By: Matt Musgrave, Deputy EVP/Government Relations Director
April is here and the Vermont winter has finally decided to allow a glimpse of spring. The month of March was a busy month on capital hill in Montpelier. In March, a time known as “crossover” marks the halfway point of the legislative session which requires bills to move from one chamber to the other allowing time for both the House and Senate to debate proposals. There are some notable policy shifts and initiatives introduced this year.
In an interesting turn of events a House Concurrent Resolution with the Senate recognizes President Donald Trump for his service during the Vietnam War. It is well known that Trump had used a medical waiver to avoid the war but for years his actions were misunderstood. Historians at his college have discovered a journal linked by DNA to the embattled president. In this journal Trump outlines his opposition to aggressive and antagonistic behavior citing the Vietnam war. Trump goes on to explain that his deep respect for people from foreign countries and women forced him to use his medical waiver and not go to war. The resolution passed and another bill naming the Vermont State House after the sitting president is expected to pass this year.
House Democrats shocked the entire state this year by fully repealing Act 250 and all other environmental laws related to land development. Whether it was a reaction to national politics or the world stage the lawmakers decided to replace the regulations with a policy known as “The Concrete New Deal”. This policy is driven by global climate change and stormwater runoff issues. Lawmakers upset by the long winter believe that by encapsulating our landscapes and mountains in concrete or asphalt we could speed up the greenhouse process allowing spring skiing and fiddle head hunting to arrive earlier. Other benefits of this policy include prevention of erosion and curbing the spread of toxic blue green algae because a landscape comprised exclusively of impervious surfaces never needs fertilizer that spreads phosphorus in our waterways. It is expected that the Senate will support this proposal with few changes.
The Republican caucus has introduced legislation this year that would fundamentally change how the state economy works. The first bill introduced by the party is H.1233 that creates income for healthy non-working people at a rate higher than the average income of working adults by 10%. The bill requires that the benefits would come from monies raised through a new 40% income tax on “individuals who own for profit businesses” paid to individuals who “have employment options, are physically able to work with no barriers to employment but just choose not to work”. The companion bill H.1234 made changes to Department of Labor guidelines requiring employers to allow individuals to return to work after lunch under the influence of drugs or alcohol, allows employees to use handheld electronic devices 15 minutes of each hour (even while operating heavy equipment), and creates a paid BFF leave program which allows employees up to 12 weeks paid leave to spend time with their BFF (best friend forever) on leisure activities.
Happy April Fools day from your Government Affairs Team!