Vermont Traditions Coalition
 

 

Representing Vermont's Original Conservationists and Environmentalists
 


VERMONT TRADITIONS COALITION

 2018 LEGISLATIVE SCORE CARD

Your involvement made a difference!

Political rancor can best describe this Legislative session. Perhaps considered the most contentious session we have experienced in more than 30 years, unusual for Vermont politics. Last year things were much more cordial, but the Vetoes at the end of the session apparently left enough bitterness among legislative leaders to begin this year on a sour note. This year started with a contentious tone and ended with a very strong divided posture between the legislative and executive branches of Vermont’s government. The Democratic majority sought to break the political pledge of the Governor to not raise any taxes or fees. Anything with a new fee, fee increase, new tax or tax increase has been Vetoed. To mount frustration and some confusion on Main Street, was the fact that this legislature adjourned this year on May 11 without building in a veto session to address vetoes, rather to force the Governor to call a special session which makes the 2017-18 session final and a start of a new session which starts from scratch. The Special Session lasted a full six weeks finalizing a budget only a couple days before the July 1 new fiscal year. If this budget is not passed into law by July 1, we would have had a Government Shutdown.

Gun Control – Out of Control

In mid-February, the Parkland School shooting in Florida coupled with 17-year-old, Jack Sawyer’s plot to shoot up Fair Haven High school here in Vermont stimulated a renewed effort to force passage of some form of gun control law. Several Representatives and Senators appeared to be salivating when Governor Scott stated at the next press conference “everything is on the table”. He gestured we must do something… anything. This closely follows his seemingly sincere statement delivered at the VTC Mixer held only a month before that Vermonters “need no new gun laws”. This betrayal totally floored VTC and our coalition gun rights partners. The next 60 days became a whirlwind of hearings, bill markups, press conferences and votes; this betrayal brought about S.55. Without Governor Scott’s about-face, clearly the bill would have been impossible.

Believing the ideas would prevent suicides and domestic abuse involving firearms, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary Dick Sears introduced S.221 right at the beginning of the session. This bill referred to as Emergency Orders or Red Flag Law is a provision that allows a law enforcement officer to take firearms only after a court order from an individual deemed to be an imminent threat to himself or others. Sears felt that this would be a more reasonable response to the proposals that were debated and turned away last year. Last year, Senator Baruth introduced S.6 which expanded universal background checks (UBC) to private sales with exceptions of immediate family members. Last year the House introduced H.442 which deals with the presence of a firearm in a domestic dispute situation. H.442 did pass the House last year but was held back in the Senate Committee on Judiciary. Sears introduced S.221 as an alternative but in January did not think the bill would become law, until the firestorm began and Governor Scott opened the door. Democrat legislative leaders like House Speaker Mitzi Johnson soon parroted the Governor’s position.

On January 30, before all hell broke loose, the Senate Judiciary Committee hosted a public hearing on gun laws in the statehouse. Gun owners and gun rights supporters filled the building with overflows in the cafeteria and conference rooms downstairs. Witnesses had two minutes each and at the end of the hearing the pro-gun control (Antis) ran out of witnesses long before the gun owners. At that moment, all were comfortable in thinking no gun laws will see the light of day this session. Senator Sears even proclaimed, he has no appetite to hold anymore hearings.

Two weeks following the public hearing, the school shooting in Parkland Florida occurred and a day later High school student Jack Sawyer was arrested for plotting a school shooting in Fair Haven, Vermont. The Governor declares a change in his stance against gun laws and asked the Legislature to send him a bill. The Governors’ memorandum never asked for a magazine limit or bans of any firearms yet when the House Judiciary presented radical changes in how lawful gun owners would be “permitted” to exercise that right, the Governor was mute. His silence against these unconstitutional restrictions was the pivotal shift and his Chief of Staff Jason Gibbs had his hand on the tiller.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary was working on a firearms storage bill, S.55, an important piece of legislation to solve the issues around how the state will handle firearms in its possession either confiscated and used as evidence and or abandoned. A miscellaneous housekeeping bill, S.55 went to the Senate floor and the debate on more gun control began. Senator Baruth the lead sponsor of S.6 the universal background check, (UBC) bill was joined by others and voted to add both the closure of the UBC loophole and an age limit of 21 for a person to purchase a firearm. The debate was captivating and passionate. Senators Rodgers of Essex/ Orleans, Benning of Caledonia and Sears of Bennington stood strong to oppose these proposals as unnecessary. They made the case that these changes would do nothing to prevent another school shooting while preventing law-abiding citizens from fully enjoying their constitutional rights. Senators Flory, Brock, Collamore and Soucy pointed out flaws in these proposals as they were not thoroughly vetted through the committee process. On the day before the legislature recesses for Town Meeting Week, the Senate passed the bill as amended with a roll call vote of 17-13. Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ashe, Ayer, Balint, Baruth, Bray, Brooks, Campion, Clarkson, Cummings, Ingram, Lyons, MacDonald, McCormack, Pearson, Pollina, Sirotkin, White. Those Senators who voted in the negative were: Benning, Branagan, Brock, Collamore, Flory, Kitchel, Mazza, Nitka, Rodgers, Sears, Soucy, Starr, Westman. The bill was sent to the House and the House Committee on Judiciary went to work on it.

