Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

A lot happened today in the statehouse and I’ll try to report it fully. But before I do that I want to report that the results of your voting for lawyer-members of the Judicial Nominating Board have been released. John Kellner and Walter Judge have been re-elected while Peg Flory is the new member from the southern district. Peg has previously served on the JNB as a House member so the bar will be bringing some well needed experience to what may prove a board with many new legislative (as well as gubernatorial appointments naturally) members. No other appointments have yet been made. I believe that will happen on Tuesday.

So, back to today; we’ve finally been successful in getting a hearing on the UCCJEA (H.88) in House Judiciary. The committee will do an overview of the bill next Thursday morning.

S. 1 passed both the House and Senate and is on its way to the governor for signing next week. So, the de novo appeal from probate court (soon to be probate division) to civil division (formerly superior court) will remain in place and not be repealed on February 1st.

For those of you with a civil practice focusing on medical malpractice, be advised that the House Health Care Committee will begin discussion of tort reform (yes, here we go again) next Wednesday afternoon. The VBA, with members on both sides of that courtroom, has sat this out in the past but I will attend and report to you what happens. If anyone reading this would like to weigh in on this, let me know and I’ll try to get you on a witness list.

Senator Illuzzi, Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs, is working on a draft committee bill dealing with the licensed lender law and the problems with owner financed sales. There is no bill or language yet but we’ve been advised to be ready for a hearing on Tuesday, February 15th. I’ll post more information when I have it and will keep the Property Law Section list serve up to date. Again, witnesses are encouraged to share their experiences with the committee. If you’d like to be heard, let me know.

I spent a good portion of this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee where two experienced lawyers addressed the committee on different issues. First, David Silver came up from Bennington to testify on S. 16, a bill related to confidentiality of cases accepted by the court diversion project. There was an interesting and engaging discussion among committee members but unfortunately not enough time to really make any headway. I’m sure the committee will return to it when they have the time.

Then Rich Cassidy, one of our uniform laws commissioners, presented S. 38, the uniform collateral consequences of conviction act. This bill also perked up the committee and a good conversation ensued; the committee will get back to it during the week of February 8th. Here’s a brief summary from the Commission’s website:

In 1974, 1.8 million people, or 1.3% or the adult population, had been imprisoned at some point of their life. By 2001 that number rose to number 5.6 million people, or 2.7% of the adult population. The Department of Justice estimates that if the 2001 imprisonment rate remains unchanged, 6.6% of Americans born in 2001 will serve prison time during their lives. In addition to those who have served prison time, an even larger proportion of the population has been convicted of a criminal offense without going to prison. According to a 2003 report of the Department of Justice, nearly 25% of the entire population (some 71 million people) had a criminal record.

Concern about the impact of collateral consequences has grown in recent years as the numbers and complexity of these consequences have mushroomed and the U.S. prison population has grown. Collateral consequences are the legal disabilities that attach as an operation of law when an individual is convicted of a crime but are not part of the sentence for the crime. Examples of collateral consequences include the denial of government issued licenses or permits, ineligibility for public services and public programs, and the elimination or impairment of civil rights. There is a real concern on a societal level that collateral consequences may impose such harsh burdens on convicted persons that they will be unable to reintegrate into society.

The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission in 2009, is an effort to improve public and individual understanding of the nature of this problem and to provide modest means by which people who suffer from these disabilities may, in appropriate circumstances, gain partial relief from those disabilities.

The Act facilitates notification of collateral consequences before, during, and after sentencing. Under the provisions of the Act, states are to create a collection of all collateral consequences, with citations and descriptions of the relevant statutes. At or before arraignment individuals will be advised of the particular collateral consequences associated with the offense for which they are charged. Notice is also to be given at the time of sentencing, and if an individual is sentenced to prison, at the time of release. Formal advisement promotes fairness and compliance with the law

