It is an honor to serve you in the Vermont House of Representatives.
We have been in Montpelier now for eight weeks, and during that time, we have seen a number of bills that have great impact on all Vermonters, so I’ll update you on their status:
My Committee, General, Housing, and Military Affairs, is working on several big bills with an eye towards passing to the Senate by crossover on March 13; these are bills that we are still taking testimony, and welcome input, on:
- An omnibus alcohol bill that would modernize laws pertaining to manufacturing, sales, tastings, and festivals of beer, wine, and spirits. [not numbered]
- A Homeless Bill of Rights that would create a new protected class who could not be discriminated against because of their housing status. [H.401]
- A bill defining Recovery Residences (formerly known as Sober Houses) for people in recovery from substance misuse disorder. [H.783]
- A Joint Resolution apologizing for the Eugenics movement of the early 20th century that sought to eliminate procreation of folks who were thought to be of Abenaki, French-Canadian, or mixed-race heritage, or deemed to be physically or mentally disabled. [JRH.7]
- A rental Housing Safety and Rehabilitation bill that would include a Registry of all rental housing stock in Vermont and the ability of the Department of Fire Safety to conduct all inspections of rental properties.
These are just a sampling of legislation that my Committee is working on; if you have any specific questions, I will be happy to speak with you.
The remainder of the legislation that I’ll discuss are bills that have been addressed by the General Assembly:
- H.107 – Paid Family Leave – was vetoed by the Governor and the veto sustained by the General Assembly. The Governor’s Voluntary Family Leave Program, which was negotiated with the State Employees Union, is out for bid to become part of their compensation package and will later be open to other Vermonters.
- H.688— Global Warming Solutions Act — is in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. This bill could have a great impact on transportation, housing, and recreation, so it bears watching how it evolves in that Committee. Senator Corey Parent is on that Committee and would be able to take your questions and comments on its progress. [Even though Richford is not in his constituency, he still would be a good resource and s].
- S.23 – Raising the Minimum Wage – passed on a veto override by one vote. The State minimum wage will be $11.75 in 2021 and $12.55 in 2022.
- S.54 — Tax and Regulate Recreational Cannabis — passed the House and now will go to a Committee of Conference to hammer out the details. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will stand to make enough money from retail sales to cover the cost of educating and protecting Vermonters from the potential consequences of substance misuse that come with the 2018 legislation legalizing the possession and use of cannabis.
Briefly, other concerns that I have been working for on your behalf include Lyme disease statutes, military pension tax exemptions, safety in work zones with regard to speeding and texting, and the condition of our roads. In particular, the lack of a reduced speed zone at Exit 18 Northbound on I-89 in Georgia immediately following the culvert failure was of great concern to me, but after three weeks of advocacy, I was able to get that zone posted at 55mph for the safety of all of us who commute south of Franklin County.
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HIGHGATE — I’ve also had conversations with the Secretary of the Agency of Transportation about the viability of a Highgate Welcome Center on I-89, the Airport expansion, and with VTRANS representatives about the Machia Road slide. These discussions are ongoing, and I will continue to keep them on my radar.
FRANKLIN —I’ve also had numerous communications with VTRANS regarding the condition of RT 120. After many months of ongoing discussion, and with the persistence of your Selectboard, the Agency will be conducting borings at the site in April to determine further action. I will continue to keep this important project on my radar, and I have a meeting pending with the State Engineer to discuss the results later this Spring.
BERKSHIRE —I have also been advocating for greater safety at certain intersections in our town — there have been some instances of overgrown bushes blocking visual access at intersecting town highways, excessive speeding at the West Berkshire intersection, and the need for a reduced speed zone by the school that are priorities for me that the Selectboard is currently looking at.
RICHFORD — I have also been in discussions with VTRANS regarding RT 105 East of Richford Village, especially a section that tends to flood and ice over, and I am assured that this will be addressed in the Summer, along with a much-needed resurfacing project. I will continue to keep this on my radar and take it up in a meeting with the State Engineer later this Spring.
Housing and Community Development remain a great concern for Rep Fegard and myself, including the imperative need to retain a grocery store, banking institution, and more businesses in the community to keep it viable. We have provided resources for your Selectboard, REAC, NOTCH, and Renaissance Committees to access assistance, and they are diligently working with those Agencies and organizations to provide services to the residents of Richford.]