By Guy Page
On Thursday, for the first time since adjourning in March in the early days of the pandemic, the Vermont Senate considered a slate of non-pandemic related bills.
“Just as the economy is opening, it is time to start resurrecting the typical legislative process in terms of what bills get taken up,” Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe explained Wednesday at the Senate Caucus.
Thursday’s virtual meeting of the full Senate could be seen live on YouTube. Bills up for initial “second reading” approval include:
S.185, “adoption of a climate change response plan,” sponsored by Sens. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden) and Mark MacDonald (D-Orange), requires “the Department of Health to develop and adopt a statewide climate change response plan” and “requires regional planning commissions to develop a communications plan for the purpose of mitigating and responding to climate change related public health risks.” The state plan would be due Nov. 1. No cost estimates or allocations are mentioned in the bill.
S.337, sponsored by Natural Resources and Energy Committee, would allow Efficiency Vermont and other energy efficiency entities (EEEs) each to spend up to $2 million per year to reduce thermal and transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions.
At present Efficency Vermont, Burlington Electric Dept. and other EEEs are funded mostly by an assessment on consumer electricity bills. Their programs target electricity consumption. But climate change-minded lawmakers want to access that funding stream to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for building heat and transportation. According to a State of Vermont graph, electricity ranks fourth (8%) behind transportation (45%), thermal heating (23%), and agriculture (12%).
Other non-Covid-19 bills up for review include:
S.197, prohibiting discrimination based on genetic information
S.234, miscellaneous judiciary procedures
S.243, establishing the Emergency Service Provider Wellness Commission
S.301, repealing the sunset on certificate of good applications for telecommunications
The Senate Caucus on Wednesday also engaged in a fascinating conversation on how to approach the $400 million-plus 2021 deficit.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports.