By Rob Roper
In a spectacular example of fiddling while Vermont burns, the Senate Finance Committee voted 6-1 to advance a bill, S.227, to “to prohibit the provision by lodging establishments of personal use products in small plastic bottles.” This directive would come as Vermont’s hotels and bed and breakfasts, a huge part of Vermont’s critical tourism industry, have been decimated by the COVID-19 prevention measures.
Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) had this to say about it:
“Why are we doing this? Well, one of the things we heard is because the large hotel companies are already going in that direction. And they may be. So that again is my point of why do we have to legislate it if it’s something they’re already doing? Well, perhaps the reason we have to legislate it is they want us to force everybody else to do it. But, it’s in their competitive interest to do it that way. Not necessarily in the public interest. And as we look at what the public interest is here… we ought to be focused on issues that really matter at this point. Why are we spending the hours that we’re spending on dealing with tiny little bottles? To prohibit people from using them, but still making them available at the desk if anybody wants them, and then making it effective three years from now. That to me doesn’t make any sense. I look at what we’re supposed to do in this body, and I’m saying, yeah, the public will look at this and laugh at us. And they ought to!” (Video: 48:08-49:25)
Though other members of the committee expressed some reservations about the timing of the bill, and recognized the poor optics of passing it — Sens. Pearson (P-Chittenden), Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) and Cummings (D-Washington) — none but Brock, in the end, voted against it.
This bill impacts an industry that is, as one of the senators noted, “struggling for its existence.” Any added regulation, any added cost to doing business at this point is nothing less than cruel. So why would six out of seven senators do this? VPIRG is “bombarding” legislators with form letters demanding that S.227 be made law. So, hopefully the full Senate and/or the House will apply more common sense and empathy should it get that far.