2017 Legislative Midpoint Overview

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Since the start of the 2017 legislative session, VPIRG members and supporters have been more active than ever: signing petitions, calling the State House, sending messages to and meeting with legislators on a wide range of public interest issues.

VPIRG has been doing all that we can to fight back against federal attacks on the important safeguards Vermont has put in place and to advance legislation that puts the well-being of Vermont’s people and environment above the bottom lines of well-funded special interests.

This session has been a very busy one for our advocates and activists. Below we have compiled an overview of key pieces of legislation that we have been working on — and where they stand at the midpoint of the legislative session. For more information on each of the issues that we work on, please visit our issues page.

Climate and Energy

-With climate deniers now in power in Washington, it’s critical for Vermont to continue to make progress against global warming. But legislation (S.51) that would put key state energy goals into law, including 90% renewable energy by 2050, remains bottled up in committee. Lawmakers have received loads of messages from their constituents in support of this bill, and we believe there’s still a path forward for getting vital state energy and climate goals into law in 2017.

-The appliance efficiency bill, H.411, passed out of committee and will now head to the full House of Representatives. We are excited that this bill is moving forward—it will prevent any federal rollbacks to efficiency standards from affecting Vermont. H.410, a bill that would advance our efficiency standards to match those of California (which is working to cover things like electronics that aren’t yet in the federal standards), has not yet passed out of committee. VPIRG will continue to push for efficiency standards that go above and beyond the current federal standards.

-The House has begun work on a bill, H.501, that would start the process of investigating how we can integrate energy storage into our grid. Storage solutions are critical to expanding our adoption of renewable energy and saving consumers money. Since this bill is being taken up after the crossover deadline, it will most likely not pass the full legislature until next year.

-A bill that promotes state procurement from climate friendly businesses, S.32, passed out of committee last week and will be headed to the Senate at the end of this week. This bill would put into law an Executive Order that former Governor Shumlin issued last summer. It says that, all else being equal, state contracts for goods or services will be awarded to businesses who have committed to reducing their carbon footprint.

Environmental Health

-Legislation to better protect public health and drinking water from toxic chemicals (S.103) is due to be taken up by the full Senate next week. We support S.103, but some important components were left out of the version now moving. We will continue to push for the inclusion of these protections in the days ahead.

Economic Fairness

-A bill guaranteeing paid family and medical leave for Vermont workers has passed out of its initial committee. H.196 establishes a statewide family and medical leave insurance program for employees to take up to twelve weeks of paid time off in the case of a birth or adoption, or a serious injury or illness. We are glad this bill is moving and we will continue to work to strengthen it. For more information, please read our recent web post on this bill.

-Legislation establishing a state-administered retirement program that small businesses could opt into has passed out of committee. This legislation would improve Vermonters’ retirement security by supporting workers currently without access to an employer plan, and employers that can’t afford to offer one.  See our recent post for more information.

Zero Waste

-Vermont continues to give away millions of dollars each year to the beverage industry. That’s why we’re building support for an update to Vermont’s popular Bottle Bill (H.67), that would stop the giveaway of unclaimed nickels and expand the scope of the law to include water bottles, sports drinks and more. The bill is stalled in the House, but we aren’t about to give up.

Government Reform

-VPIRG is championing a requirement that candidates for president and vice president release 5 years of tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in Vermont. Legislation is still pending in the Senate and House, and hundreds of VPIRG members have weighed in supporting the measure.

-We helped to pass a governmental ethics reform bill (S.8) out of the Senate early in the session and it’s being taken up in the House now. The bill is a step in the right direction, though it could and should be improved in the House.

-Corporations still aren’t people, and VPIRG believes they shouldn’t be giving political contributions. A bill (S.120) that would dramatically curtail corporate giving is now being considered in the Senate Government Operations Committee.

For more information on these items and more, please visit our issues page. 

To take action, visit our new Get Involved page to learn how you can help with these efforts and others!