Legislative Weekly Preview

A look at what’s happening under the golden dome this week

By Rob Roper

Beyond the usual stuff happening in the usual places (House and Senate Agricultural Committees working on their versions of An act relating to preserving Vermont’s working landscapes, the Appropriations Committees working on the budget, and House Government Operations continuing to re-jigger district boundary lines, etc.), there are several notable events happening under the Golden Dome this week.

Perhaps the most important event that will occur is on Wednesday, (Room 11, 5pm if you happen to be in the neighborhood) when a joint meeting of the House and Senate Healthcare committees will take testimony on where “reform” is taking us. The committees are seeking input on the Exchange, defining the small group market (50-100), and whether qualified health plans can be purchased in the small group market outside the Exchange. In Rutland a few weeks ago between forty and fifty doctors spoke out against Shumlin and the Democrats reform. The business community needs to get vocal as well. Let’s see what happens here.

Another crucial opportunity for testimony will take place in the Senate Education Committee on Thursday at 2:30 regarding school choice. The bill in question is S. 201 – An act relating to expanding public school choice for elementary and high school students, and a number of parents are scheduled to speak to the benefits choice has offered their families.

Also of interest in Senate Education this week is S. 218 – An act relating to high-quality, early childhood education programs. This is, again, a bill that would put hundreds of small childcare business at a distinct disadvantage to politically favored (that’s Latin for “high quality”) providers. Testimony listed in the committee schedule is ALL pro-bill. Looks as if the small childcare operations are going to get steamrolled again.

Over on the House side, House Education will take up H. 440 – An act relating to creating an agency and secretary of education and amending the membership and purpose of the state board of education. This topic is on the agenda all week long. A good idea. Hopefully, its time has come.

I have to say for sheer entertainment value The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development is like American Idol for legislation. This Friday, the committee will entertain a parade of bills, one every fifteen minutes all day long, each hoping to catch the imagination of lawmakers and hoping to hear that line made famous by School House Rock, “Congratulations, Bill. Now you’re a law.” The contestants include the ridiculous to the downright scary. Highlights include:

H. 541 – An act relating to the genuine progress indicator. This goofy thing wants to do away with Gross Domestic Product as a measurement for economic success, replacing it with, as the name suggests, a Genuine Progress Indicator. According to the language of the bill, The Genuine Progress Indicator “shall be one that adds in positivefactors and subtracts negative factors which are not counted by standard grossdomestic product accounting practices.” And who will determine what these positive and negative factors might be? An appointed committed (yes, another #$%&*!!! appointed committee) of sixteen – count ’em, sixteen! – secretaries and commissioners or their designees, and a couple of folks from UVM.

H. 542 – An act relating to creating an expert panel on the creation of a state bank. Yes, what Vermont needs is another expert panel, almost as much as it needs a state bank. But don’t laugh. This bill has sixty-seven sponsors, all Democrats, Progressives and two independents aligned with the left. It needs seventy-six votes on the floor to pass.

H. 549 – An act relating to establishing state funding eligibility for nonprofit corporations. This bill proposes to limit state funding to profit and nonprofit corporations that meet an 8:1 compensation ratio between the highest and lowest paid employees. This ingenious piece of thinking would make it impossible for the state to fund, among other entities, Fletcher Allen and UVM. One blogger pointed out, the state would not even be able to fund itself under these rules. So, perhaps we should push full force for passage of this bill. Spending would be cut substantially because nobody would qualify for receiving a subsidy!

And, H. 447 – An act relating to snowmobile operation and proof of liability insurance. This bill proposes to prohibit a snowmobile operator from operating on the statewide snowmobile trails system or public right-of-way unless he or she carries proof of liability insurance.

On a lighter and more positive side, the House Committee on General Housing and Military Affairs takes up a series of bills concerning booze:

H. 623 – An act relating to vinous or malt beverage tastings. This bill proposes to allow a manufacturer or rectifier of vinous or malt beverages to dispense up to 16 ounces of beverage at a tasting event.

H. 506 – An act relating to vinous beverages. This bill proposes to increase the amount of vinous beverages that can be shipped by a manufacturer or rectifier of vinous beverages. The bill further proposes to allow a manufacturer or rectifier of vinous beverages to serve on its premises vinous beverages produced by another manufacturer.

H. 537 – An act relating to Vermont wine. This bill proposes to prohibit a manufacturer of vinous beverages from advertising the product as Vermont wine if more than 25 percent of the ingredients were produced outside the state.

And, even, H. 593 – An act relating to jewelry stores serving malt or vinous beverages Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to allow jewelry stores to serve malt or vinous beverages. http://leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/bills/Intro/H-593.pdf

Perhaps this is all because the legislature recognizes the growing impact Vermont wineries, distilleries, as well as microbreweries are having on our economy and the Vermont brand. Or, perhaps to recognize that after all the other stuff they’re going to do to us, we’re all going to need a really stiff drink.