Senate overrides Scott veto of S.5

Senator on the fence said he believes S.5 ‘truly is a feasibility study’

Sen. Dick Sears (in cap, at right) moves through a throng of mostly S.5 opponents before this morning’s veto override vote. Page photo

By Guy Page

The Vermont Senate this morning voted by the required two-thirds majority to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of S.5, the Affordable Heating Act.

The 20 Yes, 10 No vote in the 30-seat upper chamber now sends the S.5 veto override to the Vermont House, where override supporters confidently predict a wide margin of “Yes” votes to override the veto.

S.5 has been by far the most discussed bill of the 2023 session. Supporters hope to incentivize – others would say coerce – home heating away from fossil fuels to electricity. The essence of the bill is to charge wholesale fuel dealers extra and convert the revenue to weatherization, heat pump, and advanced wood pellet subsidies. 

Details – such as what S.5 will cost homeowners and how it would be implemented – are still to be determined. That job now falls to the state Public Utilities Commission, which is charged with answering those questions in a report due in two years. 

Then comes the controversial ‘check back’ – a provision of S.5 that commits the Legislature to vote on the PUC plan and findings. Supporters say it’s a feasibility study that will protect Vermonters from the consequences of unanswered questions. Opponents say the S.5 decarbonization train will have picked up such speed by then that the report, and checkback, won’t be able to stop it. 

Gov. Scott vetoed S.5 over the check back provision, which he called ‘confusing and contradictory.’ In today’s vote, the one senator who S.5 opponents hoped would ‘flip’ – Sen. Richard Sears – cited his faith in the check back process. 

“It truly is a feasibility study,” Sears declared on the floor. He said he has heard from many Vermonters about their fears of what S.5 will bring. “It is our duty to allay those fears,” he said. He added that maybe S.5 will turn out ‘to be like single payer,’ a reference to the health care insurance bill that proved too costly for Democratic Sen. Peter Shumlin to support.

Another senator who some opponents hoped might vote no was Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia). She voted yes without comment.

Several Democratic senators did join the small Republican caucus: Robert Starr (D-Orleans), Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle/Colchester), and Irene Wrenner (D-Chittenden-North). (VDC erroneously reported earlier that Sen. Tom Chittenden had voted no.)

Wrenner skewered S.5 as a bill that, purporting to reduce Vermont carbon emissions, actually will encourage the combustion of Vermont-grown trees and imported natural gas. If S.5 were really a climate change bill, “biomass and fracked gas would not get a pass,” she said. 

Before the vote, a large number of Vermonters opposing S.5 attempted to corner senators to express their views. They held a banner outside stating that S.5 makes Vermont ‘the Green Washing State,’ a reference to S.5’s use of carbon credits that allow fossil-fuel dealers like Vermont Gas to continue to sell their imported fracked gas by subsidizing low-carbon energy solutions. 

The assembled protesters also protested Senate Pro Tem Phil Baruth’s request that pro-S.5 senators not offer floor speeches in favor. The purported reason was to allow Rutland Sen. David Weeks to participate in a family funeral, scheduled for late morning. Under the Legislature’s procedural rules, delaying the vote even a day would have jeopardized the override veto vote’s appearance in the House by Friday, the scheduled adjournment date. It also offered a procedural reason for pro S.5 senators to not have to go on the record explaining their votes. 

Before the vote, Sen. Wrenner handed protester John Brabant of Vermonters for a Clean Environment and others with him a handout of remarks explaining her firm opposition to S.5, a/k/a the Affordable Heating Act (AHA).

Wrenner – an Essex Junction community newspaper publisher – asked her senate colleagues:

“Will your AHA moment come this summer once we’ve left the State House? Next year when primaried by someone who runs on S.5 alone and reminds the public how the majority ignored their logical, heart felt pleas? Four years hence, when heat pump owners write to VTDigger that it’s a great air conditional, but they’re paying more than ever to keep warm, between the cost of electric heat pumps and the S.5 adder from their primary fuel dealer?”

Gov. Scott issued this statement after the override:

“Unfortunately, the Senate has chosen to override my veto on S.5, but I want to thank the bipartisan group of senators, including all seven Republicans and Democratic Senators Mazza, Starr and Wrenner for having the courage to put their constituents first by voting to sustain.

“I also want to thank the many thousands of Vermonters who have reached out to their legislators advocating against this bill. The House will take its final vote later this week. Please continue to make your voice heard, and I will continue to work to make it at the center of this debate

“Regardless of whether or not your representatives listen to you this week, Vermonters should know that I will not stop advocating on your behalf. I will continue to offer policy solutions that help people, not punish those who can least afford it. That is what you elected me to do.”

