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Journal of the House

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TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2007

At ten o'clock in the forenoon the Speaker called the House to order.

Devotional Exercises

Devotional exercises were conducted by Reverend Richard Menard of New Beginnings Christian Church in St. Johnsbury.

Pledge of Allegiance

Page Patrick Saylor of Stowe led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Message from the Senate No. 8

     A message was received from the Senate by Mr. Marshall, its Assistant Secretary, as follows:

Madam Speaker:

     I am directed to inform the House that the Senate has on its part adopted concurrent resolutions originating in the House of the following titles:

     H.C.R. 7.  House concurrent resolution congratulating David Ball of Orange on his extraordinary college football career.

     H.C.R. 8.  House concurrent resolution congratulating the Vergennes Union High School Commodores 2006 Division II championship girls’ soccer team.

     H.C.R. 9.  House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Danville School Indians Division IV championship boys’ soccer team.

     H.C.R. 10.  House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Danville Indians Division IV championship baseball team.

     H.C.R. 11.  House concurrent resolution congratulating the Pierce-Lawton Post 37 baseball team on winning the 2006 American Legion’s Vermont state championship.

     H.C.R. 12.  House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Bellows Falls Union High School Terriers Division II track and field championship team.

     H.C.R. 13.  House concurrent resolution congratulating the Vermont Attractions Association on its 50th anniversary.

     H.C.R. 14.  House concurrent resolution congratulating McGirr’s Nursing home on its 40th anniversary.

     H.C.R. 15.  House concurrent resolution honoring Jeff Benay for his service as chair of the governor’s advisory commission on Native American affairs.

House Bills Introduced

House bills of the following titles were severally introduced.  Pending first reading of the bills, on motion of Rep. Adams of Hartland, the rules were suspended and the bills were read the first time by number and referred as follows:

H. 50

By Reps. Flory of Pittsford and Marek of Newfane,

An act relating to preventing conviction of innocent persons;

To the committee on Judiciary.

H. 51

By Rep. Otterman of Topsham,

An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the village of Newbury;

To the committee on Government Operations.

H. 52

By Reps. Flory of Pittsford, Jewett of Ripton, Donahue of Northfield and Grad of Moretown,

An act relating to requiring criminal proceedings against minors to be commenced in family court;

To the committee on Judiciary.

H. 53

By Reps. Flory of Pittsford, Acinapura of Brandon, Andrews of Rutland City, Baker of West Rutland, Canfield of Fair Haven, Chen of Mendon, Courcelle of Rutland City, Devereux of Mount Holly, Donaghy of Poultney, Fallar of Tinmouth, Helm of Castleton, Howard of Rutland City, McCormack of Rutland,

An act relating to the Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport;

To the committee on Transportation.

H. 54

     By Reps. Gervais of Enosburg, Keenan of St. Albans City, Allard of St. Albans Town, Aswad of Burlington, Branagan of Georgia, Clarkson of Woodstock, Donaghy of Poultney, Evans of Essex, Flory of Pittsford, Gilbert of Fairfax, Grad of Moretown, Howrigan of Fairfield, Lippert of Hinesburg, Marek of Newfane, Martin of Wolcott, McAllister of Highgate, McDonald of Berlin, McFaun of Barre Town, Mook of Bennington, Morrissey of Bennington, Pellett of Chester, Perry of Richford, Potter of Clarendon and Valliere of Barre City,

An act relating to increasing motor vehicle liability insurance coverage requirements;

To the committee on Commerce.

H. 55

By Reps. McAllister of Highgate, Allard of St. Albans Town, Baker of West Rutland, Branagan of Georgia, Brennan of Colchester, Condon of Colchester, Donaghy of Poultney, Fitzgerald of St. Albans City, Gervais of Enosburg, Helm of Castleton, Keenan of St. Albans City, Komline of Dorset, Krawczyk of Bennington, Larocque of Barnet, Larrabee of Danville, Morrissey of Bennington, Otterman of Topsham, Perry of Richford, Shaw of Derby, Sunderland of Rutland Town, Valliere of Barre City and Wright of Burlington,

An act relating to consolidation of supervisory union school districts;

To the committee on Education.

