The 2023 Vermont legislative session is upon us and the Vermont legislature will include possibly more new faces than any time in history. VPIRG has an ambitious public interest agenda that includes unfinished business from the 2022 session like helping Vermonters transition to cleaner, more affordable heating options for their home and modernizing the Bottle Bill, and new priorities like a revamped Renewable Energy Standard and comprehensive consumer data privacy reform. Read on for a list of our major priorities in the 2023 legislative session:
CLIMATE & CLEAN ENERGY
Affordable Heat Act
The Affordable Heat Act would require, for the first time, companies that import fossil fuels into Vermont for heating to help Vermonters move to cleaner, more affordable options to heat their homes and businesses. Building on the work of last year’s Clean Heat Standard bill, it will require those fossil fuel companies to hit Vermont’s climate pollution targets in the heating sector. We’ll also be pushing for several important improvements in this year’s bill, including guaranteeing more investments that will reduce heating costs for low- and moderate-income Vermonters, changes that will increase the focus on electrification and weatherization while moving away from biofuels, and additional transparency and safeguards built into its climate pollution calculations.
Getting More Renewable Electricity Built
Policies around electric generation that get new renewables built reduce climate pollution – policies that don’t get new renewables built, no matter how well-intentioned, do not reduce climate pollution. Right now, Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard only requires Vermont’s electric utilities to get 10% of the power they provide Vermonters from newly built renewables by 2032. That’s not nearly good enough, which is why we’re renewing our push to require all of Vermont’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, with a majority of that from new renewables built right here in Vermont and elsewhere in New England.
Investing in Climate Action
Vermont must continue to increase equity-focused investments in climate action, and helping all Vermonters access electric vehicles, transit, micro-transit, bike, and pedestrian solutions is a top priority. We’ll also be working with lawmakers to ensure the unprecedented climate investments made in last year’s budget are expended effectively and equitably.
Ranked Choice Voting
As other states move to disenfranchise voters and threaten democracy itself, Vermont has become a leader in democratic reform. The next step is to give voters a stronger voice and better choices by introducing ranked choice voting (RCV) for the presidential primary beginning in 2024. RCV gives more power to voters and ensures that every vote counts (even if a voter’s first choice drops out before the Vermont primary takes place).
Campaign Finance Reform
The federal government has banned corporations from contributing to candidates for over 100 years, and 22 states have done the same. It’s time for Vermont to curb the influence of corporations by banning corporate contributions to candidates and requiring more transparency from corporate political action committees (PACs). Rather than depend on large donors and corporate cash, Vermont can instead find ways to fund campaigns by encouraging more small dollar donations.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH & ZERO WASTE
Modernize the Bottle Bill
After 50 years, Vermont’s popular Bottle Bill deserves an update. Both chambers of the VT Legislature passed an expansion of the program last session to include beverages like water, wine, and sports drinks, but the bill ultimately died because the Legislature adjourned before it could get final approval. More than 4 out of 5 Vermonters support this kind of modernization and we already know it has broad support in the Legislature. 2023 will be the year we finally pass this common-sense policy.
Protect Vermonters from Toxic Chemicals in Products
VPIRG will be urging the Legislature to build on the momentum of Act 36, which passed last biennium and banned toxic PFAS chemicals from several commonly used products. VPIRG supports a ban on the sale of personal care products containing PFAS and many other harmful chemicals. Further, we will encourage the Legislature to enact further protections against toxic chemicals in other consumer products, like outdoor gear and cookware.
Comprehensive Data Privacy Reform
In recent years Vermont has been a leader in the push to give consumers control over their personal information by enacting laws to rein in the data broker industry, prevent educational software companies from misusing student data, and expanding Vermont’s data breach notification law to ensure consumers know when their information has been compromised. But Vermont has stopped short of enacting broad protections that would treat consumer data privacy as a default and give consumers the power to control how and with whom their data is shared.
This year we’ll be pushing for comprehensive data privacy reform that includes a strong data minimization standard (limiting the data that companies can collect to only that which is necessary to provide a good or service to the consumer), broad prohibitions on secondary data sharing, the rights to have one’s data corrected, transferred, or deleted, strong protections with respect to biometric data, and improvements to Vermont’s data broker law.
Our repair system in broken. From computers and cell phones to farm equipment to medical devices – consumers and repair shop owners are at a severe disadvantage to the wealthy and powerful manufacturers that control the repair marketplace by withholding access to the tools, parts, and information necessary to repair these items and thus forcing consumers to rely on the manufacturers for fixes.
Fair Repair is a smart, sensible solution to the dual issues of rising e-waste and costly repair monopolies. In 2023, we’ll be encouraging the legislature to enact right-to-repair legislation that ensures Vermonters and independent repair shops have access to the parts, tools, and information they need to repair their own devices.
ECONOMIC JUSTICE & HEALTHCARE
Fight economic injustice and work for affordable child care, health care, and family & medical leave.
Economic inequality remains a fundamental challenge in Vermont. VPIRG believes that we can and must do a better job of helping hardworking Vermonters make ends meet. That means tangible progress in the upcoming legislative session on affordable child care, health care, and family and medical leave.