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Journal of the Senate

________________

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Senate was called to order by the President.

Devotional Exercises

Devotional exercises were conducted by the Reverend Terry Dorsett of Barre.

Pledge of Allegiance

Pages Callie-Rae Cashin and Eliza Dorney then led the members of the Senate in the pledge of allegiance.

Message from the House No. 39

     A message was received from the House of Representatives by Ms. Wrask, its Second Assistant Clerk, as follows:

Mr. President:

     I am directed to inform the Senate the House has passed bills of the following titles:

     H. 257.  An act relating to the codification of existing community justice centers.

     H. 436.  An act relating to miscellaneous amendments to local election and municipal government laws.

     H. 748.  An act relating to permitting students to possess and self-administer medicine.

     H. 883.  An act relating to miscellaneous amendments to Vermont’s public retirement systems.

     H. 884.  An act relating to ensuring quality in prekindergarten education programs offered by or through school districts.

     H. 885.  An act relating to developing consistent measurement standards for economic growth.

In the passage of which the concurrence of the Senate is requested.

The House has adopted a joint resolution of the following title:

J.R.H. 56.  Joint resolution honoring municipal public works employees and designating May 18-24 as Public Works Week in Vermont.

In the adoption of which the concurrence of the Senate is requested.

The House has considered a joint resolution originating in the Senate of the following title:

J.R.S. 58.  Joint resolution relating to weekend adjournment.

And has adopted the same in concurrence.

The Governor has informed the House of Representatives that on the twenty-first day of March, 2008, he approved and signed a bill originating in the House of the following title:

H. 875.  An act relating to the sale of real property or transmissions facilities by certain regulated generators of electricity.

     The House has adopted concurrent resolutions of the following titles:

     H.C.R. 236.  Concurrent resolution honoring the outstanding work of child care providers in Vermont.

     H.C.R. 237.  Concurrent resolution honoring the half-century active Bennington firefighters.

     H.C.R. 238.  Concurrent resolution congratulating the Missisquoi Valley Union High School Thunderbirds 2008 Division II girls’ ice hockey championship team.

     H.C.R. 239.  Concurrent resolution congratulating the 2008 Enosburg Falls High School Hornets Division III girls’ basketball championship team.

     H.C.R. 240.  Concurrent resolution congratulating the 2008 Essex High School Hornets Division I cheerleading team.

     H.C.R. 241.  Concurrent resolution congratulating the 2008 Essex High School Hornets’ Division I championship boys’ ice hockey team.

     H.C.R. 242.  Concurrent resolution congratulating the Vermont Ice Storm on winning the 2007 Empire Football League championship and being named the 2007 American Football Association Triple-A national champions.

     H.C.R. 243.  Concurrent resolution honoring the outstanding winter road clearance performance of the agency of transportation highway crews.

     H.C.R. 244.  Concurrent resolution in memory of John D. Picard.

     H.C.R. 245.  Concurrent resolution congratulating the 2008 Vergennes Union High School Commodores Division II cheerleading champions.

     H.C.R. 246.  Concurrent resolution in memory of Charlie Bristow.

     H.C.R. 247.  Concurrent resolution congratulating the 2008 Milton High School Yellowjackets Division II girls’ basketball championship team.

In the adoption of which the concurrence of the Senate is requested.

     The House has considered concurrent resolutions originating in the Senate of the following titles:

     S.C.R. 37.  Concurrent resolution recognizing the outstanding role of Vermont Transit and its employees in the state's transportation history.

S.C.R. 38.  Senate concurrent resolution congratulating the Burlington Seahorses’ 2008 Division I championship and undefeated boys’ basketball team.

And has adopted the same in concurrence.

Bills Referred

House bills of the following titles were severally read the first time and referred:

H. 257.

An act relating to the codification of existing community justice centers.

To the Committee on Judiciary.

H. 436.

An act relating to miscellaneous amendments to local election and municipal government laws.

To the Committee on Government Operations.

H. 748.

An act relating to permitting students to possess and self-administer medicine.

To the Committee on Education.

H. 883.

An act relating to miscellaneous amendments to Vermont’s public retirement systems.

To the Committee on Government Operations.


H. 884.

An act relating to ensuring quality in prekindergarten education programs offered by or through school districts.

To the Committee on Education.

H. 885.

An act relating to developing consistent measurement standards for economic growth.

To the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs.

Joint Resolution Placed on Calendar

J.R.H. 56.

Joint resolution originating in the House of the following title was read the first time and is as follows:

Joint resolution honoring municipal public works employees and designating May 18–24 as Public Works Week in Vermont.

Whereas, much of the highway and bridge network in Vermont is municipally owned, and the responsibility for its maintenance is assigned to local public works departments, and

Whereas, the regular duties of city and town public works departments’ employees encompass general roadway and bridge maintenance on a year-round basis, and

Whereas, when extremely inclement weather strikes, such as a severe snowstorm or a thunderstorm whose elements include high velocity winds, municipal public works department crews are called upon to perform near-heroic tasks under the worst possible climatic conditions and not infrequently in the middle of the night, and

Whereas, these special but essential jobs can range from removing snow from the highway while blowing drifts are inhibiting steady progress to supporting utility crews removing trees entangled in dangerously electrified cables, and

Whereas, on May 14, the Vermont Municipal Highway Association will hold its annual field day and expo at the Barre Auditorium, and

Whereas, local public works crews from many communities will attend this much-anticipated event, and

Whereas, the Vermont Municipal Highway Association event also serves as a showcase for vendors to exhibit new products that public works staff can examine and consider purchasing, and

Whereas, May is also an important month for these dedicated municipal employees as the week of May 18–24 is being observed as Public Works Week in order to recognize these all-too-often unsung heroes who maintain highways, bridges, and other essential municipal infrastructure 365 days a year, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the general assembly honors Vermont’s outstanding municipal public works employees and designates May 18–24 as Public Works Week in Vermont, and be it further

Resolved:  That the secretary of state be directed to send a copy of this resolution to Todd Law, president of the Vermont Municipal Highway Association in Montpelier and to Barre Town Engineer Harry Hinrichsen.