The Act provides mechanisms for relieving collateral sanctions imposed by law. The Act creates an Order of Limited Relief, designed to relieve an individual from one or more collateral consequence based on a showing of fitness for reentry. The Order does not automatically remove the consequence, but does remove the automatic disqualification imposed by law. A state agency retains the ability to impose the consequence on a case by case basis and if public safety would be compromised. The Act also creates a Certificate of Restoration of Rights. The Certificate is granted to individuals who demonstrate a substantial period of law-abiding behavior consistent with successful reentry and desistance from crime. Issuance of a Certificate facilitates reintegration of those individuals who have demonstrated an ability to live a lawful life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday January 27, 2011

Members of our Property Law Section and our Family Law Section should be especially interested in what was happening today. Earlier this morning I heard that the House Judiciary Committee wants to schedule a hearing on H. 88, the UCCJEA- finally! It may happen as early as next Thursday if some things fall into place. Stay tuned. Downstairs in the Senate Judiciary Committee Jeff Cohen, Director of OCS, appeared and presented the Office’s Challenges for Change report. You can read it here.
He told the committee that OCS is handling about 21,000 support cases and collected $55 million last year. That reflects a compliance rate of about 70%, Jeff said. During his testimony he found himself peppered with questions from committee members especially from Dick Sears, Committee Chair. Sears offered a suggestion that sounded like “amnesty” for non compliance due to the “great recession”. But it wasn’t clear what he meant; it could mean waiving filing fees for motions to modify- motions that should have been filed months ago. It could mean a waiver of surcharges. In fact, Jeff suggested it may be time to revisit the interest rate of 12% given our economic situation. Anyway, the Chair asked Jeff to meet with legislative counsel Michelle Childs and Court Administrator Bob Greemore. He wants them to discuss the “amnesty” as well as a proposal to require that child support continue past 18 for children in college (mandatory versus permissive). He also thought, in light of a decision by Judge Pearson in Office of Child Support ex rel Kylie Brown v. Willis Allaire, that the time may have come to “overhaul…child support collection and enforcement”. I have a copy of that decision if anyone wants it; let me know. This morning’s hearing follows closely upon a conversation had by members of our Family Law Section in the last week or so. This may present some opportunities for the Section to really make a difference.

On the property law front, the House General and Military Affairs Committee, to which H. 57 was referred did an overview of the bill and heard from its lead sponsor Margaret Cheney. If you are not familiar with the bill AND do property work, I’d advise a read here.
Here are some relevant portions:

Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to require, at the time a commercial or residential building or unit is offered for sale, the seller or agent to complete a statement of energy performance; to inform potential buyers of their right to obtain the statement; and to supply the statement to a buyer prior to any such sale. The bill also proposes to group these and other provisions relating to building energy and process fuel efficiency found in different titles into one chapter within Title 30 (public service).
§ 72. SCOPE

This subchapter applies to the sale of all new and existing residential

buildings, residential units, commercial buildings, and commercial units, and

real property containing such buildings or units, but does not apply to any of

the following:

(1) A transfer or change of title to real property or the right to possess

real property by reason of inheritance, gift, marriage, or divorce.

(2) An involuntary transfer of title resulting from default on an

obligation secured by real property.

(3) The sale of a low energy use building.

(4) The sale of a building that does not contain conditioned space.

(5) The sale of real property that 1 does not contain a building.

(6) The sale of a building that is used only as temporary living quarters

for persons engaged in the pursuit of game or wild animals.


Prior to the sale of any interest in a building, real property that contains a

building, or a unit that is within the scope of this subchapter, the seller shall

provide the statement of energy performance to the buyer, who shall

7 acknowledge receipt of the statement by signing a copy of the statement.

Notwithstanding any law or contractual provision to the contrary, with

respect to a building, real property that contains a building, or unit that is

within the scope of this chapter, a prospective buyer may without penalty elect

not to close on or take title to the building, property, or unit if the seller has not

complied with this subchapter, and any deposit shall be returned immediately

to the buyer.

I advised the committee chair, South Burlington Representative Helen Head, that the VBA Property Law Section would like to be heard if this bill should come up for committee action. It’s hard to tell right now if that will happen but I’ll keep my eye on it. I’m working with the Vermont Association of Realtors on this and on the tax on services proposal. That bill, H.122, will be introduced at 1PM when the House comes back into session. That’s the bill we need to watch. The VBA Board has lined up against the idea of taxing legal services for years and we’ll get the chance to offer our views soon. Again, I notified the Chair of Ways and Means that I want to testify when they get to that portion of the bill. I sat in yesterday on the testimony of two witnesses, one favoring and one opposing extending the sales tax to services. This is a long long way from happening but it must be monitored.

