Legislative Update – 2/26/16


It has been a busy week in the Statehouse. As you may have heard, a Marijuana Legalization bill (S.241) just passed the Senate and will now go on to the House for consideration (click here for the Burlington Free Press article about it). This is not the same bill that Sen. David Zuckerman introduced earlier this year (S.95), but it is none-the-less a step forward in the legalization process.


Earlier this week, Rep. Chris Pearson‘s bill on Automatic Voter Registration (H.458) passed the House Government Operations Committee 11-0. This bill would streamline the voter registration process in Vermont and would remove one major obstacle to more people voting.


This past WednesdaySen. Anthony Pollina presented his Property Tax Reform bill (S.175) to the Senate Finance Committee. Some senators expressed an interest in eliminating the regressive nature of our state’s property taxes. Others expressed concern over how much one can ask the wealthy to pay. Now it is up to the Senate Finance Committee to look at the numbers and decide what happens with the bill. Sen. Pollina expressed his gratitude to all the Progressive Party members who emailed to encourage Senate Finance to take up S.175 (your support helped get things moving! Thank you!). We will likely be calling on you again soon to encourage the Senate Finance Committee to keep moving forward on this important proposal.


Please find below two more updates from our Progressive legislators….




Divestment of Fossil Fuels


Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington)


“The movement to divest from fossil fuels has rocketed around the world thanks to Vermont’s own Bill McKibben and the leadership of350.org. In 2013 I introduced a bill in the VT House to have us become the first state to join the growing ranks of Universities, Cities and endowments to dump big oil. Last year the Rockefeller foundation divested! Sen. Pollina introduced the same concept in the Senate. It’s been tough sledding.


It is a bold step for the legislature to meddle with the VPIC board, which is charged with managing our pension funds. After all, the legislature created the board to handle this. Keep in mind, though, in the 1980s the legislature passed a law forcing us to divest from South African companies in protest of apartheid. In the 1990s the legislature started making noise about dumping tobacco stocks and then-Treasurer Jim Douglas got the hint and dropped those stocks. Treasurer Beth Pearce isn’t getting the hint.


Gov. Shumlin, to his credit, has been pushing and saying that coal and ExxonMobil are the place to start. Still, House leadership remains squeamish about meddling, so the energy has shifted to passing a resolution. This won’t hold the power of law, but if we pass it, the House will urge VPIC to come up with a strategy for divesting from coal and ExxonMobil (Remarkably, if it wasn’t for a few of us in the Climate Caucus making a stink the resolution would have only asked to dump coal).


If we’re going to make a symbolic gesture, surely we can make a big splash, right? I mean, is standing up for the climate really a controversial position in Vermont?


By late morning Friday we will know how it goes.”




H.622 – Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse


Rep. Sandy Haas (P/D-Rochester)


“When the Legislature revised its child protection laws last year following the tragic deaths of two toddlers, one of the provisions had unintended consequences. S.9 clarified that every mandated reporter has an independent obligation to report suspected abuse to the Department for Children and Families (DCF) and cannot rely on their supervisors to make the call. Unfortunately, that provision has led to multiple reports of the same event. For example in a hospital setting, it has meant that the doctor, the nurse, the aid, the x-ray technician and all others attending an injured child must each make a separate report to DCF. Then at shift change, all the new attendants must do it again. In most cases, each of these reporters is relying on information provided by the first person who examined the child.


This practice has proved burdensome for the health care providers (who have other patients waiting) and has flooded DCF with paperwork that can actually slow the job of proper investigation. In response to this problem, the House has passed H.622. This bill makes clear that when a mandated reporter has written confirmation that a report has already been made to DCF and knows that he or she has no additional information, that individual cannot be prosecuted for failure to report.”


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