The House Committee on Judiciary worked off a wish list of gun control legislation it was considering adding to the Senate version of S.55. That list contained several measures including a bump stock ban, "assault" weapons ban, a 10-day waiting period for all purchases, a magazine size limit as well as an in-home safe storage law. In the final markup of the bill, the Committee added two new sections to the bill, a ban on bump stocks and a magazine size limit to no more than ten rounds for a long gun and 15 rounds in a handgun. Three weeks after the Senate voted on S.55, the House Committee on Judiciary voted 6-5 to move the bill onto the floor on House. One Democrat, Chip Conquest of Newbury voting with the Republican members against the bill.

VTC and gun owner groups called for another public hearing. VTC met with House Speaker Johnson and made a formal request for a public hearing in Montpelier and Rutland. It was a very comprehensive conversation as we made our case that gun owners deserve to be heard if you are going to take away any rights to ownership. There was no additional public hearing. S.55 was amended and passed out of the House Committee on Judiciary the next day and was debated and passed on the House floor that Friday and into the next week, March 27.

The bill was debated on the House floor for over 16 hours. Two long days with several political speeches and several amendments to try and either derail the bill or water it down. The Republicans held together all through the debate. There was a handful of Democrats and Independents that voted for most of the amendments and joined the Republicans in opposition. Strong impassioned pleas to resist taking rights from law-abiding citizens for a notion that will do nothing to protect children in schools were delivered time and time again from our supporters. That included Reps. Pat Brennan of Colchester, Bob Bancroft of Westfield, Mark Higley of Lowell, Paul Poirier of Barre City, Anne Donahue of Northfield, Mary Morrisey of Bennington and many more. The final vote for passage of S.55 in the House was 89-54. Click here for final roll call vote of the House of Representatives on S.55. Near the end of the debate before third reading, Republicans began to address unintended consequences such as what will happen to the five firearms manufacturing companies located in Vermont? These changes will affect their production and find themselves operating in a hostile state. Reps Lynn Dickenson and Cory Parent of St. Albans area offered an amendment to protect these businesses that make large round magazines, but that too failed.

Since the House amended S.55, the bill returns to the Senate to either concur with the House changes or form a committee of conference to work out as compromise. At this point, we knew we had lost the big battle and this bill will pass, so we need to try getting Senators to remove sections and weaken the bill overall. We pressed hard to get Senators to remove the magazine limit and it appeared we were making some progress. Senators such as Pollina and Cummings listened and even led us to believe they would support dropping the magazine limit provision. That effort was defeated big when a letter from the Governor to the Senate supporting all provisions as passed by the House was sent to Senators the evening before the bill was brought to the floor for a vote. Those more open-minded Senators quickly backed off and the Senate decided to accept the House changes and sent the bill as is to the Governor for his signature. Senator John Rodgers was not giving up. He kept trying to amend the bill with changes to address many consequences. One amendment, Rodgers wanted to be able to transfer his 30 round magazines, grandfathered to be legal as long as he possessed them before October 1, 2018, to his children at the time he passes, and even a reasonable provision as that was defeated.

While the House was working on S.55, the Senate Committee on Judiciary was making changes to H.422, a domestic violence bill that passed the House last year. The committee was able to make changes that built in solid due process provisions to respect constitutional gun rights and still allows law enforcement to protect victims of domestic violence. VTC and the other gun rights groups supported the changes and they were adopted by both the Senate and House of Representatives. S.221, emergency orders, was in the House and some minor changes were made, but the needed provision of due process maintained the opportunity for the alleged violator to judicial rights of defense as protected in Vermont’s Constitution. Both bills as finally passed became bills we no longer opposed. Committee Chair Senator Sears of Bennington worked hard to gain our support on these fragilely crafted bills.

