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1  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 15 on: April 20, 2018, 03:58:44 PM
The Transportation committee was prepared to present S. 272 on the House floor but it was sent to the Ways and Means committee for final approval of changes that had minor effect on the revenue to the State. The bill is poised to be on notice for floor discussion Tuesday. Prior to officially receiving H. 917 the committee began reviewing sections that the Senate has altered in their strike all amendment.
In the original H. 917 language existing statute was enhanced by the House committee to support safety of vulnerable users of roads with the direction that vehicles need to slow down when approaching vulnerable users. This was expanded in the Senate by an amendment to the bill that includes language similar to what is in a National campaign to protect stopped utility-type vehicles displaying flashing lights and their users titled “Slow Down to Get Around”.  The accident in St Albans that killed a Casella worker last summer brought this issue to the forefront.
Friday morning the committee heard testimony on a floor amendment that is being considered to address the concern raised by ice blocks flying from the roofs of vehicles and causing harm to other users of the road. A recent incident in Vermont drew the attention back to this issue by the sponsor of H. 367, an act relating to requiring the removal of snow and ice from vehicles operated on public highways. There is national attention on this issue that has been titled Ice Missile legislation. 
Thursday night a Cabaret to highlight member’s ‘talents’ was held as a fund-raiser for the Vermont Food Bank - Rutland Distribution Center  This annual tradition raises a few dollars for a good cause and brings the members together for a bit of light hearted roasting as the session comes near to its end.
A sign of the session coming to its final weeks is the cessation of Senate morning committees. They will be held on an as need basis to allow for morning floor start. Bills are moving rapidly between House and Senate as final amendments are made, agreed to, or Conference committees created to iron out the differences. 
People continue to contact me with thoughts and concerns regarding bills and resolutions they have seen introduced. I appreciate the information on what concerns fellow Fairfax residents. Please contact me at bmurphy@leg.state.vt.us, 802-849-6545, or by mail at 7 Lily Rd. The Sergeant at Arms office in the State House, (802) 828-2228, will see messages reach me as well.
2  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 14 on: April 13, 2018, 05:55:55 PM
The season of Conference Committees has begun. H. 562, an act relating to parentage proceedings was recommended to be moved to committee of conference rather than accept the Senate proposal of amendment. One of the Senate proposals of amendment echoed one that failed in the House on a roll call vote of 70 to 74. The language would guarantee that any genetic sample taken pursuant to this section of law would be destroyed after final determination of the case.

 S.29, an act relating to decedents’ estates was presented with amendments by House Judiciary. The bill updates probate law from outdated language regarding gender but also makes some substantive changes including reducing from three to one year the time frame for filing creditor’s claims against the estate.  S. 101, an act relating to the conduct of forestry operation passed on a roll call vote of 127 to 4. The bill is similar to “right to farm” language in statute and protects forestry operations from nuisance lawsuits.

The Transportation committee has spent the week working on amending S. 272, an act relating to miscellaneous changes to laws related to motor vehicles or in brief the DMV bill. Substantial testimony and debate surrounded the language that supported the changes being made to the Vehicle Inspection Manual. DMV has spent the last six months compiling a major overhaul with the input of many stakeholders and has now begun the process to formally change the rules. The check engine light is a component that is required for air quality and is under EPA oversight. Staff from the Department of Environmental Conservation presented concerns for the conditional passes that are being granted and shared information on assistance that can be granted for the required repairs as well as Federal conditional pass opportunities.

HR 23 a resolution that addresses video game violence was passed on a vote of 107 to 12.
It makes a request to the Executive Branch to examine the connection between the exposure to excessive media and video game violence and the propensity to engage in gun violence and to consider submitting a legislative proposal on restricting the sale of violent video games to persons below a designated age. This request ties in with the Violence Protection Task Force the Governor spoke to creating by Executive Order in his speech at the signing of the three gun bills Wednesday.

