2013 Legislative Preview

Health Care  | Environmental Health  |  Clean Energy

Democracy  Consumer Protection

(Click one of these categories to skip to a specific section.)

Health Care

Health Care for All, and Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize

For years, Vermont has been a leader in making health care accessible and affordable.  Our long term goal is a single payer model that will control costs while providing high quality care for every Vermonter.  As a critical first step, this year Vermont will begin implementing provisions of the federal health care reform act by running a statewide, virtual marketplace so Vermonters can make their own apples-to-apples comparisons of health care plans before purchasing insurance.

As we implement the Exchange, we want to make sure those people who currently rely on the state’s VHAP and Catamount programs don’t fall through the cracks.  We also want to make sure that Vermont stays on track for the more fundamental reforms that will come after the Exchange.  We expect special interests in the health care industry to try to derail our efforts and VPIRG stands ready to counter such attacks.

Click here to make sure we move forward not backward when we transition to the Exchange!

It’s Time for VT’s Dental Check-up

Cost is the reason that 70,000 adults in Vermont go without the dental attention they need each year.

So along with our partners at Vermont Oral Health Care for All, VPIRG is helping to create and promote programs that will boost the number of dental practitioners in-state.  By making it easier to receive care from dental practitioners – dental professionals whose training is more extensive than that of dental hygienists, but less extensive than dentists – Vermont can solve the cost problem that prevents so many Vermonters from receiving dental care without compromising quality.

VPIRG is Your Rate Watchdog

VPIRG knows your health care premium dollars are precious.  To make sure they’re going to pay for care—and not just footing the bill for your health insurer’s excessive administrative costs—VPIRG has been keeping a close eye on attempts to raise your rates.  By following the money and getting your voice heard, VPIRG will continue working to keep insurers honest, especially when they’re looking to hike your premiums.

Want to keep tabs on your health insurance company and any rate hikes on the horizon? Check out VPIRG’s Rate Watch website here.

Consumer Protection

Protecting Your Right to Know GMOs

You have the right to know whether (and where) there’s genetically modified organisms (GMOs) hiding in the food you’re eating or feeding your family.  Just like citizens living in any of the 50+ countries around the world with GMO-labeling laws, VPIRG believes that Vermonters should have the right to make their own decisions about purchasing food containing genetically modified ingredients.

VPIRG is working with our partners at Rural Vermont, NOFA Vermont, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) at Vermont Law School to pass a bill that requires labels on food containing GMOs sold in-state.

Democracy

Stop Secret Elections Spending

Last November’s federal election was the most expensive in our nation’s history.  Why?  One big reason is the rise of the Super PACs, made possible by recent misguided U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Citizens United.  Even in Vermont, a Super PAC–funded almost entirely by a single individual–spent over $1 million to elect or defeat state candidates this year.

That’s why VPIRG is calling for reform now.  It’s not right that one extremely wealthy person or corporation can bankroll candidates in ways that would have been illegal – and with good reason – until recently.

Until we can amend the U.S. Constitution to stop the Super PAC spending, the public should know which fat cats are behind the cash flooding Vermont’s elections.  We’re proposing the following key reforms:
1)    Requiring Super PACs to disclose within 24 hours the details of all contributions they receive in the closing days of an election,
2)    Requiring Super PACS to prominently list their top contributors in all mass media communications, and
3)    Forcing individual donors to appear in ads paid for by Super PACs, if they are responsible for more than half of the funds raised by that Super PAC.

Vermont’s Elections get a Spring Cleaning

VPIRG also supports the reestablishment of common sense limits on contributions to political candidates.  Vermont’s campaign finance law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in one of several flawed decisions the Court has handed down in recent years regarding fair elections.  We also believe that before corporations spend money to influence the outcome of elections in Vermont, they should at least get the approval of their shareholders.

Healthy Environment

A Bigger Better Bottle Bill

Every year, the Bottle Bill keeps roughly 250 million containers from littering our roadsides or cramming our landfills.  So, while the state studies how best to renew its commitment to recycling and zero-waste, one thing’s for sure: we should expand our most successful recycling program, the Bottle Bill.  The Bottle Bill has a 40-year legacy of environmental and local economic benefits, and it has room to grow.

A Bigger, Better Bottle Bill that included non-carbonated beverage containers like plastic water bottles would save up to 100 million more bottles and cans from ending up as roadside litter or landfill trash, while also cutting greenhouse gas emissions and creating local jobs.  And, instead of giving the beverage industry $3 million annually in unclaimed nickels, VPIRG’s Bigger, Better Bottle Bill would mean Vermont could put a chunk of change toward other recycling programs or other state priorities.

