Representative Tom Bock of Andover, Baltimore, Chester, and North Springfield
We are now well into the 2nd half of the 2019 legislative session. Since January over 500 bills have been introduced. The 2 week “crossover” period when bills need to pass out of committee and onto the Floor in order to be considered for passage in the remaining weeks of the session, has come and gone. Of the 500 bills introduced this session, most never made it out of committee. But this is the first year of a 2-year biennium, so bills that do not make crossover can still be considered next year.
My committee, Agriculture and Forestry, was able to send on its way to statutory completion several bills during crossover. Two that have received House Floor approval are:
- H.82 supports the state's timber industry by adding logging accessories, such as skidders, chippers, and tire chains, to the industry's current equipment sales and use tax exemption. This will encourage more in-state purchases which will also support Vermont's logging equipment industry.
- H.205, better known as “the pollinator bill,” which limits the use of neonicotinoids that are harmful to bees and other pollinators, has received strong support from many of my constituents. The bill does exempt pet products (flea collars, etc.) and treated seeds used by farmers for growing corn and soy. Municipalities will also be allowed to use neonics to treat ash trees for emerald ash borers infestation.
- S.169, the so-called “suicide bill”, moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee to the House. This bill has been “watered-down” from a 48-hour waiting period before purchasing any firearm to a 24-hour waiting period before purchasing a handgun only. The secure storage of firearms requirement was also eliminated from the original proposal.
- H.439, a priority for Democrats this session, will increase funding to the Weatherization Program of Vermont. The program's mission is to reduce the energy costs for low-income families, particularly for the elderly and disabled, by improving the energy efficiency and comfort of their homes. The House Ways and Means Committee voted to double the current 2 cent tax on heating fuel that supports the weatherization program which would cost the average household about $15 per year. I and a colleague have amended the bill to exempt both farmers and loggers from this additional tax.
- H.107 will establish a paid family leave program funded by a mandatory payroll tax administered by a private insurance carrier. Employees would receive 12 weeks of parental leave or eight weeks of medical leave. While on leave, they would receive 90% of their weekly wages if they make at or below the Vermont livable wage – currently $13.34 per hour.