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Senate Calendar

wednesday, april 18, 2007

106th DAY OF BIENNIAL SESSION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                                                                                                Page No.

ACTION CALENDAR

Third Reading

H. 137    Restore Dept. of Mental Health/Commissioner of Mental Health........ 751

H. 526    Relating to education quality and cost control..................................... 751

                        Sen. Coppenrath amendment................................................... 751

                        Sen. Coppenrath amendment................................................... 751

                        Sen. Mullin amendment............................................................ 752

                        Sen. Mullin amendment............................................................ 754

                        Sen. Mullin amendment............................................................ 755

                        Sen. Shumlin amendment......................................................... 755

H. 528    Approval of amendment to the charter of the city of Montpelier......... 756

House Proposal of Amendment

S. 120     Wine tastings and farmers’ markets................................................... 756

NOTICE CALENDAR

Favorable with Proposal of Amendment

H. 313    Administration & enforcement of fines within the judicial bureau......... 758

                        Judiciary Committee Report..................................................... 758

                        Appropriations Committee Report........................................... 774

H. 520    Conservation of energy & increasing generation of electricity by use ........                   of renewable resources 774

                        Natural Resources and Energy Committee Report.................... 774

ORDERED TO LIE

S. 70       Empowering municipalities to regulate application of pesticides........... 799


S. 102     Decreasing percentage to determine school dist. excess spending....... 799

S. 118     Fiscal review of high spending districts & special education................ 799




 

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ACTION CALENDAR

Third Reading

H. 137

An act relating to the restoration of a department of mental health and a commissioner of mental health.

H. 526

An act relating to education quality and cost control.

PROPOSAL OF AMENDMENT TO H. 526 TO BE OFFERED BY SENATOR COPPENRATH BEFORE THIRD READING

Senator Coppenrath moves to amend the Senate proposal of amendment in Sec. 13, by adding a new subsection, to be subsection (d) to read as follows:

(d)  The commissioner of education shall examine the expansion of parental school choice to include all public schools in the state, on a space available basis,  On or before December 1, 2007, the commissioner shall submit a report to the house and senate committees on education outlining the results of the examination, detailing potential fiscal impacts, and making proposals for such expansion.

PROPOSAL OF AMENDMENT TO H. 526 TO BE OFFERED BY SENATOR COPPENRATH BEFORE THIRD READING

Senator Coppenrath moves that the Senate proposal of amendment be amended as follows:

First:  By adding two new sections to be Secs.15a and 15b to read as follows:

Sec. 15a.  16 V.S.A. § 4032 is added to read:

§ 4032.  EDUCATION COST CONTAINMENT GRANTS

In any year in which a district's education spending per equalized pupil is less than 103 percent of its prior-year education spending per equalized pupil, any municipality which is a member of that school district shall receive a cost containment grant to be used to provide homestead education property tax credits on the municipality's education property tax bills for the current year.  An education cost containment grant shall be equal to 60 percent of the difference between 103 percent of the district's prior-year education spending and its current-year education spending, and the grant shall be distributed by the commissioner of education to the member municipality or pro-rata to the member municipalities, based on each member's portion of the education tax assessment for the current-year school budget.  A homestead tax credit under this section shall be shown on the taxpayer's homestead education property tax bill, and shall be calculated as a percentage of the unadjusted education property tax liability, using the same percentage for all taxpayers.

Sec. 15b.  16 V.S.A. § 4025(b)(4) is added to read:

(4) To make payments required under section 4032 of this title for education cost containment.

Second:  In Sec. 16, by adding a new subsection to be subsection (d) to read as follows:

(d)  Secs. 15a and 15b of this act (education cost containment grants and tax credits) shall take effect January 1, 2008.

AMENDMENTS TO H. 526 TO BE OFFERED BY SENATOR MULLIN BEFORE THIRD READING

Senator Mullin moves to amend the Senate proposal of amendment as follows:

First:  After Sec. 15 by adding a new section to be Sec. 15a to read as follows:

* * * Consolidations of Supervisory Unions * * *

Sec. 15a.  16 V.S.A. § 261 is amended to read:

§ 261.  ORGANIZATION AND ADJUSTMENT OF SUPERVISORY UNIONS

(a)  The state board shall review on its own initiative or when requested as per subsection (b) of this section and may regroup the organize school districts, except for interstate school districts, into 16 supervisory unions of the state or create new supervisory unions in such manner as to afford increased efficiency or greater convenience and economy and to facilitate K-12 curriculum planning and coordination as changed conditions may seem to require which, to the extent possible, shall follow the same boundaries as the technical center service regions created pursuant to section 1531 of this title.

(b)  Any school district which has so voted at its annual school district meeting, if said the meeting has been properly warned regarding such a vote, may apply to the state board of education for adjustment of the existing supervisory union of which it is a component district.  The state board shall give timely consideration to such requests and may regroup the school districts of the area so as to ensure reasonable supervision of all public schools therein.

(c)  The state board may designate any school district, including a unified union district, as a supervisory district if it will offer schools in grades K-12 and is large enough to support the planning and administrative functions of a supervisory union.  [Deleted.]

(d)  Upon application by a supervisory union board, the state board may waive any requirements of chapter 5 or 7 of this title with respect to the supervisory union board structure, board composition, or board meetings, or the staffing pattern of the supervisory union, if it can be demonstrated that such a waiver will result in efficient and effective operations of the supervisory union; will not result in any disproportionate representation; and is otherwise in the public interest.

Second:  By adding an internal caption and a new section to be Sec. 15b to read as follows:

* * * School Budget; Direct Education Costs * * *

Sec. 15b.  16 V.S.A. § 563(11) is amended to read:

§ 563. POWERS OF SCHOOL BOARDS

The school board of a school district, in addition to other duties and authority specifically assigned by law:

* * *

(11) Shall prepare and distribute annually a proposed budget for the next school year according to such major categories as may from time to time be prescribed by the commissioner. The proposed budget shall include the percentage of spending allocated to direct classroom instruction, as defined by the commissioner.  At a school district's annual meeting, the electorate may vote to provide notice of availability of the school budget required by this subdivision to the electorate in lieu of distributing the budget. If the electorate of the school district votes to provide notice of availability, it must specify how notice of availability shall be given, and such notice of availability shall be provided to the electorate at least 30 days before the district's annual meeting. The proposed budget shall be prepared and distributed at least ten days before a sum of money is voted on by the electorate. Any proposed budget shall show the following information in a format prescribed by the commissioner of education:

(A) all revenues from all sources and expenses, including as separate items any assessment for a union school district or a supervisory union of which it is a member, and any tuition to be paid to a technical center;

(B) the specific amount of any deficit incurred in the most recently closed fiscal year and how the deficit was or will be remedied;

(C) the anticipated homestead tax rate and the percentage of household income used to determine income sensitivity in the district as a result of passage of the budget; including those portions of the tax rate attributable to the union school and supervisory union assessments; and

(D) in the case of a school district: (1) other than a union school district, the definition of "education spending," the number of pupils and number of equalized pupils in the school district, and the district's education spending per equalized pupil in the proposed budget and in each of the prior three years; or (2) in the case of a union school district, the amount of the assessment to each of the member districts and the amount of the assessments per equalized pupil in the proposed budget and for the past three years.

Third:  In Sec. 16, by adding a new subsection to be subsection (d) to read as follows:

(d)  Effective date of Sec. 15a: 

(1)  The state board of education shall, after holding at least four public hearings in different geographic regions of the state, propose supervisory union district boundaries pursuant to Sec. 15a of this act on or before June 1, 2008.  Following publication of the proposal, the board shall take public comment and shall establish supervisory union boundaries pursuant to Sec. 15a of this act no later than January 1, 2009.

(2)  Notwithstanding the provisions of 16 V.S.A. § 262, the new supervisory unions shall not be established until July 1, 2009.  The new supervisory unions shall hold organizational meetings and enter into agreements pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 262 et seq. between January 1 and July 1, 2009.

PROPOSAL OF AMENDMENT TO H. 526 TO BE OFFERED BY SENATOR MULLIN BEFORE THIRD READING

Senator Mullin moves to amend the Senate proposal of amendment by adding a new section to be numbered Sec. 18a to read as follows

Sec. 18a.  16 V.S.A. § 563(32) is added to read:

§ 563. POWERS OF SCHOOL BOARDS

The school board of a school district, in addition to other duties and authority specifically assigned by law:

* * *

(32)  Shall contract for an energy audit of all buildings owned by the district at least once in every period of three years, and shall file the audit, together with a plan to reduce energy consumption, with the commissioner.

PROPOSAL OF AMENDMENT TO H. 526 TO BE OFFERED BY SENATOR MULLIN BEFORE THIRD READING

Senator Mullin moves to amend the Senate proposal of amendment by adding a new section to be numbered Sec. 18b to read as follows:

Sec. 18b.  VOLUNTARY CONSOLIDATION; TAX BENEFIT

There is created a committee consisting of two members to be appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate, two members to be appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives, and four members to be appointed by the governor, and a chair to be jointly chosen by all three leaders to develop a system to provide tax incentives to school districts that voluntarily consolidate.  The chair shall convene the first meeting of the committee on or before July 1, 2007.  The department of education shall provide administrative support to the committee.  The committee shall present a detailed plan to provide tax benefits to consolidating districts to the general assembly on or before December 1, 2007.  Committee members shall receive no financial compensation for service on the committee.

AMENDMENT TO H. 526 TO BE OFFERED BY SENATOR SHUMLIN BEFORE THIRD READING

Senator Shumlin moves to amend the Senate proposal of amendment by striking out Sec. 16 in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof two new sections to be numbered Secs. 16 and 17 to read as follows:

Sec. 16.  32 V.S.A. § 5402b is amended to read:

§ 5402b.  STATEWIDE EDUCATION TAX RATE ADJUSTMENTS

(a)  Annually, by December 1, the commissioner of taxes shall recommend to the general assembly, after consultation with the department of education, the secretary of administration and the joint fiscal office, the following adjustments in the statewide education tax rates under subdivisions 5402(a)(1) and (2) of this title:

* * *

(b)  If the commissioner makes a recommendation to the general assembly to adjust the education tax rates under section 5402 of this title, the commissioner shall also recommend a proportional adjustment to the applicable percentage base for homestead income based adjustments under section 6066 of this title, but the applicable percentage base shall not be adjusted below 1.8 percent.

Sec. 17. EFFECTIVE DATES 

(a)  Secs. 2 through  4 of this act shall take effect on January 1, 2010, and shall apply to budgets beginning in the 2010–2011 school year.

     (b)  Sec. 12 shall take effect on July 1, 2008, and the commissioner’s annual review shall begin with expenditures made during the 2008-2009 academic year.   

(c)  Sec. 16 (no annual adjustment of the 2% "applicable percentage") shall take effect upon passage and shall apply to claims filed in 2008 and after.

     (d)  All other sections of this act shall take effect on July 1, 2007.

H. 528

An act relating to approval of amendment to the charter of the city of Montpelier.

House Proposal of Amendment

S. 120

An act relating to wine tastings and farmers’ markets.

The House proposes to the Senate to amend the bill as follows:

     First:  By striking  Sec. 2. and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 2.  7 V.S.A. § 67 is amended to read:

§ 67. WINE TASTINGS; PERMIT; PENALTIES

(a)  Provided an applicant submits to the department of liquor control a written application in a form required by the department accompanied by the permit fee as required by subdivision 231(15) of this title at least 15 days prior to the date of the wine tasting event and the applicant is determined to be in good standing, the department of liquor control may grant a permit to conduct a wine tasting event to:

* * *

(2)  A licensed manufacturer or rectifier of vinous beverages.  The permit authorizes the permit holder to dispense vinous beverages produced by the manufacturer or rectifier to retail customers of legal age for consumption on the premises of a second class licensee or at a farmers’ market.  Pursuant to this permit, a manufacturer or rectifier may conduct no more than one tasting a day on the premises of a second class licensee.  No more than four wine tasting permits per month for a tasting event held on the premises of second class licensees and no more than 60 wine tasting permits per year for a tasting event held on the premises of a farmers’ market shall be issued to any manufacturer or rectifier.