People continue to contact me with thoughts and concerns regarding bills and resolutions they have seen introduced. I appreciate the information on what concerns fellow Fairfax residents.  Please contact me at bmurphy@leg.state.vt.us, 802-849-6545, or by mail at 7 Lily Rd. The Sergeant at Arms office in the State House, (802) 828-2228, will see messages reach me as well.
3  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 13 on: April 06, 2018, 06:24:26 PM
Twelfth grade BFA students visited the State House on Thursday and Friday to observe committee meetings, floor sessions and interview individual legislators regarding bills they have been tracking in their Senior Social Studies classes this semester. These students are wonderful ambassadors for our community. Other Fairfax residents were present this week giving testimony on legislation before committees, offering coffee and information in the cafeteria and as a member of the final group of Pages, a program that provides a wonderful opportunity for eighth graders to participate in our State Government first hand for six weeks.
Members of the Transportation committee started the week at a press conference to recognize the Traveling Memorial of Workzone Fatalities.  The goal of the organization is to reach zero deaths within workzones through increasing public awareness of the need to be alert and reduce speed as the season of road construction gears back up, “Slow down to get around”. Later the committee took testimony from the Chief Financial Officer of the Agency of Transportation on the FFY2018 Federal Transportation Appropriations Act. The good news he shared is that the core highway and transit programs that account for over 90% of our federal transportation funding are increased by approximately 2.2% increase as compared to last year.
The VTrans Training Center Manager spoke to the challenges and goals for workforce recruitment, development and retention.  A program was highlighted that is proving an effective recruitment tool. The VTrans/Vermont Tech pathway has multiple points of entry. From juniors in high school to career changers to veterans looking to translate their service experience into a career, the pathway offers flexibility that suits individual needs.
The Branch manager for Vermont Local Roads came with the other two staff members to present the 2018 legislative report to the Transportation committee. Vermont Local Roads is a resource that provides workshops (one was held in Fairfax in June of 2017), as well as technical assistance to Vermont municipalities.
J.H.R. 15, Joint resolution requesting the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and Congress to adopt more effective measures to enforce the federal Do Not Call list and to police illegal robocalls was taken up and adopted on the part of the House. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance for further action.
People continue to contact me with thoughts and concerns regarding bills and resolutions they have seen introduced. I appreciate the information on what concerns fellow Fairfax residents.  Please contact me at bmurphy@leg.state.vt.us, 802-849-6545, or by mail at 7 Lily Rd. The Sergeant at Arms office in the State House will pass on queries as well.
4  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 12 on: March 30, 2018, 04:20:22 PM
Representative Taylor, of Colchester shared a baseball story for devotion Tuesday which offered the reminder that it is critical in judging the truth of a statement to know the perspective of the one making it. As we spent over six more hours debating the merits of S. 55 and another slew of amendments before a final roll call vote of 89 yeas and 54 nays to send it to the Senate, it was helpful to remember the differences of perspective we each hold. Other actions taken by the House during the week give law enforcement authority in establishing extreme risk protection orders, S. 221 and provide assistance to correct the erroneous GPS information in the 911 system for two thirds of Vermont schools. 
The Capital bill passed last year was designed as a two year budget so the bill presented this year is an adjustment to the plan. Capital construction and State bonding budget adjustment, H.923 includes among its expenditures the appropriation of five million dollars to support the school safety and security grant program, provides funding to water quality programs, mental health needs and adult career and technical education programs.
Several announcements on the House floor Friday highlighted young Vermonters. The devotion was offered by the Speaker and directed at the outgoing class of pages. One of the many services they performed was to connect us to our constituents through the numerous messages received by the Sergeant at Arms office. HCR 295 a resolution congratulating the Vermont teams for participating in the 2017-18 FIRST & FFL robotics competitions was read and included the team from Fairfax. Several of the teams set up and demonstrated their projects in Room 11 for visitors who included Governor Scott.  Lastly, four exchange students from Turkey, Pakistan and Germany, who are staying with Vermont families and visiting the State House to see our government in action, were introduced and recognized by the House.

5  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 11 on: March 24, 2018, 01:45:44 PM
This has been a busy week with the money bills introduced on the floor by the committees on Education, Transportation, Ways and Means, and Appropriations. A small but significant component of H 922, a bill from Ways and Means making numerous revenue changes, allows for the Fairfax Fire Department’s Calcutta to be exempt from Rooms and Meals tax. The committee was open to the intent of H 586 but was concerned that as worded it made the exemption too broad. The following language was agreed to by the committee and passed the House; “if the organization or association is a fire department, as defined in 24 V.S.A. § 1951, or provides emergency medical services or first responder services, as defined under 24 V.S.A. § 2651, it is not necessary that the meal be served on the premises of the organization to qualify as an exclusion from “taxable meal” under this subdivision;” and will be in place for next year’s Calcutta if the Senate and Governor support it. Thank you to Dave Yergeau for bringing the issue forward.

