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MODERNIZING VERMONT'S BOTTLE BILL

In 1972, Vermont passed its first bottle bill as a way to clean up litter along our roads. Since then, it’s become a successful statewide recycling program that allows Vermonters to redeem beer bottles and soda cans for a nickel per container.

Granted preliminary approval today by the Vermont House on a vote of 99-46, H.175 updates this landmark environmental bill by expanding the redeemable list to include plastic water bottles, wine and hard cider bottles, and containers for all carbonated and non-carbonated beverages (except for dairy products).

Plastic water bottles are the second-most littered piece of trash in Vermont, and nationally, 75 percent wind up in landfills. Right now, the bottle bill covers only 46 percent of the beverage containers sold in our state.

By passing H.175, we’ll increase the number of recycled containers in Vermont by an estimated 375 million per year.
Plus, containers redeemed under the bottle bill are more valuable for recycling. They’re cleaner than the cans and bottles that get mixed into our single-stream curbside recycling bins, so they’re far more likely to be remade into new containers.

According to a recent poll, 88 percent of Vermonters support the bottle bill and 83 percent support updating it to include more containers. Here’s why expanding the bottle bill makes sense:

• Increases recycling rates and reduces litter
• Supports closed-loop economy by making more bottles back into bottles.
• Reduces costs to solid waste management districts by reducing the volume of glass in our recycling bins.
• Increases the handling fee for redemption centers, to cover the added work associated with sorting these products.
• Boosts the economy: Bottle bill redemption programs create more jobs than curbside recycling.
• Generates more revenue for clean water: As of 2019, the value of all unclaimed deposits flow into the Clean Water Fund.

After expected final passage by the House tomorrow, the bill will move to the Senate for consideration.
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MODERNIZING VERMONTS BOTTLE BILL

In 1972, Vermont passed its first bottle bill as a way to clean up litter along our roads. Since then, it’s become a successful statewide recycling program that allows Vermonters to redeem  beer bottles and soda cans for a nickel per container.

Granted preliminary approval today by the Vermont House on a vote of 99-46, H.175 updates this landmark environmental bill by expanding the redeemable list to include plastic water bottles, wine and hard cider bottles, and containers for all carbonated and non-carbonated beverages (except for dairy products). 

Plastic water bottles are the second-most littered piece of trash in Vermont, and nationally, 75 percent wind up in landfills. Right now, the bottle bill covers only 46 percent of the beverage containers sold in our state. 

By passing H.175, we’ll increase the number of recycled containers in Vermont by an estimated 375 million per year. 
Plus, containers redeemed under the bottle bill are more valuable for recycling. They’re cleaner than the cans and bottles that get mixed into our single-stream curbside recycling bins, so they’re far more likely to be remade into new containers.

According to a recent poll, 88 percent of Vermonters support the bottle bill and 83 percent support updating it to include more containers. Here’s why expanding the bottle bill makes sense:

• Increases recycling rates and reduces litter
• Supports closed-loop economy by making more bottles back into bottles.
• Reduces costs to solid waste management districts by reducing the volume of glass in our recycling bins. 
• Increases the handling fee for redemption centers, to cover the added work associated with sorting these products.
• Boosts the economy: Bottle bill redemption programs create more jobs than curbside recycling.
• Generates more revenue for clean water: As of 2019, the value of all unclaimed deposits flow into the Clean Water Fund.

After expected final passage by the House tomorrow, the bill will move to the Senate for consideration.

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Thank you!

About time I say!! Go Vermont!

Let your voice be heard!
 
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is conducting a Community Health Needs Assessment, which will identify health needs in our region to address over the coming years. Your ideas, opinions, and feedback about your health, and the services and supports available in our region, are a key part of this process—SVMC wants to hear from you! By completing a brief survey, you will be helping to guide the development of programs and services that will help your community to become healthier. As a thank you for participating, survey respondents can enter a drawing for a $50 gift card.
 