This afternoon I expect the House will advance S. 1, the quick fix to the judicial restructuring bill, H. 470. I’ll let you know tomorrow where that goes.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Budget Battle Begins.

I just returned from the Governor’s budget address and can report that he said he is opposed to raising taxes in order to close the budget gap. That’s an important part of the budgeting process for us as we try to avoid having to ask our clients to pay a 4.5% sales tax on all of our invoices. Now it is possible the legislature could send him a bill with the tax increase; but that would set up a battle (showdown?) between the governor and the legislature. That just doesn’t seem likely now does it? I’ll continue to watch the developments here and will keep you posted.
Thanks for reading.

Another lawyer joins the House

Assistant AG Rebecca Ellis of Waterbury was sworn in this morning to replace Sue Minter who left the House to become the Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Transportation. That brings to 13 the number of lawyers in the House. Welcome Rebecca! She will sit on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Also this morning, across the hall the Senate appointed its 4 members to Judicial Retention. They are: Alice Nitka; Joe Benning; Peter Galbraith; and Sally Fox. The committee should begin work soon. I'll post the schedule of meetings and public hearings as soon as I have it.

Sales Tax on Services? Yes, legal services included!

I am reprinting a memo sent to me by VBA member and CPA Steve Schindler that he sent to legislative leaders and members of the Vermont Society of CPAs. This is an important issue that all of us should continue to monitor. Here is Steve's memo:

             The Top 10 Reasons why Vermont should not assess a sales tax on services:

1. Services are Already Subject to the Income Tax. It is not “unfair” to exempt services from the sales tax, because services income is already subject to the income tax, less some relatively minor amount for overhead (assume for argument’s sake that 80% of services income is subject to the income tax). Sales of products, on the other hand, are generally not subject to the income tax, because the cost of the product is deducted as a “cost of goods sold,” and only the markup, less some amount for overhead, is subject to income tax (assume for argument’s sake that 10% of product sales income is subject to the income tax). The sales tax is largely a back-stop to the income tax, because without a sales tax on products, products would move through the system essentially tax free. Imposing a sales tax on services would “double-tax” services income.

2. Sales Tax Should Only Be Imposed at “Point of Sale” Transactions. The sales tax is imposed at “point of sale” transactions, where someone pays a sales price, plus tax, before leaving a store with a product. The types of services that we presently tax are typically incident to a point of sale transaction, like charges for delivery or installation, unless delivery and installation are separately stated on the invoice in which case they are not taxed under current law. Amusement charges, admissions to sporting events and theatres, telecommunications, utility charges, and printing charges, are subject to a sales tax at point of sale because they are an intangible product produced by a seller using the seller’s facilities. Amusement charges, etcetera, are not personal services.

3. Services are Not “Point of Sale” Transactions. Service businesses do not engage in “point of sale” transactions. Instead, service providers do the work, send a bill, and wait for later payment. As any service provider will tell you, sometimes the payment received does not equal the amount billed. If a bill is not paid in full, the service provider will essentially eat the tax on the transaction, and will have to revise its accounting and books to reflect that a different amount of services revenue and tax were received compared to what was billed. Many customers of service providers also pay their bill over time, which would further complicate accounting for, and compliance with, a sales tax on services.

4. A Sales Tax on Services Would Be Very Complicated. The sales tax on products is one of the most difficult and complicated taxes to understand and implement. You only need to review Chapter 233 of Title 32, and go through a sales tax audit with the Vermont Department of Taxes, to see how mind-numbingly complex, and esoteric, the sales tax can be. There are currently no fewer than 66 exceptions (Sections 9741 - 9744) to the sales tax (and its cousin the use tax), and 44 definitions (Section 9701), required to implement the sales tax. Each of those exceptions has already been vetted through the legislature and is therefore worthy. To revisit these exemptions would be a huge undertaking, counterproductive and duplicative. A sales tax on services would be equally as complex, if not more so, and would have to include its own long list of exemptions and exceptions.

