What’s happening in committee this week

by Rob Roper  

HOUSE

The Commerce and Economic Development Committee will take up H. 287An act relating to job creation and economic development.

Doug Hoffer, who is no doubt mulling another run for Auditor now that Tom Salmon has announced he won’t run again, will be among the first to testify on Tuesday. Hoffer is a firm believer that Vermonters are not taxed enough. Not an encouraging thought.

Fish & Wildlife, often (and unjustly) derided as a backwater committee, sees an interesting assortment of bills this week. One is H. 91An act relating to the management of fish and wildlife, or the “Pete the Moose” bill. This bill proposes to undo last year’s legislation allowing private ownership of natural wildlife in the specific case of Pete’s owner Bill Nelson. While the law passed in 2010 was poorly implemented and unfairly benefiting one individual, Vermonters should consider allowing hunting/tourism operations like Nelson’s to exist. We are, after all, a tourist state with a hunting tradition.

Then there’s H. 13An act relating to deer doing damage to forest resources. Having first removed the deer from the protection of private owners, the legislature here reserves the right to kill them.

A curious bill to come up is H. 258An act relating to public participation in environmental enforcement proceedings

“This bill proposes to require the secretary of natural resources, the land use panel, or the natural resources 20 days during which an aggrieved person may comment on a draft assurance of discontinuance or administrative order. The bill also requires a draft assurance of discontinuance or administrative order to be published for notice on the relevant website of the secretary of natural resources, the land use panel, or the natural resources board. In addition, the bill would prohibit the environmental division from signing an assurance of discontinuance or administrative order until any additional filings or proceedings are complete, including those filings or proceedings subsequent to a timely motion for intervention. The bill would also allow for public notice and comment on certain environmental tickets issued by the secretary of natural resources.”

And finally there’s H. 11An act relating to the discharge of pharmaceutical waste to state waters, which is just gross.

House Government Operations will consider H. 181 – An act relating to capping payments to municipalities from traffic violation revenue, which, “proposes to cap the amount a town can generate by issuing speeding tickets,” (You know there’s got to be a good back story behind that one!), and H. 199An act relating to naming contributors in campaign finance reports, which would require that a campaign finance report name each contributor who donates $10.00 or more to a candidate’s campaign. Come on guys. Report all of them or none of them. Why would you protect the anonymity of a $5 giver, but not a $10 giver?

House Judiciary is spending another week studying DUI offenses with H. 108 – An act relating to a committee to study implementing a mandatory sobriety program for repeat DUI offenders and H. 264An act relating to driving while intoxicated and to forfeiture and registration of motor vehicles.

House Ways & Means will take a brief break from their study of the budget to consiser H. 143An act relating to the taxation of certain Internet sales. Testifying will be Don Mayer, CEO of Small Dog Electronics, who is opposed to the tax, and Paul Misener of Amazon.com, who we can suspect is also not supportive of the tax. This one will be worth sitting in on.

SENATE

Also taking a brief break from budget talk is Senate Appropriations. They will be briefed by members of the Senate Education Committee about S. 53An act relating to the number of prekindergarten children included within a school district’s average daily membership. Senate Education passed the bill out of committee favorably as we predicted. Now they want the money to pay for it.

(A necessary aside here about how we the taxpayers and citizens continually get slapped with the bill and the consequences of crappy legislation. S.53 is a case in point. Four of the five members of Senate Ed had never served on the committee before this year. They took the bill up just three weeks ago (four day work week, remember, with lots of other stuff going on), which means they took about twenty hours (a rough guestimate) for testimony and deliberation. How is it possible for largely ignorant amateurs to make a competent decision about an immensely complex issue under such limiting circumstances? Answer: it isn’t. A citizen legislature is a wonderful thing, but it has its limitations. It’s up to us to elect representatives who recognize and respect those limitations, otherwise we — and in this case our kids — get screwed.)

The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs will take up S. 52An act to protect employees from abuse at work. This will provide, “Legal relief for employees who have suffered physically, psychologically, or economically by having been deliberately subjected to abusive, bullying behavior in the workplace.” According to the findings in the bill, the myriad existing laws protecting employees from exactly this sort of thing is not sufficient. I looked later in the week to see if there were a companion bill protecting employers from suffering physically, psychologically or economically after being subjected to abusive, bullying behavior by employees threatening to sue them for fun and profit under laws like this one. I didn’t find it. Another reason not to open a business here in Vermont.

The committee will also spend a day deliberating “Closure of Vermont Yankee – Planning for the Economic Impact and Future of Windham County.” Not to mention the rest of the state.

The name of your committee is Economic DEVELOPMENT, people.