VPIRG produces a scorecard of key votes at the conclusion of each legislative biennium. Due to changes to the legislative calendar necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019-2020 biennium still has not concluded as of this writing. As such, the scorecard presented below does not represent legislators’ final score for the biennium, but a score of their votes on critical public interest bills to date.
Use these scorecards to find out how your representatives in the Vermont House and Senate voted on important public interest issues including – climate solutions, toxic chemical protections, zero waste issues, broadband expansion and more.
What votes did we score?
VPIRG includes votes that reflect the variety of public interest issues we work on. In many cases, there may be several roll call votes on a particular bill (including potential amendments to the bill). We’ve chosen to include votes that are substantive, have a large effect on the outcome of the legislation, and that we believe provide the most accurate representation of legislators’ stances on key public interest issues.
Continue reading for a list of bills we included in this scorecard, descriptions of the substance of those bills and links to the specific roll call votes that were used in the scorecard.
H.439 – Increasing Funding for Low-Income Weatherization (House Only): In what would have been an important step towards climate justice in Vermont, this bill would have increased funding for low-income weatherization – by an estimated $4.6 million annually – by increasing the tax on heating oil from two cents to four cents per gallon, and taxes on other non-transportation fossil fuels by an equivalent amount.
H.513 – Expanding Access to High-Speed Internet: Perhaps the most substantial set of policies ever enacted to expand broadband access in Vermont – this law established a state revolving loan fund to help get community internet startups off the ground so they can start providing internet to underserved Vermonters. The law also reforms Vermont’s pole attachment rules, cutting red tape that is currently preventing local internet service providers from building critical infrastructure. It also raises the bar on the internet speeds required for projects receiving state funding.
H.107 – Establishing a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program: If enacted, this bill would have established a paid family and medical leave program to provide working Vermonters with paid leave time to care leave time to care for a new child, or to care for a seriously ill or injured loved one. The U.S. is the only OECD country without mandated paid parental leave. Seven other states and DC have passed paid family leave laws. Vermont would have joined those states, but ultimately the governor vetoed this bill and the attempt to override his veto fell one vote short in the House.
S.49 – Regulating PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water: Also known as Act 21, this law provides a framework to identify PFAS contamination and requires the state to establish a standard for PFAS in surface and drinking water. Under this law, public water systems in VT must perform sampling for several specific PFAS chemicals and report results to the state. Systems with water above the standard are required to post a “do not drink” notice to all users and treat the water so it is safe to consume.
S.40 – Testing and Cleaning Up Lead in School Drinking Water: This law, otherwise known as Act 66, requires that all schools and childcare providers in the state of Vermont test their drinking water for lead. If those tests show that there is a concentration of lead that exceeds 4 parts per billion (ppb), the school or childcare provider must immediately stop using that fixture and begin a process of remediation.
S.47 – Banning Corporate Campaign Contributions (Senate Only): Senators voting yes voted to prohibit corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates in the state. The federal government banned corporate contributions more than 100 years ago and 22 states across the country have done the same.
S.113 – Banning Single-Use Plastics: This law is the most comprehensive plastics ban in the United States, eliminating the distribution of shopping bags, drink stirrers, and expanded polystyrene food packaging (think Styrofoam!). In addition, the law also institutes a 10 cent charge on all paper bags and a statewide ‘straws-upon-request’ mandate, requiring food retailers to only distribute straws if explicitly asked by the customer. This widely supported law went into effect on July 1, 2020.
S.37 – Requiring Toxic Polluters to Pay for Medical Monitoring: This bill, vetoed by the Governor, would hold polluters accountable and ensure that victims of toxics exposure do not have to bear the cost of medical testing. The bill aims to provide modest relief for people who have been exposed to dangerous chemical toxins by allowing impacted Vermonters to seek compensation through the courts to cover medical monitoring costs at the polluting entity’s expense.
S.55 – Protecting Kids from Toxic Chemicals: Eventually enacted as Act 75, this law makes important changes to the Chemicals of High Concern to Children (Act 188) program. It will make more information available to parents and other consumers about whether a children’s product contains a known toxic chemical. The law also streamlines the process by which the Commissioner of Health, after consulting with a diverse stakeholder group, can move to ban or otherwise regulate the use of harmful chemicals in children’s products.
H.688 (Amendment) – Weakening the Global Warming Solutions Act (House Only): This amendment would have delayed the action required by the Solutions Act, created a loophole to allow the Secretary of Natural Resources to avoid taking action to reduce climate pollution, and required each Climate Action Plan to be reviewed and approved by the General Assembly. The amendment failed 44-99.
H.688 – Passing the Global Warming Solutions Act: In a move that would add teeth to our statewide climate pollution reduction goals (which we are not yet close to hitting), the Solutions Act would make these goals into requirements. It would create a Climate Council made up of diverse voices and experts from across the state to investigate the best ways to reach our reduction requirements and implement solutions, manifesting in a Climate Action Plan that would be implemented by the Agency of Natural Resources. Citizens would also be empowered by this bill to take legal action to force the state to act to meet the reduction requirements, if it fails to do so.
S.348 – Allowing the Secretary of State to Implement Vote-By-Mail for 2020: The governor eventually allowed this bill to go into law without his signature, granting full authority to the Secretary of State to mail all registered voters a ballot for this year’s General Election in November. This legislation will make it possible to move forward with a vote-by-mail system in Vermont to make voting safe and secure amid the coronavirus pandemic.