5. Tax Compliance Burdens Would Be Very Onerous. For businesses that are service providers and do not sell products subject to the sales tax, the added compliance burden to compute, disclose, collect, report and pay a sales tax on services would be very onerous. Every law firm, accounting firm, engineering firm, handy man, hair dresser, gardener, consultant, delivery service, realtor, instructor, inspector, etcetera, etcetera would have to prepare and file not one, not two, but at least 12 sales tax returns each year (one return each month), along with at least 12 payments. The burdens of assessing, collecting, accounting for, and paying sales tax on services would be a real and heavy burden on service businesses. Not to mention the added burden on the Tax Department to register all these new tax collectors, and process their returns and payments every month. And because the sales tax is a “trust fund” tax, any slip-up and underpayment of tax could be assessed personally against the business bookkeeper or owner with steep penalties and interest.

6. Vermont’s Sales Tax Rate is Already Competitive. Vermont’s sales tax rates are already competitive, and in fact are lower than our surrounding neighbors, except New Hampshire. But, there is little we can do to compete with New Hampshire, short of eliminating the sales tax altogether.

7. Vermont Would Become Uncompetitive Compared to All of Our Neighboring States. Now, we have to compete with New Hampshire’s zero percent (0%) sales tax rate on retail goods, which we know hurts Vermont’s retailers. If we impose a sales tax on services, we will have to compete with New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York’s zero percent (0%) sales tax rate on services, which is sure to hurt Vermont’s service providers, compared to all of our neighbors, not just New Hampshire.

8. Vermont Would Be Branded as a “High Tax State.” Being the only state in the union to tax services, we would be an obvious target for the label “High Tax State,” and the administrative and compliance burdens of this tax would also render us a “High Burden State.”

9. The Sales Tax is a Regressive Tax. The sales tax, being a flat rate tax, is a regressive tax because its rates do not increase with a taxpayer’s ability to pay, and lower income people tend to spend a higher proportion of their income on day to day expenditures on goods and services, versus savings. Regressive taxes are generally thought to be less fair.

10. A Sales Tax on Services Would Shift the Sales Tax to Vermont Residents. Much of the Vermont sales tax on products is paid by visitors to our state. That is one advantage to having an attractive state with a substantial tourism industry. Payments for services, on the other hand, are largely local transactions utilized by local people, so the burden of a sales tax on services would fall more heavily upon local Vermonters than upon visitors. If the overall sales tax rate were lowered, the affect would be to shift some proportion of the sales tax to local Vermonters.

In short, a sales tax on services in Vermont would be ill-conceived and unworkable. It would be unfair, complicated, burdensome and not competitive. A sales tax on services would not meet the Commission’s Guiding Principles of Fairness, Simplicity, Transparency or Competitiveness. And a sales tax on services would no doubt result in higher taxes as the rate creeps up over time.

I know this is a long post but I thought it important to fully reprint what Steve said. Many thanks to him for his effort.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (H.88) was introduced today and was committed to the House Judiciary Committee. Vermont and Massachusetts are the only states that have yet to adopt the UCCJEA. The adult guardianship bill I mentioned in yesterday’s post (H.79) also went to Judiciary. These same two bills rested for the last two years in that committee; we hope we can get both of them out and passed in this biennium.

Yesterday the Speaker appointed the house’s four members to the Joint Committee on Judicial Retention. They are:

Rep. Jewett of Ripton

Rep. Koch of Barre Town

Rep. Martin of Springfield

Rep. French of Shrewsbury

We’re still waiting on the Senate to make its appointments. The job for the committee this year is a big one: 5 justices and 10 trial judges are standing for retention. The additional workload for the 8 members is large and the additional hours they’ll be putting in will be significant. I hope the process starts soon.

A committee of members of our Probate and Trust Section, along with one bank trust officer, submitted a draft of a new uniform principal and income act. Rep. Tom Koch has reviewed it and will be introducing it; it’s in the hands of legislative counsel for drafting.

