Nitka’s notes from the Statehouse, March 12, 2020

Dear Editor,

Town Meetings were a popular place to be last week, and I was fortunate to be able to attend several. Aside from budgets, purchases of heavy equipment, climate change, and whether to switch from floor votes to Australian ballots, two other matters were popular.

Advisory votes were discussed at length and taken re: having a local options tax on recreational marijuana and whether or not to allow marijuana retail businesses in town. Results varied. In the bill, S.54 that is moving through the Legislature, towns would have to have a formal vote to “op in” to have a retail business and the local options tax isn’t in the bill, but other taxes are. The bill has gone to a Conference Committee to settle the differences between the House and Senate as they have passed different versions. It is likely several changes will be made to the bill, and it will then need to pass both bodies again. If it then passes, it will go to the governor for his signature or veto.

At the Hartland Town Meeting, their freshman legislator, Zachariah Ralph, announced that he would not be seeking re-election. He reported that he had gone to Montpelier to do good work and had fallen in love with the mayor of Montpelier! There was raucous applause. He’s getting married and moving there.

Due to the coronavirus, committees have prioritized bills to pass in the event we need to suspend work at the Legislature. The budget is a must pass bill as are some of the other money bills. Bills that are ready are moving as crossover date is March 13, the date when bills need to move from the Senate to the House and vice versa.

A bill of interest, S.339 relating to changes to motor vehicle laws passed the Senate this week. Electronic transit permits for trucks to blue bumpers on electric school busses to alert first responders in case of an accident are in this bill. Some penalties are eased while others are increased. Work zones and school zone fines are increased. Highway flaggers are at particular risk and the mother of a flagger killed on the job this summer testified, as did multiple flaggers. At roadwork sites, flaggers will soon be required to use lighted stop and slow signs on all state and state contracted jobs.

As the cancellation stamp the U.S. Postal Service some time ago used to say, “Slow down, give them a brake.” Snowmobiles and ATVs are addressed in the bill and people who are interested might want to read these sections.

The Legislature is working with the Department of Health, the governor and his cabinet, and others to develop plans to deal with the anticipated needs concerning the virus.

Feel free to contact me at the Statehouse at 802-322-5616, on weekends at 802-228-8432, or anitka@leg.state.vt.us. Letters may be sent to P.O. Box 136, Ludlow, VT 05149-0136.

Sincerely,

Sen. Alice Nitka

Windsor County

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