Vermont Business Magazine VBSR members came out in strong support for H261 last week. The Ban the Box bill is now under consideration by the Senate Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee. The bill eliminates the criminal history question on job applications for most jobs - allowing prospective hires to explain their past convictions and the steps they've taken to rebuild their lives. Employers can still conduct background checks and ask about criminal records during job interviews.
Heather Wright, an employment attorney with WrightJones PLC. VBSR photos
Russ Bennett, the owner of Northland Design & Construction and the chair of VBSR's Public Policy Committee, testified that a conviction in a person's past should not be a life sentence of poverty for themselves and their family. His company does not have the box on their employment forms, he said, and he's seen first-hand how a second chance through a good job can change a person's life.
Heather Wright, an employment attorney with WrightJones PLC, told the committee that the bill as passed by the Vermont House last month would not be a burden for employers to implement. One of the advantages of the current bill is it's simplicity, she said, as it can be explained to an employer in a matter of seconds.
Chris Miller, the activism manager at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Chris Miller, the activism manager at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and the vice-chair of VBSR's Board of Directors, told the committee that the ice cream company and Unilever, their parent company, have already banned the box from their job applications.Read Chris Miller's testimony to the committee.
Mickey Wiles, the CFO of Burlington Labs, also shared his personal story of addiction recovery and his time spent in federal prison for embezzlement. He said he was lucky to have a strong support system as he rebuilt his life and was given an opportunity with Burlington Labs, which has a mission of working with ex-0ffenders and people recovering from addiction.
Mickey Wiles, the CFO of Burlington Labs.
Finally, VBSR Public Policy Manager Daniel Barlow also testified about the organization's support for the proposal. Read his testimony to the committee. Passage of H.261 is a VBSR priority for the 2016 legislative session.
Danforth CEO Talks Carbon Tax with House Energy Committee
While Vermont lawmakers are not expected to vote on a bill establishing a tax on carbon pollution this year, the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee has continued taking testimony on the topic - including last week when two VBSR members expressed support for the proposal.
Danforth Pewter CEO Bram Kleppner
Danforth Pewter CEO Bram Kleppner detailed the steps that Danforth Pewter has taken to reduce it's energy usage and rely more of renewable energy. He said climate change is the largest looming threat to Vermont's economy and communities. Read Kleppner's testimony.
"Either we stop using fossil fuels when we run out, and we're forced to move to 100% renewable energy, or we move to 100% renewables before we've used up all the coal, gas and oil," Kleppner said. "In other words, either we put the maximum possible amount of carbon into the air, or we only put part of the carbon into the air and we leave some of it in the ground. Humanity's future security and prosperity are directly proportional to how much we leave in the ground."
Dan Hoxworth, the executive director at Capstone Community Action.
Dan Hoxworth, the executive director of Capstone Community Action, a non-profit organization that assists low-income Vermonters, also testified in support of a carbon pollution tax. Hoxworth said that climate change is a major threat to low-income Vermonters and that any plan would need to ensure that this population sees financial relief - through a rebate program - on a regular cycle. The investments in weatherization made possible through part of the revenue raised with the tax will also be a huge boost to the state's efforts to meet it's home weatherization goals. Read Hoxworth's testimony.
"In addition to those specific benefits for low-income Vermonters, our constituents will also benefit from the investments an Energy Independence Fund could make in moving Vermont toward a multi-modal transportation system with investments in walking, biking, and public transportation options," he said.
Energy Siting, Worker Classification, Pot Among Top State House Issues
Session has between 4-6 weeks left.
Lawmakers got a tour last week of the recent weatherization work done at the Vermont State House by Efficiency Vermont. This location is directly below the Golden Dome of the historic building.
The 2016 legislative session is expected to wrap-up sometime between late April and mid-May this year, depending on who you ask at the State House. This adjournment deadline puts pressure on lawmakers as they advance key legislation with the aim of getting a bill to the Governor for his signature - or waiting until next January and the return of a new Legislature. Here is where some of the State House's biggest bills are at this point in the session.
Energy Siting: The Vermont Senate voted 22-3 late last week on a controversial bill that gives municipalities more say in the process of siting energy projects in their communities. The proposal faces an unknown fate in the Vermont House.
Worker Classification: House lawmakers continued to struggle over a bill that changes the definitions and tests used to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor in Vermont. H.867 was approved by the House Commerce Committee 11-0 last month, but was quickly moved to the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee for further review. Floor action was delayed for a second time last week as the House Commerce Committee reviews possible amendments to the legislation. Misclassification of employees as independent contractors has long been a concern for VBSR members.
What are your thoughts on this proposal? Send an e-mail to VBSR Public Policy Manager Daniel Barlow.
Marijuana Regulation: The Vermont Senate approved a bill legalizing, regulating, and taxing the sale of marijuana earlier this year and now House lawmakers are reviewing the proposal. More than 50 people attended a public hearing at the State House last week before the House Judiciary and Government Operations committees - mostly in support of the bill. Still, House leadership has not committed to passing the proposal this year and some lawmakers say they may need more time - such as the next legislative session - to work out all the nuances of the bill.