The House Commerce Committee spent time on the uniform limited cooperative associations bill with the original goal of maybe voting it out later today. Well that’s not going to happen. I spoke with the Chair of House Commerce and got some time for members of the Business Associations Section to review it and possibly offer testimony if desired. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks before the Committee can get its work done on the ULCA.

Don’t forget the tax on services issue which will hang over this session until the final gavel. Expect to hear from the VBA on this next week. Thanks for reading. Stay warm.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sorry I didn’t get a post up yesterday but it was “one of those days”. What I mean is that there were too many things happening at the same time. That usually results in my not getting to any of them. But yesterday I did get to a meeting with our new Tax Commissioner, VBA member Mary Peterson. Liam Murphy and Jim Knapp came to Montpelier to discuss issues with the new electronic PTTR. They essentially asked for a delay in implementation and a return to the pre January 1 fillable PDF, proposing an April 1 date for conversion. I’m not sure what the response will be but, frankly, I didn’t get the impression that Tax Dept. was interested in doing that. They also raised the “good faith estimate” issue and the $5 fee, a fee which many of on the Property Law Section list serve are struggling with. The Commissioner said the department didn’t do a good enough job at rolling out the new form and called for an ongoing “advisory committee” of sorts to get feedback as the department moves further into online forms. I tried to analogize this problem with the roll out of electronic filing now ongoing in the civil divisions of the Rutland and Windsor Units. We also offered to do another training on the ePTTR at the VBA Mid Year Meeting on March 18th. It occurred to me that family law practitioners may not have yet been exposed to the new practice and may bump into a wall when the time comes to transfer real estate as part of the resolution of a case. They’ll be in attendance at the Hilton in March and can avail themselves of the training as well.

Anyway, while doing that I did miss a presentation of the Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission’s report to the Senate Finance Committee. I also missed the initial testimony on H. 21, the Uniform Limited Cooperative Association Act. Testimony on both will continue today. The House Commerce Committee, having passed the ULCA bill last year, hopes to vote it out tomorrow afternoon. please pay special attention to the Tax Report as it does recommend extending the sales tax to services, including legal services. The link to the report is in Tuesday’s blog post. Read it; understand it; and be prepared to be asked to dissuade your legislator from supporting it.

Today H. 79 was introduced in to the House. You can read it here. it is the uniform adult guardianship and protective proceedings jurisdiction act. It’s been introduced before with no action ever taken. The VBA Board has endorsed it and it is supported by the Elder Law Section and the Probate and Trust Law Section. We wil continue to try to get the bill a hearing.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday, January 19, 2011

This week is an important one for the health care debate and for Vermont’s fiscal future. Out congressional delegation was here this morning to stand with the governor on Vermont’s independent effort to launch a single payer system. The long awaited report on alternate designs of a state run system is due out tomorrow. Last Thursday while were traveling to Montreal, the Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission released its report. Go here to read it. It is of definite concern to members of the VBA. The Commission’s recommendation on expansion of the sales tax to services including professional services will be a concern for your clients. Here is a portion of the Executive Summary as it will apply to you:


• 2A: Levy the general sales tax on all consumer-purchased services with limited exceptions for certain health and education services and business-to-business service transactions.

• 2B: Eliminate all consumer-based sales tax expenditures retaining only the exemptions for food and prescription drugs.

• 2C: Cut the sales tax rate from 6 percent to 4.5 percent.

The full discussion is found at pages 49 to 51. The minority perspective, authored by Commissioner William Sayre, can be read at pages 65 to 69. There will be a lot more to come on this topic; stay tuned. And stay ready to get involved as this moves through the process.

On the Senate floor this morning, S. 1 passed with amendment. There was some language added that clarifies that county clerks will continue to process passport applications. The amendment language calls for an MOU between the court administrator and the assistant judges. I can’t provide a link to the language as it was not published in the calendar; instead the proponents of the amendment, Senators Illuzzi and Flory handed it out as the bill was taken up. it can be read in the Senate Journal of today; that should be online later.

