Legislative Update – Week 17
CLEAN WATER: #CleanWaterVT
The clean water funding bill (S.96) passed out of its initial policy committee, and headed to the House Ways & Means committee this week. The bill language they were sent focuses on creating a new regional distribution model to get clean water funding on the ground across the state. House Ways & Means did quick work, and voted out a funding proposal today that raises an estimated $7.6 million in new revenue for the Clean Water Fund. We appreciate the committee’s work and are encouraged to see a new, dedicated funding source put forward – though this amount falls short of the amount of funding we’ve been calling for, so we will continue advocating for robust, sustainable, long-term clean water funding. This bill will likely head to the House Appropriations Committee next, before hitting the House floor.
This week, hundreds of Vermont students and allies came together for the Rally for the Planet at the State House. The event was organized by the Vermont Youth Lobby, and they hosted inspiring speakers, music and more – and most importantly, made a clear call-to-action for our legislators to step up and take stronger action to tackle the urgent climate crisis that their generation will be living with the repercussions of.
Meanwhile, the Senate is working on a bill that would invest several million additional dollars into weatherizing more Vermonters’ homes in the short-term, while requiring analysis by the Public Utility Commission that would look at a longer-term approach to expanding this type of work. We will be working to ensure robust new funding is secured. We are also pushing the Senate to ensure the state creates and funds a new electric vehicle incentive program.
Learn more about what’s happening on energy and climate change with our LIVE Climate Dispatch from the State House, posted every Friday of the legislative session. Click here to view this week’s Dispatch, and sign up to receive the video in your inbox by clicking here.
The Legislature continued its progress on bills to better protect Vermonters from toxic chemicals. The Senate approved legislation (S.49) addressing cancer-causing PFAS chemicals, and sent it to the Governor’s desk for his signature. He’s indicated he will likely sign the bill, which requires the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to develop drinking water and surface water standards for PFAS chemicals. PFAS is the class of toxic chemicals that were discovered in Vermont drinking water wells, and pose significant threats to public health and the environment.
Legislation that requires testing for lead in drinking water in Vermont schools and childcare facilities (S.40) passed the House on a strong 138-3 vote The House and Senate will now work to resolve the differences between their versions of the bill. We continue pushing to ensure this important bill is enacted as quickly as possible, in a manner that best protects our children from exposure to lead-contaminated water.
Testimony continued on legislation that aims to better protect children from toxic chemicals (S.55) in the House Human Services Committee. This bill passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Governor Scott, and we fell just four votes shy of overriding the veto. We will be working hard to get a strong bill over the finish line this year.
The House Judiciary Committee continued working hard on another priority bill,S.37, which helps Vermonters harmed by toxic contamination. While we were disappointed that the committee stripped out the provisions of the bill that would hold polluters strictly liable for the harm they cause, we anticipate action next week on the provisions that would allow Vermonters harmed by toxic pollution to recover the costs of medical testing before they develop a disease. We are advocating to ensure the bill tips the scales toward helping Vermonters rather than corporate polluters.
ACT 250: #Act250
The House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee continued its work on Act 250 modernization legislation this week. While the Committee mostly focused on other priority bills that came over from the Senate, the Committee continued discussing Act 250, and is looking into ways to ensure work on these important topics continues over the summer and fall, so we can be ready for action next year.
With the arrival of May, the end of the session is rapidly approaching. In order to ensure our environmental priorities are enacted this year, we need lawmakers to be hearing from constituents like you, about the issues you care about.
It really makes a difference when you take a moment to call or email your legislators to make sure they know you’re paying attention and want to see action on these issues. Click here to find your legislators.
Stay tuned for on-going legislative updates, and opportunities for you to make your voice heard.