Thereupon, in the discretion of the President, under Rule 51, the joint resolution was placed on the Calendar for action tomorrow.

Bill Called Up

S. 344.

Senate bill of the following title was called up by Senator Carris, and, under the rule, placed on the Calendar for action tomorrow:

An act relating to internet and mail order sales of tobacco products.

Bills Passed

Senate bills of the following titles were severally read the third time and passed:

S. 233.

An act relating to temporary officiants for marriages and civil unions.

S. 261.

An act relating to phthalates in products for young children.

S. 271.

An act relating to child support for children with disabilities.


S. 294.

An act relating to the optimal siting of a dry cask storage facility for spent nuclear fuel rods.

S. 301.

An act relating to assaults on law enforcement officers and to hate-motivated crimes against law enforcement officers and firefighters.

S. 322.

An act relating to dairy promotion council.

S. 366.

An act relating to the administration of the voter’s oath or affirmation.

S. 368.

An act relating to the addition of new types of disinfectants to public water systems.

Rules Suspended; Bills Messaged

On motion of Senator Campbell, the rules were suspended, and the following bills were ordered messaged to the House forthwith:

S. 233, S. 261, S. 271, S. 294, S. 301, S. 322, S. 366 and S. 368.

Senator Mazza Assumes the Chair

Third Readings Ordered

H. 557.

Senator McCormack, for the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, to which was referred House bill entitled:

An act relating to postponing the sunset of the fish and wildlife board’s authority to adopt rules regulating the deer herd.

Reported that the bill ought to pass in concurrence.

Thereupon, the bill was read the second time by title only pursuant to Rule 43, and third reading of the bill was ordered.

H. 788.

Senator Hartwell, for the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, to which was referred House bill entitled:

An act relating to awarding moose permits to Vermont veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reported that the bill ought to pass in concurrence.

Thereupon, the bill was read the second time by title only pursuant to Rule 43, and third reading of the bill was ordered.

Consideration Postponed

S. 297.

Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to clarifying the definition of “stiff hitch” in the motor vehicle statutes.

Was taken up.

Thereupon, without objection consideration of the bill was postponed until tomorrow.

Bill Amended; Third Reading Ordered

S. 345.

Senator Illuzzi, for the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, to which was referred Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to lowering the cost of workers’ compensation insurance.

     Reported recommending that the bill be amended by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS; PURPOSE

(a)  The general assembly finds:

(1)  An increasing number of employers in Vermont and nationwide are improperly classifying individuals they hire as “independent contractors,” even when those workers should be classified as “employees” as these terms are legally defined. 

(2)  Employers may misclassify employees in an attempt to avoid their legal obligations under federal and state labor and tax laws, including laws governing minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, wage payment, and income tax.

(3)  Employee misclassification has a significant adverse impact on the residents, businesses, and economy in Vermont because it deprives vulnerable workers of legal protections and benefits; reduces compliance with employment and safety standards; gives employers who misclassify employees an improper competitive advantage over law-abiding businesses; deprives Vermont of substantial revenues; and imposes indirect costs from decreased legitimate business activity and increased demand for social services.

(4)  A recent survey of workers’ compensation insurers conducted in compliance with No. 57 of the Acts of 2007 reveals that misclassification is a significant problem that may add 10 to 20 percent or more to the cost of workers’ compensation.

(5)  Historically, compliance and enforcement have been divided among various agencies, reducing efficiency and effectiveness.  Improved interagency cooperation, sharing information, and joint enforcement of serious violations are the most effective approaches to reducing incidents of employee misclassification.

(6)  Workers’ compensation premiums for farmers are going up, while most every other employer category is going down.  Farming is inherently more hazardous than many other trades and professions, and the pool of farmers to spread the risk is very small.

(7)  Agricultural workers suffer a higher frequency and more serious work injuries than others, particularly those working on farms with hoofed animals.

(8)  Providing incentives for improved farm safety, through comprehensive training programs and extensive outreach, will go a long way toward slowing workers’ compensation premium rates for farmers.

(9)  While a reduction in workers’ compensation benefits across the board may lower rates for every one including farmers for the short run, such a reduction would be at the expense of injured workers, while providing little incentive for improving safety for the long run.

(b)  Therefore, it is the purpose of this act to address the problems of employee misclassification and farm safety and make other positive changes in workers’ compensation laws that are intended to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation.

* * * Fraud and Misclassification * * *

Sec. 2.  8 V.S.A. § 4750(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The commissioner may require an insurer to file annually its anti-fraud plan with the department and an annual summary of the insurer’s anti-fraud activities and results, including misclassification and miscoding.  A workers’ compensation insurer shall file an anti-fraud plan with the department of labor, including information about fraud investigations, referrals, or prosecutions involving Vermont workers’ compensation claims, misclassifications, and miscoding, if requested by the commissioner of labor.  Information regarding fraud investigations and referrals shall not be public unless the commissioner of labor or the attorney general commences administrative or criminal proceedings.

Sec. 3.  13 V.S.A. § 2031 is amended to read:

§ 2031.  INSURANCE FRAUD

(a)  Definitions.  As used in this section:

* * *

(2)  “Insurance policy” has the same meaning as in 8 V.S.A. § 4722(3) and includes a workers’ compensation policy issued pursuant to chapter 9 of Title 21.

