Other bills would transition to non-fossil fuel heat, ease punishment on drug possession, increasing restrictions on hunting
By Guy Page
A quick glance at the weekly schedule for House and Senate committees shows the Legislature intent on creating a racial issues bureaucracy and transitioning Vermont heating systems – state, municipal, and private – from fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels.
Tuesday-Thursday, House Corrections and Institutions will review H600, requiring the installation of nonfossil fuel heating and cooling equipment in any state-owned or controlled building needing new heating and cooling. The lead sponsor is Rep. Scott Campbell (D-St. Johnsbury), a weatherization entrepreneur and legislative advocate.
Today, House Energy & Technology will discuss and possibly vote on the Clean Heat Standard, a cap-and-trade scheme to get fossil fuel dealers to fund state programs for non-fossil fuel heating systems. At 3:45 today it also will discuss H518, providing funding for municipalities to transition from fossil-fuel to non-fossil fuel heat in municipal buildings.
In House Commerce Wednesday 9:30 AM – H. 406, promoting racial and social equity in economic opportunity and cultural empowerment. Scheduled to testify are Joan Goldstein, Commissioner, Department of Economic Development, and Xusana Davis, Executive Director of Racial Equity and Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Racial Equality, Agency of Administration.
H406 would create the Vermont Department of Cultural Empowerment and Economic Advancement, which would implement a statewide Cultural Empowerment and Economic Advancement Network, consisting of four Community Empowerment Centers located in different geographic regions of the state. It would create a new Treasury fund to finance the new department, estimated at $10 million per year.
At 9:15 Wednesday morning, House General, Housing and Military Affairs will discuss H96, creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Development Task Force “to examine and begin the process of dismantling institutional, structural, and systemic discrimination in Vermont, both past and present.” Wednesday afternoon it will be H273’s turn: “promoting racial and social equity in land access and property ownership” through creation of a new board and $10 million fund.
House Government Operations will do what the schedule calls a “drive-by” of H546, which would create the Division of Racial Justice Statistics within the Agency of Administration. It also creates a Racial Justice Statistics Advisory Council ($540,000 pricetag). These bodies would “work collaboratively with, and have the assistance of, all State and local agencies and departments for purposes of collecting all data related to systemic racial bias and disparities within the criminal and juvenile justice systems.”
Reformers of Vermont’s alleged systemic racial injustice say some arms of state government – notably, the police and Dept of Corrections – are historically unwilling or unable to extend race-related information.
Thursday morning at 11:15 AM, House Judiciary will take another look at H505, reclassification of penalties for unlawfully possessing, dispensing, and selling a regulated drug. A draft reviewed by the committee last week came under fire by Vermont states attorneys because it classified 30 grams of cocaine – a drug-dealer size quantity worth $3,000 on the street – as a ‘personal use’ punishable only by a minor misdemeanor.
House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife is scheduled to hold a possible vote at 1:15 this afternoon on H411, imposing strict requirements on the retrieval, skinning and dressing of wild animals killed by hunters. Thursday the committee is scheduled to discuss H606, which would require 50% of all land area in Vermont to be protected or conserved by 2050, in compliance with an international 50 by 50 campaign. At present, about 30% of Vermont land is protected or conserved from development. Both bills are sponsored by committee Chair Amy Sheldon (D-East Middlebury).