(3)  A licensed manufacturer or rectifier of vinous beverages with a fourth class or farmers’ market license.  The permit authorizes licenses authorize the licensee to dispense, with or without charge, vinous beverages by the glass, not to exceed two ounces per product and a total of eight ounces to a retail customer of legal age for consumption on the licensee’s premises or at a farmers’ market.

(b) A wine tasting event held pursuant to this section, not to include wine tasting events conducted on the premises of a manufacturer or rectifier or on the premises of a fourth class licensee pursuant to subdivision (a)(3) of this section or a promotional tasting promotional tastings pursuant to subdivision (d)(1) of this section:

* * *

(d) Promotional wine tasting.

(1) At the request of a holder of a first class or second class license, a holder of a manufacturer's, rectifier's, or wholesale dealer's license may distribute without charge to the first or second class licensee's management and staff, provided they are of legal drinking age, two ounces per person of vinous beverages for the purpose of promoting the beverage. No permit is required under this subdivision, but written notice of the event shall be provided to the department of liquor control at least 10 five days prior to the date of the tasting.

* * *

(3)  At the request of a holder of a wholesale dealer’s license, a first class licensee may dispense malt or vinous beverages for promotional purposes without charge to invited management and staff of first, second, or third class licensees, provided they are of legal drinking age.  The event shall be held on the premises of the first class licensee.  The first class licensee shall be responsible for complying with all applicable laws under this title. No permit is required under this subdivision, but the wholesale dealer shall provide written notice of the event to the department  of liquor control at least 10 days prior to the date of the tasting.

     Second:  By adding a new Sec. 3 to read as follows:

Sec. 3.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on passage.


NOTICE CALENDAR

Favorable with Proposal of Amendment

H. 313

An act relating to the administration and enforcement of fines within the judicial bureau.

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator Sears for the Committee on Judiciary.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  4 V.S.A. § 1105 is amended to read:

§ 1105.  ANSWER TO COMPLAINT; DEFAULT

(a)  A violation shall be charged upon a summons and complaint form approved and distributed by the court administrator.  The complaint shall be signed by the issuing officer or by the state’s attorney.  The original shall be filed with the judicial bureau, a copy shall be retained by the issuing officer or state’s attorney and two copies shall be given to the defendant.  The complaint shall include a statement of rights, instructions, notice that a defendant may admit, not contest, or deny a violation, notice of the fee for failure to answer within 20 days, and other notices as the court administrator deems appropriate.  The court administrator, in consultation with appropriate law enforcement agencies, may approve a single form for charging all violations, or may approve two or more forms as necessary to administer the operations of the judicial bureau.

(b)  A person who is charged with a violation shall have 20 days from the date the complaint is issued to admit or deny the allegations or to state that he or she does not contest the allegations in the complaint.  The judicial bureau shall assess against a defendant a fee of $10.00 for failure to answer a complaint within the time allowed.  The fee shall be assessed in the default judgment and deposited in the court technology special fund established pursuant to section 27 of this title.

(c)  A person who admits or does not contest the allegations may so indicate and sign the complaint.  The bureau shall accept the admission or statement that the allegations are not contested and accept payment of the waiver penalty.

(d)  If the person sends in the amount of the waiver penalty without signing the complaint, the bureau shall accept the payment indicating that payment was made and that the allegations were not contested.

(e)  A person who denies the allegations may so indicate and sign the complaint.  Upon receipt, the bureau shall schedule a hearing.

(f)  If a person fails to appear or answer a complaint the bureau shall enter a default judgment against the person.  The bureau shall mail a notice to the person that a default judgment has been entered.  A default judgment may be set aside by the hearing officer for good cause shown.

(g)  All judicial bureau judgments shall contain a notice of tax setoff pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 5941.

Sec. 2.  4 V.S.A. § 1109 is added to read:

§ 1109.  REMEDIES FOR FAILURE TO PAY

(a)  As used in this section:

(1)  “Amount due” means all financial assessments contained in a judicial bureau judgment, including penalties, fines, surcharges, court costs, and any other assessment authorized by law.

(2)  “Designated collection agency” means a collection agency designated by the court administrator.

(3)  “Designated credit bureau” means a credit bureau designated by the court administrator or the court administrator’s designee.

(b)  A judicial bureau judgment shall provide notice that a $15.00 fee shall be assessed for failure to pay within 30 days.  If the defendant fails to pay the amount due within 30 days, the fee shall be added to the judgment amount and deposited in the court technology special fund established pursuant to section 27 of this title.

(c)  Civil contempt proceedings.  If an amount due remains unpaid for 75 days after the judicial bureau provides the defendant with a notice of judgment, the judicial bureau may initiate civil contempt proceedings pursuant to this subsection.

(1)  Notice of hearing.  The judicial bureau shall provide notice by first class mail sent to the defendant’s last known address that a contempt hearing will be held pursuant to this subsection, and that failure to appear at the contempt hearing may result in the sanctions listed in subdivision (2) of this subsection.

(2)  Failure to appear.  If the defendant fails to appear at the contempt hearing, the hearing officer may direct the clerk of the judicial bureau to:

(A)  cause the matter to be reported to one or more designated credit bureaus; or

(B)  refer the matter to district court for contempt proceedings.

(3)  Hearing.  The hearing shall be conducted in a summary manner.  The hearing officer shall examine the defendant and any other witnesses and may require the defendant to produce documents relevant to the defendant’s ability to pay the amount due.  The state or municipality shall not be a party except with the permission of the hearing officer.  The defendant may be represented by counsel at the defendant’s own expense.

(4)  Contempt.

(A)  The hearing officer may conclude that the defendant is in contempt if the hearing officer states in written findings a factual basis for concluding that:

(i)  the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that he or she owed an amount due on a judicial bureau judgment;

(ii)  the defendant had the ability to pay all or any portion of the amount due; and

(iii)  the defendant failed to pay all or any portion of the amount due.

(B)  In the contempt order, the hearing officer may do one or more of the following:

(i)  Set a date by which the defendant shall pay the amount due.

(ii)  Assess an additional penalty not to exceed ten percent of the amount due.

(iii)  Direct the clerk of the judicial bureau to cause the matter to be reported to one or more designated credit bureaus.  The court administrator or the court administrator’s designee is authorized to contract with one or more credit bureaus for the purpose of reporting information about unpaid judicial bureau judgments.

(iv)  Recommend that the district court incarcerate the defendant until the amount due is paid.  If incarceration is recommended pursuant to this subdivision (4), the judicial bureau shall notify the district court that contempt proceedings should be commenced against the defendant.  The district court proceedings shall be de novo.  If the defendant cannot afford counsel for the contempt proceedings in district court, the defender general shall assign counsel at the defender general’s expense.

(d)  Collections.

(1)  If an amount due remains unpaid after the issuance of a notice of judgment, the court administrator may authorize the clerk of the judicial bureau to refer the matter to a designated collection agency.

(2)  The court administrator or the court administrator’s designee is authorized to contract with one or more collection agencies for the purpose of collecting unpaid judicial bureau judgments pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7171.

(e)  For purposes of civil contempt proceedings, venue shall be statewide.

(f)  Notwithstanding 32 V.S.A. § 502, the court administrator is authorized to contract with a third party to collect fines, penalties, and fees by credit card, debit card, charge card, prepaid card, stored value card, and direct bank account withdrawals or transfers, as authorized by 32 V.S.A. § 583, and to add on and collect, or charge against collections, a processing charge in an amount approved by the court administrator.

Sec. 3.  4 V.S.A. § 1110 is added to read:

§ 1110.  Licenses or governmental contracts

(a)  As used in this section:

(1)  “Agency” means any unit of state government, including agencies, departments, boards, commissions, authorities, or public corporations.

(2)  “Contract” means a contract for the provision of goods, services, or real estate space.

(3)  “License” means any license, certification or registration issued by an agency to conduct a trade or business, including a license to practice a profession or occupation, or a license required to engage in recreational activities, including licenses to hunt, fish, or trap.

(b)  Every applicant for a license shall sign a statement that the applicant is in good standing with respect to any unpaid judgment issued by the judicial bureau or district court for fines or penalties for a violation or criminal offense.  A license may not be issued or renewed without such a statement.

(c)  No agency shall enter into, extend, or renew any contract unless the person submits a statement that the person is in good standing with respect to any unpaid judgment issued by the judicial bureau or district court for fines or penalties for a violation or criminal offense as of the date the contract is made.

(d)  For the purposes of this section, a person is in good standing with respect to any unpaid judgment issued by the judicial bureau or district court for fines or penalties for a violation or criminal offense if:

(1)  60 days or fewer have elapsed since the date a judgment was issued; or

(2)  the person is in compliance with a repayment plan approved by the judiciary.

Sec. 4.  13 V.S.A. § 7171 is amended to read:

§ 7171.  Collection by complaint, information, or indictment

(a)  Fines, forfeitures, and penalties incurred or imposed by statute may be recovered by complaint, information, or indictment, unless some other mode of recovery is specially provided.

(b)  The attorney general court administrator is authorized to contract with private collection agencies for collection of fines, forfeitures, fees and penalties, fines, surcharges, court costs, and any other assessment authorized by law incurred or imposed by statute on persons who have failed to pay after reasonable notification of the debt, and the risk that the debt may be referred to a collection agency and that the debtor will be liable for the collection agency’s fee.  The attorney general and the court administrator may agree to pay collection agencies a fee based on a fixed rate for services rendered or a percentage of the amount actually collected by such agencies and remitted to the state.  Notwithstanding 32 V.S.A. § 502, the attorney general may charge against such collections an agreed‑upon fixed rate or percentage of collections  The debtor shall be liable for the collection agency’s fee, in addition to the judgment amount.  The collection agency shall deduct its fee from the collected amount and remit the balance to the judiciary.  All collection agency fees shall be governed by the contract with the court administrator and shall be clearly disclosed in all notices sent by the collection agency to the debtor.

Sec. 5.  23 V.S.A. § 2307 is amended to read:

§ 2307.  REMEDIES FOR FAILURE TO PAY TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS

(a)  As used in this section:,

(1)  “Amount “amount due” means all financial assessments contained in a judicial bureau judgment, including penalties, fines, surcharges, court costs, and any other assessment authorized by law.

(2)  “Designated collection agency” means a collection agency designated by the court administrator.

(3)  “Designated credit bureau” means a credit bureau designated by the court administrator or the court administrator’s designee.

(b)  Notice of risk of suspension.  A judgment for a traffic violation shall contain a notice that failure to pay or otherwise satisfy the amount due within 20 30 days of the notice will result in suspension of the person’s operator’s license or privilege to operate, and the denial, if the person is the sole registrant, of the person’s application for renewal of a motor vehicle registration, until the amount due is paid or otherwise satisfied.  If the defendant fails to pay the amount due within 20 30 days of the notice and the case is not pending on appeal, the judicial bureau shall provide electronic notice thereof to the commissioner of motor vehicles who, after 20 days from the date of receiving the electronic notice, shall suspend the person’s operator’s license or privilege to operate and deny, if the person is the sole registrant, the person’s application for renewal of a motor vehicle registration until the amount due is paid or otherwise satisfied. 

