New Bill Proposals from the Vermont Legislature (through 1 Feb 2013)

H.104: “An act relating to a revision of Vermont’s campaign finance laws”
Sponsors: Koch, Thomas F. “Tom”; Buxton, Sarah E.; Donahue, Anne B.; McFaun, Francis “Topper”; Stevens, Will
Summary: The bill does a bunch of things. It defines “coordinated campaign expenditures” made on a candidates behalf (like those put out by Super PACs) as a contribution. It institutes fines for late, false, or misleading campaign contribution disclosures. It mandates a secure online database for submitting and viewing campaign contribution disclosures. It increases the frequency of the reports, which are currently one per month – this adds 6 more, mostly in October. It increases the reporting requirements for PACs, requiring additional contact and identity information. It also seems to liquidate the Vermont campaign fund where campaign finance grants for candidates for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor are kept.
My thoughts: These changes are mostly good, but the liquidation of the campaign fund is a little troubling. This will probably not be the legislation that will pass this session, if anything related to campaign finance passes at all. See also S.17.

H.112: “An act relating to the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering”
Sponsors: Webb, Kate; Bartholomew, John L.; Zagar, Teo; Partridge, Carolyn W.; McCullough, Jim; Bissonnette, Clem; Burke, Mollie S.; Buxton, Sarah E.; Carr, Steve; Cheney, Margaret; Christie, Kevin “Coach”; Cross, George; Dakin, Leigh; Deen, David L.; Devereux, Dennis J.; Donahue, Anne B.; Donovan, Johannah Leddy; Ellis, Rebecca; Emmons, Alice M.; Frank, Bill; French, Patsy; Head, Helen; Hooper, Mary S.; Keenan, Kathleen C.; Krowinski, Jill; Lanpher, Diane; Lenes, Joan G.; Marek, Richard J.; Martin, Cynthia; Martin, Linda J.; Masland, Jim; McCarthy, Mike; McCormack, Curt; Miller, Alice; Mrowicki, Michael; Nuovo, Betty A.; Pearson, Christopher; Peltz, Peter; Rachelson, Barbara; Ram, Kesha K.; Sharpe, Dave; Spengler, Kristy; Stevens, Tom; Stuart, Valerie A.; Till, George W.; Toleno, Tristan; Townsend, Maida; Waite-Simpson, Linda J.; Wizowaty, Suzi; Woodward, Mark
Summary: Most foods containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) would require labeling as such.
My thoughts: This is the re-introduction of last session’s H.722, which was defeated in part by legislative inaction, and Gov. Shumlin caving to Monsanto’s legal threats. I hope the expanded sponsor list means it will go through this time and be taken seriously, even after a similar effort’s defeat in California last year. More information in support of this bill at Rural Vermont’s site.

H.137: “An act relating to raising the cigarette and tobacco products tax rates”
Sponsors: Till, George W.; Bissonnette, Clem; Dakin, Leigh; Evans, Debbie; Jerman, Tim; Lenes, Joan G.; Nuovo, Betty A.; Russell, Herb; Stevens, Tom; Townsend, Maida; Woodward, Mark
Summary: The state tax on a pack of cigarettes goes up one dollar.
My thoughts: Vermont would become the state with the second-highest tax on cigarettes in the country at $3.62 per pack, 73 cents behind New York. While it is a regressive tax, increases in cigarette taxes correlate to decreases in smoking rates.

H.139: “An act relating to funding postclosure activities at nuclear energy generating plants”
Sponsors: Jerman, Tim; Cheney, Margaret
Summary: The bill requires that full funding of the cost of closing (and after closing) of nuclear plants is in place, and keeps organizations that should be responsible for these costs on the hook for the costs.
My thoughts: Clearly targeting Entergy and Vermont Yankee, this bill puts in place measures to prevent Entergy or some split-off organization from evading responsibility for the cleanup costs of VY once it is decided that it should be closed. Should some corporate shenanigans leave the “owner” of the plant with no available funds, Vermont (and probably the Federal government, to an extent) could be left responsible for the cleanup costs.

S.65: “An act relating to the beverage container redemption system”
Sponsors: Pollina, Anthony; Doyle, Bill; Zuckerman, David
Summary: This expands the five cent deposit currently on beer (and some other) bottles to include noncarbonated water and all nonalcoholic beverages. There is an exemption for rice milk, soymilk, milk, and dairy. Wine bottles will now require a 15 cent deposit, like liquor bottles currently do.
My thoughts: This seems to be an immensely popular move, if Sen. Doyle’s 2012 survey is representative (with 78% supporting such a move). The existing bottle bill has been successful in keeping more recyclables out of the waste stream, and this would only improve it.

S.70: “An act relating to the sale of raw milk at farmers’ markets”
Sponsors: Rodgers, John
Summary: Farmers who sell raw milk will be able to sell their milk at farmers’ markets.
My thoughts: The requirements that raw milk producers abide by are not being changed, so sale of raw milk at farmers’ markets can only help these producers.



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