January 29

Our first Legislative Committee meeting is Friday (February 1) from 2-4pm at the Town of Waterbury's Municipal Center (Steele Community Room) - exit 10, south on Route 100 to/through roundabout, building on the right after the ball fields.  All VPA members are welcome!  You don't need to be on the Legislative Committee to attend.  We'll be discussing the items listed below, with a heavy emphasis on the Act 250 bill - particularly trying to clarify VPA's position on certain aspects of the bill that our Act 250 committee and Executive Committee didn't address last year.  Post meeting libations at Prohibition Pig, and post libations dinner at Zen Barn for those interested.  Can't come, but want to call in?  The call in number is 802-244-1014.  If you have technical issues calling in, text or call me on my cell phone (802-777-3995).

The Legislature is in full swing, and some bills with a planning nexus have been introduced.  The big one is the Act 250 bill.  It is being introduced and discussed by the House Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife Committee.  As a "committee bill" it doesn't yet have a typical bill number like most bills.  The chairperson of the committee (Representative Amy Sheldon) provided an overview of the Commission on Act 250 recommendations on January 23.  Legislative counsel walked the committee through the draft bill on Tuesday (January 29).  This walk through was followed by broad overview presentations by Agency of Commerce and Community Development staff (Jacob Hemmerick and Chris Cochran).  The chairperson indicated that she's not entertaining specific questions and discussion of bill provisions yet - i.e., she wants to give the committee members overview information first, and dive into specific bill provisions later.  Smart lady!

I was scheduled for Wednesday morning (January 30) to introduce VPA to the committee and do some more overview on the municipal permitting process, but I asked to be rescheduled due to the winter storm.  Hoping to meet with the committee on Friday morning, but still in flux.  Sounds like we'll have an opportunity in the coming weeks to address the specifics of the bill - that's when the key policy discussions will happen.

See below for the list of planning bills introduced thus far.  Click through to peruse the bill language.  Contact me with questions or for perspective.  Can I just say that I'm tired of keeping track of telecom authority pre-emption sunset dates?  Thank you.  I feel better now.


19-0040 - Act 250 bill:  House Nat Res Committee bill – Makes a wide variety of changes to the State-level development review system (i.e., Act 250) as recommended by the Commission on Act 250.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/12 - Committee page; click on the "Bill" tab to find the bill.  Current version is here, but it will change as we go forward.


H.64 - Water quality financing and stormwater utility report – Requires a report by January 15, 2020 from the Joint Fiscal Office and the VT Agency of Natural Resources on water quality financing.  Also requires a report from ANR on methods to facilitate the formation of stormwater utilities in municipalities or regions with sufficient development density to make such utilities feasible.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.64


H.84 - Wireless telecom:  Act 250 exemption and pre-emption sunset elimination – Exempts telecom facilities from Act 250 review in favor of Public Utility Commission review.  Eliminates existing 2020 sunset on PUC review pre-emption of municipal review of telecom facilities – i.e., municipal review only possible if no PUC permit is sought.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.84


H.86 – Property transfer tax and VT Housing and Conservation Trust Fund – Requires that the Trust Fund receive 50% of the property transfer tax as currently outlined in statute – i.e., but this time we really mean it (no diversion of these funds allowed).  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.86


H.92 - Wireless telecom:  net neutrality Act 250 exemption and pre-emption sunset elimination – Exempts wireless telecom facilities that receive a net neutrality certificate from Act 250 review in favor of Public Utility Commission review.  Eliminates existing 2020 sunset on PUC review pre-emption of municipal review of telecom facilities – i.e., municipal review only possible if net neutrality certificate isn’t obtained or if no PUC permit is sought.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.92


H.93 - Telecom/broadband:  expediting pole attachment rules – Requires the Public Utility Commission to modify its rules for utility pole attachments in order to expedite telecom facilities providing broadband.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.93


H.96 - Wireless telecom:  broadband Act 250 exemption and pre-emption sunset extension - Exempts wireless telecom facilities that provide broadband (4 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload) to underserved areas from Act 250 review in favor of Public Utility Commission review.  Extends existing 2020 sunset to 2022 on PUC review pre-emption of municipal review of telecom facilities – i.e., municipal review only possible if net neutrality certificate isn’t obtained or if no PUC permit is sought.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.96


S.54 - Marijuana/cannabis taxation and regulation – Creates regulations regarding the growth, sale, and processing of marijuana (aka cannabis), and imposes a 10% State tax with allowance for a 1% local option tax.  Allows municipal regulation (via ordinance or zoning) as well as municipal prohibition on marijuana establishments.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/S.54


For more information contact Alex Weinhagen, VPA Legislative Liaison