People's Team Reports from the State House: March 13, 2013



Update from Resident People's Team Blogger Brittany Nevins – I recently attended the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee meeting! Aaron Adler of the Legislative Council provided the committee with historical context through his description of the short introduction to the S.58 bill, an act relating to Act 250 and oil pipelines. The specific pipeline would transport oil in the reverse direction from Montreal, Canada to Portland, Oregon. The pipeline is already built and runs through many Vermont towns. Though the infrastructure is in place, according to Adler, the pipeline is in need of much repair. Adler says that in order to understand the purpose and essence of the bill a legal discussion as well as a factual background are needed. Adler described the pipeline's historical use in hopes to help the committee understand the bill. A series of pipelines were built after WWII and two are still in potential use today. One of them runs through Vermont.

Much of the introduction of the bill surrounded such background and legal discussion of the requirements of the Act 250 permit, which would determine if the project and purpose would require “significant damage.” Such “damage” is not defined in the bill, only stated. This language is unclear and I suspect it will raise controversy. According to Adler, the “damage” may need to be only direct, but could be indirect. It may be just physical harm, but could be more expansive. It was unclear how the committee would address this concern, but testifiers argued that this language should be made clear.

Senate natural resources and energy committeeJohanna Miller, program director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, testified before the committee. When asked by chair Senator Robert Hartwell whether she and her organization supported the bill, she mentioned of their perhaps unrealistic aspiration in this bill to make changes to act 250, the act itself, so that it better addresses the reality of the significant and pressing climate change issue in Vermont. Miller, for the first time in the meeting, addressed the elephant in the room: that there is a possibility that the pipeline would not transport the usual crude oil, but tar sands oil, which is extremely “viscous and corrosive” she says. It would wear out pipelines much faster, not to mention it is very damaging to extract as well. Miller states that she and the VNRC she is representing believe that Act 250 already applies. A transition from crude oil to tar sands would create a substantial change. There should be no question of this, she says. She says it would be a “game over” for the environment. Miller described the historic cases of pipeline leakages of tar sands oil, where the environment as well as the economy of the region were severely injured. Miller emphasized that Vermont would be a conduit for very dirty oil to the market, which would have no benefit for Vermont. She said, “Vermont should take a more proactive approach to protect the land.”   _____________________________________________________________________________________

The legislative report gives an update on the Put People First Agenda. For more background click HERE.

Healthcare Is a Human Right: 

Last week, as our communities participated in Town Meeting Days, the Workers' Center and Put People First also held meetings with legislators across Vermont. In these meetings we had two major demands of our legislators with respect to our Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign. First, we demand that legislators fill the gap in funding during the healthcare exchange, so that the poorest and most vulnerable people in our state don't have to pay more for healthcare during the exchange. Our second demand is to make sure that we can keep moving forward on the road toward an equitably financed universal healthcare system by including language on equitable financing in the bill that establishes a 9-member panel to determine funding for Green Mountain Care. We are asking all our members to familiarize themselves with the VWC's proposal for how to finance our future universal healthcare system equitably. Making sure that we pay for universal healthcare in a way that's consistent with our human rights principles will be a major focus of the campaign going forward. A healthcare system that's universal, equitable, transparent, accountable, and participatory has been our vision and our uncompromisable demand from the beginning of our campaign. As the next front of that struggle, we don't intend to compromise on equitable financing now. 


People's Budget: The Governor's budget proposal this year has threatened our communities with yet more poverty and suffering. It has also threatened to weaken our state's leadership in paving the way toward a new way of doing budgeting. At the same time, it has shown in the starkest way the urgent necessity of transforming our budget process. We invite all our members and partners to gear up for the long haul ahead: from this year to 2014, from the State House to our communities, Vermont can lead the way by stopping the Governor's proposed cuts and instituting a People's Budget. We call on our members to familiarize themselves with our position on the current budget proposal and prepare for more work to stop the cuts this session.  

Right to Organize and Work with Dignity: The bill that would fulfill homecare workers' right to organize passed out of the Appropriations Committee, who voted out the bill 7-0. It will go to a full Senate vote likely by end of the week. We send our partners the heartiest congratulations! 

S.52, the bill that would fulfill early educators' right to organize, was brought to a vote in the Senate Economic Development Committee today and lost 2 to 3. Stay tuned as we await next steps from our partners at Vermont Early Educators United on how to keep moving forward with this crucial bill that will advance human rights in Vermont.

Human Right to Freedom of Movement & Access to Transporation: S.38, the bill that would grant driver's licenses to all regardless of immigration status, will be taken up in the Senate Transportation Committee this week. Migrant Justice is calling all members and allies to testify and appear in strong support tomorrow, Thursday March 14, from 9 am to 12 pm in Room 11. Vermont cannot wait one more day for freedom of movement to ring across our state. 


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“I believe that we have a voice in making change. Even though I can’t attend (the People’s Team) very often, I like to be a part of the democratic process.” –Amy Lester, Plainfield




Interested in joining the People's Team? The People's Team is our answer to corporate lobbyists in our State House. It's our way of holding government accountable by being in the room while the business of government is happening. Call the Vermont Workers' Center at 861-4892 to learn how to get involved.