Report from Montpelier

By Rep. Joan Lenes

We are in the last few weeks of this 2013 Legislative session. It is the time that Bills  get wrapped up and moved to the other body to decide if there is agreement. If consensus is not met, conference committees are appointed to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

Our two Transportation Committees have come to an agreement.  The House Transportation Committee is chaired by a Republican, Pat Brennan, and the Senate is chaired by a Democrat, Dick Mazza. The end result of this legislation that authorizes funds that support the state’s transportation needs has been in the media quite a bit lately. The compromise between the two versions is somewhere in the middle and that is a good solution. This passed in the House with a vote of 107 – 36 in favor. I was one of the 107 who supported it. As of May 1, 2013, we will see an increase of 5.9 cents per gallon at the pumps. This will raise a portion of the money ($36 million) that will allow us to match our share of the federal dollars and draw down $56 million dollars. We achieved this by a combination of gas tax, diesel tax, and use of bonding capacity. This money will help to fund the repair of our roads and bridges while fully supporting the town highway aid programs. It also includes dollars still needed to match Irene recovery projects. We know how essential this work is to every business, commuter, and tourist. Balancing the dollars coming from Vermonters and the state is never an easy task.

My House Committee on Corrections and Institutions is waiting for the Senate version of the Capital Bill. In the mean time, we are working on corrections issues. It has been stated by folks in police departments, as well as within public safety, that we cannot arrest our way out of the problem of increased drug use and addiction. I was lucky enough to hear former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Kevin Sabet, Ph.D. speak about addiction, mental health, and treatment. They believe prevention is a vital part of this equation. It is always less expensive to prevent addiction than to treat it and pay for all the costs to society that come along with this.  Property crime is an ever-increasing result of addiction to both legal and illegal substance.

Our House Government Operations Committee has been taking testimony on campaign finance law. They are specifically looking at the 2006 Supreme Court decision of Randall vs. Sorrell that was struck down. What reasonable legislation can be developed that will be fair to candidates and transparent to the public? Those are some of the questions they are addressing. More will be coming from this committee as they are scheduled to report on this Bill later in the week. I believe it is important to address this subject before the next statewide election cycle in 2014.

I hope this gives a brief overview of the work of a few committees. As always, please get in touch. You can reach me at jlenes197@gmail.com or at (802) 999-9363. Messages can be left at the Sergeant at Arms 1 (800) 322-5616. If you want me to return your call, please specify. Sometimes you may be letting me know your perspective on certain subjects or bills and not needing a return call. Please join Rep. Kate Webb and me Tuesday mornings at Brueggers Bagel from 7:30-8:30.

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