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Retail theft, Act 250 ‘reform’ bills in House committees

By Michael Bielawski,

The Crossover deadline for bills to be voted out of committees is fast approaching on March 15 (March 22 for ‘money’ committee bills). House bills under committee review this week include curbing rising property taxes, lessening felony penalties for shoplifting, Act 250 reform, and more. Agendas published weekly on the Legislature’s website are subject to change.

Restorative Justice – H. 645 (Tuesday, House Committee on Appropriations) Sponsored by Rep. Karen Dolan, D-Essex Junction, and others.

Legislative Counsel Benjamin Novogroski will give a walkthrough. This bill deals with restorative justice, which is the practice of expanding opportunities to incorporate those convicted of crimes back into society with help from volunteers and to avoid incarceration. It states, “The Attorney General shall develop and administer a juvenile court diversion project program, for both pre-charge and post-charge referrals, for the purpose of assisting juveniles charged with delinquent acts.” It would also create post-sentencing reparations for juveniles, including some 18 and over.

Act 250 ‘reform’ – H. 687 (Wednesday, House Committee on Environment and Energy) Sponsored by Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, and others.

This deals with “community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use,” including Act 250 reform. It further states that a newly created “Environmental Review Board” would take on “hearing appeals, reviewing applications for the planned growth area designation, review the future land use maps of regional plans, and review the maps that establish the rural and working lands areas.”

This comes as a Vermont law introduced by Sheldon and passed last year (in line with U.N. policy) requires that Vermont by 2050 must conserve 50% of total land area.

The bill is seen as a ‘low development’ response to H.719, supported by Gov. Scott and introduced by a tri-partisan coalition of lawmakers, to reduce Act 250 jurisdiction in many parts of the state, in an effort to promote new housing development. A companion Senate bill to H.719 is now stalled in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Read more here


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