Joint Resolutions Referred to Committee

The following resolutions were severally read, and in the Speaker’s discretion, treated as a bill and referred to a committee as follows:

J.R.H.  3

Joint resolution urging Congress to increase the federal expenditure for special education to 40 percent

Offered by:  Representative Obuchowski of Rockingham

Whereas, it is the policy of the state of Vermont to ensure general and special education opportunities for all children, and

Whereas, special education costs in Vermont rose from $51.3 million in fiscal year 1990 to $193.5 million in fiscal year 2006, and

Whereas, there are over 13,800 students in Vermont who receive special education services, and

Whereas, the federal government has committed itself to provide 40 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure in public elementary and secondary schools for funding special education programs, and

Whereas, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. § 300.701(a)(1):  “The maximum entitlement is equal to the number of children with disabilities aged 3 through 21 in the State who are receiving special education and related services, multiplied by 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States,” and

Whereas, the federal government passed the “Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995” (P.L. 104-4, March 22, 1995, 109 Stat. 48) which stated that “the Federal Government should not shift certain costs to the States, and the States should end the practice of shifting costs to local governments, which forces many local governments to increase property taxes,” and

Whereas, since 1983, the federal government has short‑changed Vermont by $357 million in special education funding, and

Whereas, the federal government has contributed percentages of special education funding in recent fiscal years that are substantially less than the promised 40 percent, and

Whereas, the federal government’s failure to appropriate special education funding at the level that it is legally committed to expend places a heavy strain on all Vermont property taxpayers who are already overburdened trying to provide a quality education for Vermont students, and, unfortunately, is exacerbating the conflict between local property taxpayers and educational constituencies, and

Whereas, in response to Vermont’s and every other state’s financial burdens that are directly attributed to funding federally mandated special education programs, former U.S. Senator James Jeffords, before his retirement, created a bipartisan effort to increase special education funding to the 40-percent level, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly urges President George W. Bush and the United States Congress to increase federal special education funding to the 40-percent, level that Congress previously committed the federal government to support, and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to President George W. Bush, United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, United States Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, United States House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, United States House Minority Leader John Boehner, and the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

Referred to the committee on Education.

J.R.H.  4

Joint resolution urging the United States Congress to repeal the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which deregulated cable television pricing

Offered by:  Representative Obuchowski of Rockingham

Whereas, due to Vermont’s mountainous geography, basic television service, the primary provider of local news and public information for many of the state’s residents, is in much of the state only available for a fee via a retransmission medium such as a cable television system, and

Whereas, the United States Congress adopted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-104), which deregulated the cable television industry’s rate‑setting process, and

Whereas, the Act was intended to introduce local competition and lower consumer rates for cable television service, and

Whereas, while the introduction of cable competition and lower consumer rates may have been Congress’s intent, most consumers, including those in Vermont, still have access to only a single provider’s cable television offerings and face continually escalating rates for purchasing cable service, and

Whereas, under the Act, a cable television company, although operating on a state‑issued license granted by the public service board, can increase prices with little or no justification, and

Whereas, the most recent Adelphia (now Comcast) Cable rate increase pursuant to the Telecommunications Act which did not require either public service board or the Federal Communications Commission approval, is an example of the totally unwarranted discretion which the Act has handed to the cable television industry, and

Whereas, other utilities’ consumer rates, such as electric and telephone service, are subject to governmental regulatory procedures during which the service provider must publicly justify the proposed level of increase and is not guaranteed its request will be approved, and

Whereas, even with the promised benefits of increased competition and lower costs, the deregulation of the cable television rate process was dubious at best, especially in Vermont, given the geographic limitations on over-the-air broadcast signals, and

Whereas, because none of the goals for the deregulation of the cable television industry has been realized, Congress should reinstitute regulatory approval of cable television rate increases in order that Vermonters of all income levels can continue to afford basic television service, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly strongly urges Congress to reregulate the rate‑setting process for the cable television industry, and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

Referred to the committee on Commerce.

J.R.H.  5

Joint resolution in opposition to the establishment of a permanent border patrol checkpoint on Interstate 91 south of White River Junction

Offered by:  Representative Obuchowski of Rockingham

Whereas, the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Border Patrol manages the United States Border Patrol (USBP) which is assigned the responsibility of preventing illegal aliens from entering the United States, and

Whereas, the areas between the United States’ border crossings have historically been the primary territory for USBP officers to apprehend illegal aliens and prevent them from entering the country, and

Whereas, beyond these border areas, officers from the USBP’s Swanton sector have for many years conducted occasional checkpoints along Interstate 91 as far south as in the White River Junction vicinity, and

Whereas, since December 2003, the White River checkpoint, currently operated from a mobile structure, has become a 24‑hour–per‑day, seven‑day‑a‑week operation, and

Whereas, the justification for this continuous checkpoint has been to stop terrorists who may have eluded officials at the border from proceeding any further into the country, and

Whereas, Leslie Lawson, representing the USBP’s Swanton sector, and citing the over 600 persons who have been taken into custody at the White River Junction temporary checkpoint during the last year, has requested that the Office of Border Patrol establish a permanent checkpoint at this location, and

Whereas, while the request will not be acted upon immediately, permanent highway signs are replacing the temporary ones that had been at the checkpoint to accommodate snowplows, and

Whereas, although the American Civil Liberties Union has stated, in response to inquiries, that the stops are legal, the organization has questioned the necessity of the permanent checkpoint, noting that the individuals being taken into custody are persons whose temporary or student visas have expired and not the dangerous terrorists that are now the USBP’s primary focus, and

