VPIRG’s 2015 Legislative Priorities

With the first week of the 2015 Legislative Session wrapping up, check out VPIRG’s priorities for 2015! (Click the Program Name to jump to that section).

Clean Energy
Consumer Protection
Elections & Government Reform
Environmental Protection
Health Care
Toxics & Environmental Health

Clean Energy

Putting a Price on Pollution:
With storms like Irene giving us a taste of what a future of global warming will look like, it’s time for Vermont to make fossil fuel companies pay for the carbon pollution they’ve been dumping for free. That’s why VPIRG is working with a broad coalition to push for a carbon pollution tax, with the revenues directed to other tax cuts and to investments that will help Vermonters cut their energy bills and fossil fuel use. A pollution tax is the biggest step Vermont could take to cut our carbon pollution, and we expect it to be taken up by the legislature this year.

Establishing a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS):
While 29 other states across the United States require that their electric utilities get a certain percentage of their energy from clean, renewable sources, Vermont does not. The Governor’s administration is proposing a policy that would change this, and would have an innovative element designed to reduce emissions in our heating and transportation sectors. VPIRG will be working to pass a strong RPS that reduces carbon pollution and builds a clean energy future.

Defending Solar and Wind:
VPIRG has worked to promote and defend progress towards the state’s goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050. A hot topic this session will likely be a discussion about how energy projects are permitted in Vermont, and we will continue to ensure building solar and wind in Vermont is not made more difficult.

Consumer Protection

Defending our Right to Know:
After helping pass Vermont’s first in the nation no-strings attached GMO labeling law, VPIRG will focus on making sure that the law is implemented as the legislature intended. We will work with the State to help defend the law from corporate attacks, and keep consumers informed as rules are developed for how foods in Vermont will be labeled.

Elections & Government Reform

Government Reform:
Super PACs, million dollar checks, and DC-style negative ads are all now part of Vermont politics, and they’re drowning out the voices of Vermonters. That’s why VPIRG aims to lessen the political influence of very wealthy individuals and corporations. This summer, we knocked on over 90,000 doors across the state and got 20,000 Vermonters to sign on to a petition calling for a ban on corporate & lobbyist contributions, greater transparency from Super PACs, and state incentives that will amplify and encourage small donor participation.

Popular Vote Constitutional Amendment:
VPIRG believes Vermont voters should have the final say in who’s elected to top state offices—not the Legislature. Now, Vermont’s Constitution requires legislators to choose the winner in races for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer where no candidate gets a majority of votes cast. That’s why VPIRG supports amending the constitution to declare the winner to be the candidate who receives the most votes, as long as that winning candidates gets at least 40% of the votes cast. If the no candidate receives 40%, then there would be a run-off election held in the first week of December between the top two vote getters. After all, under any common understanding of democracy and fair play, elections are won by the person who gets the most votes.

Environmental Protection

Universal Recycling and Act 148 Implementation:
Right now, unclaimed deposits from Vermont’s Bottle Bill are returned to the beverage industry. But in 7 of the 10 other states in the nation with a Bottle Bill, all or the vast majority of that money goes to the state. These funds often are used to offset the cost of recycling programs to citizens.

Vermont is poised to implement act 148, a first-in-the-nation universal recycling bill that calls for mandatory curbside pickup of recycling and composting by 2020. The state is faced with finding a means to fund the infrastructure updates necessary to carry out this important overhaul. Revenue that can be gained by claiming unclaimed nickels for the state could be used to pay for Act 148, and VPIRG will be advocating for legislation that would do just that.

Health Care

Watchdogging Health Care Reform:
Our Current health care system is broken, and VPIRG is committed to making high quality affordable health care available to all Vermonters. This legislative session we will be working with allies and decision makers to forward solutions to curb unsustainable price increases, and make care more easily accessible. Some of the solutions we will be advancing include making health care prices transparent to consumers, and making it easier for Vermonters to get needed dental care. We cannot afford to stay on the current path, and VPIRG will continue to bring consumer voices in to the reform process.

Expanding Vermont’s Dental Workforce:
Vermont has one of the oldest dental workforces in the country, and too many Vermonters are without access to the dental care they need. In 2015, VPIRG will be advocating for increasing access to dental care in the state by adding a new dental practitioner (called a licensed dental practitioner or LDP) to the workforce to expand the reach of the dentist. This practitioner model is based on two different current models, both of which are proven methods of increasing access while providing safe, competent, and effective preventive and restorative dental care.

Toxics and Environmental Health

Toxic Free Families Act Implementation:
VPIRG will be working in 2015 to make sure that the toxic-free families act is implemented as the legislature intended it to, a law that will truly protect our children from dangerous and unnecessary toxic chemicals. We will monitor the Department of Health’s report to the legislature on the status of the program and will inform our members of strategic opportunities to weigh in.

Banning Microbeads in Vermont:
Microbeads are microscopic plastic orbs used as exfoliates in home hygiene and beauty products. These tiny particles, barely visible to the naked eye, are found in a wide range of common personal care products like toothpaste, facial scrubs and soaps. Because of their size, microbeads wash down the drain, cannot be filtered out in waste water treatment facilities and head into our waterways. Once introduced to marine environments, these non-biodegrable microbeads are impossible to remove.

There are plenty of safe, biodegradable options to these microbeads such as crushed salt, sugar, or walnut shells. VPIRG will be advocating for legislation in 2015 that will ban plastic microbeads from being sold in Vermont.