On the agenda for this week is a meeting with the Tax Commissioner about the new ePTTR; if you’re on the Property Law Section list serve you know how much discussion there’s been about it. I’ll report back after tomorrow afternoon’s meeting. also, the Senate Judiciary will discuss child support and license suspension issues tomorrow late morning; once again, I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday January 12, 2011

This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee amended S. 1 (technical corrections to judicial restructuring) and passed it on to the full senate for action. The changes made to the original were not substantive and some additional language clarifies employment benefit and bargaining unit issues for the county employees that become state employees as of February 1st.

When passed the bill has an effective date of February 1st. That’s the day the probate court becomes the probate division of the superior court; and it’s also the date the inadvertently repealed sections of title 12 take effect. So, the rush is on to get the bill through the house and to the governor’s desk before February 1.

The Senate Judiciary committee is so concerned about that date that they asked the new Pro Tem, Senator John Campbell, to schedule a floor session for tomorrow to advance the bill from the Notice Calendar to the Action Calendar. So, the senate should be able to consider the bill on Friday at second reading. It will still need to be “read the third time” next Tuesday, which would delay its arrival in the house until next Thursday unless there is a rules suspension. There remains plenty of time to get this done but it’s good news that Senator Sears had it on his radar and moved so quickly on it.

I will be out of the statehouse for the next few days as I travel to the YLD Thaw; so my next report to you will likely be next Tuesday. But before I sign off, I want to link you to the remarks of our governor at a memorial service for David Gibson in the Senate Chamber yesterday:

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Today was the first day both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees began the substantive work of this session. The Senate began taking testimony on S. 1, the technical corrections to judicial restructuring bill. Judge Davenport and Court Administrator Bob Greemore spoke to the inadvertent repeal of 12VSA 2553 and 2555 (appeal de novo to the civil division) and asked the committee to re-enact both sections. There was no objection. The morning ended before my scheduled testimony but I will add more support tomorrow; Judge Belcher is also expected to testimony then. The court had some other technical amendments meant to clarify other parts of last year’s H. 470 that really don’t affect court operations.

Upstairs the House Judiciary Committee spent an hour polling committee members on their priorities and items of interest this session. The most often cited topics were these: child access prevention (CAP) bills which would set penalties for negligent storage of firearms if injury results; decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana; DUI interlock follow up from last year; human trafficking ; civil penalties for abuse of vulnerable adults; repeat DUI offenders; conditional drivers’ licenses; primary enforcement of seatbelts; prescription drug abuse; involuntary medication; bullying; CHINS placement issues; etc.

There was a lot more but that’s a good sampling. There aren’t necessarily bills being drafted yet on all of these topics. I know there will be a bill introducing the Uniform Principal and Income Act as proposed by members of our Probate law Section and the Vermont Bankers’ Association. I expect the committee will do some follow up on the foreclosure mediation law enacted last year.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Some Senate Committee memberships

There may be six lawyers in the Vermont Senate but not one of them will sit on the Judiciary Committee during this biennium. This is a first time in my memory. Here’s the Committee:

Dick Sears, Chair

Alice Nitka, Vice Chair

Diane Snelling

Jeannette White

Ann Cummings

Alice and Ann are veterans of that Committee while Sears has been the long time chair.

The Senate Appropriations Committee members are:

Jane Kitchell, Chair

Dick Sears, Vice Chair

Bob Starr

Vince Illuzzi

Diane Snelling

Hinda Miller

Alice Nitka

The Senate Finance Committee is made up of:

Ann Cummings, Chair

Mark MacDonald, Vice Chair

Sally Fox

Dick McCormick

Tim Ashe

Richard Westman

Randy Brock

I’ve only listed these three committees for now as they are the most important for us. If there is to be a discussion about extending the sales tax to services (including legal services) that will happen in Finance. Judicial funding; legal aid funding; defender general funding, etc. all happen in Appropriations. Everything affecting the courts goes through Judiciary. Both in the Senate and House, these are the committees I follow the closest. Thanks for reading. Have a good weekend.

