My 10th-grade English teacher used to say that, in a three-act play, the first act ends with a question mark, the second with an exclamation point, and the third with a period.
In the Legislature, we are screeching into that exclamation point act now.
A few items of interest:
• Roadside testing for drug impairment: Critics of the new Vermont marijuana law point to the lack of reliable roadside tests to detect drug-impaired driving. Saliva testing could be the necessary first step to get drugged drivers off the road. Bill H.237 would establish the use of roadside saliva testing to assist in establishing probable cause that an individual is driving under the influence of drugs.
Although not yet admissible as evidence, it serves as a screening for an officer to call a drug recognition expert specially trained to detect impairment in a 12-step, one-hour evaluation.
• Coyote hunting tournaments: After seven or more hours of debate, the House passed H.636, a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to participate in coyote hunting competitions. The current bill addresses only contests, decried by many as wanton waste. Citizens could continue to protect pets and livestock and hunting coyote is still permitted. Criminal penalties including jail time were removed from the bill.
The coyote has an important predatory role in Vermont’s ecosystem and the current population is reported to be healthy.
• Property tax changes? It is often said that taxes may be simple or fair, but not both. For many years now, efforts to update our education funding system have generally wavered between these two concerns. Although we hear yearly sound bites to reduce reliance on property tax in favor of income, nothing has made it out of committee – perhaps until now. If it is to move, I would expect it to be this week.
In its current form, the proposed bill would reduce Shelburne’s homestead rate by almost half, based on our approved school budgets, and add a new “education income tax.”
This tax would have progressive rates ranging from zero to 1.8 percent of federal adjusted gross income. Income sensitivity is removed; however, households with income below $47,000 would be exempt from the income tax and have some protection around property tax payments.
• Guns: I expect gun legislation to be front and center after town meeting break. Several bills are under discussion that would: 1) Empower family members and law enforcement to seek extreme risk protection orders; 2) Set age limits for gun purchases; 3) Require a 10-day wait period to purchase guns; 4) Institute universal background checks; 5) Limit the number of bullets in a magazine; 6) Place conditions of release prior to trial; 7) Permit seizure of weapons in instances of immediate risk; 8) Ban bump stocks.
I am no longer able to meet for coffee on Tuesday, but happy to meet by appointment on Saturdays and Mondays. Contact me at email@example.com or 802-233-7798. Do join us for supper Monday at 6 p.m. in the Shelburne Community School cafeteria before town meeting.
Kate Webb, a Democrat, is one of Shelburne’s two members of the Vermont House of Representatives.