Dear Constituents –
The virtual Statehouse is heating up – Committees are meeting multiple times a day, bills are passing, amendments are being drafted, and money is flowing out the door, for better or worse. Some highlights of this week’s action include:
Representatives Laura Sibilia -Dover, Matt Birong – Vergennes, and I announced the formation of a Vermont National Guard Caucus which will convene on Sept 15 and meet monthly to discuss how the Legislature, on behalf of our constituents, can support the VT Army and Air National Guard during their upcoming deployments. We are excited to come together as a politically, geographically, and gender-diverse group in support of troops throughout the State (and neighboring states) performing myriad duties to protect and serve Vermonters and Americans. Our goal is to be a liaison between the Administration, the Committee of Jurisdiction (House General), Legislators and their constituents, and the National Guard leadership.
In Committee, we continue to discuss S.237, a bill relating to affordable housing that is now recognized as a bill relating to zoning. Despite my insistence that the General Housing Committee is not the committee tasked with zoning regulations – that would be Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife — the bill continues to reside in my Committee, and we continue to struggle with its complexity and our lack of expertise on the subject. Looming over our shoulders is H.739, a bill relating to rental housing safety and rehabilitation, a subject more in our comfort zone, but equally not anything that we should be taking up in a COVID emergency session, particularly if the bill requires standing up new IT systems or hiring and training new employees during a statewide pandemic-related hiring freeze.
On the House floor, we passed H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act. This bill requires Vermont to meet stringent, perhaps unattainable goals for reducing carbon emissions and opens the State to potentially time-consuming, frivolous citizenlawsuits if we do not meet those targets. I’ve heard it said that this isn’t a problem because “no one will receive monetary awards”; that says nothing about wasted time in courts and mandates that hand over control to an unelected board, rather than the Legislature, where this control should be - in the hands of those whom you’ve elected to represent your interests.
The Budget “Big Bill”, a $7B undertaking, was passed on Friday with much debate about various line items. Every advocacy group weighed in on their portion, and it was a daunting task for Rep Kitty Toll and her Appropriations Committee, but having listened to those hearings and knowing the amendments that were proposed, I applaud their efforts to work with the Administration to maintain funding for valuable programs for vulnerable Vermonters, for the Vermont State Colleges System, UVM, and the independent colleges, for PK-12 education, the Arts, Tourism, and many others, without raising any new revenue through taxes or fees.
Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5 – Berkshire -Franklin-Highgate- Richford