Legislative week in preview

by Rob Roper

Things are getting underway at the statehouse. After all the pomp, circumstance and catching up with old friends that dominated the first week of the session, legislators are setting their priorities and getting to work passing laws.

Here is a look at some of the key bills and issues coming up in committee (or otherwise under the Golden Dome) this week.

On Tuesday…

The House Education and Appropriations Committees will take up the Picus Report on the state of Vermont’s education financing system. Lawrence Picus himself will be testifying.

The House Fish & Wildlife Committee will take up H.486 – An act relating to hydraulic fracturing wells for natural gas and oil production. This bill proposes to prohibit the issuance of a permit for a discharge into an injection well for conventional or enhanced recovery of natural gas or oil.

House Natural Reources & Energy will spend most of their time all week (and presumably longer) discussing H. 468 – An act relating to a renewable portfolio standard and the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program.

Over in the senate, the Committee on Finance will take up S. 196 – An act relating to improving Vermont’s economic competitiveness by reducing the state tax burden. This was a refreshing sight to see on the ajenda! The bill is sponsored by Sen. Vinci Illuzzi and it’s statement of purpose is to: “(1) allow bonus depreciation against personal and corporate income taxes; (2) bring Vermont’s exclusion amount for estate taxes in line with the federal amount; (3) allow the deductibility of state and local taxes against personal income taxes; (4) return capital gains treatment to a straight 40 percent exemption from income; and (5) move the corporate income tax apportionment formula to a single sales factor with no throwback rule.” Let’s see if it goes anywhere.

At 1:00pm the Green Mountain Care Board will meet to provide an overview of their work plan for the upcoming year. A few sparks flew last week when the Board met with the Health Care Committees for the first time.

On Wednesday…

The House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs takes up H 239 – An act relating to public sector fair share agency fees. This bill proposes to, “require that employees in bargaining units organized under state law who do not join the labor organization representing the unit pay a fair share agency fee.” Essentially, it forces non-union members to pay dues to the union.

On Thursday…

The Governor will give his budget address at 2:00 pm. You can listen live on line. (Click on the “House” stream.)

The Senate Agriculture committee will discuss S.246 – An act relating to preserving Vermont’s working landscape. The big challenge here is not to turn the working landscape into a welfare landscape.

The Commerce Committee will spend the morning taking testimony on “lessons learned” from Irene.

In the evening, the last of the Administration’s Health Care Reform Financing Listening Session will take place at Catamount Arts, 115 Eastern Ave., St. Johnsbury.

On Friday…

Agency of Natural Resources & Energy will discuss H. 479 – An act relating to a tax on the storage of spent nuclear fuel and a tax to fund post closure activities at nuclear generating plants. You’ve gotta love the “s” on “plants,” as if there’s there’s a whole flock of nuclear generating plants out there that this bill pertains to. Introduced by Representatives Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier) and Allison Clarkson (D-Woodstock), H.479 proposes to “establish a tax on the storage of spent nuclear fuel in Vermont and a tax to fund postclosure activities at nuclear generating plants in Vermont.” So, the systematic fiscal and economic gang-rape of Vermont Yankee continues….