The third reading of the Budget was eclipsed by the debate on the Judiciary committee’s presentation of a strike all version of S.55. Judiciary voted the bill out of committee on a 6-5-0 vote which ensured rigorous debate on the floor. Numerous roll call votes punctuated the discussion of each component of the bill as divided and reordered, including an initial vote as to whether the bill should be postponed which failed on a 61 to 85 roll call vote. Section 1-5 was the language that passed the Senate concerning the disposition of unlawful and abandoned firearms by the Department of Public Safety. This portion of S.55 passed on a 141-2 roll call vote. Section 9, Bump-Fire Stocks: Possession Prohibited passed with the agreement that the effective date would be delayed to give owners the opportunity to comply without becoming immediate criminals on its passage. The roll call vote was 119-25. Section 6, Firearms Transfers: Background Checks, had an amendment that would have added the ability for an individual to request their own background pre-check from a law enforcement agency. The vote went against the motion 57-89. The language for Firearms Transfers: Background Checks, section 6, passed as presented on a 83-61 roll call. This does allow for a broadly defined family member transfer without requiring review. The debate on section 8, Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Devices included a concern that enforcement of this section was challenged by the fact that  no serial number or manufacturing date is on the item to determine prior ownership. The roll call on this section was 79-66. Section 7, Sale of Firearms to Minors Prohibited, elicited a lengthy discussion regarding the question of age of majority and the tradition of youth hunting. The language allows for the sale to occur without an age limit if the buyer has satisfactorily completed the Hunter Safety course. This passed 88-56. Finally after voice votes on changing the effective dates for Section 9, which passed, and Section 6, which failed, S.55 as amended was voted on to be read a third time on a roll call vote of 85-59.

H.924, Making Appropriations For the Support of Government, the Big Bill as it is known, provided for the future financial needs of Vermont as well as the current needs of Vermonters while maintaining an extremely low growth rate.  It passed with technical corrections offered by the Appropriations committee on a Division vote. This method gives a count of the Yeas and Nays but does not give individual members vote.. The tally was 122-10 and the House adjourned just after 9 P.M..

6  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / Re: Bill Doyle's Town Meeting Day Survey March 2018 on: March 20, 2018, 06:27:10 PM
Thank you Henry. I appreciate your help as always. You provide a valued service to the Town of Fairfax through this website.
7  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 10 on: March 16, 2018, 07:49:26 PM
Debate and action on the House floor dominated the week. Tuesday’s calendar had more than 40 bills listed but was reduced to twenty five by the Speaker. The bills that were shifted were sent to either Appropriations or Ways and Means to be reviewed as they had financial components, or were delayed due to requests from the presenting committee. This still left a full afternoon of work on bills that covered a broad spectrum of topics. H 917 was one that I presented for the Transportation committee. As a miscellaneous and technical correction bill to transportation-related law one of its effects is to update language in the statute to reflect the outdated terms of trainmen and airmen.
Wednesday’s calendar brought two dozen bills to the House floor for action, some new and some for a third read after being presented Tuesday. H 906, Professional licensing for service members and veterans, will streamline the transfer of relevant military credentials to civilian life. This will be a useful recruitment tool for the state of Vermont and recognizes the value of the skills and training, members of the military can gain during their service.
H 730, an act relating to State response to waters in crisis caused a great deal of debate and several roll calls. The bill was divided to separate the creation of the authority of designating a lake in crisis to the Secretary of Natural Resources and the direct designation of Lake Carmi as such a lake. Discussion ensued over a concern for the authority being granted to go beyond existing statute or rule in setting water-quality requirements in the first part and why any single body of water would be exempt from the process the bill sets in place by pre-identifying Lake Carmi. The discussion continued on Thursday with an amendment offered before the third reading which again culminated in the vote being taken by roll.
Thursday morning a Joint Assembly was held to determine judicial retention of a Superior Judge and a Magistrate. Superior Judge John R Treadwell and Magistrate Barry E Peterson received affirmative votes for retention to six year terms. It is notable that Magistrate Peterson of East Fairfield received 145 out of 145 votes from the body.
The money committees, both Ways and Means and Appropriations were granted leave of the House to be absent from the Floor during debate and the request was made to also permit the Corrections and Institutions committee to remain in their room for the rest of the week to meet the Friday deadline for their bill. When the request was made to permit the Judiciary committee to also be excused, a debate ensued over the rules adopted by the House that require members to be on the Floor when it is in session. The vote was taken by roll and the House did grant permission with 82 voting in favor and 52 opposed.
The last vote taken on the House floor Friday was a unanimous roll call on H 919, workforce development. In section 6 of the bill the Franklin/Grand Isle workforce investment board is highlighted as a partner in the Vermont Talent Pipeline Management Project (VTPM), an employer-oriented strategy that expands the role of employers as end customers of the education and workforce systems.
8  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 9 on: March 03, 2018, 01:58:53 AM