(3)  “Insurer” has the same meaning as in 8 V.S.A. § 4901(2) and includes a workers’ compensation insurer pursuant to chapter 9 of Title 21.

(4) “Person” means a natural person, company, corporation, unincorporated association, partnership, professional corporation, agency of government, or any other entity.

* * *

(g)  This section shall not apply to workers’ compensation fraud. Cases involving workers’ compensation fraud shall be prosecuted under section 2024 of this title.

(h)  The public policy of this state is that the standards of this section shall not apply or be introduced into evidence in any civil or administrative proceeding, whether to argue public policy, materiality, or for any other purpose.

Sec. 4.  CREATION OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION EMPLOYEE CLASSIFICATION TASK FORCE

(a)  There is created a workers’ compensation classification task force to be composed of 14 members to include the following members:

(1)  The commissioner of taxes or designee.

(2)  The commissioner of labor or designee.

(3)  The commissioner of banking, insurance, securities, and health care administration or designee.

(4)  The attorney general or designee.

(5)  The auditor of accounts or designee.

(6)  Two members of the house, one from the committee on commerce and one from the committee on ways and means to be appointed by the speaker.

(7)  Two members of the senate, one from the committee on economic development, housing and general affairs and one from the committee on finance to be appointed by the committee on committees.

(8)  A member from the insurance industry appointed by the American Insurance Association.

 (9)  Four members appointed by the employer and employee members of the department of labor advisory counsel established in 21 V.S.A. § 1306 as follows:

(A)  Two members who represent labor.

(B)  Two members who represent management.

(b)  The task force shall meet as needed, and legislative council shall provide administrative support.

(c)  The task force shall:

(1)  Investigate and analyze misclassification and miscoding of employees and offer recommendations to address the following:

(A)  Coordination of systematic investigations and enforcement of employee misclassification among appropriate governmental entities and law enforcement organizations.

(B)  Improved speed and efficiency of the exchange of information among appropriate government entities about suspected employee misclassification in order to improve the prevention, investigation, and enforcement of employee misclassification.

(C)  Improved outreach to and public education for businesses and labor to promote wider understanding and compliance with requirements for classifying employees and the costs associated with misclassification in order to identify incidents of misclassification and to encourage filing of complaints and identification of potential violators.

(2)  The task force shall issue a interim report on or before January 1, 2009, and a final report on or before October 15, 2009.  Both reports shall be provided to the house committee on commerce and the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs.  The interim report shall outline the task force’s progress in addressing the issues of the final report, and the final report shall outline findings and recommendations regarding all the following:

(A)  A description of the efforts and successes within state government to reduce the frequency of employee misclassification, including the number of employers cited for violations related to misclassification, a description of the types of misclassification cited, the approximate number of employees affected, and the amount of wages, premiums, taxes, and other payments or penalties collected.

(B)  Administrative, legislative, or regulatory changes designed to reduce misclassification and miscoding of employees, by improving public and business education, sharing information, and increasing the cooperation and efficiency of enforcement of employee misclassification.

(C)  A consistent, workable, and fair method for determining independent contractor status, including the issues raised in Vermont Courier v. Vermont Department of Employment and Training, 166 VT. 639 (1977).

(D)  Any other issue relevant to reducing the incidences of employee misclassification and miscoding, including a recommendation as to whether the task force should continue meeting and, if so, for how long.

Sec. 5.  FRAUD ENFORCEMENT STUDY; DEPARTMENT OF LABOR; DEPARTMENT OF BANKING, INSURANCE, SECURITIES, AND HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION

The department of labor in collaboration with the department of banking, insurance, securities, and health care administration and the attorney general shall perform an assessment of the fraud problem and develop proposals for legislation that will improve the effectiveness and enforcement of the current fraud statutes, including specific recommendations for improving enforcement, stimulating interagency cooperation including information sharing and prosecution, and creating a fraud unit complete with proposals for staffing, reporting, structure, and funding.  The assessment and legislative proposals shall be presented in a written report to the governor, the house committee on commerce, and the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs on or before November 15, 2009.

* * * Safety Incentives * * *

Sec. 6.  WORKERS’ COMPENSATION DISCOUNTS; IMPROVED EFFICIENCY AND SAFETY; STUDY; DEPARTMENT OF LABOR; DEPARTMENT OF BANKING, INSURANCE, SECURITIES, AND HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION

(a)  The department of labor and the department of banking, insurance, securities, and health care administration in consultation with the department of labor advisory council established in 21 V.S.A. § 1306 shall study and propose specific legislation and appropriate administrative rules that affect the following:

(1)  Provide workers’ compensation premium discounts for employers whose employees have demonstrated the implementation and effectiveness of a workplace safety certification program.

(2)  Provide rate reductions for employers who implement an effective return-to-work program or a drug and alcohol prevention program, or both.

(3)  Review the fairness of the distribution of workers’ compensation liability for preexisting conditions.

(4)   Survey other state workplace safety discount programs to evaluate their effectiveness in improving workplace safety as well as their impact on premiums paid by nonparticipants.

(5)  Improve the rate of return to employment for claimants receiving permanent disability benefits by examining best practices for returning injured employees to work that have been used successfully by providers, employers, and relevant programs in Vermont and other jurisdictions.

(6)  Assure the application of best practices to the vocational rehabilitation system in order to improve its functionality and effectiveness in increasing employability.

(7)  Identify and facilitate the implementation of industry best practices and other methods designed to increase substantially workplace safety.   

(b)  The results of the study and legislative recommendations shall be included in a written report and filed with the governor, the house committee on commerce, and the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs on or before October 15, 2009.