(c)  Civil contempt proceedings.  If an amount due remains unpaid for 45 days after the judicial bureau provides the defendant with a notice of risk of suspension pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the judicial bureau may initiate civil contempt proceedings pursuant to this subsection.  During proceedings conducted pursuant to 4 V.S.A. § 1109, the hearing officer may apply the following mitigation remedies when the judgment is based upon a traffic violation:

(1)  Notice of hearing.  The judicial bureau shall provide notice by first class mail sent to the defendant’s last known address that a contempt hearing will be held pursuant to this subsection and that failure to appear at the contempt hearing may result in the sanctions listed in subdivision (c)(2) of this section and subject to procedures for tax setoffs under 32 V.S.A. § 5941.

(2)  Failure to appear.  If the defendant fails to appear at the contempt hearing, the hearing officer may direct the clerk of the judicial bureau to:

(A)  cause the matter to be reported to one or more designated credit bureaus; or

(B)  refer the matter to district court for contempt proceedings.

(3)  Hearing.  The hearing shall be conducted in a summary manner.  The hearing officer shall examine the defendant and any other witnesses and may require the defendant to produce documents relevant to the defendant’s ability to pay the amount due.  The state or municipality shall not be a party except with the permission of the hearing officer.  The defendant may be represented by counsel at the defendant’s own expense.

(4)  Mitigation remedies.

(A)(1)  The hearing officer may waive the reinstatement fee required by section 675 of this title or reduce the amount due on the basis of:

(i)(A)  the defendant’s driving history, ability to pay, or service to the community;

(ii)(B)  the collateral consequences of the violation; or

(iii)(C)  the interests of justice.

(B)(2)  The hearing officer may specify a date by which the defendant shall pay the amount due and may notify the commissioner of motor vehicles to reinstate the defendant’s operator’s license or privilege subject to payment of the amount due by the specified date.  If the defendant fails to pay the amount due by the specified date, the judicial bureau may notify the commissioner to suspend the defendant’s operator’s license or privilege.  A license may be reinstated under this subdivision only if the defendant’s license is suspended solely for failure to pay a judicial bureau judgment.

(C)(3)  The judicial officer shall have sole discretion to determine mitigation remedies pursuant to this subdivision, and the judicial officer’s determination shall not be subject to review or appeal in any court, tribunal, or administrative office.

(5)  Contempt.

(A)  The hearing officer may conclude that the defendant is in contempt if the hearing officer states in written findings a factual basis for concluding that:

(i)  The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that he or she owed an amount due on a judicial bureau judgment;

(ii)  The defendant had the ability to pay all or any portion of the amount due; and

(iii)  The defendant failed to pay all or any portion of the amount due.

(B)  The hearing officer may in the contempt order do one or more of the following:

(i)  Set a date by which the defendant shall pay the amount due;

(ii)  Assess an additional penalty not to exceed ten percent of the amount due;

(iii)  Direct the clerk of the judicial bureau to cause the matter to be reported to one or more designated credit bureaus.  The court administrator or the court administrator’s designee is authorized to contract with one or more credit bureaus for the purpose of reporting information about unpaid judicial bureau judgments; and

(iv)  Recommend that the district court incarcerate the defendant until the amount due is paid.  If incarceration is recommended pursuant to this subdivision, the judicial bureau shall notify the district court that contempt proceedings should be commenced against the defendant.  If the defendant cannot afford counsel for the contempt proceedings in district court, the defender general shall assign counsel at the defender general’s expense.

(d)  Collections.

(1)  If an amount due remains unpaid for one year after the issuance of a notice of risk of suspension pursuant to subsection (b) of this section and the defendant has failed to appear at a judicial bureau contempt hearing, the court administrator may authorize the clerk of the judicial bureau to refer the matter to a designated collection agency.

(2)(A)  The court administrator or the court administrator’s designee is authorized to contract with one or more collection agencies for the purpose of collecting unpaid judicial bureau judgments.

(B)  The court administrator may authorize a collection agency to settle a judicial bureau judgment for less than the amount due and to retain a portion of the amount collected for its services.  The judgment amount shall be reduced in the judicial bureau records to reflect the settlement amount and the fee retained by the collection agency.

(e)  For purposes of civil contempt proceedings, venue shall be statewide.

(f)  Notwithstanding 32 V.S.A. § 502, the court administrator is authorized to contract with a third party to collect fines, penalties, and fees by credit card, debit card, charge card, prepaid card, stored value card, and direct bank account withdrawals or transfers, as authorized by 32 V.S.A. § 583, and to add on and collect a processing charge in an amount approved by the court administrator.

Sec. 6.  23 V.S.A. § 305a is added to read:

§ 305a.  –WHEN NOT ISSUED

The commissioner shall not renew the registration of a person who is the sole registrant after receiving notice from the judicial bureau that the person has not paid a judgment for a traffic violation.

Sec. 7.  32 V.S.A. § 509a is added to read:

§ 509a.  Judiciary overpayment; refund

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 509 of this title, when a person who owes money to the judiciary makes an overpayment, the judiciary shall forthwith refund to that person the amount of such overpayment; however, there shall be no obligation to refund sums in the amount of $10.00 or less.  If a person is owed a refund of more than $10.00 and cannot be located by the judiciary, the refund shall be submitted to the abandoned property procedure.  For refunds of $10.00 or less which are not demanded by the person within a year after the payment, the refund shall revert to the state and be deposited into the revenue fund where the original payment was deposited. 

Sec. 8.  32 V.S.A. § 583 is amended to read:

§ 583.  Credit card payments

(a)  A statewide officer or secretary of a state agency, commissioner of a state department, or the court administrator may accept payment of taxes, registration fees, license fees, penalties, fines, interest, charges, surcharges, or any other fees or amounts due the state by means of credit cards, debit cards, charge cards, prepaid cards, stored value cards, and direct bank account withdrawals or transfers.

(b)  The court administrator may not accept credit cards, debit cards, charge cards, prepaid cards, stored value cards, and direct bank account withdrawals or transfers for payments of fines, penalties or surcharges assessed by a circuit of the district court.  However, the court administrator may accept credit cards, debit cards, charge cards, prepaid cards, stored value cards, and direct bank account withdrawals or transfers for any payments to the Chittenden, Essex, and Washington circuits of the district court.

(c)  The state treasurer shall negotiate and contract with banks and bank credit card companies or others to provide as a method of payment to state agencies, or departments, or the judiciary the use of credit card or debit card accounts or direct bank account withdrawals or transfers, and may agree to pay such bank or other company a fee or percentage of the amount collected and remitted to the state.  The court administrator may so contract for the judiciary with the approval of the state treasurer.  Notwithstanding section 502 of this title, an agency, a department, or the judiciary may charge against such collections the percentage or fee imposed.

(d)(c)  The state treasurer shall assist each statewide officer, secretary, commissioner, and court administrator who elects to accept payments, as authorized by this section, with establishing procedures for accepting those payments.

(e)(d)  A statewide officer or secretary of a state agency, a commissioner of a state department, or the court administrator who has authority to accept payment of fees, penalties, fines, charges, surcharges, or any other amounts due the state by a credit card, debit card, charge card, prepaid card, or stored value card shall not charge or collect any additional amounts for using such card to make the payment unless the agency develops a policy regarding additional charges.  Each policy and recommended charge, except that which is adopted and recommended by the court administrator, shall be approved by the secretary of administration prior to applying the charge.  Any such charge shall approximate the cost of providing the service. 

(f)(e)  By January 15 of each year, the treasurer, with the assistance of the court administrator, shall file a report with the general assembly and the joint fiscal committee which:

* * *

Sec. 9.  DEBT COLLECTION BY JUDICIARY

The court administrator is authorized to send a notice to defendants who have failed to pay judicial bureau and district court judgments issued prior to September 25, 2006 to inform them of the judiciary’s intent to collect the debt through any authorized means, and that the debt will be subject to procedures for tax setoffs under 32 V.S.A. § 5941.  Concurrent with providing the notice to the debtor, the judiciary shall assess a $10.00 collection fee which shall be added to the judgment amount and deposited in the court technology special fund established pursuant to 4 V.S.A. § 27.  If the defendant satisfies the judgment within 20 days, the fee shall be waived.  The court administrator may charge the cost of preparing and sending the notice against revenues collected in this effort.  This authorization shall expire on June 30, 2009.

Sec. 10.  12 V.S.A. § 5540a is amended to read:

§ 5540a.  JURISDICTION OVER SMALL CLAIMS; ASSISTANT JUDGES; ADDISON, CHITTENDEN, FRANKLIN, GRAND ISLE, LAMOILLE, ORANGE, ORLEANS, WASHINGTON, WINDHAM, AND WINDSOR COUNTIES

(a)  Subject to the limitations in this section and notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, assistant judges of Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties sitting alone shall hear and decide small claims actions filed under this chapter with the appropriate superior court if the assistant judges first elect to successfully complete the training required in subsection (b) of this section.

(b)  With the exception of assistant judges authorized to preside in small claims matters prior to the effective date of this act who have successfully completed the testing requirements established herein, an assistant judge hearing cases under this section shall have completed at least 100 hours of relevant training and testing, and observed 20 hours of small claims hearings in accordance with the protocol for said training and observation which shall be established by a majority of the assistant judges of the state, which shall include attendance at colleges or classes available in various locations in and outside the state to lay judges.  An assistant judge who hears cases under this section shall complete 16 hours of continuing education every year relating to jurisdiction exercised under this section and shall file a certificate to such effect with the court administrator.  Training shall be paid for on a per capita basis of those judges electing to take the training by the county, which expenditure is hereby authorized.  Law clerk assistance available to superior court judges shall be available to the assistant judges.

(c)  A decision of an assistant judge shall be entered as a small claims judgment and may be appealed pursuant to section 5538 of this title.  The appeal shall be decided by the presiding judge.

(d)  An assistant judge upon successful completion of the training under subsection (b) of this section, shall cause the superior court clerk to notify the court administrator of the assistant judge's successful completion of training. Upon receipt of such notification, small claims cases which require a hearing shall first be set for hearing before an assistant judge in the superior court in the county and shall be heard by the assistant judge.  If the assistant judge is unavailable due to illness, vacation, administrative leave, disability, or disqualification, the administrative judge pursuant to section 22 of Title 4 may assign a judge, or appoint and assign a member of the Vermont bar to serve temporarily as an acting judge, to hear small claims cases in Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties.  No action filed or pending shall be heard at or transferred to any other location unless agreed to by the parties.  If both assistant judges of the county elect to successfully complete training to hear these matters, the senior assistant judge shall make the assignment of cases to be heard by each assistant judge.  The assistant judges, once qualified to preside in these matters, shall work with the court administrator's office and the administrative judge such that the scheduling of small claims cases before the assistant judges are at such times as to permit adequate current court personnel to be available when these cases are heard.

(e)  This section shall be repealed effective on July 1, 2008 July 1, 2011.

Sec. 11.  13 V.S.A. § 7043a is added to read:

§ 7043a.  Licenses or governmental contracts

(a)  As used in this section:

(1)  “Agency” means any unit of state government, including agencies, departments, boards, commissions, authorities, or public corporations.

(2)  “Contract” means a contract for the provision of goods, services, or real estate space.

(3)  “License” means any license, certification, or registration issued by an agency to conduct a trade or business, including a license to practice a profession or occupation, or a license required to engage in recreational activities, including a license to hunt, fish, or trap.

(b)  Every applicant for a license shall sign a statement that the applicant is in good standing with respect to any restitution order.  A license may not be issued or renewed without such a statement.

(c)  No agency shall enter into, extend, or renew any contract unless the person submits a statement that the person is in good standing with respect to any restitution order as of the date the contract is made.

