Good News! House Passes Global Warming Solutions Act Overwhelmingly!

On Friday, February 21st, the Vermont House Passed H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act, overwhelmingly on a vote of 105 to 37 with the support of Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and Independents.  The bill will now go to the Senate where it will hopefully get strong support. 

Here are links to additional information:

Legislative Report 2/20/2020 - Building a Foundation for Carbon Reduction

Expectations that the Legislature would take significant steps to address the climate change crisis this year have been high, Over the last 12 months Vermonters have joined people all over the world in climate demonstrations demanding that governments do something about climate change. After a month of testimony from businesses, utilities, farmers, conservationists, local and state government officials, scientists, and citizens, including youth activists, the House Energy & Technology Committee voted 7 to 2 to recommend passage of H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). This bill, if passed, will create a foundation and a roadmap for the actions that will reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The GWSA would elevate Vermont’s current “goals” for GHG emissions to required reductions with deadlines for action. The bill also requires action to enhance the climate resilience and preparedness of Vermont communities, including utilizing our natural and working lands to capture and store carbon. The goals have been in place since 2006 and currently do not require action to reduce emissions. Vermont’s GHG emissions are the highest per capita of any state in the Northeast, including New York. Our emissions are 13% higher than 1990 levels, while every other
Northeastern state has seen a decline. Massachusetts is in its second decade of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions through a Global Warming Solutions Act. Since enactment, Massachusetts has reduced its emissions by 25% while growing its economy by 25%. Reducing pollution, increasing efficiency, lowering costs, building resilience, and investing locally increases economic growth. H.688 aligns the resources of state government to focus on achieving these targets, including establishing a strategic plan to get the job done.

The bill sets specific greenhouse gas reduction requirements for Vermont: 26% below 2005 emissions levels by 2025 (in-line with the Paris Agreement), 40% below 1990 emissions levels by 2030 (in-line with VT’s 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan), and 80% below 1990 emissions levels by 2050 along with recommendations to get to net-zero emissions that year.

The bill also establishes a Climate Council led by state government agencies to develop and adopt a Climate Action Plan by 2021 with specific strategies to achieve these targets, as well as build climate resilience in Vermont communities. The work of the Council will be informed by required stakeholder and public input, with the Plan adhering to specific guidelines established in H.688. Guided by the Plan and the legislative intent in H.688, the Agency of Natural Resources must adopt regulations to reduce GHG emissions. Other agencies (i.e. VTrans, Agriculture, Commerce, etc.) may also adopt regulations. The bill does not mandate specific strategies but does ensure accountability with specific deadlines and the emissions reduction requirement. The Council is also required to make specific recommendations to the legislature regarding statutory changes and funding essential for success in meeting the emissions reductions and resiliency needs of the state.

Vermonters are already feeling the impacts of climate change in more severe and frequent extreme weather events. The bill requires putting in place adaptation measures that ensure that Vermont’s communities, infrastructure, and economy are better prepared and resilient and highlights the unique needs of rural areas and their vulnerable infrastructure, economies, and emergency preparedness. Delay in implementing climate solutions, whether strategies to reduce carbon emissions or enhance resiliency and preparedness, is costly. Climate solutions reduce risk and cost while increasing energy efficiency, supporting our natural and working lands, improving public health, and growing the economy.

I welcome your emails (, phone calls (802-233-5238), or in-person contacts.  

The Word in the House 2/13/2020 - Revisiting the Nineteenth Amendment

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.    - The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted August 18, 1920

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote everywhere in the United States.  The occasion is being marked in the Statehouse with a special exhibit called “Women in the Statehouse.” A display featuring the history of the evolution of Vermont state government from an all-male institution to the present where 40% of legislators are women was dedicated with a ceremony last week.  The Vermont legislature passed full suffrage for women in 1919, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Percival Clement. National adoption of the 19th amendment in 1920 had an immediate effect in Vermont where 10,000 women voted in that year’s gubernatorial election in which James Hartness, a leading voice for the ratification of the amendment, defeated Clement. Vermont quickly ratified the 19th Amendment in February of 1921, and in November Edna Louisa Beard became the first woman to be elected to the Vermont House of Representatives. Since then, Vermont has had three women Speakers of the House: Consuela Bailey (1953 – 1955), Gaye Symington (2005 – 2009), and Mitzi Johnson (2017 – Present).  Consuela Bailey was also Vermont’s first female Lieutenant Governor and was subsequently joined in that honor by Madeleine Kunin and Barbara Snelling. Madeleine Kunin became the first and only (so far) woman Governor of Vermont in 1985 and served until 1991.