On April 11, just after lunch the Governor paraded to the Statehouse front steps to sign the three gun bills. In front of hundreds of Vermonters, S.221, H.422 and S.55 was signed into law as onlookers either cheered or jeered. Gun Owners came wearing orange and displayed great disappointment that our state with the most liberal gun laws, the safest state in the nation has changed. This was a moment in time when we all realized, the Vermont we love, that celebrates the rural traditions we all cherish, is no more.

Friends, you did everything right, you came to the statehouse in large numbers. We far outnumbered the Antis and we stayed on the high ground. When political leaders create the image that its gun regulation or dead kids in schools, there was nothing we could have done to stop it. VTC worked closely with the leadership of the Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Gun Owners of Vermont, the NRA and other national associations representing shooting sports, firearms manufacturers and hunting groups. Vermont based licensed forearm dealers, (FFLs) also joined us to fight the onslaught on our constitutional rights. There were always at least three of us in the committee rooms, working the halls and attending press conferences to try and change the direction of this out of control Legislature.

Many of our friends in the Legislature did all they could with several amendments on the floor to thwart or soften the damage. House Minority leader Don Turner, Representatives Pat Brennan, Bob Bancroft, Brian Savage, Anne Donahue, Paul Poirier and many others were with us to the end.

I also want you to know how lucky we are to have Bill Moore as our VTC Firearms Analyst. He was “On Fire” everyday and at every turn. He testified with facts and strong arguments against this onslaught. Bill did not miss anything, he pushed every button on mark, addressed every issue with sincerity and a confident knowledge of the facts. His leadership shined bringing together our partners in this battle. Without Bill Moore, things would have been a lot worse. Thank you, Bill Moore.

Coyote Contests and Nuisance Trapping

There were some 30 Fish and Wildlife bills introduced in the House and Senate that would have affected laws pertaining to wildlife, fisheries and hunting and fishing regulations. Proposals range from designating heritage trout waters, authorizing the use of a light to hunt coyotes, allow the taking of antlerless deer during the first three days of rifle season to changing the membership of the Fish and Wildlife Board to include non-consumptive users. It was also this two-year session when a new coalition of Antis was formed. The creation of the Vermont Wildlife Coalition by anti-hunting groups became very aggressive with an agenda targeting coyote hunting and trapping and making changes to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board detrimental to traditional interests. The Board is a 14-member board appointed by the Governor representing each county. The board deliberates and decides policy on fish and wildlife rules and regulations including fish, hunting and trapping seasons and harvest limits. It appeared that VTC will have a full plate of issues and initiatives confronting us jeopardizing well-established science-based wildlife management policies. Surprisingly, the agenda of the antis’ coalition was too aggressive for most Legislators and thankfully, few bills saw the light of day.

Early in the session the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife conducted hearings on H.591 a bill introduced by committee Chair Rep. David Deen. The bill pertained to fishing access sites and defined uses allowed by secondary users. Secondary users are people using the access or the water via the access that are not primary users. Primary users are people with a motor boat registration or a fishing license and enjoy priority access to boat ramps. Supporters were complaining about being kick off access ramps because they were hindering access by primary users. The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, especially game wardens that are charged to enforce the guarantee of access by primary users strongly opposed the bill. VTC heard from many of our constituents concerned that this bill would create a false entitlement of secondary users to occupy boat ramps and the result will be more conflict. Those of you that attended the Yankee Sportsmen’s Classic last January in Essex Junction will recall all the posters plastered all over the place asking you to call Legislators opposed to H.591. Thanks to all of you that took the time to call, the week after the Classic, no further consideration commenced, it was dead.

