « Clean Heat » program. What those measures entail will be up to a future Legislature to decide, and that in itself feels wrong. If we are making these decisions, we should own the consequences. And by « we », I refer to the majority party who voted this behemoth in. That being said, I want to thank the handful of my Democrat and Indpendent colleagues in the House who joined the minority in saying that this bill is unaffordable and punitive to their constituents and small businesses. For a detailed listing of how your Representatives voted, please see the General Assembly website for the April 20 House Journal.
In Committee, we continued to take testimony on Ranked Choice Voting, Sheriffs, fossil fuel divestment from State portfolios, and amendments to the charter of the City of Burlington. The next few weeks will be more of the same, and you can view our agenda on the Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee webpage on the General Assembly website.
The VT National Guard and Veterans Affairs Caucus met to hear updates on military pension and survivors’ benefits tax exemption legislation and on the military Burn Pit Registry, as well as presentations from the USS VT Support Group and the VT Office of Veterans Affairs on their mission and outreach. VT NG&VA Caucus leadership (myself and my two co-chairs) met with the staff of all three of our congressional delegation offices and were assured that our Senators and Congresswoman are doing their part to advocate at the federal level for an expansion of the PACT ACT to include deployment areas of Kosovo and perhaps others where our servicemen and women incurred exposure to airborne hazards. It is also noteworthy that the PACT ACT includes our military veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Southeast Asia and water borne toxins at Camp Lejeune. If any servicemember was present in those locations, I urge you to contact the VA for assistance to sign up for the Burn Pit Registry. I would also like to thank our VT Adjutant General, Major General Greg Knight, who is tirelessly advocating for these inclusions. On Tuesday, the VSG was present in the House Chamber for a reading of a Resolution naming April 18 2023 USS VT Day, commemorating the day that the submarine was commissioned three years ago. I had the honor of introducing on the House floor Retired Navy Captain and my former Representative Mr Albert Perry, of Middlebury and Lake Carmi, as well as other members of the VSG Board. The VSG also held a press conference announcing the date of Vermont Weekend to tour the boat in Groton CT on May 12-13. The VT Rural Caucus met and learned more on the topics of EMS, dispatch, outdoor rec, and the housing bill. I expect next week’s floor action to focus on the HOME bill, S.100, which has been controversial as it has made its way through Senate Economic Development, Senate Natural Resources, General & Housing, and Environment & Energy. Thirty-three members of the VT Rural Caucus signed on to a letter to House leadership calling for restoration of the good work that Senate Econ did around Act 250 reform, only to have Senate NR strip it out and House G&H rendered hog-tied when Representatives tried to put these measures back in. [email protected] Stay well, Rep Hango