Working on bills, bills, bills

With crossover behind us, the calendar is stacked on the House floor with all the bills we voted out of our committees last week; now they need to make it out of the House and into the Senate.

Last week we voted out S18, which was the ban on flavored tobacco. I’m glad this is out of my hands because it cost me a lot of sleep. I did vote no on it, which I realize isn’t popular with everyone, but not only did I hear from a lot of people who weren’t supportive of a yes vote, but I had some problems with it myself. 

Ironically, someone testifying in my committee just this morning said the goal is to create the laws for liquor, tobacco and cannabis in a way that they’re all considered equal. On that level, it makes zero sense for me that we would legalize cannabis in order to regulate it, but then ban flavored tobacco, thereby making it unregulated and arguably less safe. We also have, within the Department of Health, a health equity office that does a lot of things, among which is evaluate legislation to make sure the laws we make are equitable to all Vermonters. Despite the fact that both racial and socio-economic inequities were concerns for this bill, those concerns were largely ignored. I’d really like us to actually walk the walk when it comes to things like this. It shouldn’t be an afterthought.

We’re voting this week on the Transportation Bill, on H289 which accelerates the Renewable Energy Standard program to the year 2030, as well as my two favorite bills (because I did an enormous amount of work on them): H875, which is a state government and municipal government ethics bill, and H626, which establishes an animal welfare program. I’m really excited both of those were voted with great support out of my committee. Obviously, I’m voting for my own bills, and I’m also voting yes on the T Bill and the RES bill. I know there are concerns about net metering restrictions in the energy bill, but I’ve communicated my concerns to our senators. I’m hopeful that they’ll address those issues as they consider the bill.

I’ve heard from a ton of people who are supportive of H709, which bans a certain kind of pesticide called noeonicotinoids, which are chemicals used mainly on corn to rid crops of certain pesky creatures. The problem is that they also kill non-pesky creatures, like bees and butterflies, and we need them; there’s also evidence that they have long-term negative health impacts on humans. These chemicals have been banned in Quebec and the EU, and so far, the impact on farmers hasn’t been significant. It was important to me that there was no economic hit to farmers. My understanding is that crop yield will not suffer, and there are safer alternatives to that particular chemical.

Finally, I want everyone to know I’m really taking to heart and keeping in mind everyone’s concerns about property taxes and spending. Although we can’t go back in time, we can definitely use our mistakes as an opportunity to do better as we move forward. I see where we’re wasting money, and often those situations arise when, in our haste to fix a problem, we don’t consider the long-term effects of our decisions. I’m hopeful that a measured, careful approach to reconfiguring the way we fund schools (still equitably!) will keep our taxes low and set up our kids to fly high.

I know I’ve mentioned multiple times how uncomfortable the chairs are on the House floor. I got a seat cushion this year, and as I sit in that chair (eight hours today on the floor), I’m thinking occasionally about how I wish I were more comfortable, but mostly what I’m thinking about is making sure that I’m doing my very best to represent all of you. The best way for me to do that is to hear from you.

I’ve received calls and texts on Monday mornings, Friday nights, Sunday afternoons, you name it, and I’m always grateful to receive them. If you don’t tell me what you care about and how you want me to vote, I’m not going to know.

My email and my phone is 917-887-8231.