H.636 was introduced this year intended to be a housekeeping bill for the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, or was it? Mostly minor changes were introduced such as adding a muzzle-loader shotgun as a weapon that cannot be fired from a motor vehicle and clarifies the prohibition to transport a wild bird or wild animal into or within Vermont without the Commissioner’s authorization. The House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee spent little time considering the Dept. needs for these changes and immediately started piling on with their policy priorities creating what is commonly known as a “Christmas Tree Bill” and now very controversial This became the only bill impacting fish and wildlife laws that was on the move. The committee started by simply adding bills already introduced and went from there. Two House bills regulating trapping were merged and added: H.590, incidental trapping of fur-bearing animals or other wildlife introduced by Representatives Yantachka of Charlotte and McCullough of Williston and H.262, licensing of nuisance wildlife control operators, Introduced by Representative James McCullough of Williston. It required anyone who traps nuisance animals for compensation to get a wildlife control operator permit and must take a special training course on nuisance trapping. The Committee added language to the trapper’s section that if a trapper injures or kills a domestic pet to report it to the owner if it is known. These provisions were considered too prescriptive and VTC opposed these “over the top” requirements. The Vermont Trappers Association with the leadership of VTC’s delegate Mike Covey presented a compromise that simply requires a person who traps nuisance animals for compensation to be a licensed trapper. A person who wishes to obtain a trapper’s license is already required to take a comprehensive course on trapping. Also, identifiable domestic pets that are injured or killed in a trap must be reported to a game warden, not the pet owner. The committee accepted this compromise and this change became part of the House passed bill.

The Committee also added H.210, introduced by Rep. Paul Lefebvre of Newark, a member of the Committee. His proposal changes the preference a landowner can enjoy to be first in line for a doe permit as long as he does not post his or her land from hunting. This section changes the posted language adding a landowner can post as long as it states “By Permission Only” and still be first in line for the doe permits. Most VTC members were not supporting this change as there is a strong feeling that landowners who post by permission only may simply say no to everyone that seeks permission. The House passed the bill with this section included.

The Committee then added a section to ban Coyote Contests. This issue has been around on and off the past decade and imposing a ban never gained much traction, until now. The anti-hunting/anti-trapping crowd is strongly behind this legislation and is pushed hard for its passage. Keep in mind they seek to ban trapping altogether and wants a closed season on coyotes, as well as having lashed out at houndsmen, bowhunters, and duck hunters last fall.

The debate on the House floor was brisk but few changes from the Committee’s proposal were made. The effort to remove the coyote contest ban failed on a roll call 38-100. One major grievance of the bill was the penalty for conducting a coyote contest. The Committee proposed a fine of not more than $1,000.00 nor less than $400.00 or imprisoned for not more than 60 days, or both for the first offense and after that not more than $4,000.00 nor less than $2,000.00 or imprisoned for not more than 60 days, or both. Several members spoke against this penalty feeling it was too severe. Finally just before the bill passed the House, Rep. Willhoit of St. Johnsbury brought forward an amendment to remove the jail time portion and that was approved by the House.

The bill sat in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy until the last few days of the session. The Committee took testimony that amounted to about three hours total, amended the bill and sent it to the Senate floor for debate. The Committee dropped the posting by permission provision for a doe permit and adopted the ban on coyote contests as passed by the House. The committee then adjusted the trapping sections creating two areas of concern: The section the House passed required a person capturing a domestic animal must report it to a game warden was changed to an incidental trapping of a dog or a cat. Dog and Cat are not defined, domestic animal is still defined but its use was intentionally omitted from this bill. The concern is that a dog or a cat may include coyote or bobcats which are not pets or domestic animals. This nuanced change will force trappers to specifically report coyote or bobcat trapping to the Department and then the Department must keep a list of such trapping as dogs and cat occurrences which can lead to unwarranted pressure from anti trapping folks to ban trapping altogether.

Banning one type of hunting contests gas established a precedence to perhaps ban other types of contests. Be assured the antis will not stop here. With the growth of social media, hyperbolic responses to postings of these events are causing a rather stark divide among the hunting community. Some hunters do not like the optics and would rather see these contests go away, while many acknowledge that in the absence of a biological issue with current practices, the Department is charged with providing access to the resource and has no reason to further restrict that access. The greatest problem with the legislation of wildlife matters is that it can remove biology from the equation, playing more on emotion and popularity. This can lead to populist policies and unsound management. There are other valid concerns about creating a law to ban these events. Is this the so-called “camel’s nose” that could lead to efforts to ban other competitions in the hunting and fishing sports.

