By Guy Page
Green Mountain Power will pass along 100 percent of its Trump Tax Cut to ratepayers. The Vermont utility’s corporate tax rate was cut from 35 percent to 21 percent. In a letter sent to state regulators, GMP President Mary Powell said the tax savings will go directly to ratepayers, who as of this month are facing a five percent rate increase. At present it is not known when or how much this rebate will reduce monthly residential power bills.
The Trump Tax Cut rebate was first reported by Seven Days columnist John Walters, whose Jan.10 column reproduces an exchange of letters between Powell and Public Service Board Commissioner June Tierney.
S284, the so-called ESSEX carbon tax introduced Jan. 3, also would purportedly reduce electricity rates — but only after first taking the money from Vermont consumers of gasoline, heating oil and some other fuels. The bill was sent to Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, of which lead sponsor Chris Pearson (Chittenden) is a member. S284 has strong support among environmental groups and is opposed by Gov. Phil Scott.
ESSEX stands for Economy-Strengthening Strategic Energy Exchange. S284 would “adopt a charge on the carbon content of fossil fuels to address climate change and facilitate meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals and to return all of the revenues from that charge to customers on their electric bills,” the bill’s introductory language claims.
Pot bill awaits governor’s decision
Vermont Senate this week approved H.511, personal cultivation and possession of marijuana. Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday he will sign it without needing to see the marijuana advisory commission report due out Monday, Jan. 15. To express concerns to Gov. Scott, call 828–3333 or send an online message at http://governor.vermont.gov/contact-us/message.
Interesting Stuff Happening in Legislative Committees
· RENEWABLE POWER “TIER 3” — Joint House, Senate energy committee meeting to discuss “Tier 3” home and transportation renewable energy goals required by Act 56 (2015). 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Room 10.
· ENERGY STORAGE — House Energy & Technology 10:30 a.m. Thursday will be briefed on mandated Energy Storage Report, which recommends more study of integrating battery storage into Vermont’s power grid but advises against setting utility-scale procurement goals due to cost concerns.
· HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS — House General, Housing & Military Affairs Wednesday 10 a.m. will discuss H.412, Homeless bill of rights, sponsored by Rep. Tom Stevens (Waterbury) and others, saying in part:
“A person’s rights, privileges, or access to public services may not be denied or abridged solely because he or she is without housing or because of housing status. Such a person shall be granted the same rights and privileges as any other resident of this State. A person without housing shall have the right: (1) To use and move freely in public spaces, including public sidewalks, parks, transportation, and buildings, in the same manner as any other person and without discrimination on the basis of his or her housing status.”
· VAGRANCY LAW REPEAL — House Judiciary will discuss H.563, repeal of vagrancy law, 9:45 a.m. Thursday. Title 13, Chapter 83 of VT Statutes Annotated says “A transient person, roving from place to place and living without visible means of support, who begs, or who rides or attempts to ride on a railroad freight train or engine without the consent of the person in charge thereof, or who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling house, barn, or other building without the permission of the owners or occupants thereof, shall be deemed a vagrant. “
· OPEN MEETING LAW, PUBLIC RECORDS — House Govt. Operations to hear media, government representatives, Thursday 9 a.m.
· PARENT STANDARD — House Human Services 9 a.m. Thursday to discuss H.589 (Maxine Grad — Moretown, Ann Pugh — S. Burlington, J. Willhoit — St. Johnsbury) to establish a reasonable and prudent parent standard that limits foster parents’ liability for decisions made in compliance with the standard.
· SEAT BELT STOPS — House Transportation, 9 a.m. Wednesday, to discuss committee bill including police stopping motorists for failure to wear seat belts. At present failure to wear a seat belt is not a primary enforcement or “stopping offense.”
· MINIMUM WAGE — Senate Economic Development to hear expert testimony on S.40, $15 minimum wage bill, 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Benefit Cliff discussion, 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
Sen. Richard Westman (Lamoille) told the News & Citizen he’s worried about how a $15 minimum wage would affect social services agencies’ ability to pay employees:
“My dad is 83 years old, and home health comes in four days a week. He also gets Meals on Wheels. His aide makes less than $15 an hour, and so does the meal delivery driver. I cannot work and survive without that. I’d probably have to put him I assisted living, and I want to keep Dad at home.”
Vermont Yankee public hearing rescheduled — again! — for Feb. 8
The Vermont Public Utilities Commission has tentatively rescheduled the Jan. 18 public hearing for the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar to Feb. 8, according to a PUC order issued Jan. 12. The hearing was rescheduled because negotiations for a settlement of major outstanding financial questions are nearing completion, and the PUC wants the hearing held after details of the settlement have been announced. The location has not yet been determined. The Jan. 18 hearing was a reschedule of a Jan. 4 hearing that was cancelled due to a winter storm.
House bills released for introduction:
H.626 (Barre reps. Poirier, Walz and McFaun) would exempt certain benefits and pensions for veterans and their dependents and survivors from the calculation of household income for purposes of the homestead property tax income sensitivity adjustment or renter rebate.
H.629 (Rep. George Till, Underhill-Jericho) would require health insurance plans to provide coverage for fertility preservation (embryo, oocyte, and sperm cryopreservation) procedures for certain insureds diagnosed with cancer.
H.631 (Reps. Lefebvre, Feltus, Higley, McCullough et. al.) would study potential adverse impact of large-scale maple production on the health and vitality of the State’s forestlands.
Independent schoolers of all kinds to gather Jan. 24 at Statehouse
Homeschoolers and private (non-traditional, religious, and other) schoolers are marking their calendars for January 24, for a celebration of National School Choice Week at the Vermont State House. The day will include a free luncheon, an art contest with large cash prizes, meeting with legislators, a group photo on the State House lawn, and youth-friendly tours of the State House. For more information contact Asher Crispe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Church at Prison.