If you are ever looking for something to do on a Wednesday evening between January and April, and if you don’t mind driving to Montpelier, you can attend Farmers Night at the Statehouse.  This series of programs is a longstanding tradition in which artists from around the state, in genres ranging from classical music to bluegrass to barbershop, perform in the well of the House Chamber. The performances are free and open to the public, and the schedule can be found at

In the same evening that the “Women in the Statehouse” exhibit was dedicated, I had the privilege and pleasure of taking part in the weekly Farmers Night performance that featured a musical rendition of the 19th Amendment.  The music in four parts was composed by Neely Bruce, professor of Music and American Studies at Wesleyan University. Besides several legislators and Statehouse staff, singers from Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as from Vermont performed under the direction of Neely Bruce himself. While his composition, “The Bill of Rights, Ten Amendments in Eight Motets” was also sung in the program, the night’s performance was the worldwide debut of “The Nineteenth Amendment”.  

The right to vote is a fundamental right of citizenship and is essential to our democratic form of government. Besides the 19th Amendment, three other amendments extend the right to vote to persons that had previously been excluded. The 15th amendment, adopted after the Civil War, gave the right to former slaves and people of color. The 24th amendment (1964) forbids the use of a poll tax to exclude a person from voting. The 26th amendment (1971) extended voting rights to eighteen year-olds. As Town Meeting approaches and as we move toward the general election in November, we each have not only a chance but a responsibility to make our voice heard by exercising this right.

I welcome your emails (, phone calls (802-233-5238), or in-person contacts.  

Legislative Report 2/6/2020 - Affordability for Working Vermonters

Last May the 2019 legislative session ended with a sense of frustration that we couldn’t get two key bills across the finish line, not because of opposition in either the House or Senate, but because the two chambers couldn’t agree on a common version for either bill.  One of the bills, H.107, would have enacted a paid family and medical leave insurance program and the other, S.23, would have raised Vermont’s minimum wage. Both bills were high on the agenda as the 2020 session began a few weeks ago.  They were both sent to conference committees during the first week of the session to iron out a compromise. Agreement was quickly reached and the bills were passed by large majorities in both chambers and sent to the Governor.  However, despite the overwhelming support in the legislature, Governor Scott indicated that he would veto both bills and did so for the Paid Family Leave bill on January 31st.  The Senate has enough votes to override the veto but getting to 100 votes in the House is still in question since the bill passed 89 to 58.*

Affordability has been a mantra of the Governor since his election in 2016.  His approach has been to hold down spending and taxes, a reasonable approach to be sure.  However, affordability does not mean the same thing to everyone.  Those at the top end of the income scale may see taxes as the focus of unaffordability.  Those in the middle of the income spectrum worry more about childcare, housing and medical expenses as well as taxes. Those at the lower end of the income spectrum experience financial stress in every aspect of life. When we try to address affordability, it is important to think about the entire spectrum of wage earners.

The Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance bill provides up to 12 weeks each for new parents to bond with their newborn, 8 weeks for family care due to illness, and 6 weeks of optional temporary disability benefits at an additional cost for the employee’s own illness. The United States is one of only two countries that do not have a paid family leave program, the other being Papua New Guinea.  The cost of providing this insurance would be a premium of 0.2% assessed on earned income. For a worker earning $50,000 annually, the cost would be $100. The Governor recognized the need for such a program by offering a 6 week paid leave package for state employees, a pool of 8,500 workers, at about 3 times the cost and opening it up on a voluntary basis for any other employed Vermonters.  Like any insurance program, the smaller the pool of insured, the more expensive the cost. The legislature decided that all working Vermonters should have the same access to this insurance with better benefits and lower premiums.

Similarly, the Minimum Wage bill seeks to help Vermonters at the lowest end of the pay scale.  While the House proposed to get to $15 over four years, the conference committee agreed to a compromise that raises the minimum wage from the current $10.96 to $11.75 on January 1, 2021, and to $12.55 a year later.  It reflects the legislature’s commitment to supporting families and communities throughout the state by giving our lowest wage earners a much-needed raise. Increasing the minimum wage not only strengthens our families and our workforce, it boosts the greater economy by putting more spending power into the pockets of Vermonters. Forty thousand of our lowest paid workers will see increased earnings over the next 2 years. Exceptions to the minimum wage for tipped, student, and agricultural workers remain unchanged.
I welcome your emails (, phone calls (802-233-5238), or in-person contacts.  

* Note: On Wednesday, 2/5/2020, the House voted on the Governor's veto.  100 votes out of 150 members present were required to override the veto.  However, the vote fell short with 99 members voting to override and 51 members voting to sustain the veto.  The roll-call record on the vote can be found on page 239 of the House Journal of 2/5/2020