Whereas, the USBP is not authorized to report whether any of the persons taken into custody at the White River Junction checkpoint have been individuals it views as threats to the nation’s security, and

Whereas, while traffic flow improvements have been implemented at the checkpoint in response to four traffic-related fatalities at a similar facility in New York State, there are still serious concerns regarding the safety implications of a permanent checkpoint on Interstate 91, and

Whereas, if the USBP receives specific intelligence that suspected terrorists may be infiltrating the country by way of I-91, it can always establish a temporary checkpoint not dissimilar to those the state police conduct during heavily traveled holiday periods, and

Whereas, at present, there is clear evidence that the checkpoint is not a major aid to apprehending terrorists, it inhibited severely normal traffic flow in the area, and it raised safety concerns for the motoring public, now therefore

be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly urges the Office of Border Patrol not to establish a permanent checkpoint station along I-91 in the White River Junction vicinity, and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to W. Ralph Basham, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection; David Aguilar, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs for the United States Border Patrol; to Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security; and to the members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

Referred to the committee on Transportation.

J.R.H.  6

Joint resolution relating to public sector ownership of industrial wind farms 

Offered by:  Representative Obuchowski of Rockingham

Whereas, one of the most-promoted alternatives to fossil fuels that has been proposed to meet the state’s imminent need for new electric energy resources is the construction of industrial-scale wind farms, generally defined as four or more wind turbines, with common ownership and control, located in the same general area of the state and with a maximum design capacity of more than 200 kilowatts (AC) each, and

Whereas, although in July 2004, Governor James Douglas issued an executive order establishing a commission on wind energy regulatory policy, the commission’s report did not address adequately all of the regulatory and environmental questions that must be answered before the state of Vermont authorizes the construction of large commercial wind farms, but it did recommend that these facilities not be built on state-owned land, and

Whereas, the construction of an industrial‑scale wind farm on a mountainous ridgeline would possibly threaten an area’s vistas, would possibly discourage tourists from visiting the state, and might cause local property values to decline, and

Whereas, research has shown that wind turbines that turn on a vertical axis rather than the standard horizontal axis could prove to be more efficient, and, as an added advantage, their smaller profiles pose less of a threat to aviation, and

Whereas, the state’s mountain ridgelines and viewsheds belong to the people of Vermont, and if the wind along these ridgelines is to be harnessed for electric energy generation, Vermont should consider the siting and ownership of industrial wind farms by public sector legal entities which would receive and maintain control and ownership of the wind farms, and

Whereas, the conflicting values, economic consequences, and environmental impacts of industrial wind farm construction and operation are extremely significant and merit very careful examination before irreversible decisions with long-term consequences are made, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly requests the public service board, in consultation with the public service department and other state agencies and departments and the public, to examine the public good issues related to requiring that any industrial wind farm applications filed or to be filed with the board provide for public sector ownership and control, and be it further

Resolved:  That the public service board’s examination of wind power also examine the possible benefit of requiring industrial wind farms to be equipped with wind turbines that rotate on a vertical axis instead of a horizontal axis, and be it further

Resolved:  That the public service board submit a report of its findings to the General Assembly on or before May 1, 2007, and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to Public Service Board Chair James Volz and Commissioner of Public Service David O’Brien.

Referred to the committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

J.R.H.  7

Joint resolution requesting the governor to enter into direct negotiations with senior officials of the province of Quebec and of Hydro Québec for a new contractual relationship

Offered by:  Representative Obuchowski of Rockingham

Whereas, in 2012, the federal operating license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant expires, and

Whereas, at different dates, starting in 2016 and concluding in 2020, the power purchasing authority of each utility that is a party to the Hydro Québec‑Vermont Joint Owner Contract will also expire, and

Whereas, in combination, these sources represent two-thirds of the electric power consumed in the state of Vermont, and

Whereas, regardless of future conservation and energy efficiency efforts, Vermonters’ demand for electric energy may continue to increase, and

Whereas, in the very near future, Vermont will have to come to grips with the fundamental trade-offs that are inevitable in choosing from various generation sources of electric power, and

Whereas, these trade-offs will involve crucial environmental, economic, and quality-of-life decisions that will affect Vermonters for decades, and

Whereas, alternative energy options have been considered to replace the amount of electric wattage that the combined Vermont Yankee and Hydro Québec power sources represent, including new power sources and additional consumer conservation practices, and

Whereas, two potential major energy source solutions extending the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s federal license or constructing large industrial wind farms on the state’s mountain ridgelines, have prompted controversy and opposition, and

Whereas, the least politically contentious option for replacing the power from Vermont Yankee and the currently contracted Hydro Québec power is the creation of a new long-term contractual relationship with Hydro Québec for the importation of clean hydropower from Canada, and

Whereas, in order for this objective to be achieved, the state of Vermont must enter into serious negotiations on the highest administrative level with officials from the province of Quebec and from Hydro Québec, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly requests the governor to enter into direct negotiations with senior officials of the province of Quebec and of Hydro Québec for a new, long-term, contractual relationship to commence upon the expiration of current agreements with Hydro Québec, and be it further

Resolved:  That the governor is requested to submit a progress report to the General Assembly on the progress of these negotiations on or before March 15, 2007, and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the governor.

