Committees deciding which bills live and die by Friday, March 17 Crossover deadline
By Guy Page
It’s Baby Sea Turtle time under the Golden Dome. Of the hundreds of bills “born,” few survive the predators of apathy, opposition by other lawmakers, the public, lobbyists, the governor, and Crossover.
Some critics of the current Legislature might say, too few. It’s supporters might say the Legislature’s traditional five month session needs to be extended, and/or its rules streamlined, to allow more bills to survive the long, sandy beach unscathed, figuratively speaking. Be that as it may, the Vermont Legislature’s rules say that any bill not approved by its committee of origin by the Crossover date can’t ‘cross over’ to the other chamber in the same calendar year.
This year, Crossover is this Friday, March 17. Caveat alert: Some bills left hanging on committee walls when the weekend adjournment gavel falls Friday will survive. The state budget, major tax initiatives, and the Transportation bill (AKA the “T-Bill) all are exempt. The Crossover rules can be “waived if leadership really, really wants a bill to pass.
And remember, the Legislature is in the first year of the 2023-24 biennium. Supporters of bills left on the wall this year can always say, like the frustrated Brooklyn Dodger and Boston Red Sox fans of old, “we’ll win it all next year.”
But still. If a bill 1) hasn’t been passed out of committee yet or 2) isn’t scheduled to be reviewed and passed this week….well, let’s just say the crabs and the seagulls are closing in.
With that in mind, Vermont Daily Chroicle this week will profile bills grouped by general subject area: today, the bills poised to proceed in House and Senate committees dealing with energy, environment, agriculture, and forestry.
The bill that so far has gotten the most attention is S.5, the Affordable Heating Act. In fact its name got so much attention – of the negative kind – that its parental committee, Natural Resources and Energy, actually changed the bill’s name to “An act relating to affordably meeting the mandated greenhouse gas reductions for the thermal sector through efficiency, weatherization measures, electrification, and decarbonization.”
But a bill passed out by any other name is still a bill passed out, albeit with a two-year study and subsequent affirmative legislative vote requirement. It now goes to the House.
Other bills passed out: H.165, universal meals in schools, would provide $29 million for free breakfast and lunch for all public school students. Critics say it’s unnecessary, wasteful, and taking one more parental responsibility away from parents. Supporters say so many children are food-insecure that half-measures are not adequate. It’s now in the House Education Committee. It will likely go through the House Appropriations Committee, which determines state spending.
H.161 lets the State of Vermont prohibit towns issuing burn permits during times of dry weather. At present, the decision is left to the municipalities. It also more strongly regulates burning items with dangerous substances. This bill cleared the House and is now in the Senate.
H.205 will be reviewed by the Ag committee this week. Sponsored by a Progressive and several Republicans, it allocates $250,000 to help small farms diversify or switch from one product to another.
H158, expanding the bottle bill, was passed by House Energy & Environment and sent to the Ways and Means Committee. It would expand the kinds of drinks requiring a container deposit (including juices and teas), raise the recycling charge from four cents to five, and require manufacturers and bottlers to manage and pay for the container recycling.
H126, 50% conservation of total land area by 2050, was passed out by House E&E and sent to the Agriculture Committee, where it will be reviewed this week.
More information on these bills and others that have cleared the Ag/Energy/Environment committees, or are scheduled for review this week. Senate Ag hasn’t passed out any bills, and has no testimony scheduled on numbered bills this week.
House Agriculture, Food Resiliency, and Forestry Committee
|Bill #||Date intro’d||Topic||Sponsor||Party||Current location or status|
|H.165||2/3/2023||Requires public schools to serve free meals||Brady||Democrat||Education|
|H.161||2/2/2023||Clarifies burning-permit policy||Committee bill||Passed by House, in Senate|
|H.205||2/8/2023||Provides State assistance in diversifying farm production||Graham/ Surprenant||Rep./ Dem.||Committee review this week|
|House Environmental & Energy Committee|
|H.158||2/1/2023||Expands the beverage container redemption system||Sheldon||Democrat||House Ways & Means|
|H.126||1/31/2023||Conserve 50% of Vermont land by 2050||Sheldon||Democrat||Agriculture, Food Resiliency, Forestry|
|H.67||1/19/2023||Manufacturers pay for household hazardous products collection||Dolan||Democrat||Passed House, in Senate|
|H.70||1/19/2023||Restrictions on telecommunications sitings||Dolan/ Patt||Democrat||Committee review this week|
|H.110||1/26/2023||Extends application period for telecom siting||Sibilia||Democrat||Committee review this week|
|H.31||1/10/2023||Aquatic nuisance control moratorium||Bongartz||Democrat||Committee review this week|
|Senate Natural Resources & Energy|
|S.5||1/6/2023||Affordable Heat Act mandate||Bray||Democrat||Passed Senate|
|S.80||2/14/2023||Various environmental, conservation law changes||Bray||Democrat||Committee Review This Week|
|23-0476||Energy Efficiency Modernization Act – extends 2020 Act 151||Committee Review This Week|