Legislative Preview: What’s on the Docket for 2012?

CLEAN ENERGY

Powering Vermont’s Clean Energy Future

We continue to work toward building a clean, renewable, reliable energy future for our state.  VPIRG is working to pass a bill ensuring that a greater portion of your electricity comes from renewable sources.  And, with 50% of Vermont’s electricity already coming from clean energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower, our goal, of an additional 30% more by 2025, is well within our reach.

Reaching our renewable electricity goals and laying a strong foundation for a local renewable energy industry go hand in hand.  That’s why VPIRG is working to make sure that at least half of that additional renewable energy comes from small and community scale renewable energy build right here in Vermont. Investing in our own Vermont renewables sector isn’t just about keeping your money working in-state (though it will).  It’s about leaving a legacy we can be proud of–simply put, taking control of our energy future is the responsible thing to do.

Ban Hydrofracking

The mining industry has begun to form preliminary plans to explore our state for hydraulic fracturing (or hydrofracking) opportunities, which could lead to the massive public health, environment and groundwater contamination problems affecting our neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania.  To stop the problems before they ever start, VPIRG is working to pass a complete ban on any future hydrofracking for natural gas in Vermont.

HEALTH CARE

VPIRG will continue its fight for affordable and high-quality health care for all Vermonters this legislative session.  Since the path we take on health care this year will determine the success of the reform movement, VPIRG will be working to make sure a few key votes turn out in Vermonters’ favor.

A Check-up on Claims

Ensuring that Vermonters like you have access to the information you need to make good decisions about your health insurance is why we’re working to pass a bill requiring insurance companies to report claims data.  That way, you’ll have the facts about paid and unpaid claims–as well as appeals that result from denied claims—for all carriers in the state. After all, you shouldn’t have to worry that health insurance companies will get away with denying claims just to pad their bottom line.

Follow the Money

Vermonters deserve to know where their money is going.  That’s why VPIRG is pushing to pass S. 200, a bill that would require health insurance companies to come clean about:

  • Salaries, bonuses and benefits for all corporate officers and board members
  • Their company’s travel, marketing and advertising expenses
  • The amount and recipient of each political contribution made by the company, including the amount and recipient if company money is paid to groups that make political contributions and/or are engaged in lobbying

Getting Your Voice Heard

Vermont’s health care system should be about people, not profits.  That’s why VPIRG is working to ensure that you have as many chances to have your ideas and concerns heard by legislators and agency officials.  We’ll continue to monitor and weigh in on the progress of the Green Mountain Care Board (the five-person board overseeing the reform process) to make sure that your choice of doctor, access and quality of care stays the same, or improves.  We’ll continue to give you opportunities to speak with key decision makers face-to-face.

For a calendar of health care events, updates from the GMC Board or to join our fight for affordable and quality health care for all Vermonters, visit: https://www.vpirg.org/healthcare.

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

Clean and Green: An A+ for VT Schools

VPIRG is closer than ever to passing a bill that would ensure the use of safer cleaning products in schools.  Environmentally preferable cleaning products work just as well, cost about the same and—most importantly—are safer than conventional cleaning products currently used in our schools, which contain a number of harmful chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, developmental disorders and reproductive problems.  We brought the bill to the brink of passage last year and expect it to be up for final passage in the House as soon as tomorrow and it could be headed to the governor for his signature by next week!

Protecting and Expanding the Bottle Bill

Vermont’s Bottle Bill is the state’s most successful recycling program.  VPIRG is working to build on the success of this program by updating it this legislative session.    Strengthening the Bottle Bill will take two main forms: updating its provisions so that you’ll be able to redeem water bottles and other non-carbonated beverage containers (including hard cider and wine bottles), and closing the “unclaimed nickel” loophole.  That way, the deposits from unredeemed containers will go back to the State instead of beverage industry executives.

Comprehensive Chemical Reform

Every year, there are 1,000 new chemicals added to the more than 80,000 chemicals approved for commercial use in the United States.  Potential health and environmental impact data only exists for a very few.  Though VPIRG has had great successes addressing individual toxins, Vermonters deserve a truly comprehensive, statewide system that identifies and limits harmful toxins in everyday products.  Protecting our children is hard enough—you shouldn’t have to worry their favorite toys are potentially exposing them to untested chemicals.

DEMOCRACY

Citizens Fight Back

In its recent ruling that corporations are “persons” and that their money is “free speech,” the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates for powerful corporations to influence federal elections and drown out the public voice to an unprecedented degree.  To begin the process of reversing this wrongheaded decision, VPIRG is working to pass a resolution asking Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment that would undo the harmful effects of the Citizens decision.

But VPIRG isn’t just waiting for Congress act.  Here in Vermont, we’re advocating for a law requiring corporations to get approval from shareholders before spending one dime to influence the outcome of elections in Vermont.

Campaign Finance Reform

Limiting the influence of big money and special interests Vermont’s elections demands a two-pronged approach: enact commonsense limits on campaign contributions, and establish better disclosure rules so that citizens know who’s giving to whom, and how much.  Fairer and more transparent elections will encourage our politicians to do their most important job and represent our interests on today’s critical issues like health care, energy independence and toxin-free schools.

More Value for Your Vote

Vermonters know that casting a ballot isn’t just about the person you’re voting for; it’s also about the values you want your politicians to promote.  To ensure that your voice is truly heard–and your support truly felt—VPIRG is working to pass a better “Fusion Voting” system that would allow you to vote for your chosen candidate on any of the party ballot lines endorsing your pick.  Fusion voting maintains the integrity of your vote—it still goes to your favorite candidate, as usual—but it means you’re sending an additional message about which party’s values come closest to your own and making it easier for your candidate to represent you after taking office.