2011 Legislative Update: Week 14 (4/12 – 4/15)

by Jeff Wilson

This past week the House approved a number of what I would typify as lower profile bills. Here’s a concise rundown on some of these legislative initiatives that didn’t make the front page:

Environmental Enforcement – H. 258 would allow the public and interested parties more opportunity for comment and input on state environmental enforcement actions. This bill, approved by the House on a 109 – 25 vote (Wilson voting yes) on Wednesday (4/13) brings the State into compliance with Federal law. Before handing out a violation, the Agency of Natural Resources would have to give a 30 day public notice of its proposed enforcement action.

BISHCA – Annually, there typically is a BISHCA (Banking, Insurance, Securities, Health Care Admin.) housekeeping bill passed by the General Assembly to keep pace with the ever changing banking, finance, health care and insurance regulatory landscape. This year’s bill includes a $7,500 tax credit to try to attract more captive insurance companies to the state. Vermont has developed a bit of a niche in hosting captives, who contribute about $25 million in tax revenues to state coffers annually. H. 438 passed the House by a voice vote on Thursday (4/14). For those wondering what a captive insurance company is – according to the Department, “a captive insurance company refers to a subsidiary corporation established to provide insurance to the parent company and its affiliates”.

Propane Regulation – In response to some questionable pricing practices employed by some propane companies over the recent past in Vermont, the House approved legislation (H. 185) that would provide a higher degree of consumer protection for those who purchase propane The new statutory provisions would prohibit sellers from assessing a minimum usage fees and from imposing an annual minimum use requirement (except as part of a guaranteed price plan). In addition, the legislation prohibits propane companies from charging fees for service termination, tank removal and tank pump-out, if the storage tank has been located at the consumer’s premises for at least 12 months. This bill was approved on Friday (4/15) in the House by a voice vote.

National Popular Vote – Also on Friday, the House gave final approval to S. 31 by a vote of 85 – 41 (Wilson voting yes). This bill seeks to have Vermont join a compact with other states to change the way we elect the President; from the current Electoral College system, to one based upon the majority vote of the public. This approach has been adopted by 7 other states and still has a ways to go before it can successfully challenge the present methodology. A poll three years back, found that 75% of Vermonters supported the direct vote election of our President. This bill now moves on to the Governor for his consideration.

– Jeff Wilson, Manchester, Vermont, State Representative

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