S.5, with contradictory ‘checkback’ wording, sent to House floor

One clause in controversial carbon-reduction bill appears to say regulators must wait for checkback, another clause says they don’t

Abortion ‘shield’ bill punishing pro-life clinics also voted out of House committee

By Guy Page

S.5, a carbon emissions reduction bill, and S.37, shielding abortion/transgender providers from legal challenges and punishing pro-life pregnancy centers, were approved by House committees yesterday and have been scheduled for votes by the full House of Representatives. 

S.5 and S.37 are on today’s “notice calendar,” indicating they are likely to be voted on by the full House tomorrow. Both bills were amended slightly from the Senate version, so if approved by the House the differences will need to be reconciled before the bills become law. Gov. Phil Scott has said he doesn’t like aspects of S.5, but is generally supportive of S.37.

S.5 seeks to meet 2019 mandated greenhouse gas reductions for the thermal sector through efficiency, weatherization measures, electrification, and decarbonization, via a de facto carbon taxation scheme that would raise heating fuel costs and allocate some of the revenue proceeds to efficiency, weatherization etc..

Senate leaders in March responded to intense citizen opposition to S.5 by adding a two-year study and a subsequent legislative “checkback,” including an affirmative vote to proceed with state regulators’ implementation of the plan. However, another clause passed by the Senate and maintained in the House version appears to offer a ‘workaround’ of the checkback requirement.

S.5 contains two seemingly contradictory clauses regarding the need for a legislative “checkback” and approval on proposed Public Utilities Commission carbon reduction implementation and orders by the Legislature in January 2025. 

“Upon affirmative authorization enacted by the General Assembly authorizing the adoption of rules implementing the Clean Heat Standard, the Commission shall file, as the final proposed rule, the rules implementing the Clean Heat Standard.” (Pg. 1904, April 19 House Journal.)

Check-back reports. On or before February 15, 2024 and January 15, 2025, the Commission shall submit a written report to and be available to provide oral testimony to the House Committee on Environment and Energy and the Senate Committees on Finance and on Natural Resources and Energy detailing the efforts undertaken to establish the Clean Heat Standard. 

“The reports shall include, to the extent available, estimates of the impact of the Clean Heat Standard on customers, including impacts to customer rates and fuel bills for participating and nonparticipating customers, net impacts on total spending on energy for thermal sector end uses, fossil fuel reductions, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and, if possible, impacts on economic activity and employment. The modeled impacts shall estimate high-, medium- , and low-price impacts. The reports shall recommend any legislative action needed to address enforcement or other aspects of the Clean Heat Standard, including how to ensure fuel use that occurs outside the thermal sector is not impacted under the program. (Pg. 1905). 

Yet under the Rulemaking session, S.5 appears to permit the Public Utilities Commission to issue orders and implementation without legislative checkback or permission:

The requirements to adopt rules and any requirements regarding the need for legislative approval before any part of the Clean Heat Standard goes into effect do not in any way impair the Commission’s authority to issue orders or take any other actions, both before and after final rules take effect, to implement and enforce the Clean Heat Standard. (Pg. 1894.)

The apparent workaround was mentioned this week by the Campaign for Vermont. Rep. Laura Sibilia, vice-chair of the House Environment and Energy Committee and the ‘reporter’ for the bill to the House floor, said the bill also authorizes a challenge to the Supreme Court and that the PUC is unlikely to challenge what she says is the legislative intent of the law – i.e. the two-year study and the ‘checkback’ affirmative vote. 

S.37, introduced two months after Vermont voters amended the state constitution to enshrine a civil right to reproductive liberty, provides layers of legal shielding against abortion and transgender providers and consumers (of any age) and also specifically grants the Vermont Attorney General to take civil action against pregnancy resource centers for any alleged deceitful marketing practices. 

The Vermont Family Alliance predicted today that “in current and future court challenges, protected entities cannot be shielded against what was known prior to today’s vote.”

“For example, Senator [Phil, of Chittenden County] Baruth’s assertion, -But the fact that conversion therapy is singled out for some small group of constituents might be an issue that they would take issue with the ban on conversion therapy.’

“A small group? The so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is known and debated worldwide and books have been and are being written. Senator Baruth was offered and ignored expert testimony. The so-called conversion therapy includes any therapy model that focuses on the gender dysphoric patients’ mental state and their biological bodies. This model is very careful to alter a healthy body because of the scientific development stages of the patient’s brain, serious side effects, eminent infertility, and life dependency on medical interventions.

“The gender-affirming model focuses on altering the body for mental results and has absolutely no evidence-based studies as revealed in committee. The one direction of the gender-affirming model protected by H89 and S37 is not evidence-based and ignores the development of the human brain and age limits the Vermont government has already put on drinking alcohol, driving, gun ownership, smoking, and marijuana, with or without parental consent. Shield laws cannot protect against negligence.”

Categories: Legislation

1 reply »

  1. s 37, talk about discrimination. This is just about as bad as it gets very one-sided.