What were your Representatives doing for the past six months, and how did they vote on taxes, gun rights, property rights, illegal immigration, culture wars, marijuana, and more? Click on each link to find out.
$5.82 Billion FY18 Budget (H.518). Passed 143-1 on March 30, 2017. H.518 set the total FY18 budget at a $5.82 billion, an overall 1% increase over FY17. State (non-Federal) spending would total $2.5 billion, an increase of about $20 million over FY17. The General Fund would grow by 1.8%.Those voting YES celebrated a budget that did not rely on new taxes or fee increases and grows in line with inflation.The one NO vote explained his vote, ““Even though we haven’t increased [the budget], I think the budget needs to go on a diet.”
Miscellaneous Tax Bill with No New Taxes or Fees (H.516). Passed 138-0 on March 30, 2017. TheMiscellaneous Tax Bill for FY18 did not include any new taxes or fees. It does rely on approximately $5 million in new revenue from enhanced compliance with existing taxes. The bill passed unanimously.
Create Statewide Teachers’ Healthcare Contract/$26 Million in Property Tax Savings (H.509, Beck Amendment). Passed 74-74 on May 3, 2017. The Beck Amendment represented Governor Scott’s proposal to create a statewide teachers’ contract for healthcare benefits, which could save property taxpayers an estimated $26,000,000. Those voting YES supported the proposal. Those voting NO opposed it.
Mandates Employees Buy Family Leave Insurance Via New Payroll Tax (H.196). Passed 88-58 on March 3, 2017. H.196 levies a new payroll tax on Vermont employees to create a new “family leave” program that would be administered similarly to unemployment insurance. The language in the bill sets the payroll tax at 0.141% of one’s first $150,000 of income, but acknowledges that if revenue necessary to fund demand the program is not met by that rate, the rate will rise to meet demand. Those voting YES support the program. Those voting NO see it as another tax and administrative burden on Vermont businesses.
Allow Warrantless Confiscation of Firearms In Cases of Alleged Domestic Abuse (H.422). Passed 78-60 on March 22, 2017. H.422 would allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms from a citizen arrested or cited for domestic assault, without a warrant and regardless of whether or not a firearm played a part in the allegation, for a period of up to five days. Those voting YES on this bill believe the measure is necessary to combat domestic abuse. Those voting NO see this as a violation of Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution (the right to defend one’s self), and the Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms), Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure), Fifth Amendment (due process), and Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection under the law) of the U.S. Constitution.
Restrict Private Property/Development Rights (H.233). Passed 85-58 on May 4, 2017. The “Forest Fragmentation” bill makes it much more difficult for property owners to develop subdivide their land by creating a number of regulatory criteria that must be met in regard to preserving “forest blocks,” defined in part as “a contiguous area of forest in any stage of succession and not currently developed for nonforest use.” Those voting YES want to impose additional Act 250 regulation on rural forest land. Those voting NO believe rural forestland additional regulation of forestland is unwarranted, will discourage long term investment in forestland and in forestry, and is a violation of personal property rights.
Mandate “Gender Neutral” Bathrooms (H.333). Passed 123-19 on April 21, 2017. H.333 would make it illegal for a restaurant, gas station, grocery store, etc. to offer customers the service of private men’s and women’s bathrooms, mandating that all single-occupancy bathrooms be open to all genders. Those voting YES believe this is necessary to make transgender citizens feel comfortable. Those voting NO believe this is a gross example of government overreach, and an unnecessary regulation interfering with Vermont businesses.
Legalize Growing/Possessing Marijuana, Sets Stage for Retail Sales/Taxation (S.22). Passed 79-66 on May 10, 2017. S.22 was originally a fentanyl regulation bill repurposed to be a vehicle for passage of marijuana legalization. It would remove all criminal penalties for adults 21 or older who possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and allow growing up to two mature and two immature marijuana plants per household, and would go into effect in 2018. The bill also sets up a commission that will create a framework for taxing and regulating retail sales of marijuana. Those voting YES support legalization of marijuana; those voting NO oppose it.
Bar State Law Enforcement from Gathering Information for a Federal Immigration Registry(S.79). Passed 110-24 on March 14, 2017. This bill was designed to “send a message” regarding President Trump’s policies on immigration, but without doing anything that might classify Vermont as “sanctuary state.” The registry the bill bars Vermont from providing information to does not actually exist. Those voting YES oppose the president’s immigration policies. Those voting NO see the bill as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, but potentially puts federal funding for Vermont programs at risk.
Pledge Support/Funds for Global/State Climate Change Agenda (H.R.15). Passed 105-31, June 21, 2017. Those voting YES on H.R.15 resolved that Vermont will continue to bear the costs and sacrifices of the global Paris Climate Agreement despite the U.S. withdrawal from the pact, and to affirm support for an aggressive statewide CO2 reduction program. Those voting NO recognized that this resolution, would require significantly higher taxes, economically crippling regulations, and that legislators were voting on this after no debate and no analysis of the potential economic impact.
Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.