2017 Legislative Preview

The 2017 Vermont legislative session is here! VPIRG is excited to build on the nearly 45 years of success that we have achieved together and continue working in the State House to protect our environment, watch out for consumers and put Vermont on a path to a sustainable future.

Now, more than ever, states like Vermont will need to lead the way in pursuing policies that put the well-being of our citizens and our environment above big-moneyed special interests. In the 2017 legislative session, VPIRG — along with our members and allies — will work to do exactly that by focusing on these priorities across our issue areas:

Click on a program name below to jump to that section and check out our priorities for the coming months:

Climate & Clean Energy | Government Reform | Environment

Climate & Clean Energy

Energy Independent Vermont:

Global warming didn’t end on Nov. 8, 2016.  In fact, its prognosis only got worse. With climate deniers in control of the federal government, it’s never been more important for Vermont to show leadership in this area. By putting a price on carbon pollution and cutting state taxes, Vermont can speed the transition to clean energy, keep more of our energy dollars in-state, create jobs and grow our economy – all while reducing the pollution that is threatening our planet.

In the next legislative biennium, we’ll be holding Gov. Scott to his campaign pledge of supporting Vermont’s climate and clean energy goals, which include an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and getting 90% of all energy from renewable energy sources by the year 2050. VPIRG will also work with the Energy Independent Vermont coalition of businesses, non-profits, low-income service providers, students, clergy, and academics to promote legislation that confronts carbon pollution head on.

Expanding Access to Solar for All Vermonters:
The cost of solar has dropped dramatically over the past ten years, and innovative financing mechanisms have helped make solar accessible for many Vermonters who formerly couldn’t afford the high upfront cost. However, solar is still out of reach for many low and moderate income Vermonters. This session, VPIRG will be working to expand solar opportunities for Vermonters of all income levels.

Defending Renewable Energy Across the State:
Vermont has enacted a series of strong renewable energy laws in recent years that will move us toward our state goal of getting 90% of our energy from renewable sources by 2050. This year, VPIRG will continue working for the full implementation of these laws to ensure our goals are met. We will also lead the charge against any new legislative attacks on clean energy (such as the moratorium on wind energy proposed by Gov. Scott).

Government Reform

Pay to Play & Ethics Commission:
Imagine: a business or law firm makes a generous campaign contribution to a statewide candidate who, after taking office or winning reelection, rewards the donor with a state contract. One way of thinking about this is, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It’s also known as “pay to play” and it’s a form of political corruption. It’s bad for taxpayers and it’s bad for democracy.

VPIRG will work for a change to Vermont law that would prohibit state contracts from being awarded to any person or corporation that has made a political contribution to a candidate seeking the office which oversees the contract. Further, we’ll support the creation of an independent ethics commission that can serve as both a resource to help officials make ethical decisions and as an independent body that can review and evaluate complaints of ethical violations.

Ban on Corporate Contributions:

Corporations are not people. Over 20 states have prohibited corporations and unions from directly donating to political campaigns, and the federal government has banned the practice for over 100 years. Here in Vermont, the law treats corporations just like you and me – and we want to change that. VPIRG supports banning corporate campaign contributions in Vermont. In times of record-low trust in government and our elected officials, Vermont has the opportunity to take a stand against the corrupting influence that corporate cash can have on politicians and help restore faith in government by ensuring that our officials are working for the people, not for corporations.

Environment

Toxics:

After the alarming discovery in early 2016 that drinking water wells in North Bennington and other areas were contaminated by a toxic chemical known as PFOA, the legislature asked a diverse group of experts (including VPIRG’s Executive Director) to develop recommendations for preventing such chemical threats in the future.  During the 2017 legislative session, we’ll be fighting hard to make sure these recommendations are enacted in order to protect our drinking water and public health.

Bottle Bill:

Right now, unclaimed deposits from Vermont’s Bottle Bill are returned to the beverage industry — meaning when people don’t redeem their containers for a nickel deposit, that money – which is estimated to be between $1.5 and $4.2 million per year– is given to the beverage industry. Most states with Bottle Bills use this revenue for state programs, like recycling. That’s how we’d like to see the unclaimed nickels used in Vermont – to support recycling programs that everyone can get behind. And while we’re updating our Bottle Bill, why not expand it to include water bottles and single serving juice and sports drinks? We’ll be supporting a bill to do just that.