Dog Clubs Find Consensus Legislation

The traditional polarized wrangling between the pet owner clubs and the Humane Society seems to have subsided some since last year’s passage of the animal shelter bill. Act 58 (H.218) of 2017. Act 58 reformed shelter requirements such as crate sizes and leash details that passed with almost all stakeholders in agreement. This year there was less fighting but some angst over the word beats. H.566 introduced by Rep. Janssen Willhoit of St. Johnsbury is a reaction to a court ruling that the term beats does not involve a single blow. A man kicked a dog causing great harm to the pet was found not guilty of the abuse statute ruling the term beats is defined to involve more than a single strike of an animal. The bill, as introduced was intended to simply modify the action to include any type of strike whether single or multiple blows to trigger the penalty. VTC representative for the Vermont Federation of Dog Clubs, Mary McFaun was a key player in the process of shaping a change in the law that works to penalize cruelty to animals and avoid any unintended consequences. A simple example is for mushers, that use a sounding whip to control the team may be caught in the use of a certain word and be interpreted as cruelty. It took a couple hearings, a couple word changes and a better understanding of what this statute we really does before a good bill was brought forward. In the end, the Senate Committee on Judiciary worked on the language and arrived at replacing the House passed change from strikes one or more times to harms. This was accepted by the House and after passing both chambers was signed by the Governor May 1 becoming Act 112.

S.123 as introduced by Senator Dick Sears of Bennington County provides emergency animal shelters immunity from liability for the harm of a confiscated animal in their custody. This measure was also supported by all sides. It took all session to get this bill passed however due to other priorities including the gun control and domestic abuse legislation. This provision also was moved to the miscellaneous judiciary subjects, S.222 to free up the number S123 so the House Judiciary Committee can include another unrelated subject. is now a toxic bill, all animal shelter language was moved to S.222 Misc. Judiciary Subjects. S.123 is Committed to Committee on Commerce. S.222 has passed the House late last week and has also passed the Senate. Another non-controversial bill, H.856 miscellaneus amendments to municipal law, removes the penalty if a town fails to maintain a dog pound and replaces the word beast with animal from the law books. That has passed both chambers and is now Act 130.

A Big Win for Forestry Operations

S.101, “Vermont Right to Practice Forestry Operations” passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor May 30th. This bill was introduced last year by Senator John Rodgers of Essex/Orleans. Action on this bill started this year in the Senate Committee on Agriculture chaperoned in part by the committee Chair, Senator Bobby Starr of Essex/Orleans and the Senate Reporter of the bill and committee member, Senator Branagan of Franklin. A summary of the act is as follows:

Act No. 198 (S.101). Forestry; nuisance protection; An act relating to the conduct of forestry operations. This act provides that a person conducting a conventional forestry practice is entitled to a rebuttable presumption that the practice does not constitute a public or private nuisance if the person conducts the conventional forestry practice in compliance with AMPs and other applicable law. The presumption that a person conducting a conventional forestry practice does not constitute a nuisance may be rebutted by showing: (1) a nuisance resulted from the negligent operation of the conventional forestry practice; (2) a nuisance resulted from a violation of State, federal, or other applicable law during the conduct of the conventional forestry practice; or (3) clear and convincing evidence that the conventional forestry practice has a substantial adverse effect on the health, safety, or welfare of the complaining party. Effective Date: May 30, 2018

This is a very high bar for a neighbor to complain and take any legal action on the operation for normal noise, dust, traffic and aesthetic impacts. The protections are stronger than the similar “Right to Farm” statute.

Support for the bill in the House was also very strong. Leadership came from Committee of Agriculture and Forestry Chair, Representative Partridge of Windham and Representative Higley of Lowell, a committee member and the reporter of the bill for the House. There were many valued supporters that made it possible to get this bill to final passage.

Early on there was an effort to sabotage the bill in the Senate by Senator McDonald of Orange County. His rhetoric on the Senate floor and in his Committee on Natural Resources and Energy disparaged the honesty and integrity on the Vermont logger and others involved in the forest products industry. Senator Sirotkin of Chittenden County did amend the bill on the Senate floor that greatly watered down the presumption, but the House restored the presumption and through negotiations between House and Senate leaders, a compromise delivered a favorable policy creating a very high standard for a nuisance suit to come forward.

There was broad support for passage of this protection from both the industry and many environmental groups. Surprisingly, this bill remained outside of the noticeable infighting between committees and chambers. We lobbied hard to keep this a stand-alone bill which was honored, meaning it was not combined with other bills or policy provisions. Several forest industry business owners and practitioners testified in support of this bill.