Click here to take the brief (5-8 minute) survey.
GRANTS FOR SOLE PROPRIETORS: APPLICATIONS ACCEPTED UNTIL MAY 26

Vermont’s CDBG-CV Round 2 Sole Proprietor Stabilization Grant Program is designed to assist sole proprietors with no employees that have been impacted by COVID-19 and have remaining unmet need that can be documented.  Businesses will be required to provide a duplication of benefit affidavit to document unmet need.

Grant Amounts will range between $1,500 and $10,000 based on eligibility and the ability to document unmet need.

https://www.vermont-cdbg-cv.com/

Also adding a link with information on the first round of these grants:
https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/05b95fa750dc4477b1361ad89042bd8e

DECRIMINALIZATION OF THERAPEUTIC BUPRENORPHINE

Today I voted "yes" for H.225, a bill that decriminalizes small quantities of non-prescription buprenorphine. The roll call vote was 126-19 in favor. Here's the vote explanation I read on the floor:

"Madame Speaker, I vote yes today in support of everyone who is struggling with opioid use disorder and everyone who has fought or is fighting to overcome the disease of addiction. The barriers to recovery are real and they are daunting. I vote yes to break down those barriers, to confront stigma, to help my fellow Vermonters, to reduce harm, and to save lives."

Under current law, the possession of small amounts of "street bupe" is a misdemeanor in Vermont statute. H.225 lifts the penalty for 224 milligrams or less (a 1-2 week supply).

Some Vermonters use non-prescribed buprenorphine as a step before coming into Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) under the care of a doctor. MAT is the gold standard, the evidence-based treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder.

While possession of a small supply of non-prescribed buprenorphine is rarely prosecuted in Vermont, this legislation will provide clarity and equity across all 14 counties.

The reporter of the bill, House Human Services Chair Ann Pugh, stated on the virtual House floor: "This legislation will support and encourage Vermonters seeking safer alternatives to manage their substance use disorders; it is a path toward their entering medically supervised treatment and it will save lives."

For those under age 21, H.225 also aligns the statute for buprenorphine with that of cannabis and alcohol. Youth under 16 years of age stay within the court’s family division, while youth 16-21 years of age are cited with a civil violation.
Opioid use disorder continues to be a public health crisis in Vermont. During this COVID-19 pandemic, the state has seen a 38 percent increase in overdoses.
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DECRIMINALIZATION OF THERAPEUTIC BUPRENORPHINE

Today I voted yes for H.225, a bill that decriminalizes small quantities of non-prescription buprenorphine. The roll call vote was 126-19 in favor. Heres the vote explanation I read on the floor:

Madame Speaker, I vote yes today in support of everyone who is struggling with opioid use disorder and everyone who has fought or is fighting to overcome the disease of addiction. The barriers to recovery are real and they are daunting. I vote yes to break down those barriers, to confront stigma, to help my fellow Vermonters, to reduce harm, and to save lives.

Under current law, the possession of small amounts of street bupe is a misdemeanor in Vermont statute. H.225 lifts the penalty for 224 milligrams or less (a 1-2 week supply).

Some Vermonters use non-prescribed buprenorphine as a step before coming into Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) under the care of a doctor. MAT is the gold standard, the evidence-based treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder.

While possession of a small supply of non-prescribed buprenorphine is rarely prosecuted in Vermont, this legislation will provide clarity and equity across all 14 counties. 

The reporter of the bill, House Human Services Chair Ann Pugh, stated on the virtual House floor: This legislation will support and encourage Vermonters seeking safer alternatives to manage their substance use disorders; it is a path toward their entering medically supervised treatment and it will save lives.

For those under age 21, H.225 also aligns the statute for buprenorphine with that of cannabis and alcohol. Youth under 16 years of age stay within the court’s family division, while youth 16-21 years of age are cited with a civil violation. 
Opioid use disorder continues to be a public health crisis in Vermont. During this COVID-19 pandemic, the state has seen a 38 percent increase in overdoses.
READ MY APRIL NEWSLETTER: Many promising bills have been approved by the House and are zipping over to the Senate. Click on the link to read updates on lots of interesting legislation: the FY22 Vermont state budget, a mid-session COVID relief and recovery bill, good news on property taxes, funding for workforce development and the Vermont State Colleges, investments in affordable childcare and rural broadband buildout, and bills to address health equity, sexual violence, literacy, school construction, demonstration grants for the innovative community schools model, criminal justice reform, transportation, and much more!

https://mailchi.mp/4795f14a1cf5/april-2021-legislative-update
Saturday, April 10 at 9 am: Coffee hour with Reps. James and Bongartz. Email me for the Zoom link at least 30 minutes prior: KJames@leg.state.vt.us. Join us to talk about legislation thats moving through the House and Senate, and to share your questions, ideas or concerns!