* * * First‑Aid‑Only Injuries and Deductible Policies * * *

Sec. 7.  21 V.S.A. § 640(e) is added to read:

(e)  In the case of a work‑related, first‑aid‑only injury, the employer shall file the first report of injury with the department of labor.  The employer may then file the first report of injury with the workers’ compensation insurance carrier or pay the medical bill within 30 days.  If the employer contests a claim, a first report of injury shall be forwarded to the department of labor and the insurer within five days of notice.  If additional treatment or medical visits are required or if the employee loses more than one day of work, the claim shall be promptly reported to the workers’ compensation insurer, which shall adjust the claim.  “Work‑related, first‑aid‑only‑treatment” means any one-time treatment that generates a bill for less than $750.00, and the employee loses no time from work except for the time for medical treatment and recovery not to exceed one day of absence from work.

Sec. 8.  21 V.S.A. § 687(e) is added to read:

(e)  All insurance carriers authorized to write workers’ compensation insurance policy shall make available, at the written request of the employer, a workers’ compensation insurance rate that contains a deductible provision that binds the employer to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurer for at least the first $500.00 of benefits, medical or indemnity, due to an injured employee.  Claims shall be adjusted and paid by the insurer, and the employer shall reimburse the insurer for the amount of the deductible.

* * * Evaluation of Permanent Impairment * * *

Sec. 9.  EVALUATION OF PERMANENT IMPAIRMENT; USE OF AMA GUIDES

Notwithstanding 21 V.S.A. § 648(b), the department of labor shall continue to use the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, until such time the commissioner of labor has evaluated an analysis of the sixth edition performed by NCCI or other appropriate rating agency to assure that adoption of the sixth edition will not have a significantly detrimental impact on injured workers entitled to permanent disability benefits.  At least 60 days before adopting the sixth edition, the department shall submit a written report to the house committee on commerce and the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs, outlining the analysis that formed the basis for determining that use of the sixth edition will not have a significantly detrimental impact on injured workers entitled to permanent disability benefits.

* * * Computation of Average Weekly Wage and COLA Adjustment * * *

Sec. 10.  21 V.S.A. § 650(a) and (d) are amended to read:

(a)  Average weekly wages shall be computed in such manner as is best calculated to give the average weekly earnings of the worker during the 12 26 weeks preceding an injury; but where, by reason of the shortness of the time during which the worker has been in the employment, or the casual nature of the employment, or the terms of the employment, it is impracticable to compute the rate of remuneration, average weekly wages of the injured worker may be based on the average weekly earnings during the 12 26 weeks previous to the injury earned by a person in the same grade employed at the same or similar work by the employer of the injured worker, or if there is no comparable employee, by a person in the same grade employed in the same class of employment and in the same district.  If during the period of 12 26 weeks an injured employee has been absent from employment on account of sickness or suspension of work by the employer, then only the time during which the employee was able to work shall be used to determine the employee’s average weekly wage.  If the injured employee is employed in the concurrent service of more than one insured employer or self-insurer the total earnings from the several insured employers and self-insurers shall be combined in determining the employee’s average weekly wages, but insurance liability shall be exclusively upon the employer in whose employ the injury occurred.  The average weekly wage of a volunteer firefighter, volunteer rescue or ambulance worker, volunteer reserve police officer, or volunteer as set forth in subdivision 1101(b)(4) of Title 3, who is injured in the discharge of duties as a firefighter, rescue or ambulance worker, police officer, or state agency volunteer, shall be the employee’s average weekly wage in the employee’s regular employment or vocation but the provisions of section 642 of this title relative to maximum weekly compensation and weekly net income rates, shall apply.  For the purpose of calculating permanent total or permanent partial disability compensation, the provisions relating to the maximum and minimum weekly compensation rate shall apply.  In any event, if a worker at the time of the injury is regularly employed at a higher wage rate or in a higher grade of work than formerly during the 12 26 weeks preceding the injury and with larger regular wages, only the larger wages shall be taken into consideration in computing the worker’s average weekly wages.

(d)  Compensation computed pursuant to this section shall be adjusted annually on July 1, so that such compensation continues to bear the same percentage relationship to the average weekly wage in the state as computed under this chapter as it did at the time of injury.  Temporary total or temporary partial compensation shall first be adjusted on the first July 1 following the receipt of 26 weeks of benefits.

* * * Temporary Total Two‑Year Review * * *

Sec. 11.  21 V.S.A. § 642a is added to read:

§ 642a.  TEMPORARY TOTAL; INSURER REVIEW

The employer shall review every claim for temporary total disability benefits that continue for more than 104 weeks.  No later than 30 days after 104 weeks of continuous temporary total disability benefits have been paid, the employer shall file with the department and the claimant a medical report from a physician that evaluates the medical status of the claimant, the expected duration of the disability, and when or if the claimant is expected to return to work.  If the evaluating physician concludes that the claimant has reached a medical end result, the employer shall file a notice to discontinue.


* * * Vocational Rehabilitation * * *

Sec. 12.  21 V.S.A. § 641(a)(1) and (c) are amended to read:

(1)  The employer shall designate a vocational rehabilitation provider from a list provided by the commissioner to initially provide services. Thereafter, absent good cause, the employee may have only one opportunity to select another vocational rehabilitation provider from a list provided by the commissioner upon giving the employer written notice of the employee’s reasons for dissatisfaction with the designated provider and the name and address of the provider selected by the employee. 

(c)  Any vocational rehabilitation plan for a claimant presented to the employer shall be deemed valid if the employer was provided an opportunity to participate in the development of the plan and has made no objections or changes within 21 days after submission.

(d)  The commissioner may adopt rules necessary to carry out the purpose of this section.