The floor session on Friday opened with Jon Gailmor’s presentation of his song written in celebration of Town Meeting. It was a fitting way to bring the week to a close in advance of our break.
Two bills dominated the House floor Thursday and Friday. H. 237 an act relating to saliva testing was introduced by the Transportation committee. The committee took testimony on this bill over the last few years from many experts. Law enforcement officials and the doctor from the State Lab gave evidence as to the need and value of the saliva testing tool in determining the presence of a substance in an impaired driver stop. A representative from the ACLU spoke of the concern that individuals may be selectively targeted for suspicion of substance abuse. The committee had addressed the concern that an individual who legally uses a medication that is discerned by the test could be deemed impaired and have to prove they were not, by ensuring there was no evidence of impairment connected to the results. The saliva test would only give information as to the presence of a substance. Considered with other evidence from the stop it can be used to indicate impairment.
H. 675 was the second bill that drew heated and lengthy debate on the House Floor. As with H. 511 that morphed from an act about highway safety to the marijuana bill H. 675 was presented as an act relating to conditions of release prior to trial, but with a strike all amendment became a bill to offer nearly the same language as S. 221, the gun bill that was voted out of the Senate Wednesday. The Senate were able to achieve a unanimous vote on their version as well as have it endorsed by several gun enthusiast representatives. The language of H. 675 made a few adjustments to the level of burden of proof as well as the duration that an extreme risk protection order may be applied and also added language that pertains to domestic violence situations. The intent of this section was derived from H. 422, passed by the House last year. Two changes made to respond to concerns raised by H.422 as the House passed it were the clarification of the judicial process for the removal of any firearms  as well as the possible release of them at arraignment. The House was divided over making the changes to what had been passed by the Senate and a desire to pass cleanly what had already received the approval of the other chamber. An amendment that would have returned the original language to the bill failed and the House version passed on roll call.
9  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 8 on: February 23, 2018, 07:57:17 PM
The Transportation committee spent substantial time this week taking testimony and considering H808, an act relating to all-terrain vehicles. The need for H808 came from a long term and growing concern raised by illegal ATV activities. Evidence of the cooperation between Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association and Vermont Association of Snow Travelers necessary for portions of the bill was identified and reinforced through witness testimony. The committee gave clear direction that the bill support an individual’s right to use an ATV on their own land without new regulation. 
A representative from the trucking industry gave testimony in the committee as to some industry concerns; these included the lack of sufficient drivers, challenges created by compliance with the Federal law regarding drivers scheduling and the ability for an oversize vehicle to travel on wet roads. The committee also discussed a signal light project for the I89 exit 14 corridor and the taxation of aircraft fuel.
Tuesday morning the House passed H 693, designating the Honor and Remember Flag as the State Veterans Flag. This flag is a national symbol which 23 states have adopted as an official symbol. H 636, miscellaneous fish and wildlife subjects came to the House floor Wednesday morning and generated heated action both with debate and proposed amendments on a section that addressed coyote hunts. The debate was passionate from members on both sides of the issue. Rep. Donahue proposed an amendment on Thursday’s final reading of the bill that would give the authority to ban hunts to the Agency so as to base the decision on scientific and biological facts. The amendment failed on voice vote but one proposed by Rep. Willhoit that removed jail time as a consequence of a violation of this provision passed on a roll call vote of 75 to 64.
The Governor released a memorandum to Legislators Thursday outlining a range of steps that can help make our communities healthier and our children safer. The steps proposed for action by the legislature either reference specific current legislation or areas to be considered for the future. S221, an act relating to establishing extreme risk protection orders is one of the bills identified and was passed out of Senate Judiciary Friday afternoon. The bill is on the Notice Calendar for the Senate for Tuesday and will move to the House before weeks end. What was voted out of committee is a strike all from the “as introduced” version and can still be amended by any action on either the Senate or House floor. The Governor’s goal to “reduce the risk of violence in our communities, now and in the future, while preserving our Constitutional rights as Vermonters and Americans” is non-partisan and shared by all members, the ‘how’ is the tough part.
