Vermont Legislature

Pete Hirschfeld, bureau chief of the Vermont Press Bureau, talks with Vermont Edition about some of the issues being debated at the Statehouse this week.

Senate To Mull Immigrant License Bill

Apr 5, 2013

The Vermont Senate is scheduled to take up a bill allowing immigrant farm workers to become Vermont drivers.

It was approved last week by the Transportation Committee by a vote of 4-1.

Vermont dairy farms employ an estimated 1,500 Mexican farm workers, many of whom are in the country illegally. They say they are isolated in rural areas and have to get rides from their employer or volunteers or sometimes pay for transportation to go to the grocery store or doctor.

The House has unanimously approved a two-year capital construction bill that solidifies a commitment to rebuild the Waterbury state office complex devastated by Tropical Storm Irene.

The bill includes $173 million in spending, with close to $70 million dollars set aside for Irene-related projects.

This is the second legislative session that lawmakers have crafted a two year spending cycle for state construction projects.

And a top priority remains repairing or replacing buildings damaged by the floodwaters of Irene.

The House has unanimously approved a two-year capital construction bill that solidifies a commitment to rebuild the Waterbury state office complex devastated by Tropical Storm Irene.

The bill includes $173 million in spending, with close to $70 million set aside for Irene-related projects.

This is the second legislative session that lawmakers have crafted a two-year spending cycle for state construction projects. And a top priority remains repairing or replacing buildings damaged by the floodwaters of Irene.

Patients living with Lyme disease crowded the Statehouse on Wednesday to tell their stories about years of misdiagnosis and chronic pain.

The patients and their advocates want legislation to protect doctors if they prescribe long-term antibiotic treatment contrary to current medical standards.

Lawmakers also learned that Lyme disease is just one of several tick-borne infections now sweeping through Vermont.

The momentum to reform Vermont’s earned income tax credit appeared to run out last week, but Governor Peter Shumlin continues to lobby a small group of state senators. He hopes to strike a deal on his proposal to subsidize child care by redirecting $17 million from the tax credit for poor working Vermonters.

A week after a key House committee narrowly rejected his plan, Shumlin has his work cut out for him in the Senate.

Job losses in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene were in many cases temporary, lasting only as long as it took businesses to repair damage from the flood.

The financial impact of those layoffs has been more lasting, but lawmakers may have found a way to soften the blow.

Senate Delays License Bill For Migrant Workers

Apr 3, 2013

The Vermont Senate is delaying action until next week on a bill allowing immigrant farm workers to become Vermont drivers.

The Senate was going to debate the measure this week. It was approved last week by the Transportation Committee by a vote of 4-1.

But now it's being sent to the Finance Committee for review because it contains a fee - which an immigrant would pay to get the special driving privilege card.

AP/Jeannie Nuss / Oil covers the ground around a slide in Mayflower, Ark., on April 1, 2013, days after a pipeline ruptured and spewed oil over

An oil spill in Arkansas may add urgency to Vermont legislation that would regulate oil pipelines.

Environmentalists point to similarities between the pipeline in Arkansas that ruptured and one in northern Vermont that could be used to ship tar sands oil.

The accident last week in Mayflower, AR spilled about 80,000 gallons of oil and forced the evacuation of 22 homes.

The 20-inch, underground line was used to carry tar sands oil from western Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

The Senate Transportation committee is set to make a key change in the gas tax bill that was adopted by the House several weeks ago.

Lawmakers are eyeing the gas tax as a way to raise new revenue to allow the state to take full advantage of all federal matching money that's available.

The Transportation Fund has a major shortfall this year because the gas tax is levied on a per gallon basis nd sales have dropped more than 40 million gallons over the past 7 years.

AP/Toby Talbot

The House Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would explore why gasoline prices are higher in certain areas of Vermont.

Gas prices in the northwestern part of the state have been considerably higher than many other regions. The average disparity in prices in Chittenden County is about 22 cents.

Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, is sponsoring a measure that would require distributors to provide data to the attorney general’s office.

Vt. Bills Target Distracted Driving

Apr 2, 2013
AP/Toby Talbot / A driver talks on the phone on Tuesday in Montpelier.

Vermont lawmakers are continuing their efforts to crack down on distracted driving, with bills that would boost the penalties for texting while driving and ban all hand-held electronic devices when driving through road construction zones.

Two House committees are studying those measures, while prospects for a proposed outright ban on using portable electronic devices while driving appear slim.

Vermonters already are banned from texting while driving and drivers under 18 are barred from using any portable electronic device.

Key members of the House are skeptical of a Senate bill that calls for a statewide study of the impact of renewable projects on Vermont’s environment.

Last week, after hours of often heated debate, the Senate passed a stripped-down measure of a bill that originally would have given towns more control in the state review of energy projects that are proposed for their communities.

A bacterial disease spread by tick bites is getting attention this week in the Statehouse.

Lyme disease patients and their advocates are pushing for a bill that requires insurance companies to cover long-term antibiotic care for the debilitating illness.

The bill highlights a debate in the medical community about the most effective treatment, because it sanctions a medical practice that critics say is not recommended by state and federal agencies.

House

Scheduled to go into session at 10 a.m.

Favorable with Amendment H. 169 Relieving employers' experience-rating records

Favorable H. 474 Amending the membership and charge of the Government Accountability Committee

Senate

Scheduled to go into session at 9:30 a.m.

Third Reading S. 129 Workers' compensation liens

A bacterial disease spread by tick bites is getting attention this week in the Statehouse.

Lyme disease patients and their advocates are pushing for a bill that requires insurance companies to cover long-term antibiotic care for the debilitating illness.

The bill highlights a debate in the medical community about the most effective treatment, because it sanctions a medical practice that critics say is not recommended by state and federal agencies.

This year Senator Bill Doyle tabulated almost 14,000 surveys from all parts of the state, and by a margin of 56 to 33 percent, those responding to the Survey said they didn't want to increase the gas tax to pay for road and bridge repairs.

Doyle says he was surprised by these results.

"I will say that I knew it would go down but I didn't think it would go down 2 to 1, said Doyle. Most of us drive to work and when you drive to work you're using a lot of gasoline."

Senate To Consider Driver's Licenses For Migrant Workers

Apr 2, 2013

The Vermont Senate will soon consider allowing immigrant farm workers to get state driver's licenses.

The Senate Transportation Committee last week moved out a bill that would do just that by a vote of 4-to-1.

Vermont dairy farms employ an estimated 1,500 Mexican farm workers, many of whom are here illegally.

They say without drivers licenses, they are often isolated in rural areas.

The bill would allow them to get driver's licenses if they have proper documentation.

Kirk Carapezza / VPR

Vermont became the first state on Monday to publish the rates it would charge people who don't currently have health insurance to get coverage - a key step toward establishing the health exchanges that are central to the federal health care law known as Obamacare.

Under the proposed rates, the amount that individuals would pay every month would vary from $360 for the most basic package to more than $600 for the most comprehensive.

After a long week debating budgets, taxes and renewable energy siting policies, Senate and House lawmakers can take a breath as they return to their committees this week to discuss a wide range of topics.The House Judiciary Committee will continue to take testimony on a measure that would decriminalize the poss

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