Sec. 13.  VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION; DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

(a)  The commissioner of labor shall consult with the department of labor advisory counsel established in 21 V.S.A. § 1306 to review current practices and activities in the following areas:

(1)  Providing timely notification to all claimants who have been out of work for 90 consecutive days of their rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for vocational rehabilitation services and screenings and requiring immediate administrative enforcement for any failure to provide that notification.

(2)  Ensuring that all lost‑time claimants receive simple, understandable notices of their rights to and how to request vocational rehabilitation services no later than their receipt of their first workers’ compensation indemnity benefits.

(3)  Enabling timely review and resolution of insurance coverage and payment issues and other disputes arising in the development and implementation of vocational rehabilitation services.

(4)  Developing performance standards to measure the success of vocational rehabilitation plans and other appropriate approaches to increase the number of injured workers returning to suitable employment.

(b)  The department shall commence rulemaking to improve deficiencies found in the review required in subsection (a) of this section and shall submit to the house committee on commerce and the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs a written report explaining the reasons for the rules to be adopted. 

* * * Attorney Fees * * *

Sec. 14.  21 V.S.A. § 678 is amended to read:

§ 678. COSTS; ATTORNEY FEES

* * *

(b)  In appeals to the superior or supreme courts, if the claimant, if he or she prevails, shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s attorney fees as approved by the court, and interest at the rate of 12 percent per annum on that portion of any award the payment of which is contested.  Interest shall be computed from the date of the award of the commissioner.

* * *

(d)  In cases that are not resolved pursuant to a formal hearing, the commissioner may award reasonable attorney fees if the claimant has retained an attorney in response to an actual or effective denial of a claim, a hearing has been requested, and thereafter payments are made to the claimant as a result of the attorney’s efforts. 

* * * Assistance to Claimants * * *

Sec. 15.  ASSISTANCE TO CLAIMANT; BARGAINING AGENT; RULEMAKING; DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

The department of labor shall adopt a rule that permits a representative of the claimant’s bargaining unit to provide informal assistance to a workers’ compensation claimant in regard to any claim for workers’ compensation benefits in all aspects except at a formal hearing.

* * * Farm Safety Programs * * *

Sec. 16.  FARM SAFETY PROGRAMS; AGENCY OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND MARKETS; STUDIES

(a)  The secretary of agriculture, food and markets in collaboration with the department of labor and the University of Vermont extension service shall:

(1)  In collaboration with farm organizations, and other relevant organizations, develop farm safety and occupational health best management practices for the protection of farm workers and shall develop educational programs that will enable farm workers to understand and comply with those best management practices.

(2)  In collaboration with the department of banking, insurance, securities, and health care administration and representatives of the insurance industry, investigate the feasibility of developing a safety certification program for farms.  The investigation shall consider approaches to providing a premium reduction for farmers certified under such a safety certification program.

(3)  In collaboration with the University of Vermont extension rural and agricultural vocational rehabilitation program (RAVR), develop rural and agricultural vocational rehabilitation best management practices for use by vocational rehabilitation counselors.

(b)  Administrative support shall be provided by the legislative council and the joint fiscal office.

(c)  The results and recommendations resulting from the studies required under subsection (a) of this section shall be presented in a written report to the senate committees on agriculture and on economic development, housing and general affairs and to the house committees on agriculture and on commerce on or before February 1, 2009.

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.

Senator Bartlett, for the Committee on Appropriations, to which the bill was referred, reported recommending that the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Economic Development Housing and General Affairs with the following amendments thereto:

First:  In Sec. 5, by striking out all after the section title and inserting in lieu thereof the following:  The provision for the study to have been required by this section is to be included in the 2009 omnibus appropriations act.

Second:  In Sec. 6, by striking out subsections (a) and (b) in their entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following: The provision for the study to have been required by this section is to be included in the 2009 omnibus appropriations act.

Third:  In Sec. 16, by striking out subsections (a), (b) and (c) in their entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following: The provision for the study to have been required by this section is to be included in the 2009 omnibus appropriations act.

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.

Thereupon, the bill was read the second time by title only pursuant to Rule 43, and the recommendation of amendment of the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs was amended as recommended by the Committee on Appropriations.

Thereupon, pending the question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, as amended?, on motion of Senator Mullin the question was divided.

Thereupon, the question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs in Sec. 9 of the amendments?, was decided in the affirmative on a roll call, Yeas 22, Nays 3.

Senator Mullin having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call

Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Carris, Condos, Cummings, Flanagan, Giard, Hartwell, Illuzzi, Kitchel, Kittell, Lyons, MacDonald, McCormack, Miller, Racine, Scott, Sears, Snelling, Starr, White.

Those Senators who voted in the negative were: Coppenrath, Maynard, Mullin.

Those Senators absent or not voting were: Collins, Doyle, Mazza (presiding), Nitka, Shumlin.

Thereupon, the question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs in Secs. 1 through 8 and 10 through 16?, was decided in the affirmative.

President Assumes the Chair

Thereupon, third reading of the bill was ordered on a roll call, Yeas 25, Nays 1.

Senator Campbell having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call

Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Carris, Condos, Cummings, Flanagan, Giard, Hartwell, Illuzzi, Kitchel, Kittell, Lyons, MacDonald, Maynard, Mazza, McCormack, Miller, Mullin, Racine, Scott, Sears, Snelling, Starr, White.

The Senator who voted in the negative was: Coppenrath.

Those Senators absent and not voting were: Collins, Doyle, Nitka, Shumlin.

Recess

On motion of Senator Campbell the Senate recessed until 4:15 P.M.


Called to Order

At 4:20 P.M. the Senate was called to order by the President.