S.276 - Economic Development and More Regulation Clash

Rural Economic development was a priority for the Senate President Pro Tempore, Tim Ashe of Burlington. He felt the economic challenges in rural counties needed special attention so he asked Senator Starr, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture to make this a committee priority. Senator Starr took the charge seriously and ran with it. After a successful first year passing S.34 and H.495, both included small but meaningful incentives for agriculture, forestry and outdoor recreation, the committee went to work and introduced S.276. This bill had a much more challenging ride through the process than the two bills of last session. The Senate Committee on Agriculture participated in a state-wide road show visiting five areas of the state last summer. The committee heard from members of the agriculture and forestry sectors about the high cost of doing business in Vermont making it difficult to compete. The committee complied several issues and tried to address them in this bill. Their focus was on several topics including electricity rates and efficiency charges, Act 250 and other ANR permits, tax policies, transportation and markets. The committee tried to find ways to reduce “over the top” mandates, offer opportunities for businesses to self-administer electric efficiencies, address demand rate charges, relax Act 250 restrictions and incentivize the purchase of motor vehicles used for forestry and logging by removing the purchase and use tax and modern efficient wood boilers by removing the sales and use tax. There was also an effort to change to the Vermont Use Value Appraisal Program (UVA) to reduce a disproportionate fine when there is an adverse inspection (cut contrary to an approved management plan) on a small portion of a large parcel that happens to exist in more than one town. This complicated and seemingly arbitrary measure did not make it to the end, although there was a great effort to find a way to address the disproportionate penalty as was applied to the Plum Creek Lands a few years ago. There were other UVA changes, mostly minor in nature, including a correction to include language passed in 2009 that was mistakenly omitted from the statute, reinforcing the obligation of a landowner to permit the County Forester to access enrolled land for an inspection and a change to where the annual management activity report is sent. To protect sensitive private information such as social security numbers, the management activity form will now go to the Tax Dept. after which will be sent to the County Forester with the sensitive information redacted.

Not all of these provisions made it through the process. Many provisions started in the Senate Agriculture Committee were taken out by other Senate committees including Natural Resources and Energy, Finance and Appropriations. When it got to the House the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry restored some those provisions and added many of their own. Commissioner Mike Snyder of Forests, Parks and Recreation and Deputy Commissioner Sam Lincoln presented excellent proposals and worked hard along with VTC and VFPA to get many of these ideas passed.

S.276 went through several iterations as it travelled through the various committees and there were full blown floor debates. We all wondered if it would actually make it through the entire process, but it finally did find its way to the Governor’s desk.

All the same movers and shakers that made S.101 a reality deserves a big thank you for turning S.276 into Act 194.

The Fragmentation regulation dies on the last day - H.904 changes were found not germane

Another bill that VTC worked the last two years dealt with fragmentation and Act 250. H.233 passed the House during the first year of this biennium but was so late in the session it was stalled in the Senate until this year. H.233 seeks to require an applicant of an Act 250 permit to prevent, minimize or mitigate fragmentation in a forest block or impacts of fragmentation to a habitat connector. Vermont’s forest products industry has opposed this bill from the beginning. The bill, housed in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy was not considered until very late in April and into early May. The Senate committee did not take much testimony and when the Committee decided to move the bill did so without changing a word. The committee also decided to add H.233 to another bill dealing with miscellaneous agricultural subjects, H.904.

H.904 started in the house with non-controversial, housekeeping provisions. By the time it got to the Senate Agricultural Committee, Senator Starr had already lost all the positive economic development provisions he placed into S.276 which was on its way to the House. Starr decided to add all the pieces stripped by the Committees of Natural Resources and Energy, Finance and Appropriations on their Committee bill, S.276 to H.904 and try to get some of these incentives through the Senate. This time the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy kept the Ag Committee provisions in the bill and decided to add a few provisions of their own. The committee added a couple regulatory provisions including H.233, the fragmentation bill, in its entirety. They also added another request for a report from the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation on how to implement a harvest notification and trip ticket system. VFPA supported this bill when it left the Committee on Agriculture but opposed it after the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy added their regulatory provisions. Senator Chris Bray of Addison County, Chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee touted this as a balanced approach to forest protection and industry incentives, we felt more like a hostage, so we opposed the bill. This also angered Senator Starr and members of the Agriculture Committee. When the bill came to the floor of the Senate for debate and passage, Senator Starr called for a ruling of the president on the germaneness of the added provisions to the House language, including the provisions he and his committee added. The ruling was that all sections added by the Senate Committees were found not germane and were removed from the bill. In order for the Senate to make a non-germane question germane, the Senate needed a 3/4 majority vote to over ride the ruling. This was not achieved as 8 Senators sustained the ruling and the bill was stripped of these non-germane provisions. This totally surprised Senators and advocates on both sides. Starr was not going to be taken advantage of and made it known that on working the process and getting things done, he knows the game.

