By Guy Page
January 7, 2019 – On the Legislature’s first day back, the ‘bill mill’ resumed at a rapid pace as House Democratic Caucus leaders gave members two minutes each to pitch new ideas to would-be co-sponsors.
612 House bills have been introduced this biennium, 242 by the Senate. The pitches made this morning may never become bills, much less laws. Still, they give a taste for what matters to some members of the majority party. Here are several:
- Allow treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, without required parental consent, for children as young as 12 years old. (Rep. George Till, D-Underhill.)
- Make contraception available from a pharmacist, without a doctor’s prescription. (Rep. Till.)
- Add two cents to the heating fuel tax, raising it to four cents, to fund home weatherization. Add four cents to transportation fuel tax. (Rep. Mike Yantachka, Charlotte.) Taxes are needed because Transportation & Climate Initiative, even if passed, will not take effect until 2023, he said.
- Ban flavored cigarettes and tobacco. (Rep. Jessica Brumstead, Shelburne.)
- Eliminate insulin copays and out-of-pocket charges. (Mari Cordes, Lincoln.) Financing details have not been worked out yet, she said.
- Fund pre-K special education at same level as special ed in all other grades. (Rep. Carolyn Partridge, Windham.) Early intervention is important, she said.
- Expand public school choice to grades 7-8. (Rep. Patridge.)
- Create stringent civil protections for reverse mortgage sales. (Rep. Tommy Walz, Barre.)
Backlog or no backlog, after banging the gavel to begin the second year of the biennium, Speaker Mitzi Johnson left no doubt that carbon reduction legislation would proceed vigorously: “We cannot turn a blind eye to the dangers of climate change.”
Johnson said that even though Vermont has a small carbon footprint, “we must do our part to curb the pace of global warming…. we do not have time to waste. We will be taking a strong look at TCI….we have a lot to gain from the investments we will get back, and a lot to lose if we opt out.”
The House’s morning devotional was given by a trio of Abenaki women. Singing accompanied by drum was followed by a prayer acknowledging “that we stand here in this stone house, built on Abenaki land” and gave thanks to Mother Earth and asked “the power of the four winds to keep this House in balance.”