(d)  For the purposes of this section, a person is in good standing with respect to any restitution order if:

(1)  60 days or fewer have elapsed since the date a restitution judgment was issued;

(2)  the person is in compliance with a repayment plan approved by the restitution unit; or

(3)  the person is in compliance with a court-ordered restitution judgment order.

Sec. 12.  15 V.S.A. § 798 is amended to read:

§ 798.  ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS; SUSPENSION OF LICENSES

(a)  Upon noncompliance with an order issued under section 606 of this title, a motion may be filed seeking an order for suspension of licenses under this section.  The motion shall be scheduled for hearing in accordance with the Vermont Rules of Family Proceedings within 30 days of the filing of the motion.  At a hearing under this subsection, the obligor shall have the opportunity to present evidence relating to the reasons for noncompliance.  An inability to comply shall be a defense in an action brought under this subsection.  The noncomplying party shall have the burden of demonstrating inability to comply.  An order issued under subsection (b) of this section is in addition to other remedies available at law.

(b)  Upon a finding of noncompliance with an order issued under section 606 of this title and a delinquency of at least one-quarter of the annual support obligation, a family court judge or magistrate, if assigned by the presiding family court judge, may order a civil suspension of a noncomplying party 's motor vehicle operator's license issued under chapter 9 of Title 23 or commercial driver license issued under chapter 39 of Title 23, recreational license, and any other license certification or registration issued by an agency to conduct a trade or business, including a license to practice a profession or occupation.

(c)  Upon receipt of a license suspension order issued under this section, the license issuing authority shall suspend the license according to the terms of the order.  Prior to suspending the license, the license issuing authority shall notify the license holder of the pending suspension and provide the license holder with an opportunity to contest the suspension based solely on the grounds of mistaken identity or compliance with the underlying child support order.  The license shall be reinstated within five days of a reinstatement order from the court or notification from the office of child support or the custodial parent, where the rights of that parent have not been assigned to the office of child support, that the parent is in compliance with the underlying child support order.  The license issuing authority shall charge a reinstatement fee as provided for in section 675 of Title 23, or as otherwise provided by law or rule.

(d)  The license issuing authority shall adopt procedural rules in accordance with the provisions of chapter 25 of Title 3 to implement the provisions of this section.

(e)  Notwithstanding the provisions of this section to the contrary, after notifying the obligor of the pending revocation or suspension and giving the obligor an opportunity to object and request a grievance hearing pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 4108 to contest the suspension on the grounds that the action is improper due to a mistake of fact, the office of child support may direct a licensing authority, with the exception of the department of motor vehicles, to revoke or suspend an obligor's right to a license,  and with respect to hunting, fishing and trapping, the right to hunt, fish and trap, without obtaining a modification of the court order if any amount due under the order has accumulated to one-twelfth of the annualized amount of child support.  All objections to the suspension shall be made to the office of child support and not to the licensing authority, and the licensing authority shall not be required to hold a hearing before suspending a license pursuant to this subsection.

(f)  A license shall be reinstated within five days of notification from the office of child support or the custodial parent, where the rights of that parent have not been assigned to the office of child support, that the obligor is in compliance with the underlying child support order or repayment plan.  The licensing authority shall charge a reinstatement fee as provided by law or rule.

Sec. 13.  APPROPRIATION FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVENTION

There is appropriated the amount of $190,000.00 from the general fund to the center for crime victims services.  The center shall use the funds to present grants to organizations that provide services to victims of domestic violence.  These funds shall be used for programs that are designed to prevent domestic violence and are targeted at the needs of children in families affected by domestic violence.  At the end of FY08, any unexpended portion of this appropriation shall be carried forward and used for the same purpose.

Sec. 14.  REPORTS

(a)(1)  The commissioner of the department of fish and wildlife, in consultation with the court administrator, the office of child support, the center for crime victims services, the department of motor vehicles, and the department of information and innovation, shall develop a proposal for an automated system for the department of fish and wildlife to suspend a license to hunt, fish, or trap for a violation of:

(A)  4 V.S.A. § 1110, relating to any unpaid judgment issued by the judicial bureau or district court for fines or penalties for a criminal offense;

(B)  13 V.S.A. § 7043, relating to failure to comply with a restitution order; and

(C)  15 V.S.A. §§ 795 and 798, relating to failure to comply with a child support order.

(2)  The commissioner shall report to the house and senate committees on judiciary and to legislative council not later than December 1, 2007 regarding the proposed automated system and any costs associated with implementation.

(b)  The commissioner of the department of motor vehicles and the court administrator shall report to the senate and house committees on judiciary no later than December 1, 2007 on methods to protect the interests of innocent owners when suspending the registrations of motor vehicles titled to more than one person on account of the failure of one of the titleholders to pay to the judicial bureau judgments for traffic violations.

(c)  The Vermont law school is requested to provide a report to the senate and house committees on judiciary no later than November 15, 2008 on the results and performance of assistant judges in deciding small claims cases.  The report shall include an analysis of a sufficient number of small claims decisions by assistant judges to permit a statistically supportable conclusion about whether the percentage of the decisions containing clear error is within a range which provides substantial justice to litigants. 

Sec. 15.  VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT STUDY COMMITTEE

(a)  A committee is established to study certain issues related to victims of sexual assault.  The committee shall examine:

(1)  the financial cost of forensic sexual assault examination and other health care needs of sexual assault victims, including follow-up care for victims undergoing PEP, best practices in other states, and whether the cost of forensic sexual assault examinations should be capped;

(2)  how forensic sexual assault examination kits are collected and transported by law enforcement and how the kits are received and processed by the Vermont Forensic Laboratory;

(3)  the currency of practice standards for sexual assault nurse examiners, oversight and enforcement of standards, and the training and certification opportunities available in Vermont;

(4)  the feasibility of instituting a pediatric sexual assault examination program in Vermont.  The committee shall review the study conducted by the Vermont children’s alliance and consult with other state and national organizations with expertise in pediatric sexual assault examiner programs;

(5)  whether a victim of sexual assault shall be considered eligible for the victims compensation program based solely on a report to a sexual assault nurse examiner;

(6)  the current funding sources for the sexual assault nurse examiner program and the need for additional resources.

(b)  The committee shall consist of the following members:

(1)  One member appointed by the Vermont center for crime victim services, who shall serve as co-chair of the committee.

(2)  One member appointed by the Vermont center for the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse, who shall serve as co-chair of the committee.

(3)  One member appointed by the Vermont hospital association.

(4)  One member appointed by the Vermont network against domestic and sexual violence.

(5)  A survivor of sexual assault appointed by the Vermont center for crime victim services.

(6)  One member appointed by the department of public safety.

(7)  The director of the Vermont forensic laboratory.

(8)  One member of the Vermont children’s alliance.

(9)  A pediatrician appointed by the Vermont medical society.

(10) A sexual assault nurse examiner appointed by the sexual assault nurse examiner advisory board.

(11)  One member of the senate appointed by the committee on committees.

(c)  The committee shall have the assistance and cooperation of all state and local agencies and departments.  The center for crime victim services shall convene the meetings and provide professional and administrative support for the committee.

(d)(1)  Members of the committee who are not state employees shall be entitled to per diem compensation and reimbursement for expenses through the center for crime victim services to the same extent that legislative members of committees are entitled to such compensation and reimbursement under 2 V.S.A. § 406. 

(2)  For attendance at a meeting when the general assembly is not in session, the legislative member of the committee shall be entitled to per diem compensation and reimbursement for expenses as provided by 2 V.S.A. § 406.

(e)  The committee shall present its findings and recommendations, including proposals for legislative action, to the general assembly no later than December 1, 2007.

Sec. 16.  Sec. 9 of No. 169 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006) is amended to read:

Sec. 9.  DISSEMINATION OF ELECTRONIC CASE RECORDS

The judiciary shall not permit public access via the internet to criminal case records or family court case records prior to June 1, 2007 July 1, 2008.  The court may permit criminal justice agencies, as defined in 20 V.S.A. § 2056a, internet access to criminal case records for criminal justice purposes, as defined in section 2056a. 

Sec. 17.  EFFECTIVE DATE

(a)  In Sec. 5 of this act, 23 V.S.A. § 2307(b), the provisions relating to the denial of a motor vehicle registration, and Sec. 6 in its entirety shall take effect January 1, 2010. 

(b)  Secs. 3 and 11 shall take effect January 1, 2008.

(c)  Sec. 16 shall take effect on passage.

(d)  All other sections shall take effect July 1, 2007.

and, that upon passage, the title shall read:  “AN ACT RELATING TO THE ADMINISTRATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF JUDICIAL FINES AND JURISDICTION OF ASSISTANT JUDGES OVER SMALL CLAIMS”

(Committee Vote: 5-0-0)

Reported favorably by Senator Sears for the Committee on Appropriations.

(Committee vote: 6-0-1)

(No House amendments.)

H. 520

An act relating to the conservation of energy and increasing the generation of electricity within the state by use of renewable resources.

Reported favorably with recommendation of proposal of amendment by Senator Lyons for the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

The Committee recommends that the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

* * * Renewable Energy Goal * * *

Sec. 1.  10 V.S.A. § 579 is added to read:

§ 579.  25 BY 25 STATE GOAL

(a)  It is a goal of the state, by the year 2025, to produce 25 percent of the energy consumed within the state through the use of renewable energy sources, particularly from Vermont’s farms and forests.

(b)  By no later than January 15, 2008, the commissioner of public service, in consultation with the secretary of agriculture, food and markets and the commissioner of forests, parks and recreation, shall present to the committees on agriculture and natural resources and energy of the general assembly a plan for attaining this goal.  Plan updates shall be presented no less frequently than every three years, thereafter, and a progress report shall be due annually on January 15.

(c)  By no later than January 15, 2008, the department of public service shall present to the legislative committees on natural resources and energy an updated comprehensive energy plan which shall give due consideration to the public engagement process required under 30 V.S.A. § 254 and under Sec. 2 of No. 208 of the Acts of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006).  By that time, the department of public service shall incorporate plans adopted under this section into the state comprehensive energy plan adopted under 30 V.S.A. § 202b.

* * * Act 250 Definition of Farming * * *

Sec. 2.  10 V.S.A. § 6001(22) is amended to read:

(22)  “Farming” means:

(A)  the cultivation or other use of land for growing food, fiber, Christmas trees, maple sap, or horticultural and orchard crops; or

(B)  the raising, feeding, or management of livestock, poultry, fish, or bees; or

(C)  the operation of greenhouses; or

(D)  the production of maple syrup; or

(E)  the on‑site storage, preparation and sale of agricultural products principally produced on the farm; or

(F)  the on‑site production and sale of fuel or power from agricultural products or wastes principally produced on the farm; or

(G)  the raising, feeding, or management of four or more equines owned or boarded by the farmer, including training, showing, and providing instruction and lessons in riding, training, and the management of equines.

* * * Agriculture Development Funds * * *

Sec. 3.  6 V.S.A. § 4710(g)(3) is amended to read:

(3)  Assistance from the agricultural economic development special account shall be available for:

(A)  Business and technical assistance for research and planning to aid a farmer or a group of farmers in developing business enterprises that harvest biomass, convert biomass to energy, or produce biofuel;

(B)  Implementation Cost‑effective implementation assistance to leverage other sources of capital to assist a farmer or group of farmers in purchasing equipment, technology, or other assistance to produce agricultural energy, harvest biomass, or convert biomass into energy, or enable installation and usage of wind, solar, or other technology that relies on a resource that is being consumed at a harvest rate at or below its natural regeneration rate pursuant to 30 V.S.A. § 8002(2); and

* * *

* * * Commercial Building Energy Standards * * *

Sec. 4.  21 V.S.A. § 268 is amended to read:

§ 268.  COMMERCIAL BUILDING ENERGY STANDARDS

(a)  Definitions.  For purposes of this subchapter, “commercial buildings” means all buildings that are not residential buildings as defined in subdivision 266(a)(2) of this title or farm structures as defined in 24 V.S.A. § 4413.