Friday January 7, 2011

I was hoping to be able to report on the membership of Senate committees early today but there's been a short delay. The Senate is presently meeting in a joint caucus on the Senate floor for a briefing on Vermont's fiscal picture by the Joint Fiscal Office. After that, I expect the Senate will go into session and the assignments will be announced. As soon as I get them I will post the relevant committee memberships.
Senator Giard of Addison is introducing S. 7, a bill authorizing the creation of a new type of business entity- the limited cooperative association. Here’s the link to the bill:
A similar house bill was introduced January 30, 2009, referred to the House Commerce Committee; passed the House in February; and was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture where it died. It seems, this year,that the proponents want to try to get it through the Senate first.
You can find a summary of the bill here.It’s been adopted already in Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws lists the following as why states should adopt this act:
“The ‘cooperative’ as a business entity is an important tool for economic development and business transactions in rural and urban settings. The industry encompasses many different forms of cooperatives organized for the common benefit of their members. Within recent years, the federal government’s interest in cooperatives has increased due to changes in farm subsidy programs, globalization pressures for larger and more flexible entities, and the utility and benefits of cooperatives as a business structure. Many states have considered revising their laws governing cooperatives, and several have enacted legislation to consolidate their special purpose cooperative statutes into a coherent, centralized statutory structure. However the law governing cooperatives in the states is in flux, and despite a growing and substantive trend toward broader, comprehensive, and more flexible governing statutes for the organizations, there is a marked lack of uniformity in the structure and development of such.

“The Uniform Limited Cooperative Association Act (ULCAA), drafted and approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 2007, addresses the need among the states for a centralized statutory scheme to govern cooperatives. The Act is designed to promote rural development by creating the option of a statutorily-defined entity that combines traditional cooperative values with modern financing mechanisms. The Act will be equally useful in an urban setting, where the cooperative value of individuals getting together to democratically own, run, and share in the benefit of their business can be combined with modern financing techniques. The ULCAA builds on traditional law governing cooperatives, but recognizes a growing trend toward the “New Generation Cooperative” (NGC), which can include combinations of features not readily available under traditional law, such as legally binding delivery contracts or the opportunity for outside equity investment. This Act creates a new form of business entity and is an alternative to other cooperative and unincorporated structures. It is more flexible than most current law, and provides a default template that encourages planners to utilize tested cooperative principles for a broad range of entities and purposes.”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ways and Means membership

Ancel of Calais, Chair
Branagan of Georgia, Vice Chair
Sharpe of Bristol, Ranking Member
Clarkson of Woodstock
Condon of Colchester
Greshin of Warren
Johnson of Canaan
Masland of Thetford
Olsen of Jamaica
Weston of Burlington
Wilson of Manchester

House Committee assignments

Wasting no time this morning, re-elected Speaker Shap Smith appointed the standing committees of the House. This is unusual but since there was no race for speaker he had plenty of time to do his appointments in advance. Generally the committees that interest us the most as Appropriations, Commerce, and Judiciary. And, this year especially, Ways and Means will be an important committee to watch; I’ll post its membership as soon as I get it. Here are their respective memberships:

They're baaaack!!!

Amid the ceremonial activities of the first week there is one small (?) piece of business of interest to us. Senator Sears has introduced S. 1, an act relating to technical amendments to the judicial restructuring act of 2010. The bill does three things- all inadvertently repealed last year in H. 470:
Sec. 1. 4 V.S.A. § 363 is added to read
(a) The probate division of the superior court may issue warrants,
subpoenas, and processes in conformity with the law necessary to compel the
attendance of witnesses or to produce books, papers, documents, or tangible
things, or to carry into effect the orders, sentences, or decrees of the probate
division or the powers granted it by law.
(b) The probate division of the superior court may appoint not more than
three masters to report on a particular issue or to do or perform particular acts
or to receive and report evidence.
Sec. 2. 12 V.S.1 A. § 2553 is added to read:
The civil division of the superior court shall have appellate jurisdiction of
matters originally within the jurisdiction of the probate division of the superior
court, except as herein otherwise provided.
Sec. 3. 12 V.S.A. § 2555 is added to read:
Except as otherwise provided, a person interested in an order, sentence, decree or denial issued by the probate division of the superior court, who
considers himself or herself injured thereby, may appeal therefrom to the civil
division of the superior court.
The effective date of these changes will be February 1, 2011.