A steady mind for
Robin’s Top Issues
The legislature deals with a wide variety of subjects. Here are Robin’s thoughts and commitments on a few of them.
GET MOBILE ALERT
Text STOP to 2233 to stop receiving messages. Terms & Conditions
This is not a typical election year.
Instead it is a year of multiple crises; one a global pandemic leading to health, economic, and social hardship. The other is a crisis of social discord and antagonism fanned by the White House and amplifying the existing hardships. As much as we would like to focus fully on the first crisis, the second crisis shapes not just our ability to respond, but trust in our institutions and leadership.
Vermont, our brave little state, has risen to these challenges with common sense and unity of purpose. The Democratic Legislature and the Republican administration are both committed to listening to the best science and taking whatever actions are needed to provide both safety and economic relief.Within the Legislature the House Leadership, which I am a part of, has beenmeeting twice a week seeking and finding common ground among Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, and Independents. This is what crisis response should be.
As I write this in early May, my work most definitely not normal. Unimaginable just 2 months ago, the Legislature is meeting remotely, a realistic annual budget is largely speculation, and unemployment is nearing 30%. Legislators are spending a great deal of time trying to resolve unemployment issues and to help where it is needed most. And it is an election year. In light of the ongoing crises, campaigning is far down my list, given that public safety and the state economy are top priorities. So for the time being I will continue to be Stay Home and Stay Safe and to do what you elected me to do: to provide common sense representation and leadership for our communities and the state of Vermont.Read More
When the federal government postponed the tax filing date to July 15, Vermont did the same because state taxes are based on federal taxes. However, while these income taxes are postponed, property taxes are not and are due on the usual schedule.
Some portion of these property tax payments will certainly also be delayed due to financial hardship. But towns are still required to make scheduled payments into the Education Fund, or face fairly stiff penalties. In light of this, the Legislature has taken a couple of actions. One is to give towns the option to waive penalties and late fees on overdue payments. The other is to allow towns to borrow from banks and credit unions in order to make their scheduled Education Fund payments, and the state will use federal relief dollars to pay the interest on those loans so that towns will bear no additional expense.
I supported both actions to prevent financial burden on our communities, but I am unsettled that our method of providing relief for Vermonters ultimately means transferring money to banks. To be sure, banks play a critical role in the state economy, but at times like this I sure wish we had a State Bank to keep that money working in Vermont for Vermonters. In the last two sessions I have introduced bills to establish a State Bank, to no avail. I will keep my eye on this issue.Read More
In Town Meeting week the focus is on local elections and the legislature takes a break from deliberations in Montpelier. In the last week those deliberations were fast paced and sometime contentious.
On example was the cannabis bill creating a tax and regulate system to control the production and sale of cannabis in the state. This bill prioritizes small growers, under 1000 square feet, and limits people to one of any kind of license: growing, wholesaling, processing, retail, or testing, or an integrated license allowing one of each. The limitations exist to prevent a monopoly by any one player. It does not change current law for either medical dispensaries or home cultivation.
Though it passed the House by a vote of 90-54 it will likely be vetoed by Governor Scott over the issue of roadside testing for impairment. Despite the governor’s insistence, no such test currently exists and the best determination is by a trained Drug Recognition Expert. Existing blood or saliva tests do not prove impairment but simply the presence of THC, which could be residual from even the previous week.
Another controversial bill is the update of Act 250 which turned 50 years old this year. The bill began as a sprawling and complex update on a bewildering variety of issues and ended up still sprawling, but with less dramatic impact than originally envisioned. The main points are an easing of regulations in designated downtowns and some village centers to encourage compact development. The bill also takes new steps to protect forest connectivity and to include energy efficiency as a development criteria. The bill now heads to the senate for its review.Read More