Category Archives: Statehouse

Shumlin to sign 3 energy bills

EAST MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin plans to sign three energy-related bills into law at a ceremony at a small hydro-electric station on the outskirts of Montpelier.
Friday’s event in North Montpelier will make law out of a provision barring the state’s utilities from charging customers a fee for opting not to have a new generation of electric meters called smart meters installed at their homes or businesses.
Critics of the devices, which use wireless communications to send data on power usage to utilities, say they have health and privacy concerns about smart meters.
Also due to become law on Friday are provisions expanding Vermont’s standard offer program, under which utilities are required pay a set price for renewable power like wind and solar.

Shumlin calls House ‘irresponsible’ on drug bill

From the Vermont Press Bureau:

With the House and Senate in tense negotiations over whether to allow police to get information from the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System without a warrant, Gov. Peter Shumlin held a press conference Thursday to pressure the House to bend to his will.

The House passed a bill that required police to get a warrant. The Senate passed a bill that required no warrant.

Shumlin sides with the Senate, and with time running out in the legislative session, he repeated his refrain that prescription drug addiction is an epidemic that needs to be solved and urged the House to allow warrant-less access.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Shumlin said of prescription drug abuse. “It’s breaking up families. It’s killing Vermonters, and it’s something that is an epidemic in the state.”

Shumlin said the House version of the bill that requires a warrant is useless and said the House was being “irresponsible on this issue.”

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Lawmakers to meet again on use of drug database

MONTPELIER — Vermont lawmakers are expected to meet again to try to work out their differences over Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposal to let police get information from the Health Department’s prescription drug database without first getting a search warrant.
A House-Senate conference committee has met repeatedly this week, with the House side insisting on search warrants and senators saying they’ll make the process too cumbersome for police.
Rep. Ann Pugh, the lead House negotiator, has cited the U.S. and Vermont constitutions as requiring a search warrant before police can check the database for someone’s prescription drug records.
Sen. Richard Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that he was very disappointed with the House’s unwillingness to budge.
The conference committee plans to meet again on Friday morning.

Lawmakers agree to ban gas drilling technique

MONTPELIER — Vermont is poised to become the first state to ban a natural gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
Geologists say there appears to be little if any natural gas under Vermont, but lawmakers have been pushing to get a handle on the technique that is criticized by some because chemicals are injected into the ground to free gas that is trapped there.
The Senate passed a ban on the practice while the House voted for a three-year moratorium.
A conference committee agreed to an outright ban.
Vermont Public Radio says the measure still needs final votes in the House and Senate before going to Governor Peter Shumlin for his signature.

Senator says he’ll try again on daycare union

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate has rejected another attempt to pass a bill authorizing child care workers to set up a union to negotiate industry rules and subsidies with the state.
But the leader of the effort says he’ll keep trying. Sen. Richard McCormack says Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell is blocking two labor bills from coming up for debate because he doesn’t want to see the child care union provision attached to them.
Campbell says he opposes the child care union because it would not set up typical labor-management contract negotiations, but a new sort of labor organization that could set a bad precedent for other groups of people who work under contract with the state.
McCormack says he’ll keep trying to attach the measure to various bills.

House: Lift ban on blood donation

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House has voted to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lift its lifetime ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.
The ban was put in place in 1986 amid fear of HIV and AIDS, but supporters of lifting it say testing protocols have changed since then and that it’s no longer scientifically and medically warranted.
The resolution calls for a one-year period when blood should not be given after sexual contact with a man, rather than a lifetime ban.
A federal advisory group voted in June 2010 to keep the ban in place. But supporters of the House resolution, which passed 129-2, say the British government and some international health organizations have changed their standards on the question.

Lawmakers to weigh vaccine conference report

MONTPELIER — Vermont House and Senate members are set to decide whether to accept a conference committee’s compromise on childhood immunizations.
The House wanted to maintain a philosophical exemption for parents who don’t want to have their kids get the roughly 20 shots required before entering kindergarten.
The Senate wanted to get rid of that exemption, saying doing so would boost immunization rates, which are a key public health measure.
Now a conference committee has proposed allowing the philosophical exemption unless the immunization rate falls below 90 percent for a given vaccine, in which case no further philosophical exemptions would be approved.
For that measure to become law, both the House and Senate need to approve the compromise, and prospects for that are uncertain.

Lawmakers finish redistricting

MONTPELIER — Vermont lawmakers have completed the arduous process of redrawing legislative district maps for the next 10 years.
Reapportionment happens once a decade to accommodate shifts in population, and in keeping with those shifts during the past decade, Burlington is gaining a House seat, while Rutland County is losing one. Other changes are being made as well.
The object of the process is equal representation, meaning each House and Senate member is supposed to represent about the same number of Vermont residents. Democrats and Progressives say they’re happy with the new maps, but the chairman of the state Republican party says there’s too big a deviation from the principle of equal representation.
GOP Chairman Jack Lindley tells the Burlington Free Press the party may sue over the issue.

Legislature works toward adjournment

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Legislature is headed into the home stretch.
The major, must-pass pieces of legislation, such as the budget, have either been passed or are in conference committee. Both the House and Senate held sessions over the weekend to push through bills that must be passed.
But many threads remain to be tied up to adjourn as expected on Saturday.

Senate approves “nuclear option” for merger

From the Vermont Press Bureau:

The Senatepushed the button on the nuclear option Thursday, approving in a voice vote an amendment that will prevent utilities from recouping in rates the $21 million they must repay to CVPS customers before any merger can go through.

It’s a move that utility executives have warned could kill the $702 million merger deal between CVPS and GMP. And the Shumlin administration – which has warned legislators against meddling in regulatory affairs – just shipped a press release unloading on the body.

“This matter is now in the hands of the (Public Service) Board. The Senate’s action today interferes with an open PSB docket, undermines the credibility of the regulatory process, and is an extreme overreach of legislative jurisdiction,” Shumlin said in a written statement.

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