(1)  The following commercial buildings, or portions of those buildings, separated from the remainder of the building by thermal envelope assemblies complying with this section shall be exempt from the building thermal envelope provisions of the standards:

(A)  Those that do not contain conditioned space.

(B)  Those with a peak design rate of energy usage less than an amount specified in the commercial building energy standards (CBES) adopted under subsection (b) of this section.

(2)  These standards shall not apply to equipment or portions of building energy systems that use energy primarily to provide for industrial, or manufacturing, or commercial processes.

(b)  Adoption of commercial building energy standards.  Commercial building construction with respect to which no state or any local building permit application or application for construction plan approval by the commissioner of public safety pursuant to 20 V.S.A. chapter 173 has been submitted on or after January 1, 2007 shall be designed and constructed in substantial compliance with the standards contained in the 2005 Vermont Guidelines for Energy Efficient Commercial Construction, as those standards may be amended by administrative rule adopted by the commissioner of public service.

(c)  Revision and interpretation of energy standards.  On or about January 1, 2009, and at least every three years thereafter, the commissioner of public service shall amend and update the CBES by means of administrative rules adopted in accordance with 3 V.S.A. chapter 25.  At least a year prior to final adoption of each required revision of the CBES, the department of public service shall convene an advisory committee to include one or more mortgage lenders,; builders,; building designers,; architects; civil, mechanical, and electrical engineers; utility representatives,; and other persons with experience and expertise, such as consumer advocates and energy conservation experts.  The advisory committee may provide the commissioner of public service with additional recommendations for revision of the CBES.

(1)  Any amendments to the CBES shall be:

(A)  Consistent with duly adopted state energy policy, as specified in 30 V.S.A. § 202a.

(B)  Evaluated relative to their technical applicability and reliability.

(2)  Each time the CBES are amended by the commissioner of public service, the amended CBES shall become effective upon a date specified in the adopted rule, a date that shall not be less than three months after the date of adoption.  Persons submitting an application for any state or local permit authorizing commercial construction, or an application for construction plan approval by the commissioner of public safety pursuant to 20 V.S.A. chapter 173, before the effective date of the amended CBES shall have the option of complying with the applicable provisions of the earlier or the amended CBES.  After the effective date of the original or the amended CBES, any person submitting such an application for any state or local permit authorizing commercial construction in an area subject to the CBES shall comply with the most recent version of the CBES.

(3)  The advisory committee convened under this subsection, in preparing for the CBES updates, shall advise the department of public service with respect to the coordination of the CBES amendments with existing and proposed demand‑side management programs offered in the state.

(4)  The commissioner of public service is authorized to adopt rules interpreting and implementing the CBES.

(5)  The commissioner of public service may grant written variances or exemptions from the CBES or rules adopted under this section where strict compliance would entail practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship, or is otherwise found unwarranted, provided that:

(A)  Any such variance or exemption shall be consistent with state energy policy, as specified in 30 V.S.A. § 202a.

(B)  Any petitioner for such a variance or exemption can demonstrate that the methods, means, or practices proposed to be taken in lieu of compliance with the rule or rules provide, in the opinion of the commissioner, equal energy efficiency to that attained by compliance with the rule or rules.

(C)  A copy of any such variance or exemption shall be recorded by the petitioner in the land records of the city or town in which the building is located.

(D)  A record of each variance or exemption shall be maintained by the commissioner, together with the certifications received by the commissioner.

(d)  Certification requirement.  Commercial

(1)  The design of commercial buildings shall be certified by the primary designer as compliant with CBES in accordance with this subsection.  A except as compliance is excused by a variance or exemption issued under subdivision (c)(5) of this section.  If applicable law requires that the primary designer be a licensed professional engineer, licensed architect, or other licensed professional, a member of a pertinent licensed profession shall issue this certification.  Otherwise, a certification may be issued by a builder, a licensed professional engineer, or a licensed architect.  If certification is not issued by a licensed professional engineer or a licensed architect, it shall be issued by the builder.  Any certification shall be accompanied by an affidavit and shall certify that the designer acted in accordance with the designer’s professional duty of care in designing the building, and that the commercial construction meets building was designed in substantial compliance with the requirements of the CBES.  The department of public service will develop and make available to the public a certificate that lists key features requirements of the CBES, sets forth certifying language in accordance with this subdivision and requires disclosure of persons relied upon by the primary designer who have contracted to indemnify the primary designer for damages arising out of that reliance.  Any person certifying under this subdivision shall use this certificate or one substantially like it to certify compliance with CBES satisfy these certification obligations.  Certification shall be issued by completing and signing a certificate and permanently affixing it to the outside of the heating or cooling equipment, to the electrical service panel located inside the building, or in a visible location in the vicinity of one of these three areas.  The certificate shall certify that the building has been constructed in compliance with the requirements of the CBES.  The person certifying under this subsection shall provide a copy of each certificate to the department of public service and shall assure that a certificate is recorded and indexed in the town land records.  A builder may contract with a licensed professional engineer or a licensed architect to issue certification and to indemnify the builder from any liability to the owner of the commercial construction caused by noncompliance with the CBES.  In certifying under this subsection, the certifying person may reasonably rely on one or more supporting affidavits received from other persons that contributed to the design affirming that the portions of the design produced by them were properly certifiable under this subsection.  The certifying person may contract for indemnification from those on which the person relies pursuant to this subdivision (1) against damages arising out of that reliance.  This indemnification shall not limit any rights of action of an aggrieved party.

(2)  The construction of a commercial building shall be certified as compliant with CBES in accordance with this subsection, except as compliance is excused by a variance or exemption issued under subdivision (c)(5) of this section.  This certification shall be issued by the general contractor, construction manager, or other party having primary responsibility for coordinating the construction of the subject building, or in the absence of such a person, by the owner of the building.  Any certification shall be accompanied by an affidavit and shall certify that the subject commercial building was constructed in accordance with the ordinary standard of care applicable to the participating construction trades, and that the subject commercial building was constructed substantially in accordance with the construction documents including the plans and specifications certified under subdivision (1) of this subsection for that building.  The department of public service will develop and make available to the public a certificate that sets forth certifying language in accordance with this subdivision, and that requires disclosure of persons who have been relied upon by the person with primary responsibility for coordinating the construction of the building and who have contracted to indemnify that person for damages arising out of that reliance.  The person certifying under this subdivision shall use that certificate or one substantially like it to satisfy these certification obligations.  Certification shall be issued by completing and signing a certificate and permanently affixing it to the outside of the heating or cooling equipment, to the electrical service panel located inside the building, or in a visible location in the vicinity of one of these three areas.  In certifying under this subdivision, the certifying person may reasonably rely on one or more supporting affidavits received from subcontractors or others engaged in the construction of the subject commercial building affirming that the portions of the building constructed by them were properly certifiable under this subdivision.  The certifying person may contract for indemnification from those on which the person relies pursuant to this subdivision (2) against damages arising out of that reliance. This indemnification shall not limit any rights of action of an aggrieved party.

(3)  Any person certifying under this subsection shall provide a copy of the person’s certificate and any accompanying affidavit to the department of public service.

(4)  A certificate issued pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection and a certificate issued pursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection shall be conditions precedent to issuance by the commissioner of public safety (or a municipal official acting under 20 V.S.A. § 2736) of any final occupancy permit required by the rules of the commissioner of public safety for use or occupancy of a commercial building that is also a public building as defined in 20 V.S.A. § 2730(a).

(e)  Action Private right of action for damages against a certifier.

(1)  Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, a person aggrieved by noncompliance with this section another person’s breach of that other person’s representations contained in a certification or supporting affidavit issued or received as provided under subsection (d) of this section, within ten years after the earlier of completion of construction or occupancy of the affected commercial building or portion of that building, may bring a civil action in superior court against a person who has the an obligation of certifying compliance under subsection (d) of this section alleging breach of the representations contained in that person’s certification.  This action may seek injunctive relief, damages arising from the aggrieved party’s reliance on the accuracy of those representations, court costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees in an amount to be determined by the court.  As used in this subdivision, “damages” means:

(A)  includes costs incidental to increased energy consumption; and

(B)  labor, materials, and other expenses associated with bringing the structure into compliance with CBES in effect on the date construction was commenced.

(2)  A person’s failure to affix the certification as required by this section shall not be an affirmative defense in such an action against the person.

(3)  The rights and remedies created by this section shall not be construed to limit any rights and remedies otherwise provided by law.

(4)  The right of action established in this subsection may not be waived by contract or other agreement.

(5)  It shall be a defense to an action under this subsection that either at the time of completion or at any time thereafter, the commercial building or portion of building covered by a certificate under subsection (d) of this section, as actually constructed, met or exceeded the overall performance standards established in the CBES in effect on the date construction was commenced.

(f)  Violation of section State or local enforcements.  Any person who falsely certifies knowingly makes a false certification under subsection (d) of this section, or any builder party who fails to certify under subsection (d) of this section when required to do so, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $250.00 per day, up to $10,000.00 for each year the violation continuesEach violation shall constitute a separate offense, and each day that the violation continues shall constitute a separate offense.

(g)  Title validity not affected.  A defect in marketable title shall not be created by a failure to record a variance or exemption pursuant to subdivision (c)(5) of this section, by a failure to issue certification or a certificate, as required under subsection (d) of this section, or by a failure under that subsection to:  affix a certificate; or provide a copy of a certificate to the department of public service; or record and index a certificate in the town records.

* * * Smart Metering * * *

Sec. 5.  SMART METERING INVESTIGATION

(a)  The public service board shall investigate opportunities for Vermont electric utilities cost‑effectively to install advanced “smart” metering equipment capable of sending two‑way signals and sufficient to support advanced time‑of‑use pricing during periods of critical peaks or hourly differentiated time‑of‑use pricing. 

(b)  The scope of the investigation shall include the following:

(1)  The current status of implementing either advanced time‑of‑use rate designs or advanced metering by Vermont utilities.

(2)  Analysis of experience from other state jurisdictions and individual utility experience in planning and implementing programs that promote advanced time‑of‑use rate designs or advanced metering.

(3)  Opportunities for exploring ways to design pilot programs and share experience among Vermont utilities with the deployment of advanced meters and rate designs.

(4)  Analysis of all costs and benefits of installing advanced metering equipment, giving due consideration to the circumstances that differentiate Vermont utilities.

(5)  Analysis of opportunities for reducing rates in the short and long term or mitigating rate impacts of investments in advanced metering and ancillary equipment through advanced time‑of‑use rate designs enabled by these investments.

(6)  Analysis of constraints or barriers to implementing this subsection, or opportunities presented by further deferring plans or commitments toward advanced metering equipment or rates.

(7)  Analysis of all supporting and ancillary equipment, equipment standards, and efficiency programs necessary to ensure that customers are adequately and effectively empowered to use and respond cost‑effectively to price signals made possible through advanced metering equipment.

(c)  After investigation, in utility territories where the board concludes it appropriate and cost‑effective, the board shall require each Vermont utility to file plans for investment and deployment of appropriate technologies and plans and strategies for implementing advanced pricing with a goal of ensuring that all ratepayer classes have an opportunity to receive and participate effectively in advanced time‑of‑use pricing plans.

(d)  By January 15, 2008, the public service board shall report to the senate and house committees on natural resources and energy with regard to interim progress in its investigation and measures already implemented under this section.

(e)  By June 15, 2008, the board shall issue a final report and plan for implementation. 

