Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Now that the House has advanced the tax bill, the health care reform bill, and the appropriations bill over to the Senate there is plenty of committee time and work awaiting. The breaks in the schedule will be on Wednesday afternoon when the joint session to vote on retention will happen and perhaps all day Thursday when both the capital and transportation bills will hit the House floor.
This morning started in House Commerce where the committee returned to H. 21, the uniform limited cooperative associations act. The entity will be renamed “mutual benefit enterprise” both the distinguish them from coops as we know them and to meet the objections of some food coops. The committee hopes to have the bill out this week and passed over to the Senate. The Senate had its own version of the bill introduced at the beginning of the session (S.7); it is really the exact same language and, in fact, the Senate Finance Committee has heard some testimony on it earlier in the year. So even though the bill did not make the “crossover” date it could still pass and be enacted into law this year.
The House Judiciary Committee now has H. 258, a bill passed out of the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy that has the following statement of purpose:
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to require the secretary of natural
resources, the land use panel, or the natural resources board to provide at least 20 days during which an aggrieved person may comment on a draft assurance of discontinuance or administrative order. The bill also requires a draft assurance of discontinuance or administrative order to be published for notice on the relevant website of the secretary of natural resources, the land use panel, or the natural resources board. In addition, the bill would prohibit the environmental division from signing an assurance of discontinuance or administrative order until any additional filings or proceedings are complete, including those filings or proceedings subsequent to a timely motion for intervention. The bill would also allow for public notice and comment on certain environmental tickets issued by the secretary of natural resources.
Witnesses lined up for today were:
David Mears, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation, Agency of Natural Resources
Thomas Durkin, Environmental Judge, Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division
Karen Horn, Director, Vermont League of Cities and Towns
John Hasen, General Counsel, Vermont Natural Resources Board
Gary Kessler, Director, Department of Environmental Conservation
Warren Coleman, General Counsel, MacLean, Meehan and Rice
Louis Porter, Lake Champlain Lakekeeper, Conservation Law Foundation

The Chief Justice and Justice Dooley were finally able to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee this afternoon on the Court’s FY2012 budget. I reported on their House testimony on February 24th. Today’s testimony was very similar and equally well received. The CJ did state his concern for some backlogs that have developed; he blamed that on the courts’ continued furlough days. He wants to “buy them back” if money could be found in the general fund. His fear is well place- that furloughs become the norm and the court never gets out of this cycle. Justice Dooley responded to a question from the Chair about e-filing and its roll out. He said the court had signed a three year contract with the developers and that contract expires at the end of 2012. So, although that was the target for complete implementation of e-filing, he said it may not be fully implemented until the end of FY2012- June 30, 2012. Finally, Senator Illuzzi reported some constituent complaints about delays in the family division. He offered to work with the court on increasing the budget allocation for retired judge time in order to find the people to move some cases. he invited the court to return with its ideas.
BTW, tomorrow morning the House General Affairs Committee will be returning to H. 57, the energy audit bill. I reported a the Mid Year Meeting that seemed to be dead as it missed the crossover deadline; I’m not sure what is up with it but will report to you as soon as I know. Also, for property law practitioners I’m hearing from legislators whoa re hearing from their constituents about licensed lender law problems. As these stories spread around the statehouse many more people are becoming aware of the restriction on seller financing of residential real estate and how that’s affecting conveyances that most of you have been handling for years. The solution is still to be found but rest assured that the issue becomes more real every day. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading.

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