by Guy Page
In February, Vermont House committees turn from January’s “welcome back, here’s what happened when you were gone” reports from state officials and lobbyists, settle into their seats, and begin to look at bills. This week, several bills of interest will come “off the wall” of introduction and get a serious look by committee members. These include:
Thursday, 9 am, in Commerce and Economic Devleopment: H57, the “Vermont Economic Solutions Act,” would create a 21-member committee to develop and implement a five-year plan for Vermont to grow the majority of its food within five years, strengthen rural infrastructure, increase Vermont household income to the top fifth in the nation, and address and prevent adverse childhood experiences.
Its name and structure echo last year’s “Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act,” which created a 23 member Climate Council to plan and implement mandated carbon reductions. It’s sponsored by Rep. John Gannon (D-Wilmington), vice-chair of the Government Operations Committee, and Dave Yacovone (D-Morristown), a member of House Appropriations.
Wednesday, 10 AM, in House Institutions and Corrections and Judiciary committees: an update on Justice Reinvestment II, a law passed last July. It provides “presumptive parole” for inmates who have served the minimum sentence and met other conditions, increases frequency of parole reviews, reinstitutes “earned good time” off of a sentence, allows release to unapproved housing, and other measures aimed at getting inmates out of prison and into the community.
Wednesday, 11 AM, in House Education: H101 would provide $800,000 in school grants for sustainable literacy with measurable outcomes.
Tuesday, 2:30 pm, House Government Operations will review H122, which (among other changes) would create a registry for home contractors. This bill is a priority for the Climate Solutions Caucus, because they say the state has no way to contact contractors to inform them of “green” carbon-reducing building codes. A similar bill failed last year, due in part to opponents concerns it would lead to licensure, state control, and increased building costs.
H122 also would create yet another state council: the Vermont Higher Education Endowment Trust Fund Council. It also would remove balanced political affiliation from the Vermont Council on Women.
H122 sponsors are committee vice-chair Gannon and House Minority Assistant Leader Rob LaClair (R – Barre Town). A vote could be held Thursday.
Tuesday, 1:45 pm, House Judiciary will review H87: crime reclassification. This bill assigns dollar values to property crime sentencing. For example: “if the value of the property that is at issue in the offense is less than $100, the offense shall be a Class D misdemeanor.” On the other end, property crimes of $100K or more would be class D felonies, punishable by 5-10 years imprisonment. H87 is sponsored by Rep. Bill Notte (D) of Rutland City.
Thursday, 9 AM, House Judiciary will review H133: giving judges issuing emergency relief from abuse orders the power to require relinquishment of firearms.
Thursday afternoon, House Judiciary will review H145, to prevent the use of hindsight in evaluating law enforcement conduct and narrow the definition of prohibited restraints. The bill is sponsored by Chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) and committee member Kevin Christie (D-Hartford), making its committee review and serious consideration a virtual certainty.
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“Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything.”Joseph Stalin Hopefully history will not repeat itself.