Categories: Legislation

32 replies »

  1. Just as I predicted. Sears is nothing more than a political hack. As an aside, his Senate 6 vehicle was parked illegally at Hannaford’s Grocery store in Bennington two weeks ago parked (conveniently) in a FIRE LANE. And I didn’t even know he was a volunteer firefighter!

    Ah, the “privilege” – meanwhile these servants of the public are supposed to be feeling privileged to be serving us, not themselves.

    Good going, Sears!!!!! Kiss those monied special interest behinds! And next time, why not drive your Senate 6 car straight through the paned glass of Hannaford’s & shop right from inside your car? You people r pathetic.

    • And you don’t allay ANY fears, Sears, so don’t kid yourself. You people are completely sold out to the corporatists and do NOT represent the citizens of VT

    • And, Sears, you don’t allay ANY of our “fears”. You people are so sold out to the corporatist ideology you can’t see straight. You do NOT represent the citizens of Vermont

  2. So what if S5 is a feasibility study? Study for what ? Rep. Sibilia recognized what we all knew: S5 would not affect climate….So as the federal government is facing on June first the brutal possibility of not being able to pay to its creditors the massive debt accumulated, Vermont legislators want to spend more money for “nothing “. Absolutely irresponsible and disgusting. Those people do not not belong in the State House. They should all resign. Drop all the green subsidies and put back that money in the federal coffers before our country collapses .

  3. Dick, your duty is not to “allay the fears” that Vermonters have over this bill – your duty is to SERVE OUR INTERESTS AND TO LISTEN TO US! But go ahead, live up to your name and serve your OWN interests.

    Disgusting. Back in the day, political snakes like this were torn from their homes and tarred & feathered before being run out of town on a rail.

    • I’m game for that. Just sayin’. MAKE THOMAS JEFFERSON PROUD AGAIN.

  4. Well, well, well. I’m sorry for the passing of David Weeks mom Geraldine. BUT!! I think letting the override veto of S.5 is important enough to WAIT until every member can have the time needed to explain their Yay or Nay votes. Senate Pro Tem Phil Baruth should be ashamed of himself. I guess that delaying the vote, even by 1 day, would jeopardize the override veto. Hmmm. I guess Phil didn’t walk through the same Vermont protestors that Irene Wrenner walked through. Thank you to Irene, Tom Chittenden, and Dick Mazza (democrats standing with Republicans)for voting Nay on S.5. Shame on the rest of you for voting for something that will not work, it will make Vermonter’s leave the State, and prevent ANYONE with half a brain from moving here or starting a business. I would ask for an explanation of the “check back”, but Phil Scott doesn’t even understand it. Confusing and contradictory I believe were his words.

    • “Baruth should be ashamed of himself.”
      That would require a conscience, something that soulless ghoul seared beyond recognition years ago.

      • I should think the hubristic mr. baruth to be quite proud of himself today. He has accomplished one of the many goals his corporate masters assigned to him.
        baruth may truly believe the falsehoods S.5 is based on, but I’d doubt it. baruth and so many other current legislators have allegiance only to the ideology and dollars that flow to them. To follow the Vermont Constitution and the required oaths is beneath them.
        S.5 was and is about rapidly accelerating Vermont into a dystopian, totalitarian society. Never was S.5 about climate- had it been, the outcome would be much different.

  5. Up is down, down is up, women can be men and men can be women, children belong to their parents, children belong to the state, burning wood is bad, the government burning biomass (burning wood) is good, fossil fuels are bad, fossil fuels are good (while ripping our ridge lines apart for electric monoliths), crime is bad, defund the police is good, crime is worse, drug use is good, drugs are bad, but safe injection sites are good, republicans are bad, democrats and progressives are good, guns are bad, but criminals are good, being poor is bad, being rich is good, violating your oath of office is bad, democrats violating their oath good, violating your states constitution is bad, demo/Prog violating the constitution is good, republican lobbyists are bad, demo/prog lobbyists are good, democrats care for the poor used to be good but now it’s bad, republicans care for the poor is good, democrats in power for 40 years is bad, democrats say republicans in power would be bad, how would the democrats know? It’s time to elect republicans to find out.

  6. You get what you vote for. What’s really sad is that all the yes voters will get reelected.

    • We have 18 months to get The Truth out and change that forever. But, first we have to take control of the Voter Fraud in Vermont.

    • Unless the representatives who support this bill, can provide a means of state funding for those of us in Vermont (who cannot afford this type of energy convergence), I still believe that the voters in Vermont have the opportunity to vote them out of office. Remember how cold it was during this past winter (-35 degrees)?; perhaps the legislature who support this bill need to find a place in “their cold hearts,” to remember those who may go without ” a warm place,” next winter season.

