Now that H.926, an act relating to changes to Act 250, has been vetoed by the governor, what should the Senate do next? What reform of Vermont’s land use laws and regulations, if any, is still needed?
“I chair the Senate Economic Development and Housing Committee, which this year focused on land use planning as a way to address the affordable housing crisis in our state. We actually passed reforms to Act 250 and wastewater permitting which would have eliminated the duplicate need for such permits in designated downtowns and neighborhood development areas.
“Unfortunately, our committee's action didn't make it through the full legislature as they got caught up in the politics of Act 250. If re-elected, I certainly intend to introduce similar legislation next year.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that access to the internet is now a near necessity for school and work. What can the Senate do to provide increased broadband access to rural and low-income Vermonters?
“Connectivity is essential in today's day and age, and it clearly costs a lot of money to reach folks at ‘the last mile.’ Just like we did with Lake Champlain Clean Up, we need to find sustainable funding sources to provide universal modern broadband coverage to Vermonters and our economy.
“In 2019, we passed laws creating regional non-profit Communication Union Districts (much akin to our regional solid waste districts) which have shown amazing potential to develop the necessary broadband infrastructure if given adequate resources to do so. The best thing that could happen to Vermont and other states is if the next federal stimulus package provides the funds to jump start our efforts. National leaders promise us this all the time. Now is the time to deliver.”
How can the state government make housing in Chittenden County, and across the state, more affordable?
“Vermont is actually pretty generous in all the housing subsidies and tax credits we already provide. What I learned from my committee's statewide tour on affordable housing last year was that we also need to enact policies that can lower the actual cost of developing new and refurbished projects--such as avoiding permit duplication.
“See my answer to Question 1 above. We did pass S.237 this year, making Vermont a national leader in facilitating the development of accessory dwelling units, like grandparent apartments, and allowing for greater density in downtowns.”
S.54, an act that proposes a system for the regulation and sale of cannabis in Vermont, currently sits on the governor's desk awaiting approval. Did you vote, or would you have voted for the bill? Please explain.
“Yes, I voted for S.54 and taxation and regulation several times, but also shared the governor's concerns that the revenues from this new tax be directed in large part to education and any necessary treatment services--which, thankfully, eventually made it into the bill. I also supported the local control provisions in the bill which require municipalities to affirmatively vote for any retail establishment before one can be located in their town.”
Other than the four issues asked about here, what else do you think is a priority for the legislature to address and why?
“One issue I am especially proud of is the law I sponsored with Senator Ashe breaking up the Chittenden Senate District. Currently, Chittenden County has six Senators, which makes it by far the largest (in terms of number of senators) of any district in the entire country! It makes it very hard for voters to even know who is running, not to mention what they stand for.
“Starting in 2022, the district will be broken up. Whether it will be six one-member districts, or three two-member districts, or two three-member districts and what will be the geographic boundaries will be determined by upcoming [legislation]. There will be any number of factors to consider, and we certainly expect a great deal of input from our constituents and all the towns we presently represent.”