10  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 7 on: February 17, 2018, 11:03:50 PM
Through out the week the transportation committee addressed sections of the Transportation bill which includes miscellaneous changes to transportation-law. A presentation was made on the upcoming and current technology in autonomous  vehicles and a take away was the concern for maintaining the attention of the driver in escalating levels of automation. Another proposed transportation law change would extend the punishment for someone who provides alcohol for a minor who then has a vehicle accident that causes death or serious bodily injury to include a snowmobile, vessel or ATV as vehicles. The language was requested by a legislator representing a constituent whose son was killed in an accident. The mother gave emotional testimony as to the incident and the lack of consequence.
The Franklin County delegation met with Catherine Dimitruk the executive director of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission at the third Thursday lunch. One of the points discussed was the bridge on 104A which has been identified as a point of concern for years. A scoping report in 2013 was performed and a follow  up just completed has moved it forward to be potentially considered for a new decking repair which could also widen it. Pamela Parsons the executive director for NOTCH joined the meeting via speaker phone and shared the difficulty of hiring doctors which she believes will be even more challenging if a program of loan forgiveness is curtailed.
A joint committee meeting of the House and Senate Transportation committees was held to hear concerns from officials present for Town Government day. The Vermont League of City and Town sponsors the day and opened the meeting with a general concern for the challenge of storm water obligations all communities are facing with the municipal road permit. Several community representatives spoke of the stress to meet the basic transportation infrastructure needs and a sense that the Washington proposal is insufficient.
Two bills on the House floor Thursday were voted out of their committees with less than consensus votes. This can indicate there will be discussion of them on the floor and that was the case.. H 624, the protection of information in the statewide voter checklist and H 764, data brokers and consumer protection both spoke to the security and accessibility of our personal information. The intent is a worthy goal but as the testimony revealed there is disagreement over whether either of them achieve it. Both bills will move on to the Senate and have an opportunity to be refined. The first roll call vote of the day on H 294, inquiries about an applicant’s salary history was passed by a unanimous vote of the 137 members present but the roll calls on the other bills came in divided about 2 to 1. Consensus is not always achievable.
11  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 6 on: February 09, 2018, 08:31:02 PM
The week began with animated floor action on H. 562, an act relating to parentage proceedings. Half a dozen amendments were proposed on this repeal of Vermont’s parentage laws. It replaces existing law with a more comprehensive parentage title that includes de facto parentage, genetic parentage, parentage by assisted reproductive technology and parentage by gestational carrier agreement. An amendment that required the destruction of a genetic specimen taken for determining parentage struck a note with House members. Despite a unanimous vote against the amendment in committee, the roll call vote narrowly defeated it 70 to 73. The language included in the amendment may be considered in the Senate if they continue action on the bill.
Rep. Quimby of Concord joined me in sponsoring an amendment to H. 799, notice of sale of property subject to unpaid taxes. We traded on our expertise as past Postal Employees to substitute “certified” for “registered” to save over $8 per letter sent out to a delinquent taxpayer. This amendment was accepted favorably by the Judiciary committee and passed by the House.
The Transportation committee divided its attention between H. 237, an act relating to saliva testing and the T-bill, an act relating to the Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to transportation-related law. Legislative council for the transportation committee offered an overall walk through of the changes to transportation-related law. Throughout the week testimony was taken in committee on sections dealing with topics such as Federal Infrastructure funding, the Central Garage fund, abandoned aircraft, Historic Site Supplemental Guide signs, Construction contract bonds, and electric vehicle charging. Electric vehicle charging brings the concern of how to equitably collect tax monies on a car’s kWh used instead of gallons of gasoline. The committee heard from analysts from AOT as well as the Department of Public Service on the need to adjust language to permit the sale and tax of electricity similar to gas at stations.
