LEGISLATIVE UPDATE February 17, 2020

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE February 17, 2020

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE February 17, 2020

  • ACT 250/ H926
  • Chlorpyrifos/Glyphosate 
  • Agency of Agriculture Strategic Plan 2020
  • H-673 Tree Wardens
  • H-674 Land Use 
  • H-688 Climate Action
  • S-54 Minimum Wage
H-926 An act relating to changes to Act 250
On Thursday the House Natural Resource committee, on a vote of 6-3-2, voted out H-926, the Act 250 bill.  The House Natural Resource committee has been working on this legislation since January of 2019. There were several witnesses, hours of testimony, reams of paper and hours of deliberation by the committee before they finally voted the bill out. The H-926 will be in House Ways and Means Tuesday and House Judiciary on Wednesday. Both committees will do a walk-through of the bill.  Theses committees will only review the sections of the bill that are under their jurisdiction. The House leadership wants to get H-926 to the Senate as soon as possible. H-926 is a major overhaul of the current Act 250 process, below is list of some changes in H-926:

  • Adds new criteria related to climate change adaptation
  • Reduces the elevation threshold from 2,500 to 2,000 feet
  • Clarifies the definition of “commercial purpose”
  • Creates process to allow property to be released from Act 250 jurisdiction
  • Allowing forest-based enterprises to operate outside of permitted hours of operation and to mitigate primary agricultural soil on a 1:1 ratio
  • Shifting the burden of persuasion to the applicant under criterion 8
  • Amending the permit process
    • Natural Resource Board (Board) power to issue majors permits
      • Major permits will be heard by the Board
      • The Board of 5, is comprised of 3 professional/fulltime members and 2 District Commissioners from the district where the project is located
      • Appeals of Act 250 permits would go to the Supreme Court
S-180 An act relating to prohibiting the use and application of the pesticide chlorpyrifos
S-192/H-301 An act relating to prohibiting the use of the herbicide glyphosate
S-272 An act relating to the use and management of pesticides
The Senate and House Agriculture committees are continuing to hear testimony on these bills. There is a tremendous amount of pressure from certain organizations to prohibit the use of these approved products. I encourage you to reach out to members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees if you have concerns with this legislation. Both the Senate and House will be taking testimony this week. The House Ag committee will be meeting at 3:00 on Tuesday to take testimony on H-301 and the Senate Ag meeting at 11:00 Tuesday to hear testimony on S-180.
As I reported last week the Agency of Agriculture and the Sustainable Jobs Fund have produced a 2020 Strategic Plan that makes recommendations for stabilizing, diversifying and revitalizing the agricultural industry. The 110-page Strategic Plan outlines strategies (briefs) for 10 different products, ranging from apple to hemp.
The Senate Agricultural committee has taken a portion of that report and drafted a committee bill that would explore establishing a “Dairy Farm Next Generation Incentive Program” the bill also sets up a grant program for Farmer’s Markets.
You can find the Strategic Plan at

H-673 An act relating to tree wardens
This bill proposes to grant local tree wardens the authority to manage all public trees within a public place or public way and establish notice and hearing procedures related to the cutting of public trees by a tree warden.
The House Agriculture committee took testimony last week on this bill. The Department of Forest and Parks supports the language in the bill, saying that it clarifies the definition of hazard tree, public place, public tree, and public way. They also feel this provides the town the ability to deal with pest and safety issues. The witnesses were divided in their support of the bill. The League of Cities and Towns does not support the language in the bill. There was also some concerned raised that the warden does not have to live in the town or is not a certified forester or arborist. There is no new language proposed as of the writing of this newsletter.
H-674 Land Use
An act relating to clarifying the definition of development used for use value appraisals
This bill proposes to clarify that the exclusion from development for farm buildings includes buildings associated with a “farm accessory business” as defined in law.
The language in this bill allows More than one dwelling may share the same house site, provided the dwellings are contained within a two-acre area.” 
H-674 passed out of the House Agriculture committee and will be voted on by the full House on Tuesday, then it will move to the Senate.
H-688 Climate Action
An act related to addressing climate change

This bill proposes to create a legally enforceable system by which Vermont will reduce its statewide greenhouse gas emissions and establish strategies to mitigate climate risks and build resiliency to climate change. This act may be cited as the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020.

This bill passed out of the Energy and Technology on a vote of 7-2 and is in House Appropriations.  There are concerns from Secretary of ANR that the state will not have adequate time to finish the rulemaking process before the cause of action date.  The other item of concern is the Citizen Right of Action, which allows a lawsuit against the state for not meeting the reductions. H-688 is now in House Appropriations.
Senate Overrides Governor’s Minimum Wage Veto
The Senate on Thursday swiftly overrode the Governor’s veto of  S.23, the bill that proposes to increase the minimum wage to $12.55 by 2022. The 24-6 vote was expected as increasing the minimum wage was a priority for Senate President Pro Tem and reflected the previous vote from the Senate. The bill now moves to the House where its fate is much more uncertain. As of Friday afternoon, the House does not have the necessary 99 votes to override the Governor’s veto and a vote has not been scheduled. The House is required to vote on the bill before the end of session, and therefore House leadership will be working to garner enough votes between now and May.
The date for introduction of bills has passed, if a new bill is to be introduced it would need to be a committee bill. As of today, there are 919 House bills and 337 Senate bills for the last two years.
As of 2/14/2020

H-926 An act relating to changes to Act 250 (a committee bill)

As of 2/02/2020

S-336 An act relating to establishing standards for the sale of hemp seed
As of 1/26/2020
H-830 An act relating to the use of food residuals for farming
H-832 An act relating to the use and management of pesticides
H-852 An act relating to signal lamp permits for farm tractors and farm trucks
H-853 An act relating to discontinued highways, legal trails, and impassable or untraveled highways
S-321 An act relating to miscellaneous fish and wildlife issues
As of 1/19/2020
H-557 An act relating to municipal regulation of livestock running at large
H-562 An act relating to the definition of agricultural land for the purposes of use value appraisals
H-575 An act relating to bears doing damage to agricultural crops
H-581 An act relating to the funding of the Department of Fish and Wildlife
H-584 An act relating to disclosure of cyanobacteria outbreak prior to conveyance of real property
H-616 An act relating to the professional regulation of land surveyors
H-628 An act relating to Cross Vermont Trail directional signs
H-633 An act relating to development and subdivisions above 1,500 feet
H-673 An act relating to tree wardens
H-674 An act relating to clarifying the definition of development used for use value appraisals
H-688 An act relating to addressing climate change
H-759 An act relating to the use of neonicotinoid-treated article seed
H-766 An act relating to the regulation of cannabis
H-794 An act relating to limiting liability for agritourism
H-798 An act relating to the use of biochar
H-828 An act relating to Vermont standards for issuing a Clean Water Act section 401 certification
H-829 An act relating to the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos
S-200 An act relating to the definition of house-site for use value appraisals
S-280 An act relating to forest carbon sequestration programs
S-310 An act relating to use value appraisals
S-315 An act relating to administration and enforcement of agricultural water quality violations
To learn more about any of the bills listed above, visit the Vermont Legislative website at https://legislature.vermont.gov/ and use the very convenient search tool available. If you wish us to keep a keen eye on any of the above bills, please let us know by sending an email to info@vermontwoodlands.org.