HOUSE VOTES OUT COVID RECOVERY BILL

H.315 invests $97.5 million in federal stimulus funds to support businesses, schools, housing, workforce development, broadband across Vermont

Today the House approved an amended version of H.315, a mid-session COVID recovery bill, on a roll-call vote of 141-5. The bill represents a close collaboration between the House and Senate to provide timely economic relief to Vermonters in all 14 counties, relying primarily on federal COVID-19 stimulus funds. Highlights include:

• $15 million to help schools improve indoor air quality; $5.5 million for summer meals for families; $4 million for afterschool and summer programs.

• $10.5 million in Economic Recovery Bridge Grants, primarily for businesses impacted by COVID-19 that have not received any prior state or federal COVID-related aid.

• $10 million to support community initiatives to strengthen the outdoor recreation economy, and to improve access to public outdoor recreation areas such as trailheads, boat launches and state parks.

• $10 million to provide safe shelter and housing for low-income and at-risk Vermonters; $5 million to stabilize low- and moderate-income homeowners and prevent foreclosures.

• $8.2 million to the Vermont State Colleges, UVM and VSAC to provide up to two free classes to adult Vermonters looking to boost job skills or change careers, to provide up to two free classes to all 2020 and 2021 high-school grads, and to train more LPNs.

• $4 million to make mental health services more accessible; and $1.3 million to support ReachUp families.

• Plus allocations for working lands, broadband, environmental clean-up, and New Americans and immigrants.

Finally, H.315 also includes some tax language. For the tax year 2020 only, we’re allowing the federal exclusion on the first $10,200 of unemployment insurance income from a taxpayer’s gross income, so long as that taxpayer’s adjusted gross income is less than $150,000.

For businesses, it also carries through the 2020 federal treatment of Payroll Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans as exempt from taxation. PPP loans converted to grants in 2021 will be treated like any other business income and subject to tax.

The bill returns to the Senate with a proposed amendment; and then heads to the Governor for hopeful signature.
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HOUSE VOTES OUT COVID RECOVERY BILL

H.315 invests $97.5 million in federal stimulus funds to support businesses, schools, housing, workforce development, broadband across Vermont

Today the House approved an amended version of H.315, a mid-session COVID recovery bill, on a roll-call vote of 141-5. The bill represents a close collaboration between the House and Senate to provide timely economic relief to Vermonters in all 14 counties, relying primarily on federal COVID-19 stimulus funds. Highlights include: 

• $15 million to help schools improve indoor air quality; $5.5 million for summer meals for families; $4 million for afterschool and summer programs.

• $10.5 million in Economic Recovery Bridge Grants, primarily for businesses impacted by COVID-19 that have not received any prior state or federal COVID-related aid.

• $10 million to support community initiatives to strengthen the outdoor recreation economy, and to improve access to public outdoor recreation areas such as trailheads, boat launches and state parks.

• $10 million to provide safe shelter and housing for low-income and at-risk Vermonters; $5 million to stabilize low- and moderate-income homeowners and prevent foreclosures.

• $8.2 million to the Vermont State Colleges, UVM and VSAC to provide up to two free classes to adult Vermonters looking to boost job skills or change careers, to provide up to two free classes to all 2020 and 2021 high-school grads, and to train more LPNs.

• $4 million to make mental health services more accessible; and $1.3 million to support ReachUp families.

• Plus allocations for working lands, broadband, environmental clean-up, and New Americans and immigrants.

Finally, H.315 also includes some tax language. For the tax year 2020 only, we’re allowing the federal exclusion on the first $10,200 of unemployment insurance income from a taxpayer’s gross income, so long as that taxpayer’s adjusted gross income is less than $150,000. 