A final draft of H. 237 was voted out of Committee. It permits both preliminary screening and evidentiary testing of saliva in a manner that mirrors the breath and blood tests for detection of alcohol in operators of vehicles who law enforcement has reasonable grounds to believe is under the influence of a drug other than alcohol.
Friday brought the annual recognition of the Boy Scouts who have achieved Eagle Rank to the House Floor. The Scouts provided a Color Guard to open the proceedings and led the House Members in the Pledge of Allegiance which followed the singing of the National anthem as the morning’s devotion. Three Fairfax Scouts were listed as 2017 Eagle Scouts, Alexandre Hamel, Michael Kirkpatrick and David Shea. Another group of deserving youth was recognized on the floor as the Speaker addressed the graduating class of State House Pages. The first third of Session has passed and next week will bring a new group of 8th graders to serve as Pages in the People’s House.
12  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 5 on: February 02, 2018, 08:36:16 PM
The action on the House floor this week was prefaced each day by the suspension of rules in order to introduce the bills by their number-only due to the volume. From H. 725 on Tuesday to H. 863 on Friday, 138 new bills were introduced and assigned to the jurisdiction of a House committee. Final votes were taken on numerous bills including H. 633, an act relating to fiscal year 2018 budget adjustments. The House concurred in the Senate’s proposal of amendment and it will now be passed on to the Governor for passage. A roll call was requested on H. 410, an act relating to adding products to Vermont’s energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment, with 137 voting in favor and 4 opposed.
The House and Senate Transportation Committees held a joint meeting to hear an update on potential Federal Infrastructure investment proposals from Congressman Peter Welch. Congressman Welch shared a summary of H.R. 1664, legislation he is cosponsoring, opinions proposed by the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of which he is a member and co-founder, and currently available information on President Trump’s forthcoming infrastructure plan. Current Federal Earmarks could be rolled in to the Federal dollars being proposed for State’s needs which would be detrimental to Vermont’s allocations. The bulk of funds are expected to be provided by a Public/Private partnership. The Public/Private funding proposal relies on a dividend or return on investment that is problematic due to Vermont’s rural nature.
Congressman Welch answered a question about Ethanol with his belief there has been traction due to the removal of subsidies and holding the per-gallon percent to 10 but repeal is still hard.  The absence of any statement in regards to access to the internet as a part of the Federal Infrastructure plan is a concern for the Congressman. He believes similar to the Electrification plan of Rural America in the 30’s Broadband should be considered as a Social Policy question.
Throughout the week the House Transportation committee took testimony on areas of the proposed Agency budget. Overviews of the Rail and Aviation programs were presented, as well as the Governor’s Highway Safety Budget, the latter completely supported by Federal Funds. The greatest amount of testimony was given on H. 237, an act relating to saliva testing.  The committee heard from the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Public Safety, Attorney General’s Office, Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs and three out of state experts on the tools and practice of saliva testing in suspected impaired driving stops. Testimony was given by the Policy Director of ACLU of Vermont and a member of the Defenders General office in opposition to the implementation of saliva testing.  More testimony will be gathered next week.
13  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 4 on: January 26, 2018, 09:07:30 PM
Tuesday the Senate and House of Representatives met in the Hall of the House to receive the budget message of the Governor. Governor Scott referred to the agenda for the session ahead and his vision for the future of Vermont, shared three weeks ago and the dependence of its success on restoring our fiscal foundation. A few stand out points include his desire for Vermont to phase in the elimination of fully taxing social security benefits on seniors living on low and moderate incomes, expand adult career and technical education across the state and a shout out to Rise Vermont – a movement created and led by Northwestern Medical Center, its surrounding communities and state partners like the Department of Health.