Message from the House No. 40

     A message was received from the House of Representatives by Ms. Wrask, its Second Assistant Clerk, as follows:

Mr. President:

I am directed to inform the Senate the Governor has informed the House of Representatives that on the twenty-fourth day of March, 2008, he approved and signed bills originating in the House of the following titles:

H. 93.  An act relating to beer producers’ interest in retail liquor licenses.

H. 575.  An act relating to small eligible telecommunications carriers.

Message from the Governor

A message was received from His Excellency, the Governor, by Dennise Casey, Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs, as follows:

Mr. President:

I am directed by the Governor to inform the Senate that on the twenty-fifth day of March, 2008, he approved and signed a bill originating in the Senate of the following title:

S. 351.  An act relating to consolidating management of public records.

Bill Amended; Third Reading Ordered

S. 275.

Senator Scott, for the Committee on Transportation, to which was referred Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to motor vehicles passing bicyclists on highways.

     Reported recommending that the bill be amended by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  23 V.S.A. § 1033 is amended to read:

§ 1033.  PASSING ON THE LEFT MOTOR VEHICLES AND VULNERABLE USERS

(a)  Passing motor vehicles.  Vehicles proceeding in the same direction may be overtaken and passed only as follows:

(1)  The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction may pass to its left at a safe distance, and when so doing shall exercise due care, may not pass to the left of the center of the highway unless the way ahead is clear of approaching traffic, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

(2)  Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

(b)  Passing vulnerable users.  As used in this subsection, “vulnerable user” means a pedestrian, a person operating a bicycle or other non-motor vehicle, a highway worker, a person riding or herding an animal, and a person operating a farm tractor or implement of husbandry.  The operator of a motor vehicle approaching or passing a “vulnerable user” shall exercise due care, which includes using every reasonable precaution, to safely clear the vulnerable user. 

Sec. 2.  REPEAL

The following sections of title 23 are repealed:

(1)  §1127 (passing a vehicle drawn by horses or other draft animals).

(2)  § 1053 (passing pedestrians on a highway).

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.

Senator Kittell, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture, moved that the recommendation of amendment of the Committee on Transportation be amended by striking out Sec. 2 in its entirety and inserting two new sections to read as follows:

Sec. 2.  23 V.S.A. § 1127 is amended to read:

§ 1127.  CONTROL IN PRESENCE OF HORSES AND, CATTLE, SHEEP, AND GOATS

(a)  Whenever upon a public highway and approaching a vehicle drawn by a horse or other draft animal, or approaching a horse or other animal upon which a person is riding, the operator of a motor vehicle shall operate the vehicle in such a manner as to exercise every reasonable precaution to prevent the frightening of such horse or animal and to insure the safety and protection of the person riding or driving.

(b)  The operator of a motor vehicle shall yield to any cattle, sheep, or goats which are being herded or horses being ridden on or across a highway.


Sec. 3.  REPEAL

23 V.S.A. § 1053 (passing pedestrians on a highway) is repealed.

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.

Thereupon, the bill was read the second time by title only pursuant to Rule 43, and the recommendation of amendment of the Committee on Transportation was amended as moved by Senator Kittell, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture.

Thereupon, the pending question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Transportation, as amended?, was decided in the affirmative.

Thereupon, third reading of the bill was ordered.

Consideration Resumed; Bill Passed

S. 152.

Consideration was resumed on Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to prevention of lead poisoning by exposure to lead in consumer products.

Thereupon, pending the question, Shall the bill be amended as moved by Senator Sears?, Senator Sears requested and was granted leave to withdraw the proposal of amendment.

Thereupon, the bill was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 27, Nays 1.

Senator Sears having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call

Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Carris, Collins, Condos, Coppenrath, Cummings, Doyle, Giard, Hartwell, Illuzzi, Kitchel, Kittell, Lyons, MacDonald, Maynard, Mazza, McCormack, Miller, Racine, Scott, Sears, Shumlin, Snelling, Starr, White.

The Senator who voted in the negative was: Mullin.

Those Senators absent and not voting were: Flanagan, Nitka.


Consideration Postponed

S. 201.

Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to state employee whistleblower protection.

Was taken up.

Thereupon, without objection consideration of the bill was postponed until tomorrow.

Bill Amended; Third Reading Ordered

S. 311.

Senator MacDonald, for the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, to which was referred Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to current use enrollment for conservation lands and ecologically significant lands.

     Reported recommending that the bill be amended by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS; INTENT

(a)  The general assembly finds that the use value appraisal program:

(1)  Continues to achieve the goals of the program although the goal of protecting natural ecological systems was not being specifically met. The 20‑percent rule should be amended to allow for more flexibility in the enrollment of ecological areas, such as rare or exemplary natural communities, riparian buffers, wetlands, vernal pools, and significant wildlife habitat;

(2)  Needs electronic coordination;

(3)  Must have staff increases at the division of property valuation and review and at the department of forests, parks and recreation;

(4)  Needs administrative streamlining;

(5)  Should provide consistent oversight between the agricultural and forest land programs;

(6)  Should generate more funding for sufficient administration of the program;

(7)  Has serious misperceptions about it in the minds of the general public, listers, potentially eligible landowners, enrolled landowners, attorneys, and realtors that the state must lead an educational effort to correct.

(b)  Therefore, the general assembly intends that this act will improve this successful program.

