February 5

The House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee is taking lots of testimony on the Act 250 bill this week.  You can find the most up to date agenda is on the committee's webpage at https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/12. Some of the testimony topics include: forest fragmentation, forest blocks and habitat connectors, enhanced designations, critical resource areas, tiered jurisdiction, etc.

Our VPA Legislative Committee met last Friday (Feb 1) to discuss bills introduced to date.  We spent about an hour and half on the Act 250 bill, and only covered four of the 13 revisions described in the bill summary.  Interesting conversation with recognition that the details are important - at least to planners.  The upshot is that crafting a comprehensive VPA position on all of the bill elements will be difficult.  Instead, we will likely need to focus our efforts and testimony on key elements of the bill - still to be determined by the Legislative Committee and the Executive Committee.

New bills introduced since last week's update include:

H.160 - Wireless telecom: municipal deployment, Act 250 exemption and pre-emption sunset elimination. Yep - yet another telecom bill.  This one proposes changes to facilitate deployment of broadband infrastructure, including an allowance for municipalities to finance improvements with general obligation bonds.  Like the other bills, it also eliminates the pre-emption sunset - i.e., so that projects receiving approval from the Public Utilities Commission will never need municipal telecom review/permits.

S.66 - Fossil fuel infrastructure prohibition.  This bill proposes to ban the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure in Vermont, except for infrastructure certified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Pretty broad language that seems to include new connections to existing natural gas distribution and transmission lines.  However, since I'm not clear on what the FERC certifies, I'm not sure how comprehensive a prohibition is intended.  Doubtful that this bill has a future, but it does have an energy planning nexus, and also specifically would revise Title 24 to prohibit municipalities from issuing permits for the construction or reconstruction of fossil fuel infrastructure.

Miscellaneous Tax Bill. This is a large committee bill being discussed in the House Ways and Means Committee. One provision being considered (and pushed by the Governor's administration) is the repeal of the land gains tax, which was enacted to help prevent land speculation.  The bill also contains some changes to the State's Current Use program, but from what I can tell, those changes are minor.  Information and testimony about this bill is on the committee's web page, under the "Bill" link/tab -https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/21.  The Committee is scheduled to take testimony on the land gains tax repeal idea today (Feb 5).

For more information contact Alex Weinhagen, VPA Legislative Liaison