  7. I would like to remind representative in Montpelier, unless they can pay for their convergence of fuel fossils to their preferred medium of house heating, so that every household in Vermont who cannot afford this type of convergence, receives the funds from the state to do so, Vermonters will certainly vote them out of office, next election.

    • 2024, not one Progressive, Demorat, nor RINO will be elected. Hooray!

  8. The Vermont State House no longer even listens to what the voters think or want. Politicians now get elected and just push their own pet ideas into laws that have nothing to do with their constituent’s concerns and desires.

  9. Phil Scott is the living definition of a Drone: A drone is a male honeybee. Unlike the female worker bee, drones do not have stingers. They do not gather nectar or pollen and are unable to feed without assistance from worker bees. A drone’s only role is to mate with a maiden (progressive) queen in nuptial flight.

    Now Phil the Drone thinks the 72-hour waiting period to purchase a firearm might be unconstitutional. Gee THANKS Phil we didn’t know that.

  10. As if we needed more proof that those under the dome don’t care what “the people” need or want. They were asked to represent us and once again they have failed – those who are pushing this are doing so for a reason. And it is more than likely not as altruistic as they would have us believe. So as “we the people” huddle under blankets freezing our butts off because we cannot afford to heat our homes – let the cold remind us just who voted for this measure. And as voters we need to do a better job of vetting those wanting to work under the dome. Hold them accountable – require that they hear us.

  11. These duplicitous dirt bags are going to do what they want no matter what we the people want, or can afford. Remember in November !

  12. “….the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

  13. So disgusting. Please Vermont voters ..vote these traitors out in 24. It is time to stand up for the people of Vermont by getting these buffoons out of Montpelier. I am sending much appreciation for those who voted no and showed that you are actually working for the people of Vermont. Shame on the rest of you.

  14. Congratulations to Governor Scott. Weak leadership has consequences. Give up on in person voting and you get a veto-proof opposition. Republicans who stand for nothing get nothing done.

  15. As long as the far left stays in control of this state, Vermont will continue to erode. However, no matter how bad things get, these liberals continue to get re-elected.
    Many Vermonters say they “don’t want to get involved in Vermont’s politics”. Therefore, they remain uninformed. Some will never wake up to the bad policies and destruction to our state and the Constitution.
    Representatives, Senators, etc., used to be duty-bound to vote for what was best for their constituents, particularly the affordability of the laws that they vote for.
    Until “We, the People” stand up, revolt, and/or become more informed and vote common-sense conservatives back in office, nothing will change. Our “once-independent” Vermont state will continue its downward spiral.

    • Excellent Jan. And the epitaph for Vermont above and all the rest…..We the people have sadly allowed this, and it is only we the people who can halt it through whatever means necessary to restore what was once a Constitutional Republic. Benjamin Franklin was correct – as it turned out, we couldn’t “keep it” – but we can re-establish it. And we must.

  16. Given enough rope, they hang themselves. It is very simple to understand. Gov Scott vetoed the bill in an effort to appear on the People’s side – a disengenuous gesture when the outcome is all ready known (He did promote his stance on climate change – it’s not a secret.) The House and Senate are “the baddies.” They are all bad and corrupt to the core. They are all belligerent occupiers. They are all under the control of foreign adversaries. They are ordered and compensated to destroy the State and the United States. They shall reap what they sow. Declared and Decreed.

  17. …and, folks, if you think that those who voted for S.5 did so in the interests of
    their constituents, wait until next year when, having been paid off, they’ll also
    vote for TRUMP!

  18. The saddest part about all this…or perhaps the funniest? Listening to my progressive friends and family bemoan S5 with the statement “I can’t afford this. I didn’t think they’d come after ME, I will have to leave VT.”

    All I can say is you made your bed, now lay in it until 2024. Maybe next time you will do your due diligence at the voting booth. In the meantime, those of us who saw this coming (but couldn’t stop it), are ready for it.

  19. The level of ignorance and incompetence of the progressive/liberal/democrat members of the Vermont legislature is absolutely mind boggling. These people are lemmings, following a fantasy agenda, and could care less for Vermonters. Vote them out…

  20. Dear. Senators
    Randy Brock, Brian Collamore,Russ Ingalls, Dick Mazza, Robert Norris, Robert Starr, David Weeks, Richard Westman, Terry Williams and Irene Wrenner
    For your Common Sense vote FOR WE THE VERMONTERS !!
    Thank you for all your hard work the 10 of you 👍👍🇺🇸🗽🇺🇸
    No Thank you to the Rest of you 20 Bobo’s period!! 🤡🤡 beyond disgusting period!!
    May God be your light 🙏 ✨
    The Vermonter from the Right side with Common sense period!!