* * * New Application at Time of Transfer of Ownership * * *

Sec. 2.  32 V.S.A. § 3756(e) is amended to read:

(e)  Once a use value appraisal has been applied for and granted under this section, such appraisal shall remain in effect for subsequent tax years pursuant to the provisions of subsection (f) of this section, and until the property concerned is transferred to another owner or is no longer eligible under provisions of section 3752 or 3755 of this chapter, or due to a change of use or as otherwise provided in section 3757 of this chapter.  If enrolled property is transferred to another owner, the new owner shall be entitled to continue to have the eligible property appraised at its use value, provided the property remains eligible and provided the new owner shall elect the continuation of use value appraisal on the property transfer tax return at the time of transfer and, within 30 days of the transfer, has applied to the director and paid the fees described in this subsection.  The grant of use value appraisals of agricultural forest land and farm buildings shall be recorded in the land records of the municipality by the clerk of the municipality.  The department of taxes may collect from applicants the fees specified in subdivision 1671(a)(6) or subsection 1671(c) of this title, for deposit in a special fund established and managed pursuant to subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of this title, and which shall be available as payment for the fees of the clerk of the municipality.

Sec. 3.  PROPERTY TRANSFER TAX RETURN

     The commissioner of taxes shall amend the property transfer tax return to include an election to continue eligible property in the use value appraisal program at the time of transfer to a new owner, as allowed under 32 V.S.A. § 3756(e).

* * * Application Fee * * *

Sec. 4.  32 V.S.A. § 3756(a) is amended to read:

(a)  The owner of eligible agricultural land, farm buildings, or managed forest land shall be entitled to have eligible property appraised at its use value provided the owner shall have applied to the director on or before September 1 of the previous tax year, on a form approved by the board and provided by the director.  A fee of $25.00 shall accompany the application.  A farmer, whose application has been accepted on or before December 31 by the director of the division of property valuation and review of the department of taxes for enrollment for the use value program for the current tax year, shall be entitled to have eligible property appraised at its use value, if he or she was prevented from applying on or before September 1 of the previous year due to the severe illness of the farmer.

* * * Increase Time and Flexibility to Inspect Forest Parcels * * *

Sec. 5.  32 V.S.A. § 3755(b)(3) and (c) are amended to read:

(3)  there has not been filed with the director an adverse inspection report by the department stating that the management of the tract is contrary to the forest or conservation management plan, or contrary to the minimum acceptable standards for forest or conservation management.  The management activity report of conformance with any management plan shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner of forests, parks and recreation in consultation with the commissioner of taxes and shall include a detachable section signed by all the owners that shall contain the federal tax identification numbers of all the owners.  The section containing federal tax identification numbers shall not be made available to the general public, but shall be forwarded to the commissioner of taxes within 30 days after receipt and used for tax administration purposes.  If any owner shall satisfy the department that he or she was prevented by accident, mistake or misfortune from filing a management plan which is required to be filed on or before October 1 or an annual conformance a management activity report which is required to be filed on or before February 1 of the year following the year when the management activity occurred, the department may receive that management plan or annual conformance management activity report at a later date; provided, however, no management plan shall be received later than December 31 and no annual conformance management activity report shall be received later than March 1.

(c)  At intervals not to exceed five years, the The department of forests, parks and recreation shall audit periodically review the management plans and each year review the conformance management activity reports for each parcel of managed forest land qualified for use value appraisal.  Likewise, at that have been filed.  At intervals not to exceed five ten years, that department shall inspect each tract parcel of managed forest land qualified for use value appraisal to verify that the terms of the management plan have been carried out in a timely fashion.  If that department finds that the management of the tract is contrary to the conservation or forest management plan, or contrary to the minimum acceptable standards for conservation or forest management, it shall file with the owner, the assessing officials and the director an adverse inspection report within 30 days of the inspection.

Sec. 6.  32 V.S.A. § 3756(i) is amended to read:

(i)  The director shall remove from use value appraisal an entire parcel of managed forest land and notify the owner in accordance with the procedure in subsection (b) of this section when the department of forests, parks and recreation has not received a conformance management activity report or has received an adverse inspection report, unless the lack of conformance consists solely of the failure to make prescribed planned cutting.  In that case, the director may delay removal from use value appraisal for a period of one year at a time to allow time to bring the parcel into conformance with the plan.

* * * Allow for Management of Ecological Areas * * *

Sec. 7.  COMMISSIONER OF FORESTS, PARKS AND RECREATION

The commissioner of forests, parks and recreation shall amend the minimum standards of forest management to expand the eligibility of Site 4 land and to identify certain ecologically sensitive areas that will be allowed to be managed for other purposes than timber production, as follows:

(1)  A parcel may be eligible if no more than 20 percent of the acres to be enrolled are Site 4, plus open and not to be restocked within two years, plus ecologically significant areas designated by the department.  These acres need not be managed for timber production.

(2)  The commissioner shall take note of and incorporate criteria developed by the Vermont nongame and natural heritage program, the American Tree Farm System, and the Forest Stewardship Council, in addition to the criteria submitted in testimony, for determining ecologically sensitive areas.  The public shall be given an opportunity to comment on the amended standards.

(3)  If more than 20 percent of the acres to be enrolled are Site 4, plus open plus ecologically significant and not to be managed for timber production, landowners may apply to the commissioner for approval.  The applications shall be reviewed by the county foresters of the county where the parcel is located.  In no situation shall a parcel be approved that does not provide for at least 80 percent of the land classified as Site 1, 2, or 3 to be managed for timber production. 

(4)  The amended standards shall be in effect before September 1, 2008.

(5)  The commissioner shall report to the house and senate committees on natural resources and energy on the changes in the standards on or before January 15, 2009.