For businesses, it also carries through the 2020 federal treatment of Payroll Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans as exempt from taxation. PPP loans converted to grants in 2021 will be treated like any other business income and subject to tax. 

The bill returns to the Senate with a proposed amendment; and then heads to the Governor for hopeful signature.
VTDigger: GOV. SCOTT ANNOUNCES RE-OPENING PLAN

Gov. Phil Scott has announced a plan to lift most Covid-19 restrictions by July 4.

At a press conference Tuesday, Scott unveiled a four-phase schedule for relaxing travel restrictions, loosening capacity limits for businesses, and eliminating gathering restrictions.

Scott said the announcement was meant to allow families, businesses and other organizations budget and plan for the months ahead. “Our goal with this plan is to give Vermonters a transparent look at how we’ll be able to work our way out of this pandemic,” Scott said.

Masking and physical distancing guidelines remain throughout the first three phases. Both are still “encouraged” following July 4. Read the full story at link below:

https://vtdigger.org/2021/04/06/scott-rolls-out-timeline-for-full-reopening/

TASK FORCE ON PENSION REFORM and LINK TO PRESS CONFERENCE:

This morning, Seth and I joined many Democratic colleagues in a press conference called by House Speaker Jill Krowinski on the state's pension crisis. In short, we'll be moving forward this session to reform how the pension system is governed, to bring stricter accountability and oversight, while creating a summer task force that brings everyone together to search for a shared solution. I support this decision and respect Jill's leadership on this extremely tough issue, and will look forward to hearing from teachers, state employees and constituents in the communities I represent!

Jill's statement is below >>>

STATEMENT FROM SPEAKER KROWINSKI:

Earlier this morning, I held a press event to update the media and members of the public on the next steps in the effort to stabilize the teacher and state employee pension system.
In summary, I want to pause and acknowledge how hard and emotional this conversation has been for all concerned. We are talking about the economic security and the futures of our dedicated state employees and teachers, and that’s deeply personal for those impacted by any proposal. We have been listening closely to our constituents and hearing their concerns.

TIME TO WORK TOGETHER ON PENSION REFORM:

Change is hard, it takes methodical, determined work, and we are only successful if we work together. As I’ve been listening to people give their feedback, while trying to get people to come to the table to add their voices and solutions, it’s clear people are struggling with how to find real systemic change to resolve this crisis right now.

Moving forward, I believe we should focus on where I’m seeing the most consensus, which is changing the way we make our investment decisions with the governance structure. The legislature doesn’t make investment decisions but we can change the board structure to make it more transparent, independent, and get more expertise at the table. This is no small lift but I know we can do this.

Second, I’d like the committee to create a Pension Task Force that brings all stakeholders, from the unions to the Governor, to the table to look at possible revenue sources and plan and benefit changes to fix this problem. Lastly, I recommend we keep the one time $150 million in reserve while the Task Force does its work. We also have the $300 million in the budget to pay for pensions and OPEB.

I want to thank Chairwoman Copeland Hanzas and the Government Operations Committee for all their hard work to save our pension system, want to thank all of the members for joining in and helping us find a solution, and I want to thank all of our hardworking state employees and teachers for their continued dedication to Vermont.

You can watch the press conference here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/…

Seth Bongartz for VT State Representative Dane Whitman Marybeth Redmond. VT State Rep. Speaker Jill Krowinski Rep. Mike McCarthy
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BENNINGTON COUNTY RESIDENTS: Please participate in our regions Community Health Needs Assessment at the link below. SVMC will use your confidential information to focus on projects that matter most to our communities! Southwestern Vermont Medical Center

https://wh1.snapsurveys.com/s.asp?k=161668080781
FORMAL APOLOGY FOR VERMONT’S STATE-SANCTIONED EUGENICS MOVEMENT

With the preliminary unanimous approval today of J.R.H. 2, the Vermont House of Representatives apologizes and takes full accountability for its role in the immeasurable harm that was caused as a result of the state-sanctioned eugenics movement in Vermont.  

