Report from Montpelier

By Kate Webb

Here are updates on two of the approximately 75 out of 700 bills that are actively being considered in the remaining weeks before adjournment.

Wind Energy: The siting of wind projects remains a topic of heated debate in Vermont.  Most everyone seems to agree that developing renewable energy is necessary.  All sides also recognize that the siting of projects is important.  As the topic moves toward implementation and impact, the advocates diverge.  To address this, the Governor convened a siting policy commission.  The Commission was tasked to examine these issues to help inform potential changes to the regulatory and planning process.  A report is due at the end of April.

A bill introduced into the Senate in January started as a three-year moratorium on wind turbine development.  This proved untenable for a number of reasons already presented in the press.  Instead, the committee replaced a moratorium with a study; however it also set a course that got ahead of the work imminently due from the Siting Commission.  In addition, it appeared to require more rigorous standards be applied to wind energy than to energy from coal, nuclear, large hydro, natural gas, and other technologies.

This bill is now under review in the House Natural Resources and Energy committee.   They have heard from more than 30 witnesses, including utilities, concerned citizens, scientists, physicians, state agencies, regional planning commissions, the Siting Commission, and many others.  The current iteration of the bill has been reworked to convene a group to meet up to six times between the 2013 and 2014 sessions to examine and consider the Siting Commission’s report. This group will be tasked with coming up with recommendations on how to improve our energy siting process going forward.

Driver Privilege Cards:  The Senate passed S.38, often referred to as the “migrant driver’s license.”  Although this concern came to the legislature through the Migrant Justice Project, there is actually no mention of migrant workers in the bill.  Passing the Senate on a vote of 27-2, it is now in review in the House Transportation Committee.

The bill authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue operator, junior operator, and learner privilege cards in lieu of the full Vermont driver’s license.  The Vermont driver’s license meets the compliance standards in the federal “REAL ID Act,” while the privilege card does not. It is only provides documentation to law officials that a driver has passed the appropriate tests to be able to drive in Vermont.

To be eligible for a privilege card, an applicant must provide reliable proof of identity and Vermont residence. They must satisfy any other requirements of law such as paying a license fee, passing road and written tests, and prove that they are fit to drive.  The face of the privilege card must indicate that it is not valid for federal identification or official purposes as required in the REAL-ID Act.

As we come to the end of the session, much is still in flux.  Please join Joan Lenes and me at Bruegger’s most Tuesday mornings at 7:30; or by appointment: (802) 233-7798 or katewebbvt@gmail.com.

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