Legislative Report - 2/20/11

The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee is still in the middle of revising H.56, the Vermont Energy Bill of 2011.  We continued to take testimony on the feasibility and benefits of several biomass energy projects that are being proposed.  Major factors are the efficiency of the plants, the net available low-grade wood above and beyond the amount currently being consumed by the existing Ryegate and McNeil plants, and the impact on electric rates overall.  Biomass plants are considered baseload generators, i.e. they are online continuously to feed power into the grid.  Therefore, they are desirable for their reliability.  They also contribute to creation of jobs in constructing and running the facility as well as in forestry.

H.155, Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Districts, is also under consideration.  This bill will allow municipalities to opt into the program via a popular vote and administer the program on their own or joined with other municipalities with the help of Efficiency Vermont.  PACE will allow municipalities to provide loans to homeowners for improving the energy efficiency of their homes and for installing renewable energy systems.  These loans would be associated with the property, and they would be repaid via the property tax bill.  If the property is sold, the loan repayment would be assumed by the buyer.  Because of objections from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with the original PACE legislation that could allow this lien to take precedence over mortgages, H.155 makes the PACE loan secondary to the primary mortgage and any pre-existing liens.  The effect of PACE is to amortize the up-front costs of energy improvements over a long period of time.

We are also taking testimony on H.19 and H.145, both of which address the problem of carryout bags in the waste stream.  H.19 would ban the use of plastic carryout bags altogether.  H.145 includes not only plastic bags but all disposable carryout bags, but proposes a $.10/bag fee at the checkout counter to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags as long as consumers continue to depend on the disposable bags.  Of this fee, $.09 would flow to Vermont’s general fund, and the retailer would keep $.01.

H.46, a bill which I co-sponsored and that describes the protocol schools must follow when a physician, advanced practice registered nurse, physician’s assistant, athletic trainer or physical therapist believes an athlete may have a concussion, was passed by the House and sent to the Senate. The bill proposes to ensure that a youth athlete suffering or suspected to be suffering from a concussion or other head injury does not participate in school athletic activities until the student has received an examination by and written permission to participate from a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and other head injuries.  State guidelines and instructional materials that educate coaches, youth athletes and their parents or guardians about the nature and risks of concussions and other head injuries will be developed as well.

I am continuing to hold Meet Your Representative sessions every second and fourth Monday of the month from to and from to at the Town office.  I invite you to stop by and share your thoughts and opinions about your concerns.  You can also contact me by phone at 425-3960 or email me at myantachka.dfa@gmail.com.