* * * Conservation Rates * * *

Sec. 6.  30 V.S.A. § 218(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The department of public service shall propose, and the board through the establishment of rates of return, rates, tolls, charges, or schedules shall encourage the implementation by electric and gas utilities of energy‑efficiency and load management measures which will be cost‑effective for the utilities and their customers on a life cycle cost basis.  The board shall approve rate designs to encourage the efficient use of natural gas and electricity, including consideration of the creation of an inclining block rate structure for residential rate customers with an initial block of low‑cost power available to all residences. 

(1)  To implement the requirements of this subsection, the public service board shall host one or more workshops to examine the following:

(A)  the parameters for residential inclining block rate designs;

(B)  alternative rate designs, such as critical peak pricing programs or more widespread use of time‑of‑day rates, that would encourage more efficient use of electricity;

(C)  the possible inclusion of exemptions from otherwise applicable inclining block rates or rate designs to encourage efficiency for situations in which special health needs or another extraordinary situation presents such a significant demand for electricity that the board determines use of those rates would cause undue financial hardship for the customer;

(2)  By June 15, 2008, the board shall issue a report and plan for implementation based upon the results of its investigation.  The plan shall require each retail company to upgrade its rates as necessary to implement  new rate designs appropriate to encourage efficient energy use, which shall include residential inclining block rates, if the board determines that those rates would be appropriate, by a specified date, or as part of its next rate‑related appearance before the board, or according to a timetable otherwise specified by the board.  In implementing these rate designs, the board shall consider the appropriateness of phasing in the rate design changes to allow large users of energy a reasonable opportunity to employ methods of conservation and energy efficiency in advance of the full effect of the changes.

* * * Net Metering * * *

Sec. 7.  30 V.S.A. § 219a is amended to read:

§ 219a.  SELF‑GENERATION AND NET METERING

(a)  As used in this section:

(1)  “Customer” means a retail electric consumer who uses a net metering system.

(2)  “Net metering” means measuring the difference between the electricity supplied to a customer and the electricity fed back by a net metering system during the customer’s billing period:

(A)  using a single, nondemand meter or such other meter that would otherwise be applicable to the customer’s usage but for the use of net metering; or

(B)  on farm or group systems, using multiple meters as specified in this chapter.  The calculation will be made by converting all meters to a nondemand, nontime‑of‑day meter, and equalizing them to the tariffed kilowatt‑hour rate.

* * *

(4)  “Farm system” means a facility of no more than 150 250 kilowatts (AC) output capacity, except as provided in subdivision (k)(5) of this section, that generates electric energy on a farm operated by a person principally engaged in the business of farming, as that term is defined in Regulation 1.175‑3 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, from the anaerobic digestion of agricultural products, byproducts, or wastes, or other renewable sources as defined in subdivision (3)(E) of this subsection, intended to offset the meters designated under subdivision (g)(1)(A) of this section on the farm or has entered into a contract as specified in subsection (k) of this section.

(b)  A customer shall pay the same rates, fees, or other payments and be subject to the same conditions and requirements as all other purchasers from the electric company in the same rate‑class, except as provided for in this section, and except for appropriate and necessary conditions approved by the board for the safety and reliability of the electric distribution system.

* * *

(f)  Consistent with the other provisions of this title, electric energy measurement for net metering farm or group net metering systems shall be calculated in the following manner:

(1)  Net metering customers that are farm or group net metering systems may credit on‑site generation against all meters designated to the farm system or group net metering system under subdivision (g)(1)(A) of this section.

(2)  Electric energy measurement for farm or group net metering systems shall be calculated by subtracting total usage of all meters included in the farm or group net metering system from total generation by the farm or group net metering system.  If the electricity generated by the farm or group net metering system is less than the total usage of all meters included in the farm or group net metering system during the billing period, the farm or group net metering system shall be credited for any accumulated kilowatt‑hour credit and then billed for the net electricity supplied by the electric company, in accordance with the procedures in subsection (g) of this section.

(3)  If electricity generated by the farm or group net metering system exceeds the electricity supplied by the electric company:

(A)  The farm or group net metering system shall be billed for the appropriate charges for each meter for that month, in accordance with subsection (b) of this section.

(B)  Excess kilowatt‑hours generated during the billing period shall be added to the accumulated balance with this kilowatt‑hour credit appearing on the bill for the following billing period.

(C)  Any accumulated kilowatt‑hour credits shall be used within 12 months or shall revert to the electric company without any compensation to the farm or group net metering system.  Power reverting to the electric company under this subdivision (3) shall be considered SPEED resources under section 8005 of this title.

(g)(1)  In addition to any other requirements of section 248 of this title and this section and board rules thereunder, before a net metering farm or group net metering system including more than one meter may be formed and served by an electric company, the proposed net metering farm or group net metering system shall file with the board, with copies to the department and the serving electric company, the following information:

(A)  the meters to be included in the farm or group net metering system, which shall be associated with the farm buildings and residences owned or occupied by the person operating the farm or group net metering system, or the person’s family or farm employees, or other members of the group, identified by account number and location;

(B)  a method for adding and removing meters included in the farm or group net metering system;

(C)  a designated person responsible for all communications from the farm or group net metering system to the serving electric company, for receiving and paying bills for any service provided by the serving electric company for the farm or group net metering system, and for receiving any other communications regarding the farm or group net metering system net metering; and

(D)  a binding process for the resolution of any disputes within the farm or group net metering system relating to net metering that does not rely on the serving electric company, the board, or the department.

(2)  The farm or group net metering system shall, at all times, maintain a written designation to the serving electric company of a person who shall be the sole person authorized to receive and pay bills for any service provided by the serving electric company, and for receiving to receive any other communications regarding the farm system, the group net metering system, or net metering.

(3)  The serving utility shall implement appropriate changes to the farm system or group net metering system within 30 days after receiving written notification from the designated person.  However, written notification of a change in the person designated under subdivision (2) of this subsection shall be effective upon receipt by the serving utility.  The serving utility shall not be liable for action based on such notification, but shall make any necessary corrections and bill adjustments to implement revised notifications.

(4)  Pursuant to subsection 231(a) of this title, after such notice and opportunity for hearing as the board may require, the board may revoke a certificate of public good issued to a farm or group net metering system.

(5)  A group net metering system may consist only of customers that are located within the service area of the same electric company.  Various buildings owned by a municipality may constitute a group net metering system.  If it determines that it would promote the general good, the board shall permit a noncontiguous group of net metering customers to comprise a group net metering system.

(h)(1)  An electric company:

(A)  Shall make net metering available to any customer using a net metering system, group net metering system, or farm system on a first‑come, first‑served basis until the cumulative output capacity of net metering systems equals 1.0 2.0 percent of the distribution company’s peak demand during 1996; or the peak demand during the most recent full calendar year, whichever is greater.  The board may raise the 1.0 2.0 percent cap.  In determining whether to raise the cap, the board shall consider the following:

(i)  the costs and benefits of net metering systems already connected to the system; and

(ii)  the potential costs and benefits of exceeding the cap, including potential short and long‑term impacts on rates, distribution system costs and benefits, reliability and diversification costs and benefits;

(B)  Shall allow net metering systems to be interconnected using a kilowatt‑hour meter capable of registering the flow of electricity in two directions or such other comparably equipped meter that would otherwise be applicable to the customer’s usage but for the use of net metering;

(C)  May, at its own expense, and with the written consent of the customer, install one or more additional meters to monitor the flow of electricity in each direction;

(D)  Shall Except as otherwise provided in this section, shall charge the customer a minimum monthly fee that is the same as for other customers of the electric distribution company in the same rate class, but shall not charge the customer any additional standby, capacity, interconnection, or other fee or charge;

(E)  May require a customer to comply with generation interconnection, safety, and reliability requirements, as determined by the public service board by rule or order, and may charge reasonable fees for interconnection, establishment, special metering, meter reading, accounting, account correcting, and account maintenance of net metering arrangements of greater than 15 kilowatt (AC) capacity;

(F)  May charge, if the capacity of the distribution system is insufficient for the designed generation, subject to determination by the board, a reasonable fee to cover the cost of electric company improvements necessary to distribute power;

(G)  May require that all meters included within a farm or group net metering system be read on the same billing cycle;

(H)  May book and defer, with carrying costs, additional incremental costs, to the extent that such costs are not recovered through charges, authorized in subdivisions (D), (E), and (F) of this subdivision (1), directly related to implementing net metering of greater than 15 kilowatt (AC) capacity;

(I)  Shall receive from a farm system, which is designed to produce less energy than the total annual load of the meters identified in subdivision (g)(1)(A) of this section, any tradeable renewable credits for which the farm  system is eligible.  All other farm systems shall retain any tradeable renewable credits for which the farm is eligible;.

(2)  All such requirements shall be pursuant to and governed by a tariff approved by the board and any applicable board rule, which tariffs and rules shall be designed in a manner reasonably likely to facilitate net metering.

* * *

(j)  Notwithstanding the provisions of this section that define a net metering system as being of no more than 15 kilowatts (AC) capacity, the board may allow net metering for up to ten 15 systems per year for customers that produce more than 15 kilowatts (AC) capacity, but do not produce more than 150 250 kilowatts of power and are not farm systems.

(k)  Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (f) and (g) of this section, an electric company may contract to purchase all or a portion of the output products from a farm or group net metering system, provided:

(1)  the farm or group net metering system obtains a certificate of public good under the terms of subsections (c) and (d) of this section;

(2)  any contracted power shall be subject to the limitations set forth in subdivision (h)(1) of this section;

(3)  any contract shall be subject to interconnection and metering requirements in subdivisions (h)(1)(C) and (i)(2) and (3) of this section;

(4)  any contract may permit all or a portion of the tradeable renewable energy credits for which the farm or group net metering system is eligible to be transferred to the electric company;

(5)  the output capacity of a system may exceed 150 250 kilowatts, provided:

(A)  the contract assigns the amount of power to be net metered;

(B)  the net metered amount does not exceed 150 250 kilowatts; and

(C)  only the amount assigned to net metering is assessed to the cap provided in subdivision (h)(1)(A) of this section.

* * * Temporary Meteorological Stations * * *

Sec. 8.  30 V.S.A. § 246 is added to read:

§ 246.  TEMPORARY SITING OF METEOROLOGICAL STATIONS

(a)  For purposes of this section, a “meteorological station” consists of one temporary tower, which may include guy wires, and attached instrumentation to collect and record wind speed, wind direction, and atmospheric conditions.

(b)  The public service board shall establish by rule or order standards and procedures governing application for, and issuance or revocation of, a certificate of public good for the temporary installation of one or more meteorological stations under the provisions of section 248 of this title.  A meteorological station shall be deemed to promote the public good of the state if it is in compliance with the criteria of this section and the board rules or orders.  An applicant for a certificate of public good for a meteorological station shall be exempt from the requirements of subsection 202(f) of this title.

(c)  In developing rules or orders, the board:

(1)  Shall develop a simple application form and shall require that completed applications be filed with the board, the department of public service, the agency of natural resources, and the municipality in which the meteorological station is proposed to be located.

(2)  Shall require that if no objections are filed within 30 days of the board’s receipt of a complete application and the board determines that the applicant has met all of the requirements of section 248 of this title, the certificate of public good shall be issued for a period that the board finds reasonable, but in no event for more than five years.  Upon request of an applicant, the board may renew a certificate of public good.  Upon expiration of the certificate, the meteorological station and all associated structures and material shall be removed, and the site shall be restored substantially to its preconstruction condition.

(3)  May waive the requirements of section 248 of this title that are not applicable to meteorological stations, including criteria that are generally applicable to public service companies as defined in this title.  The board shall not waive review regarding whether construction will have an undue adverse effect on esthetics, historic sites, air and water purity, the natural environment, and the public health and safety.