Referred to the committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

J.R.H.  8

Joint resolution urging the Federal Communications Commission to adopt new regulations or, in the alternative, the United States Congress to enact a statutory directive, requiring the nation’s cable television companies to offer à la carte service for specialty channels not included in the broadcast tier of stations

Offered by:  Representative Obuchowski of Rockingham

Whereas, cable television subscribers always receive a broadcast tier of  channels, including local, commercial, and public television channels and at least one cable public access station, and

Whereas, beyond this basic or broadcast package, as it is often marketed, there are dozens of specialty channels available to cable television subscribers focusing on news, sports, the arts, and many other specialized areas of entertainment and information, and

Whereas, certain of these specialized channels, such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and ESPN, are among the most watched national cable television services, and

Whereas, although the technology now exists to enable cable television companies to customize the subscriber’s reception menu to receive only specific stations beyond the basic tier of broadcast and public access stations (à la carte service), this is not a current option for consumers, and

Whereas, for example, if ESPN is the only channel in the basic package which a sports fan wishes to receive, the viewer has no option but to pay for an entire set of stations, nearly all of which are never watched, and

Whereas, cable fees are rising at an accelerated pace, and the introduction of an à la carte option would lower consumers’ costs, and

Whereas, although cable television companies have long complained bitterly about the existing Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulations requiring them to carry local broadcast channels and the proposed regulations which would similarly require them to carry new digital channels, they have no difficulty imposing a comparable requirement on their own customers, and

Whereas, U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the 2005–2006 Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, has urged the cable television industry “to find a consistent message for itself—if they want choices, provide the same choices to your customers,” and

Whereas, the first governmental source for enabling consumers to purchase à la carte cable television service is the FCC through the adoption of new regulations requiring the implementation of an à la carte option, and

Whereas, alternatively, the United States Congress could establish the à la carte option by statutory directive, and

Whereas, Vermont cable television consumers are paying excessively high prices for many channels which they have no interest in receiving in order to subscribe to one or two stations, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly urges the Federal Communications Commission to adopt new regulations, or in the alternative, the United States Congress to enact a statutory directive, requiring the nation’s cable television companies to offer à la carte service for specialty channels not included in the broadcast tier of stations, and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin and the members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

Referred to the committee on Commerce.

Commission Members Announced

     The Speaker announced members of the Commission on Health Care Reform as follows:

                             Rep. Steve Maier of Middlebury, House Chair

                             Rep. Harry Chen of Mendon

                             Rep. Mark Larson of Burlington

                             Rep. Francis McFaun of Barre Town

Adjournment

At ten o’clock and thirty minutes in the forenoon, on motion of Rep. Komline of Dorset, the House adjourned until Friday, January 19, 2007 at nine o’clock and thirty minutes in the forenoon.

Concurrent Resolutions Adopted

     The following concurrent resolutions, having been placed on the Consent Calendar on the preceding legislative day, and no member having requested floor consideration  as provided by the Joint Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives, are hereby adopted in concurrence.

H.C.R.  7

House concurrent resolution congratulating David Ball of Orange on his extraordinary college football career

H.C.R.  8

House concurrent resolution congratulating the Vergennes Union High School Commodores 2006 Division II championship girls’ soccer team

H.C.R.  9

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Danville School Indians Division IV championship boys’ soccer team

H.C.R.  10

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Danville Indians Division IV championship baseball team

H.C.R.  11

House concurrent resolution congratulating the Pierce-Lawton Post 37 baseball team on winning the 2006 American Legion’s Vermont state championship

H.C.R.  12

House concurrent resolution congratulating the 2006 Bellows Falls Union High School Terriers Division II track and field championship team

H.C.R.  13

House concurrent resolution congratulating the Vermont Attractions Association on its 50th anniversary

H.C.R.  14

House concurrent resolution congratulating McGirr’s Nursing home on its 40th anniversary

H.C.R.  15

House concurrent resolution honoring Jeff Benay for his service as chair of the governor’s advisory commission on Native American affairs

     [The full text of the concurrent resolutions appeared in the Senate and House Calendar Addendum on the preceding legislative day and will appear in the volume of the Public Acts and Resolves of the 2007, sixty-ninth  Adjourned session]

 

 



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
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