Working on ghost guns and tax yields bills

I’m writing this column as I sit in seat 2 on the House floor — don’t worry, I can write and listen at the same time — as we head into our fourth hour of discussing and voting on H.887, which is an act relating to homestead property tax yields, non-homestead rates and policy changes to education finance and taxation. This is also known as the yield bill, which is also known as the bill that is adding some taxes into our daily lives in order to lower our property taxes. There were 10 amendments. That is, believe me, a lot of amendments.

Representative, Chea Waters Evans

A lot of it isn’t ideal. I wish there were a way to pay for things without having to spend our money on them, but that’s not how it works. Our property taxes were supposed to go up last year, but we paid to offset them with money from the general fund moved into the education fund. We don’t have that money this year because we had to pay for flood relief and other unexpected costs — so here we are.

The Champlain Valley School district budget passed, which is terrific. We don’t need to penalize our students because of whatever disaster is going on in Montpelier. And this disaster is going to be mitigated within the coming years. I’m optimistic this unfortunate moment has led to a realization that we can’t keep putting education funding and the education system together with duct tape and butterfly kisses, and that real, serious and long-term needs to happen.

I also want to point out one more thing before I move on to other bills and issues: I’ve heard some people grumbling about universal school meals and how much they cost, and it’s true that they ate into (sorry, that was an unintentional pun but I’m leaving it because it’s funny and what I’m about to say is not) our education fund dollars this year.

I will listen to everyone’s concerns but to be honest, I don’t want to hear any more complaining about feeding kids. Children shouldn’t be hungry. We learned very quickly during the pandemic that there are kids out there whose only nutritional meal comes from school. There are kids who are hungry all day because there’s no breakfast at home and getting school lunch that makes you look different from everyone else is embarrassing, so they skip it, and those kids shouldn’t have to bear the hunger or the shame, ever. Not ever. So yes, we’re paying for all the kids to eat, but the benefits far outweigh any perceived negative, and it’s simply not right for children to be hungry.

Anyway, we just passed the yield bill until the final vote out of the House tomorrow. I’m sure there will be changes and struggles when it gets to the Senate, but ultimately, I’m hopeful. I appreciate everyone reaching out to me with their questions and their concerns, and I hope this conversation continues over the coming years.

Another bill that’s seen a lot of conversation and debate on the House floor is one that came over from the Senate, S.209, which is an act relating to prohibiting unserialized firearms and unserialized firearms frames and receivers. This is also known as the “ghost gun” bill, and it requires people who make their own guns, through a 3D printer or through metalsmithing, or however else a person would make a firearm, to register that firearm and get a serial number for it.

It wouldn’t be a criminal offense to not get it serialized, but there are civil penalties if you don’t. It would be a criminal offense, however, to trade or sell that gun without a serial number on it. To get a serial number, one needs to get a background check. And getting a background check means that you won’t get a gun if you’re not supposed to have one.

Why, you might be asking yourself, as I asked the people who introduced this bill, would a criminal take a ghost gun to a firearms dealer for a serial number or a background check if that person was going to get busted? The answer is, that’s not the point. The point is, these guns frequently make their way to other people and then are used in crimes. It’s not ideal to have untraceable guns used in crimes. We vote on this Wednesday, April 24, and I’m in full support.

You can email me and my phone is 917-887-8231. Be in touch any time.