(4)  Shall seek to simplify the application and review process, as appropriate, in conformance with this section.

(d)  A proposal for decision shall be issued within five months of when the board receives a completed application for a certificate of public good for the temporary installation of one or more meteorological stations under the provisions of section 248 of this title.

* * * Renewable Energy Pricing and Portfolio Standards * * *

Sec. 9.  30 V.S.A. § 8002(4) is amended to read:

(4)  “New renewable energy” means renewable energy produced by a generating resource coming into service after December 31, 2004.  This may include the additional energy from an existing renewable facility retrofitted with advanced technologies or otherwise operated, modified, or expanded to increase the kwh output of the facility in excess of an historical baseline established by calculating the average output of that facility for the 10‑year period that ended December 31, 2004.  If the production of new renewable energy through retrofitting expansion involves combustion of the resource, the system also must result in an incrementally higher level of energy conversion efficiency or significantly reduced emissions.  For the purposes of this chapter, renewable energy refers to either “existing renewable energy” or “new renewable energy.”

Sec. 10.  30 V.S.A. § 8003 is amended to read:

§ 8003.  RENEWABLE ENERGY PRICING

(a)  Upon petition of an electric company subject to this title, upon request of the department of public service, or on its own initiative, the public service board may approve one or more renewable pricing programs for one or more electric utilities; provided, however, in the case of a municipal plant or department formed under local charter or chapter 79 of this title, or an electric cooperative formed under chapter 81 of this title, any renewable pricing program approved by the board shall also be approved by a majority of the voters of a municipality or cooperative voting upon the question at a duly warned annual or special meeting held for that purpose.  Unless the board finds good cause to exempt a utility, by no later than July 1, 2008, each electric utility, municipal department formed under local charter or chapter 79 of this title, and each electric cooperative formed under chapter 81 of this title shall implement a renewable energy pricing program under this section for its customers, or shall offer customers the option of making a voluntary contribution to the Vermont clean energy development fund established under 10 V.S.A. § 6523.  Such renewable energy pricing programs may include, but are not limited to, tariffs, standard special contracts, or other arrangements whose purpose is to increase the company’s reliance on, or the customer’s support of, renewable sources of energy or the type and quantity of renewable energy resources available.

* * *

(f)  Renewable pricing programs offered by a company shall be available to such customer classes as the board may determine.

(g)  The board shall consider the following factors in deciding whether and upon what conditions to approve a proposed renewable energy pricing program:

(1)  minimization of marketing and administrative expenses;

(2)  auditing or certification of sources of energy or tradeable renewable energy credits;

(3)  marketing and promotion plans;

(4)  effectiveness of the program in meeting the goals of promoting renewable energy generation and public understanding of renewable energy sources in Vermont;

(5)  retention by the program of renewable energy production incentives, tax incentives and other incentives earned or otherwise obtained by energy resources acquired pursuant to or as part of a renewable energy pricing program approved under this section to reduce the cost of any premiums paid under this section; and

(6)  costs imposed on nonparticipating customers arising on account of the implementation of the voluntary renewable energy pricing program.

Sec. 11.  30 V.S.A. § 8004(e) is amended to read:

(e)  In lieu of, or in addition to purchasing tradeable renewable energy credits to satisfy the portfolio requirements of this section, a retail electricity provider in this state may pay to a renewable energy fund established by the public service board the Vermont clean energy development fund established under 10 V.S.A. § 6523 an amount per kilowatt hour as established by the board.  As an alternative, the board may require any proportion of this amount to be paid to the energy conservation fund established under subsection 209(d) of this title.

* * * SPEED Program * * *

Sec. 12.  30 V.S.A. § 8005 is amended to read:

§ 8005.  SUSTAINABLY PRICED ENERGY ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT (SPEED) PROGRAM

* * *

(b)  The SPEED program shall be established, by rule, order, or contract, by the public service board by January 1, 2007.  As part of the SPEED program, the public service board may, and in the case of subdivisions (2) and (3) of this subsection shall:

* * *

(2)  allow the developer of a facility that is one megawatt or less, and is a qualifying SPEED resource or a nonqualifying SPEED resource, to sell that power under a long term contract that is established at a specified margin below the hourly spot market price determined by the board to be adequate to promote SPEED resource development while remaining consistent with the principles of least‑cost energy services under section 218c of this title.  For purposes of this section, a long‑term contract should be 15 years or greater unless the board finds good cause for a shorter term;

(3)  encourage Vermont’s retail electricity providers to secure long‑term  contracts, at stable prices, for renewable energy that are anticipated to be below the long‑term market price, over the lives of the projects qualifying SPEED resources.  The board shall create a standard contract price, or a set of maximum and minimum provisions, or both, for qualifying SPEED resources over 1 MW of capacity.  In setting a standard contract price for a qualifying SPEED resource, the board shall consider the goal of developing qualified SPEED resources, least cost provision of energy service under section 218c, and the impact on electric rates.  The board may create a competitive bid process through which to select a portion of those contracts;

* * *

(d)(1)  The public service board shall meet on or before January 1, 2012, and open a proceeding, and issue findings determining to determine the total amount of qualifying SPEED resources that have come into service or are projected to come into service during the period of time between January 1, 2005 and January 1, 2013 been supplied to Vermont retail electricity providers or have been issued a certificate of public good.  If the board finds that the amount of qualifying SPEED resources coming into service during that time or having been issued a certificate of public good after January 1, 2005 and before July 1, 2012 equals or exceeds total statewide growth in electric energy usage retail sales during the period of time between January 1, 2005 and January 1, 2012 that time, and in addition, at least five percent of the 2005 total statewide electric retail sales is provided by qualified SPEED resources, or if it finds that the amount of qualifying SPEED resources equals or exceeds 10 percent of total statewide electric energy usage retail sales for calendar year 2005, the portfolio standards established under this chapter shall not be in force.  The board shall make its determination by July 1, 2012 January 1, 2013.  If the board finds that the goal established has not been met, one year after the board’s determination the portfolio standards established under subsection 8004(b) of this title shall take effect.

(2)  A state goal is to assure that 20 percent of total statewide electric retail sales before July 1, 2017 shall be generated by speed resources.  The public service board shall report to the house and senate committees on natural resources and energy and to the joint energy committee by December 15, 2012 with regard to the state’s progress in meeting this goal.  In addition, the board shall report to the the house and senate committees on natural resources and energy and to the joint energy committee by December 15, 2014 with regard to the state’s progress in meeting this goal and, if necessary, shall include any appropriate recommendations for measures that will make attaining the goal more likely.

(3)  For the purposes of the determination to be made under this subsection, electricity produced at all facilities owned by or under long-term contract to Vermont retail electricity providers, whether it is generated inside or outside Vermont, that is new renewable energy shall be counted in the calculations under subdivision subdivisions (d)(1) and (2) of this section.

* * *

* * * Assistance * * *

Sec. 13.  REPORTS ON OMBUDSMAN AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE FOR COMMUNITIES

Technical assistance.  By no later than January 15, 2008, the public service department, after consultation with the public service board and the clean energy development fund investment committee established under 10 V.S.A. § 6523(e)(1)(B), shall report to the legislative committees on natural resources and energy with a recommended program by which the state may best:

(1)  Establish and fund an office of ombudsman, which would be charged with assisting those who desire to develop renewable energy projects in dealing with the regulatory process.  In developing the proposal, the department shall consult with the agency of natural resources with respect to how to assist individuals seeking a certificate of public good for a mini‑hydroelectric facility and those seeking water quality certification, and shall consider how best to coordinate services with the ombudsman for renewable energy at the agency of agriculture, food and markets.

(2)  Establish and fund a program to provide communities with assistance in assessing their renewable energy resources and the potential for development of those resources, and in evaluating, selecting, and implementing reasonable alternatives for financing the construction of those renewable energy resources.

* * * Biodiesel * * *

Sec. 14.  USE OF BIODIESEL IN STATE OFFICE BUILDINGS, STATE GARAGES, AND THE STATE VEHICLE FLEET

(a)  Definitions.  As used in this section:

(1)  “Biodiesel blend” means a blend of biodiesel fuel and petroleum diesel fuel or petroleum heating fuel that contains at least two percent biodiesel fuel by volume.

(2)  “Biodiesel fuel” means a renewable, biodegradable, mono alkyl ester combustible liquid fuel derived from vegetable oil or animal fat which meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specification D6751‑02 for Biodiesel Fuel (B100) Blend Stock for Distillate Fuel.

(b)  On or before January 15, 2008, the department of buildings and general services, department of public service, and agency of transportation jointly shall submit a report to the house and senate committees on institutions, the house and senate committees on natural resources and energy, the house and senate committees on transportation, the house and senate committees on agriculture, the house committee on commerce, the house committee on ways and means, and the senate committee on finance with recommendations on increasing the use of biodiesel blends in state office buildings, state garages, and in the state transportation fleet. 

(1)  The portion of the report prepared by the department of buildings and general services shall contain:

(A)  A summary of the current use of biodiesel blends in state office buildings.

(B)  Recommendations on how to increase the use of biodiesel blends in all state office buildings, wherever feasible, to at least five percent biodiesel (B5) by December 31, 2008, and to at least 10 percent biodiesel (B10) by 2012.

(C)  A summary of any obstacles to increasing biodiesel use in state buildings.

(D)  A proposed work plan to increase biodiesel use.

(2)  The portion of the report prepared by the department of public service shall contain:

(A)  A summary of the biodiesel fuel production capacity, storage facilities, and distribution facilities currently available in Vermont.

(B)  Recommendations for increasing biodiesel fuel production, storage facilities, and distribution facilities.

(C)  A summary of current information on the performance of biodiesel blends for use as heating fuel and as a motor vehicle fuel.

(D)  A summary of the national and regional quality assurance and quality control measures in use for blending biodiesel fuel.

(E)  A proposed work plan to increase biodiesel use.

(3)  The portion of the report prepared by the agency of transportation shall contain:

(A)  A summary of the current use of biodiesel blends in state garages and the state transportation fleet.

(B)  Recommendations on how to increase the use of biodiesel blends in state garages and in the state transportation fleet, wherever feasible, to at least five percent biodiesel (B5) by December 31, 2008, and to at least 10 percent biodiesel (B10) by 2012.

(C)  A summary of any obstacles to increasing biodiesel use in state garages and the state transportation fleet.

(D)  A proposed work plan to increase biodiesel use.

(c)  The department of public service, with representatives of the department of buildings and general services and the agency of transportation present, shall conduct at least one public hearing to review the draft report and to solicit comments prior to finalizing the report.

* * * Wind‑Powered Electric Generating Facilities * * *

Sec. 15.  32 V.S.A. § 5401(10)(J) is added to read:

(10)  “Nonresidential property” means all property except:

* * *

(J)  Buildings and fixtures subject to the tax on wind-powered electric generating facilities under section 5402c of this title.

Sec. 16.  32 V.S.A. § 5402c is added to read:

§ 5402c.  WIND-POWERED ELECTRIC GENERATING FACILITIES TAX

(a)  A facility certified by the commissioner of public service as a facility which produces electrical energy for resale, generated solely from wind power, which has an installed capacity of at least five megawatts, which was placed in service after January 1, 2007, and which holds a valid certificate of public good issued under 30 V.S.A. § 248, shall be assessed an alternative education property tax on its buildings and fixtures used directly and exclusively in generation of electrical energy from wind power.  The tax shall be imposed at a rate of $0.00001 per kWh of electrical energy produced by the certified facility, as determined by the public service department for the six months ending April 30 and the six months ending October 31 each year, but in no case shall the tax imposed for any six month period be less than an amount equal to 15% of the installed capacity of the facility multiplied by the rate per kWh imposed by this subsection.  Until a facility is certified under this subsection, it shall remain subject to taxation under section 5402 of this title.