J.R.H. 2 acknowledges and apologizes for sanctioning and supporting eugenics policies and practices through the advancement of legislation which sought to eradicate people of particular cultures, races, ethnicities, socio-economic status, and abilities. This legislation led to forced family separation, sterilization, incarceration, and institutionalization for hundreds of Vermonters. The traumatic ripple effect of state-led actions has been felt through the generations and has had real and tangible effects on the lives of Vermonters today.  

J.R.H. 2 does not undo the harms of the past, but it marks an essential step toward a future of accountability and reconciliation for the generations of Vermonters who were harmed by state-sanctioned violence.
FUNDING INFRASTRUCTURE FOR STATE GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS (H.438)

Last week, the House approved the states two-year $127 million Capital Bill (H.438), which funds long-term major maintenance and construction to state-owned and -leased buildings and infrastructure. These investments provide an economic shot in the arm to the state economy and improve the services Vermonters receive as we recover from the impacts of the pandemic. Heres a snapshot of some of the projects in the works:

- $45.5 million: state office buildings, courthouses & facilities
- $22 million: clean water issues
- $13.5 million: mental health and correctional facilities
- $10.8 million: Vermont State Park System
- $7 million: UVM & Vermont State Colleges 
- $4.4 million: clean drinking water supply 
- $4.2 million: Building Communities Grant Program

From here, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration.
ADDRESSING SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IN CORRECTIONS

H.435 was approved by the House last week and addresses issues of sexual misconduct in the states correctional system. It seeks to ensure a safe environment for state employees and those incarcerated in the Department of Corrections custody and care. 

This legislation implements several recommendations proposed in an investigative report by law firm Downs Rachlin Martin, following local reporting on sexual misconduct at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. H.435 aims to:

1. Criminalize sexual relationships between corrections officers and those on probation, parole or furlough

2. Create an independent Corrections Monitoring Commission to provide oversight of DOCs policies related to misconduct and compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act

3. Create a Corrections Investigative Unit to investigate criminal allegations

4. Mandate that DOC and the Criminal Justice Council create new training and certification standards

5. Require a study on the potential use of drug and polygraph testing for employees within Corrections

This work is driven by a commitment to building a Vermont criminal justice system that is equitable and rehabilitative, where people are treated with dignity and respect.
HEALTHCARE ACCESS: A STEP TOWARD EQUITY
H.210 passes the House and heads to Senate

Not all Vermonters have equal access to healthcare. Statewide statistics and studies show that people experience many barriers based on race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability status. Non-white Vermonters, for example, are less likely to have a personal doctor and significantly more likely to have depression. Nearly one in five COVID cases are among Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color, even though these Vermonters make up only six percent of our population. Adults with a disability are more likely to report poor physical or mental health, while LGBTQ adults are three times as likely to report seriously considering suicide. 

H.210 takes a step toward equal access for all Vermonters—and addresses structural racism—by creating a Health Equity Advisory Commission, mandating the collection and analysis of relevant data, and providing grants to support or create programs that improve healthcare access for Vermonters who have disabilities or are BIPOC or LGBTQ+. It passed by voice vote and will head to the Senate next.
INVESTING IN ECONOMIC RECOVERY FOR ALL 14 COUNTIES

H.159 wins final passage and moves to Senate

H.159 is a sweeping bill to invest in commerce and economic recovery across Vermont. It allocates $20.5 million to the Vermont State Colleges for workforce development, funding scholarships to help Vermonters finish a degree, to return home from out-of-state post-secondary institutions to attend VSC, or to pursue education and training in critical occupations like nursing, accounting, childcare and mental health counseling. H.159 also allocates $5 million to the popular Better Places program, which provides matching grants to create or revitalize public spaces in communities, and $2.5 million to market Vermont as a destination, attracting visitors to support our tourism and hospitality sector. Finally, it provides wide-ranging support to BIPOC-owned businesses, and establishes a $3 million dollar program through UVM for a technology-based economic development program. The bill won preliminary passage on a 148-0 roll call and final passage on a unanimous voice vote, and from here moves to the Senate for consideration.