Recap – A Forest Friendly Session

This session was filled with rancor and political wrangling. The forest products industry was a political football and it was impossible to know where they would end up. Would they see more regulation such as harvest notification or would there be positive incentives to encourage more growth in the industry? In the end, it came out alright. Landowners are not subject to a regulation to address fragmentation. Loggers and foresters do not need to file harvest notifications or submit trip tickets to a government bureaucrat. Loggers did get a purchase and use exemption on forestry equipment that needs to register with the Dept of motor vehicles. A sales tax exemption for the purchase of high efficient wood boilers did pass into law. There is a new directive in Act250 for smaller scale forest operations to be treated as a minor permit.

Thanks go to several Representatives and Senators that truly wanted to find a way for government to interfere less with the forestry practices and find policies that would incentivize more investment into forestry and the forest products industry. Senator Bobby Starr was doing all he can from the beginning and he was very successful. Senator John Rodgers was also a warrior on many of our issues and in one who truly understands our industry and our traditions. Senators Peg Fleury, Brian Collamore, Randy Brock, Caroline Branagan, Dick Mazza, David Soucy and Ritchie Westman all were strong supporters of getting the rural economy on track. Recognition also goes to the Senate President Pro Temp, Tim Ashe for recognizing the economic needs or rural Vermont and to encourage the Senate Committee on Agriculture to seek policies that will stimulate economic activities outside of Chittenden County. Other Senate Agriculture Committee members Anthony Pollina and Francis Brooks also were important leaders in moving positive legislation forward. In the House, Representative Caroline Partridge, Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry made a huge difference in getting positive legislation passed. She stayed out of the political wrangling and kept her and the committee focused on doing good things for the forestry sector. The whole committee were strong supporters of improving the rural economy including Reps. Dick Lawrence, Paul Pourier, Terry Norris, Harvey Smith, Tom Bock, Rodney Graham, Mark Higley, Jay Hooper, Susan Buckholz and John Bartholomew. All were instrumental in moving S.276 and S.101 making this a forest friendly session.

This session was a mixed bag for VTC. The Governor’s surprise reversal on gun ownership rights truly soured the positive momentum we had these past two years under his administration. It is a fact that these gun ownership restrictions will do absolutely nothing to protect children in schools, the motivation for these laws. The 10 week debate and final passage of these gun control bills has caused a very divided base of Governor Scotts supporters.

We will look back on this session not as much on the forest industry friendly aspects, but the shift in Vermont’s culture of honoring our rural traditions. Many will say this was the point in time when we lost the Vermont we all knew and loved. The traditions we grew up to know and respect is under siege. All the more reason why we must hang together, or we will hang separately.
 

Thank you for your support!

Whether you seek outdoor recreation or if working the land is your livelihood, VTC is here to represent you. We strive to succeed together rather than fail separately!


Mike Covey
PO Box 323
Williamstown, VT 05679
802-461-3786
mcovey802@gmail.com
www.vermonttraditions.org


VTC Officers:
President – Nate Smead, Berlin
Vice-President – Bruce Jean, Essex
Treasurer – Mike Bard, Waterbury
Secretary – Dennis Fournier, Barre

Contributing VTC Delegates:
Bill Moore, Mike Covey, Steve McLeod, Nate Smead




Northwoods Sporting Journal

 

 
Deer Herd Management
Maple Management
Clean Water Issues
Access To Recreation
 
 
 
 
 
 
Become A Sponsor
 
For information e-mail info@vermonttraditions.org
802-461-3786
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

What is VTC? 

VTC Accomplishments

Member Organizations

Contribution Form

Sponsors

Press Room


Email Us

 

A full-time, professional, paid presence in the halls of government protecting Vermont's sporting, snowmobile, farming, and forest harvesting traditions today, tomorrow, and forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vermont Traditions Coalition
Mike Covey
PO Box 323
Williamstown, VT 05679
802-461-3786
mcovey802@gmail.com