(b)  The tax imposed by this section shall be paid to the commissioner of taxes by the person or entity then owning or operating the certified facility, by December 1 for the period ending October 31 and by June 1 for the period ending April 30, for deposit into the education fund.  A person or entity failing to make returns or pay the tax imposed by this section within the time required shall be subject to and governed by the provisions of sections 3202 and 3203 and subchapters 8 and 9 of chapter 151 of this title.

(c)  Buildings and fixtures subject to the education property tax under this section shall not be taken into account in determining the common level of appraisal for the municipality.

Sec. 17.  MUNICIPAL PROPERTY TAXES UNAFFECTED

Application of alternative education property tax to a wind-powered electric generating facility under 32 V.S.A. § 5402c shall have no effect upon the assessment of municipal taxes upon that facility by any municipality in this state.

* * * Business Energy Credit * * *

Sec. 18.  32 V.S.A. § 5822(c)(1)(B) and (d) are amended to read:

(c)  The amount of tax determined under subsection (a) of this section shall be:

(1)  increased by 24 percent of the taxpayer’s federal tax liability for the taxable year for the following:

* * *

(B)  recapture of federal investment tax credit and increased by 76 percent of the Vermont‑property portion of the business energy credit component of the federal investment tax credit recapture for the taxable year; this shall be computed based on the federal investment tax credit as it existed in taxable year 2007;

(d)  A taxpayer shall be entitled to a credit against the tax imposed under this section of 24 percent of each of the credits allowed against the taxpayer’s federal income tax for the taxable year as follows:  elderly and permanently totally disabled credit, investment tax credit, and child care and dependent care credits.  A taxpayer shall also be entitled to a credit against the tax imposed under this section of 76 percent of the Vermont‑property portion of the business energy credit component of the federal investment tax credit allowed against the taxpayer’s federal income tax for the taxable year under Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code; provided, that this shall be computed based on the federal investment tax credit as it existed in taxable year 2007.

Sec. 19.  32 V.S.A. § 5930z is added to read:

§ 5930z.  Pass‑Through of Federal Energy Credit for Corporations

(a)  A taxpayer of this state shall be eligible for a credit against the tax imposed under section 5832 of this title in an amount equal to the Vermont‑property portion of the business energy credit component of the federal investment tax credit allowed against the taxpayer’s federal income tax for the taxable year under Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code; provided, that this shall be computed based on the federal investment tax credit as it existed in taxable year 2007. 

(b)  Any taxpayer who has received a credit under subsection (a) of this section in any prior year shall increase its corporate income tax under this chapter by the amount of the Vermont‑property portion of the business energy credit component of the federal investment tax credit recapture for the taxable year; provided, that this shall be computed based on the federal investment tax credit as it existed in taxable year 2007.  

Sec. 20.  EFFECTIVE DATE OF BUSINESS ENERGY TAX CREDITS

Secs. 18 and 19 of this act (business energy tax credits) shall apply to taxable years 2008 and after.

* * * Mini‑Hydro Reports * * *

Sec. 21.  PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD REPORT ON PERMITTING MINI‑HYDROELECTRIC PROJECTS

Prior to December 15, 2007, the public service board shall report to the house committee on fish, wildlife and water resources and the senate committee on natural resources and energy with a recommendation for a simple, predictable, and environmentally sound process, other than the process set forth in subsection 248(j) of Title 30, for issuing a certificate of public good under section 248 of Title 30 for mini‑hydroelectric projects.  The report shall:

(1)  Recommend criteria for determining what constitutes a mini‑hydroelectric facility, including the allowable maximum amount of output capacity at the facility and the type of eligible facilities, natural features, or other sites.

(2)  Address permit application requirements, including ownership of the facility and structural safety of the mini‑hydroelectric project.

(3)  Address additional uses of the mini‑hydroelectric project such as flood control; fish and wildlife habitat; recreation; water supply; historic resource; and structural grade control for infrastructure, roads, bridges, and houses.

(4)  Address the use of flashboards to increase upstream flooding.

(5)  Address measures to prevent fish from entering turbines and penstocks.

(6)  Address the size of authorized diversions and penstocks.

Sec. 22.  AGENCY OF NATURAL RESOURCES REPORT ON WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION FOR MINI‑HYDROELECTRIC PROJECTS

Prior to December 15, 2007, the secretary of natural resources shall report to the house committee on fish, wildlife and water resources and the senate committee on natural resources and energy with a recommendation for a simple, predictable, and environmentally sound procedure for completing a water quality certification review of mini‑hydroelectric projects as required by Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act.  The report shall:

(1)  Recommend, after consultation with the public service board, criteria for determining what constitutes a mini‑hydroelectric facility, including the allowable maximum amount of output capacity at the facility and the type of eligible facilities, natural features, or other sites;

(2)  Address bypass flows for mini‑hydroelectric projects.

(3)  Address the need for monitoring of dissolved oxygen at mini‑hydroelectric facilities.

(4)  Address seasonal flows in bypasses at run‑of‑river facilities. 

(5)  Address the need for new fish or flow studies for mini‑hydroelectric projects. 

Sec. 23.  REPORT ON STATUS OF SPEED PROGRAM

By no later than January 15, 2008, the public service board shall report to the legislative committees on natural resources and energy with an evaluation of the likelihood of qualifying SPEED resources coming into service in time to meet the standards established in 30 V.S.A. § 8005(d), as amended by this act.

* * * Plumbing * * *

Sec. 24.  26 V.S.A. § 2173(a) is amended to read:

§ 2173.  RULES ADOPTED BY THE BOARD

(a)  The plumber’s examining board may, pursuant to the provisions of 3 V.S.A. chapter 25 (Administrative Procedure Act), make and revise such plumbing rules as necessary for protection of the public health, except that no rule of the board may require the installation or maintenance in a private residence of a water heater at a minimum temperature.  To the extent that a rule of the board conflicts with this subsection, that rule shall be invalid and unenforceable.  The rules shall be in effect in every city, village, and town having a public water system or public sewerage system and apply to all premises connected to the systems and all public buildings containing plumbing or water treatment and heating specialties whether they are connected to a public water or sewerage system.  The local board of health and the commissioner of public safety shall each have authority to enforce these rules.  The rules shall be limited to minimum performance standards reasonably necessary for the protection of the public against accepted health hazards.  The board may, if it finds it practicable to do so, adopt the provisions of a nationally recognized plumbing code.

Sec. 25.  26 V.S.A. § 2192a(g) is added to read:

(g)  The department of public safety and the plumber’s examining board shall work with representatives from the Vermont solar energy industry to create a solar water heating specialist license and shall allow experienced solar thermal installers who have completed necessary course work to be eligible for the hydronic heating specialty license examination without the requirement of an affidavit from a master plumber.

* * *Affordability * * *

Sec. 26.  30 V.S.A. § 218(e) is added to read:

(e)  Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, the board may approve a rate schedule, tariff, agreement, contract, or settlement that provides reduced rates for low income electric utility consumers to better assure affordability.  For the purposes of this subsection, “low income electric utility consumer” means a customer who has a household income at or below 150 percent of the current federal poverty level.  When considering whether to approve a rate schedule, tariff, agreement, contract, or settlement for low income electric utility consumers, the board may take into account the potential impact on, and cost-shifting to, other utility customers.

(Committee Vote: 5-0-0)

(For House amendments, see House Journal for April 4, 2007, page 527; April 5, 2007, page 533.)

ORDERED TO LIE

S. 70

An act relating to empowering municipalities to regulate the application of pesticides within their borders.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading of the bill.

S. 102

An act relating to decreasing the percentage to determine a school district’s excess spending.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading of the bill.

S. 118

An act relating to fiscal review of high spending districts and special education.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading of the bill.

CONFIRMATIONS

The following appointments will be considered by the Senate, as a group, under suspension of the Rules, as moved by the President pro tempore, for confirmation together and without debate, by consent thereby given by the Senate.  However, upon request of any senator, any appointment may be singled out and acted upon separately by the Senate, with consideration given to the report of the Committee to which the appointment was referred, and with full debate; and further, all appointments for the positions of Secretaries of Agencies, Commissioners of Departments, Judges, Magistrates, and members of the Public Service Board shall be fully and separately acted upon.

Robert Britt of South Burlington - Member of the Vermont Economic Development Authority - By Sen. Condos for the Committee on Finance.  (1/25)

David E. L. Brown of Shelburne - Member of the Board of Libraries - By Sen. Giard for the Committee on Education.  (1/31)

John Rosenthal of Charlotte - Member of the Board of Libraries - By Sen. Doyle for the Committee on Education.  (1/31)

Kenneth Gibbons of Hyde Park - Member of the Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency - By Sen. McCormack for the Committee on Finance.  (2/2)

David R. Coates of Colchester - Member of the Municipal Bond Bank - By Sen. Condos for the Committee on Finance.  (2/21)

Paul. Beaulieu of Manchester Center - Member of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency - By Sen. Maynard for the Committee on Finance.  (2/21)

Susan Davis of Shelburne - Member of the Travel Information Council - By Sen. Mazza for the Committee on Transportation.  (3/13)

Jireh Billings of Bridgewater - Member of the Capitol Complex Commission - By Sen. Campbell for the Committee on Institutions.  (3/14)

John LaBarge of South Hero - Member of the Travel Information Council - By Sen. Mazza for the Committee on Transportation.  (3/21)

Susan K. Blair of Colchester - Alternate Member of the Parole Board - By Sen. Mazza for the Committee on Institutions.  (3/23)

William J. Pettengill of Guilford - Member Parole Board - By Sen. Coppenrath for the Committee on Institutions.  (3/23)

Jeffrey Larkin of Duxbury - Member of the Travel Information Council - By Sen. Scott for the Committee on Transportation.  (3/28)

Barbara Zander of St. Johnsbury - Family Court Magistrate - By Sen. Cummings for the Committee on Judiciary.  (4/4)

Celine F. Champine of Newport Center - Member of the Community High School of Vermont Board - By Sen. Starr for the Committee on Education.  (4/6)

Richard Fraser of South Ryegate - Member of the Community High School of Vermont Board - By Sen. Nitka for the Committee on Education.  (4/6)

Blanche Kelley of Rutland - Member of the Community High School of Vermont Board - By Sen. Giard for the Committee on Education. (4/6)

Kathryn  T. Boardman of Shelburne - Member of the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank - By Sen. Condos for the Committee on Finance.  (4/18)

David Coen of Shelburne - Member of the Public Service Board - By Sen. Ayer for the Committee on Finance.  (4/18)

Steven Gurin of Barre - Member of the Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency - By Sen. Maynard for the Committee on Finance.  (4/18)

Paulettte Thabault of South Burlington - Commissioner of the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration - By Sen. Maynard for the Committee on Finance.  (4/18)

Paulette Thabault of South Burlington - Commissioner of the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration - by Sen. Maynard for the Committee on Finance.  (4/18)

PUBLIC HEARING

     Wednesday, April 18, 2007 - Room 11 - 5:00-7:00 p.m.  Re:  Retirement-Cost of Living Adjustment - Senate and House Committees on Government Operations.

INFORMATION NOTICE

The following item was received by the Joint Fiscal Committee:

     JFO #2288 – $2,000 donation from the Vermont Retired Teachers Association to the Department of Corrections.  This donation to the Community High School of Vermont will be used by recipients of the Beryle Gardner Award.  The funds will provide financial assistance to graduates to pay for books for college or be used to purchase supplies needed for employment.  [JFO received 04/12/07]



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us