By Rep. JESSICE BRUMSTED
March means many things in Vermont: town meeting, sugaring, pot holes, longer days and even the clocks have been changed. Halfway through this legislative session, here are a few of the important issues under consideration:
E-Cigarettes & Vaping
In December 2018, the Surgeon General declared an epidemic in e-cigarette use among teens. This action was prompted by new data showing a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in just one year’s time (2017-2018). In that same time frame, middle school use increased by 48 percent. According to Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, e-cigarettes get youth addicted to nicotine while their brains are still forming. Teens who use e-cigs are four times more likely to become regular tobacco users. Companies advertise to teens on social media, market an enormous assortment of flavors, use cool design and packaging to increase appeal, and sell to minors via the Internet.
The Vermont House voted to pass a bill (H.47), which places an excise tax on the liquids and delivery devices of e-cigarettes to discourage use among youth who are the most price-sensitive consumers. Just as we tax other tobacco products, 92 percent of the wholesale value of e-cigs will be collected at the licensed distributor level and used for prevention purposes. This is an important public health measure that will improve the health of our communities. Under consideration is H. 26 which would restrict internet sales of e-cigarettes, liquid nicotine and tobacco paraphernalia in Vermont.
Broadband as an economic driver
High-speed broadband internet service is an essential component for a 21st century economy. Vermont has a statutory goal of ensuring that by the end of 2024, Vermonters will have “service that has a minimum download speed of 100Mbps and is symmetrical.”
Today, 25 percent of households are below this level and 5 percent lack even basic service. The call from our rural communities has been loud and clear.
State funding of last mile service is prohibitively expensive. In addition, different communities may need different solutions. Some may find blanket wireless coverage best meets their community’s needs while others may need fiber-optic cable wired to each address.
The House Energy and Technology Committee is developing a bill that would empower communities to determine the solution most suited to their area and begin to implement that solution.
Protecting our environment
A. To meet the goals of Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, Vermont will need to see 50,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2025. Statistics show that if Vermont switched all gasoline cars and trucks to electric today, Vermonters would save $500 million every year. The Transportation Committee is discussing ways to leverage monies from the Volkswagon and Fiat-Chrysler lawsuits to enhance Level 3 “Fast Charger” infrastructure and establish a pilot program to help Vermonters to purchase EVs.
B. Our pollinators, including our honeybees, bumblebees, wasps, butterflies, birds and bats serve an important function. Testimony revealed that one out of every three bites of food is the result of pollination. In recent years, the health of these pollinators has become a great concern. It is estimated that we have lost 40 percent of the insect population; it may be due to more prolific use of chemical pesticides.
The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee is working on a bill that would regulate the sale and application of certain pesticides in order to reduce this stress on our pollinators.
Please let me know if you are planning a visit to the Statehouse – I would be happy to meet with you. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or at 802-233-2120. I welcome your questions or comments on any issue that is important to you. Remember, Representative Webb and I will be holding office hours at Shelburne’s Village Wine and Coffee on Saturday morning, March 16 from 8 till 9 a.m. Hope to see you there!