With the conclusion of Governor Scott’s address the Transportation committee returned to the committee room to begin a walk-through of the Vermont Agency of Transportation FY2019 Budget. Secretary Flynn presented an overview of the recommended budget which has a bottom line of $612 million, a decrease of $2 million (0.3 percent) from FY2018. Throughout the week the committee heard testimony from Agency Directors and personnel on their areas of the budget. Adam Duprat, a past Fairfax resident, spoke of his position as NW Region Vehicle Equipment Technician. He was one of those giving testimony to the committee who spoke of the career opportunity offered by VTrans. The Agency is working to make strong connections with Vermont high schools and career centers.

Transportation Committee chair Representative Brennon presented the Highway Safety bill, H761 on the House floor Thursday and on Friday the final vote was taken. A Roll Call vote was requested and the bill which includes primary seatbelt compliance was passed 133 to 7. The bill is now in the hands of the Senate.

Friday the Ways and Means committee took testimony on H586. This bill was introduced in response to a request that the tax law for exempt status of the Rooms and Meals tax be adjusted to include events like the Fairfax Fire Department’s annual fundraiser, the Calcutta. As the current law reads the exemption only pertains for food or beverage served on the premises of a nonprofit; the change is to remove “on the premises of” and insert “by”. The committee indicated their interest in the point and potential follow up with individuals in the Tax office. The Ways and Means committee has a pertinent section of the Vermont Constitution posted on its wall, Article 9 “And previous to any law being made to raise a tax, the purpose for which it is to be raised ought to appear evident to the Legislature to be of more service to community than the money would be if not collected.” Here’s hoping the funds raised from the community for the Fire Department by the Calcutta can be retained by Fairfax Fire in total.

For more information or to contact me please email me at bmurphy@leg.state.vt.us or call 802-849-6545 or mail to 7 Lily Rd Fairfax VT 05454. The Sergeant at Arms at the State House will also relay messages.
14  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / Re: News from Montpelier 2018 week 3 on: January 26, 2018, 09:06:29 PM
Peter, the information about the marijuana bill was in the week 1 posting. H511 was passed by a roll call vote and all House members votes are a matter of record on the legislature.vermont.gov website. The Senate passed the bill on a voice vote so there is no record of an individual's vote.
15  Fairfax News / Political Issues/Comments / News from Montpelier 2018 week 3 on: January 19, 2018, 09:05:49 PM
Committee work in Transportation focused on receiving testimony on the Highway Safety Bill as well as hearing updates of several transportation projects such as the North Hero-Grand Isle Bridge project, Canadian border area projects and Middlebury Tunnel. The Highway Safety bill was voted out of Committee on Friday which could allow it to be considered by the House next week. Sections of the bill deal with issues ranging from drivers slowing their speed when encountering vulnerable users in their path, to enforcing seatbelt usage as a primary offense. Current law only permits law enforcement to ticket a driver if there is another reason for the stop.

The Budget Adjustment Act was read on the floor Thursday and was amended by the Appropriations committee to reflect the most recent revenue forecast. To quote directly from the committees summary, “With Federal Tax Reform creating revenue uncertainty and unknown levels of federal funding, the House Appropriations Committee Budget Adjustment focuses on FY 2018 funding needs, and includes strong reserves, while leaving policy decisions for the FY 2019 budget process.” The vote was taken by Roll Call and passed with only one vote in opposition.

The Franklin County delegation has reserved the Ethan Allen room for the noon hour on the third Thursday of each month during Session. This Thursday officers from NWMC shared information concerning the progress of health goals in our county and the RiseVT endeavor.  “OneCare Vermont, the statewide Accountable Care Organization, has adopted RiseVT as a prime strategy for helping keep healthy people healthy and improving the wellness of all Vermonters.”

Last week I had the honor of starting the week with a resident of Fairfax in the State House. This week it was my pleasure to meet Fairfax resident Staff Sergeant Megan Byrne of the Vermont National Guard on Friday. Members of the Guard and representatives from Office of Veterans affairs were recognized by the House during Floor Announcements. 

For more information or to contact me please email me at bmurphy@leg.state.vt.us or call 802-849-6545 or mail to 7 Lily Rd Fairfax VT 05454. The Sergeant at Arms at the State House will also relay messages.
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