Ban on carrying guns in public to be discussed Senate this month

Senate committee to discuss semi-auto public carry ban; homeschool background check dead; no local tax $$ for commercial cannabis; cloud tax counterproductive, CEO says

By Guy Page

February 5, 2020 – Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden) said Senate Judiciary will decide in a week or two whether to take up S259, prohibiting carrying semi-automatic weapons in public places including parks, public meetings, polling places, churches, restaurants, colleges, theaters and public demonstrations.

Baruth is the lead sponsor. 13 other senators (all Democrats or Progressives) are co-sponsors – but none except Baruth sit on Senate Judiciary. He said he remains strongly in favor but the decision to move forward is up to the committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington).

At least one committee member is opposed. “I’m absolutely opposed to any new gun legislation,” Senate Judiciary member Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) said today. He supports suicide prevention legislation. “My idea is to work on the brain behind the trigger, and stop thinking the trigger is the problem.”

In other gun control legislation: a public hearing on H610, restricting firearms possession in cases of domestic violence, will be held 5-7 pm Feb. 18 at the Vermont State House. The bill is under review by House Judiciary. Judge Brian Grearson has raised questions about due process during his testimony before the committee, gun rights advocates say.

Also, Sen. Baruth said a bill he introduced last year to require background checks on homeschooling adults (except students’ parents) will not proceed this year. S9 is now in the Senate Education Committee, which he chairs.

Cloud tax bad for VT hi-tech, CEO says – the CEO for Faraday, a successful Burlington software company specializing in artificial intelligence, testified today to the House Ways & Means Committee that a proposed sales tax on cloud services would harm Vermont tech firms. H756 and H841 are now before the House.

Robbie Adler said it would tax only Vermont commerce, thus placing it at a disadvantage with non-Vermont customers; would tax modernity; is a compliance nightmare; is a disincentive to start a tech business in Vermont; and would actually reduce tax revenue because a growing, non-taxed tech sector would produce more overall revenue.

Changes to commercial cannabis bill changes remove local taxes, maintain local control – S54, commercial ‘tax and regulate’ cannabis, is under review this week by the House Ways & Means Committee, which oversees taxation. The latest version has a 20% combined tax (sales and excise) but not “local” municipal tax. However, it does require that commercial cannabis operations cannot be sited in a municipality with an affirmative vote by town voters to “opt in” or allow the operations. Opponents of commercial cannabis prefer “opt-in” to the “opt-out” option, which would allow operations unless voters specifically forbid them.

An attempted veto override of H107, Paid Family Leave, is scheduled to be held on the House floor this afternoon. Five Progressive lawmakers reportedly will now vote in favor, but it remains to be seen if there are the 100 votes necessary to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto.

Correction: the Chairman of the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) is Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman (P-Middletown Springs), and the vice-chair is Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange). The chair and vice-chair were incorrectly identified in yesterday’s story on a candidate for state auditor sponsoring a bill to pump the brakes on climate change regulation.

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