VPA Legislative Report #1
The 2019-2020 biennium of the Vermont Legislature has begun! The 2019 session was gaveled into session a week ago on January 9. Our legislative intern (shared with the VT Natural Resources Council and VT Conservation Voters) is already on the job as our eyes and ears in Montpelier. Her name is Sophie Ehrhardt, and she has already begun daily reporting on what she is observing in committee meetings.
The VPA Legislative Committee will hold its legislative kickoff meeting on February 1 from 2-4pm in Waterbury - at the Waterbury Municipal Center (Steele Community Room), 28 North Main Street. All VPA members are welcome to attend! We plan to have a call in number, but in-person attendance is SO much better - especially if you want to join in the after- meeting social. We will cover legislation introduced to date, and will spend a good deal of time discussing pending Act 250 legislation based on the recently released report from the Commission on Act 250.
The Commission on Act 250 released its final report this past weekend. You can find the report and its 19 appendices on the Commission's legislative webpage. Thankfully, pages 2-4 of the report include a list of the 30+ recommendations. Start reading there. In a nutshell, the report recommends a whole lot of strengthening/expansion of Act 250 (more jurisdiction, refined criteria, etc.), a tiny bit of reduced jurisdiction in certain designation areas, and a return to an administrative board review of appeals rather than the current judicial process through the Environmental Division of the VT Superior Court. Appendix 4 is the draft legislation that will presumably be introduced shortly. The Commission's chairperson (Representative Amy Sheldon) was appointed the new chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, so movement of this bill once introduced seems likely. The Committee has already begun taking testimony on Act 250, but has not yet been briefed on the Commission's report.
Thankfully, the Commission took many of VPA's recommendations to heart! However, the Commission went farther in terms of specific Act 250 revisions than we suggested. On several fronts, we recommended further discussion; whereas the Commission went ahead and recommended a specific change. This Act 250 legislation will undoubtedly be the focus for VPA's Legislative Committee during this session. For reference, I've attached the Act 250 Commission report, draft legislation, and VPA's recommendations to the Commission.
With that said, we will be active on other anticipated bills - e.g., marijuana tax/regulation; clean water funding; rural industrial park designation; etc.
Come to the Feb 1 meeting to learn more and to be part of the conversation! Contact VPA Legislative Liaison, Alex Weinhagen, for more information.