Chemical Whack-a-Mole

When facts came to light about the connection between cancer and flame retardant chemicals – and it became clear these chemicals don’t actually protect us from fires – VPIRG ushered in a ban on a commonly-used class of flame retardants called Deca in 2009.  Three years later, we’ve learned the chemical industry has been quietly adding another toxic flame retardant chemical to our couches and baby products, chlorinated Tris.

VPIRG will press for a ban on this toxic chemical threat.  And, while we continue our work on getting individual toxins out of Vermont products, we know we can’t keep tackling chemicals one at a time. That’s why we’re working with state leaders and national partners to move forward with replacing the dangerous “innocent until proven guilty” approach to regulating toxic chemicals in Vermont and at the federal level.

Clean Energy

Clean Heat is a Win-Win

In 2008, Vermont set a goal of weatherizing 80,000 homes by 2020.  But having failed to make the investment necessary to reach that goal, our state today is on a path to fall woefully short on weatherization. To make matters worse, the rising price of fossil fuels means the typical Vermonter (and Vermont as a whole) spends more than twice as much to stay warm than a decade ago, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars are now leaving the state every year to pay for these fuels.

Tackling our heating efficiency and dirty energy problems together means seizing on the chance we have this year to change how Vermont stays warm in the winter—an opportunity that goes way beyond weatherizing 80,000 homes.

Over the past nine months, VPIRG has participated in a state-convened Thermal Efficiency Task Force to develop a plan that will put us back on the path to reaching our weatherization goals, save Vermonters over $1.5 billion, and help Vermont families and businesses to switch to clean, local sources of heat like solar hot water, geothermal and wood pellets. By making it possible for more Vermonters to cut their fuel bills and carbon pollution at the same time, Vermont could drastically cut its need to import dirty, expensive energy to heat Vermont’s homes and businesses, and keep much of the money we do spend in our local economy.

By looking to Vermont’s own farms, forests and internationally-recognized efficiency expertise for clean heating solutions, Vermont has the chance to finally grasp the clean heat solutions that have been within reach for years.

Defending Clean, Renewable Wind Energy

With storms like Irene and Sandy still fresh in our minds, and 2012 having broken all sorts of records for heat, drought, wildfires and other extreme weather, this is no time to rollback our commitment to clean energy.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what a group of senators is seeking to do. Their plan to put a moratorium on wind energy development both ignores the voices of 70% of Vermonters who support more wind power and threatens the progress we’ve made toward meeting state clean energy goals (powering 90% of our energy with renewable resources by 2050).

VPIRG believes that it’s important to develop as much clean power as we can in state so that we’re less dependent on others for generating the energy we need.  And we’ve done the research to know that wind is an important part of the solution for Vermont.  While wind is not the only answer, combined with improved energy efficiency and other local renewable energy sources, it’s part of the most sustainable and affordable mix of energy sources we have.

Keystone VT?

Tar sands oil is filthy stuff. It’s more corrosive and prone to spilling than conventional crude, in addition to being more energy intensive and environmentally destructive to mine—and Enbridge, Canada’s largest oil transport company, is teaming up with ExxonMobil and making moves to pipe it through Vermont.

The potentially irreversible climate consequences of tapping Canadian tar sands oil—the resulting carbon pollution would quash our chances for keeping the climate from turning violent—isn’t the only reason VPIRG is opposed to any such dirty oil plan.   Climate impacts aside, Vermont can’t afford the risk associated with piping what is essentially high pressure, molten sandpaper through Vermont’s 62-year old pipeline.

To put a pin in Enbridge’s plan to repurpose the 750-mile pipeline route stretching from Alberta, Canada to port in Maine, VPIRG has joined 350.org, VNRC, the National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Law Foundation, NRDC and the Vermont Sierra Club to call for strengthening the state’s authority to require (and deny) a permit for Enbridge and ExxonMobil to pipe tar sands oil through Vermont.

Electric Vehicles for Vermont

Since almost half of Vermont’s greenhouse gas pollution comes from the gasoline or diesel we burn for transportation, our state needs a plan to get serious about repowering our vehicles to run on clean energy instead of dirty, expensive fossil fuels.

To power 25% of all vehicles in the state with electricity by 2030—the ambitious, but doable, goal the state Comprehensive Energy Plan established in 2011—Vermont needs to start laying the foundation this year.  That’s why VPIRG is helping to pass legislation that will 1) establish the path toward electrifying state-owned vehicles; and 2) require the type of innovative, in-depth study the state needs to meet its own ambitious electric vehicles goal.

Full funding of the CEDF

By helping Vermonters make investments in their very own solar power, the Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF) is responsible for many of the solar hot water and electric systems now dotting hundreds of rooftops across the state. That fund is in jeopardy of running dry.

Instead of letting the CEDF run out of money—which would put the brakes on the progress Vermont has made toward energy independence, green jobs and a vibrant renewable energy sector—VPIRG is working to see the CEDF fully funded.