Preview of 2012 Session

As we enter the holiday season, Vermont’s state legislators are getting ready for the 2012 session that will open on January 3rd.  While there are a number of issues that will have carried over from this year’s session, the extreme weather events of 2011 will be foremost on the agenda.

House and Senate members were called back to Montpelier on November 10th to hear reports on the status of the Hurricane Irene recovery effort, the Green Mountain Care health system planning, the economy and fiscal situation, and the Comprehensive Energy Plan.  The good news is that the repair of the damage done to state roads will cost a lot less than was originally expected, about $185M instead of $550M.  Also, for the first three quarters of the year state tax revenues were up.  Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders led the effort to restore disaster relief funding in the U.S. Senate, and Congressman Peter Welch organized a bi-partisan coalition in the House to do the same.  The result is that federal funding will reduce Vermont’s share of the restoration to about $40M.  However, the effect on municipal revenues as a result of tax abatements due to property losses compounded by the additional costs to local roads is considerable, and the loss of state tax revenues post-Irene has not yet been determined.  These are factors that we hope will be known by January.  In all probability we will have to budget for both spending cuts and revenue increases.

The 2011 session resulted in a number of significant pieces of legislation that have implications for 2012.  The Green Mountain Care Board has been meeting and is in the process of analyzing and mapping out a strategy that will be presented to the legislature in January.  The Energy Bill of 2011 required two reports, a state energy plan and a biomass evaluation report, to be completed and presented to the legislature by the end of the year.  The Department of Public Service has held hearings throughout the state on its draft Comprehensive Energy Plan.  It is now reviewing more than 2000 public comments that it received and will have the final report ready by January.  The non-governmental Biomass Energy Research Group has been analyzing the capacity of Vermont and nearby states for sustainable harvesting of low-grade biomass to be used as a source of renewable energy generation.  There have been three new biomass electric generation plants proposed for southern Vermont which will require legislative approval before they can be built.  Two plants, one in Ryegate and the McNeil plant in Burlington, have been operational for decades in northern Vermont.

I very much want to know what concerns and thoughts my constituents have, so I will be holding a general information session at the Town Office on Thursday, December 8, at 7:30 PM.  I invite you to attend and let me know what’s on your mind that the legislature needs to address.

If you can’t make the meetings, you can always reach me by phone (425-3960) or by email (