S37 abortion/transgender bill changes admit some CPCs engage in fair advertising
By Guy Page
Two controversial, high-profile Senate bills – one on climate, the other on abortion/transgender services – were significantly amended and then approved by committees yesterday.
S.5, the Affordable Heating Act that is the successor to last year’s vetoed Clean Heat Standard Bill, was approved by Senate Appropriations by a 4-3 vote.
Among several amendments approved by Approps, the most sought after by critics was the ‘check back’ with one major change sought by its opponents, who say the plan is undeveloped, complex, and lacks clarity and transparency in its cost and manpower requirements.
The proposed checkback two years from this January gives state energy experts time to develop needed information and the Legislature an affirmative responsibility to vote on a more clear path forward.
The amendment requires that by Jan. 15, 2025, the Public Utilities Commission “shall submit to the General Assembly final proposed rules to implement the Clean Heat Standard.” No rules may be enacted “until specific authorization is enacted by the General Assembly to do so.”
Approps added that the Clean Heat Standard “shall to the greatest extent possible maximize the use of available federal funds.” It also requires customer data protection and funding for data analysts to crunch the numbers on AHA timeframe and costs.
“The checkback amendment that was approved in S5 by the Senate Appropriations Committee is a major and necessary improvement,” S.5 skeptic John Brabant of Vermonters for a Clean Environment said. “It just respects Vermonters and respects our institutions.”
Speaking of WVMT’s Morning Drive today, Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden) said the amendment makes S.5 a two year study bill.
S.5 now goes to the Senate floor. The bill faces possible changes in the House if it is approved by the Senate.
Crisis Pregnancy Center ‘false advertising’ language softened – a bill that shields abortion and transgender service providers from any legal challenges and also empowers the State to subpoena and investigate pro-life crisis pregnancy centers had language on the latter softened by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
The amended version of S37 was approved yesterday. The new language can be seen in today’s Senate Calendar.
Unlike S37 as introduced, the approved amendment concedes some Vermont CPCs “openly acknowledge in their advertising, on their websites, and at their facilities, that they neither provide abortions nor refer clients to other providers of abortion services.” It also “respects the right of limited-service pregnancy centers to counsel individual against abortion, and nothing in this subchapter sahould be construed to regulate, limit or curtail such advocacy.” However, the bill maintains that the Attorney General may take aggressive action if a CPC allegedly engages in false advertising.