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Privacy, pot, wind and more on Legislature’s list  

Sen. John Rodgers and Sen. Bobby Starr, both Democrats from the Essex-Orleans district, have introduced S.210, a bill that seeks to ban industrial wind projects in Vermont.

Industrial wind, as defined by the bill, means “a plant that captures the energy of the wind and converts it into electricity and has a plant capacity of more than 500 kilowatts.” The term includes all associated facilities and infrastructure, including wind turbines, towers, wires, power lines, roads and substations.

Debate about the aesthetics and impact on the natural environment from wind turbines has increased around the state as more wind projects have been proposed. The bill would allow for the replacement of existing facilities but prohibit new ones.

Credit:  By Neal P. Goswami | VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | December 18,2015 | www.rutlandherald.com ~~

MONTPELIER – Senators have filed about 100 bills for consideration in the second half of the legislative biennium. Most will be referred to a committee where they will wither on the vine, but some are likely to reach the governor’s desk.

The bills vary widely in their scope and topic. Some, like Senate bill 155, dealing with privacy protection, are the result of committees meeting to take testimony and craft legislation ahead of the new session. For example, the Senate Judiciary Committee met four times this fall and took hours of testimony.

S.155 proposes to establish a private right of action for people whose protected health care information is improperly disclosed.

It also seeks to establish regulations for the use of drones and permit a law enforcement agency to use a drone only if the agency obtains a warrant or if emergency circumstances exist.

Finally, it looks to restrict the use of automated license plate recognition systems and address the confidentiality of data captured by such readers. Under the bill, data captured from license plate readings could be retained for only 18 months unless certain exceptions apply.

The Senate Government Operations Committee also met this fall to consider the legalization of recreational marijuana. Although the panel did not reach consensus on a bill, Chairwoman Jeanette White, D-Windham, and Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, have crafted a bill for consideration. It has yet to receive a number or be listed on the Legislature’s website.

Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, D-Windsor, who does not support legalization, told the Senate Democratic caucus last weekend he will not seek to quash the bill with parliamentary procedures. He did say, however, that the Senate should act on it during the first few weeks of the session or set it aside for another year.

Sen. John Rodgers and Sen. Bobby Starr, both Democrats from the Essex-Orleans district, have introduced S.210, a bill that seeks to ban industrial wind projects in Vermont.

Industrial wind, as defined by the bill, means “a plant that captures the energy of the wind and converts it into electricity and has a plant capacity of more than 500 kilowatts.” The term includes all associated facilities and infrastructure, including wind turbines, towers, wires, power lines, roads and substations.

Debate about the aesthetics and impact on the natural environment from wind turbines has increased around the state as more wind projects have been proposed. The bill would allow for the replacement of existing facilities but prohibit new ones.

Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, wants to amend the state’s public financing law for campaigns. He filed S.220, which would allow candidates seeking public financing to announce their campaigns substantially sooner than under current law.

Candidates using public financing would be able to allow political parties to solicit qualifying contributions on the candidate’s behalf and make expenditures supporting a publicly financed campaign, as long as the party and candidate do not coordinate on the expenditures.

The bill addresses the concerns contained in a lawsuit by a former Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor, Dean Corren, and Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, who is now running for lieutenant governor.

Current law blocks candidates who seek public financing from announcing their campaigns until Feb. 15 of the election year. Under the bill, candidates would be allowed to declare as early as Jan. 1 of the year before the election.

Campbell said he will look to guide the Senate toward solving the state’s most pressing problems.

“My primary focus will be closing the budget,” he said, “and I believe the Legislature must continue to evaluate the state’s role in the everyday lives of Vermonters.”

Meanwhile, the Medicaid program remains a “tremendous pressure” on the state’s coffers, and committees will be looking at ways to control those costs. The Senate Judiciary Committee will also look at ways to protect social workers and other state employees after the death of Lara Sobel, a social worker who was shot outside a state office in Barre in August. He said legislation improving worker safety is a “must-pass bill.”

A paid sick leave bill is also likely to gain traction in the Senate, with Campbell’s support.

“The House passed a paid sick days bill last session,” Campbell said. “The bill has gone through many changes, and I believe it is imperative to pass this session. While I am always cautious of state mandates on small businesses, I believe this bill will not be overly burdensome, while also providing earned sick time for Vermonters when they most need it.”

Source:  By Neal P. Goswami | VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | December 18,2015 | www.rutlandherald.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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