Monthly Legislative Forums Provide Opportunity for Discussion

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Thursday March 07, 2013

Each month at South Burlington’s community library, Vermont state representatives Michele Kupersmith, Ann Pugh, Helen Head, and Maida Townsend hold an informal legislative forum where individuals have an opportunity to engage in conversation on issues of concern. February’s Monday night gathering was hosted by Rep. Maida Townsend and brought together a good mix of residents, City commissioners and Council members, Council candidates, and first time participants.  Everyone had a chance to introduce themselves and bring up topics they wished to discuss or receive clarity on. Many came with simply a desire to learn and listen.

Topics mentioned on the first pass around the table included the TIF, library and city clerk charter changes, the Reach Up program, weatherization, gun control, taxes, school choice, and the licensing of home inspectors.

The legislators provided updates on several topics. In terms of the TIF, a bill is currently in the Ways and Means that would allow South Burlington to become the 7th TIF District in the State as the 6th and 7th applications came in at the same time and 6 was the state cap for TIFs previously.

People were curious about the library and city clerk charter changes and their next steps. At the last City Council meeting, the City attorney received permission from the Council to have the documents signed and submitted. According to the legislators, the two separate bills have been submitted. The charter discussion also brought up the issue of how accurate the voting was given that sometimes people just vote yes on everything and that the wording on the ballot could have been misunderstood. Planning commission member Tracey Harrington said she found the question overwhelming as a voter. She felt there was a lot of rhetoric attached to the phrasing of the items. Another resident pointed out that people began to view the items as personal. She said it became clear that people were seeing it as a choice between Donna Kinvlle and Sandy Miller.

School choice and whether funding will continue to follow students choosing to attend SBHS, came up as an area of concern, particularly as it relates to a source of revenue for the District.

Weatherization of homes and its initial cost to implement vs. savings overall was touched upon briefly.

The licensing of home inspectors is currently being discussed in Helen Head’s department. There is disagreement over where the responsibility for enforcement and licensing should lie. The Division of Fire Safety within the Department of Public Safety argues that their jurisdiction lies solely with multi-family, not single family dwellings. The legislature is wrestling with the decision to expand the scope of their responsibility or implement local code enforcement.

A concern over gun control background checks and the potential for subsequent stigmatization and victimizing of people who have mental health challenges including former officers or military who suffer from PTSD was brought up toward the end of the session. The legislators said that 4 or 5 different bills are circulating in the house and senate on issues surrounding gun control. It is certainly a contentious issue. Currently, the main focus in the house judiciary is a comprehensive bill addressing opiate and meth drug issues and effective treatment options.

Although time seemed to run out quickly, the legislators encouraged everyone to contact them personally if there were issues on which they would like further information. Their contact information is available each week in The Other Paper or you can bring your thoughts to next month’s gathering!

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent