Plenty of issues as session winds down

Rep. KATE WEBB

It’s crunch time. Priorities and major bills are moving through committees and toward debate on the floor. While there is much focus on minimum wage, paid family leave, a tax and regulated market for marijuana, here are a few about which Shelburne residents have expressed interest:   

Firearms: S.169 is an update to firearms regulation enacted last year and is a compromise between proponents and opponents of firearms restrictions. The bill establishes a 24-hour waiting period for the purchase of handguns to reduce harm when an impulsive act is combined with access to a lethal weapon. A waiting period provides time to cool off and let the heat of the moment pass. The American Journal of Public Health reported that states with a waiting period had 51 percent fewer firearm suicides and 27 percent lower overall suicide rate. Gun proponents will be pleased to know that organized shooting competitions will be allowed to continue.

Funding clean water: The Clean Water Act of 2015 created a variety of requirements for municipalities, farmers and landowners and developers to reduce pollution to our lakes and rivers. A long-term funding system has remained somewhat elusive. To remedy this, $7.6 million from the rooms and meals tax that currently goes to the Education Fund will be moved out to fund clean water projects. To backfill this amount, the bill removes a tax exemption on cloud computer software and veterinary supplies.

Plastic bags: S.113 is a bill designed to “mitigate the harmful effects of single-use products on Vermont’s municipalities and resources” while also reducing pressure on landfills. The latest draft addresses single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, stir sticks and polystyrene food service products. The bill would ban use of single use plastic carryout bags to customers and require a charge of 10-cents for a paper bag with those funds retained by the store. While there were some efforts to ban plastic straws altogether, testimony revealed that some people with compromised health require a straw and paper straws simply collapse when used. If passed, a plastic straw could be made available upon request, with no restrictions on hospitals, nursing homes or independent living facilities. 

Lead in water: S.40 sets a plan to test taps used for drinking and preparing food in all schools and child care facilities, and provides funds to help pay for tap replacements. Why? Lead is a toxic metal that is harmful to humans. In high levels, it causes damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. In low levels, it can reduce IQ, cause hearing impairment, reduced attention span and contribute to poor classroom performance. Children are at greatest risk as their developing bodies absorb lead more easily. While lead-based paint and lead-contaminated soils tracked in during renovation are primary sources, lead in water is also a significant source as it is more easily ingested. If passed, Vermont will have the lowest mandatory action level for lead and one of the most health-protective remediation plans and supports in the country. 

The best way to reach me during the session is by email: kwebb@leg.state.vt.us. Do let me know you are a Shelburne resident.

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