Now that H.926, an act relating to changes to Act 250, has been vetoed by the governor, what should the Senate do next? What reform of Vermont’s land use laws and regulations, if any, is still needed?
“Senate action on the bill was late due to COVID. Unless there is a veto override, the Senate will do as it said: take appropriate time to review the Act 250 Commission Report and House proposals. The Senate can focus on development in compact settlement areas and preserve Vermont’s rural landscape.
“Act 250 approval for downtowns/compact areas of development is important. The vetoed bill prevents land around trails from being included in Act 250 review, giving landowners reassurance their land is outside of 250 jurisdiction. Forest fragmentation protection is consistent with current process. Trail and forest fragmentation review are legislative issues, not for determination by executive order.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that access to the internet is now a near necessity for school and work. What can the Senate do to provide increased broadband access to rural and low-income Vermonters?
“The state cannot compel internet companies to build connections. The Senate wrote legislation to ensure that the Department of Public Service complete a 10-year plan for deploying internet connections, especially in rural areas. Permitting for transmission is also key. Help local/municipal networks to develop.
“Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding incentives continue for internet centers, schools, libraries, and other publicly accessible sites. Continue utilizing coronavirus relief funding and deployment for health care, business access, and individual homes. Maintain funding access for public access live stream programming for schools, businesses and citizens.”
How can the state government make housing in Chittenden County, and across the state, more affordable?
“Continue to fully fund the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) and allow bonds for affordable housing. Target housing to specific sites and/or specific uses as the legislature and VHCB have provided. This includes transitional mental health and related housing needs. Encourage municipalities to require affordable/workforce housing in approved housing projects. Improve zoning regulations for workforce housing for sale between $250,000-350,000.
“This affordable level for Vermont workforce housing is needed. Have landlords work with Champlain Housing Trust and others to renovate rental units. Grants up to $30,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development are available to improve quality, availability and affordability of rental housing.”
S.54, an act that proposes a system for the regulation and sale of cannabis in Vermont, currently sits on the governor's desk awaiting approval. Did you vote, or would you have voted for the bill? Please explain.
“The bill provided for prevention programs keeping kids from a potentially-harmful drug. Today, the amount of addictive substance in cannabis is unknown and can be significant. Regulation allows for measurement of THC for lower amounts. We may never eliminate the black-market sale of cannabis. Regulation will help.
“Federal classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug should be changed. Public safety can focus on those possessing more than allowed amounts and driving under the influence. I voted for the bill because provisions in the law begin to place cannabis in a category of drug that should be regulated. The key provision is prevention and reduction of access to cannabis by young people.”
Other than the four issues asked about here, what else do you think is a priority for the legislature to address and why?
“The pandemic is not over. We need to continue stabilizing the economy in this time of uncertainty. Continued oversight of legislation passed during COVID is needed.
“Childcare, health care, mental health issues, addiction prevention, racial justice, climate change, water quality, food security, farming, small business, education, and the economic outlook are each key areas of concern separate from, and integral to, the pandemic. Each brings an immediate concern. Each is related to concerns about a budget shortfall we face during the next year. Each should be a priority for the legislature.”