* * * Flexibility in Updating Use Value on Town Grand List * * *

Sec. 8.  32 V.S.A. § 4111(e) and (g) are amended to read:

(e)  When the listers return the grand list book to the town clerk, they shall notify by first class mail, on which postage has been prepaid and which has been addressed to their last known address, all affected persons, listed as property owners in the grand list book of any change in the appraised value of such property or any change in the allocation of value to the homestead as defined under subdivision 5401(7) of this title or the housesite as defined under subdivision 6061(11) of this title, and also notify them of the amount of such change and of the time and place fixed in the public notice hereinafter provided for, when persons aggrieved may be heard.  No notice shall be required for a change solely to reflect a new use value set by the current use advisory board.  Notices shall be mailed at least 14 days before the time fixed for hearing.  Such personal notices shall be given in all towns and cities within the state, anything in the charter of any city to the contrary notwithstanding.  At the same time, the listers shall post notices in the town clerk’s office and in at least four other public places in the town or in the case of a city, in such other manner and places as the city charter shall provide, setting forth that they have completed and filed such book as an abstract and the time and place of the meeting for hearing grievances and making corrections.  Unless the personal notices required hereby were sent by registered or certified mail, or unless an official certificate of mailing of the same was obtained from the post office, in the case of any controversy subsequently arising it shall be presumed that the personal notices were not mailed as required.

(g)  A person who feels aggrieved by the action of the listers and desires to be heard by them, shall, on or before the day of the grievance meeting, file with them his or her objections in writing and may appear at such grievance meeting in person or by his or her agents or attorneys.  No grievance shall be allowed for a change solely to reflect a new use value set by the current use advisory board.  Upon the hearing of such grievance, the parties thereto may submit such documentary or sworn evidence as shall be pertinent thereto.

* * * Municipalities Allowed to Enroll Land in Other Municipalities * * *

Sec. 9.  32 V.S.A. § 3752(10) is amended to read:

(10)  “Owner” means the person who is the owner of record of any land, provided that a municipality shall not be an owner for purposes of this subchapter.  When enrolled land is mortgaged, the mortgagor shall be deemed the owner of the land for the purposes of this subchapter, until the mortgagee takes possession, either by voluntary act of the mortgagor or foreclosure, after which the mortgagee shall be deemed the owner.

Sec. 10.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect upon passage except for Sec. 8 which shall apply to grand lists of April 1, 2009 and after.

After passage, the title of the bill is to be amended to read:

     AN ACT RELATING TO THE USE VALUE APPRAISAL PROGRAM.

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.

Senator MacDonald, for the Committee on Finance, to which the bill was referred, reported recommending that the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee Natural Resources and Energy with the following amendments thereto:

First:  By striking out Sec. 4 in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof a new Sec. 4 to read as follows:

Sec. 4.  32 V.S.A. § 3756(e) is amended to read:

(e)  Once a use value appraisal has been applied for and granted under this section, such appraisal shall remain in effect for subsequent tax years pursuant to the provisions of subsection (f) of this section, and until the property concerned is no longer eligible under provisions of section 3752 or 3755 of this chapter, or due to a change of use or as otherwise provided in section 3757 of this chapter.  The grant of use value appraisals of agricultural forest land and farm buildings shall be recorded in the land records of the municipality by the clerk of the municipality.  The department of taxes may collect from applicants the fees specified in subdivision 1671(a)(6) or subsection 1671(c) of this title, and a fee of $25.00 for deposit in a special fund established and managed pursuant to subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of this title, and which. The fund shall be available as payment for the fees of the clerk of the municipality and for the improvement of the program.

Second:  By adding a new section to be Sec. 10 to read as follows:

Sec. 10.  ONE-TIME CURRENT USE PARCEL FEE

The department of taxes shall assess a one-time fee of $25.00 on each parcel enrolled in the use value appraisal program established under chapter 124 of Title 32.  The fee shall be due on or before June 30, 2009 and shall be deposited into the program special fund created pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 3756(e) for improvements to the program.

     And by renumbering the following section to be numerically correct.

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.

Thereupon, pending the reading of the report of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Bartlett requested and was granted leave to withdraw the proposals of amendment of the Committee on Appropriations.

Thereupon, the bill was read the second time by title only pursuant to Rule 43, and the recommendation of amendment of the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy was amended as recommended by the Committee on Finance.

Thereupon, the pending question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, as amended?, was decided in the affirmative.

Thereupon, third reading of the bill was ordered.

Bill Amended; Third Reading Ordered

S. 229.

Senator Flanagan, for the Committee on Government Operations, to which was referred Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to access to public records.

     Reported recommending that the bill be amended by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  1 V.S.A. § 318 is amended to read:

§ 318.  PROCEDURE

* * *

(b)  Any person making a request to any agency for records under subsection (a) of this section shall be deemed to have exhausted his the person’s administrative remedies with respect to each request if the agency fails to comply within the applicable time limit provisions of this section.  Upon any determination by an agency to comply with a request for records, the records shall be made available promptly to the person making such request.  Any notification of denial of any request for records under this section shall set forth the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the denial of such request.

(c)  Any denial of access by the custodian of a public record may be appealed to the head of the agency.  The head of the agency shall make a written determination on an appeal within five business days after the receipt of the appeal.  A written determination shall include the asserted statutory basis for denial and a brief statement of the reasons and supporting facts for denial.  If the head of the agency reverses the denial of a request for records, the records shall be promptly made available to the person making the request.  A failure by the agency to comply with any of the time limit provisions of this section shall be deemed a final denial of the request for records by the agency.

Sec. 2.  1 V.S.A. § 321 is added to read:

§ 321.  PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REVIEW COMMITTEE

(a)  There is established a committee to review the requirements of the public records act and the numerous exemptions to that act in order to assure the integrity, viability, and the ultimate purposes of the act.  The review committee shall consist of the following members:

(1)  One member of the senate appointed by the committee on committees;

(2)  One member of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house;

(3)  The attorney general or his or her designee;

(4)  The secretary of administration or his or her designee;

(5)  The state auditor or his or her designee;

(6)  The state archivist or his or her designee;

(7)  One representative of municipal interests, appointed by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns;

(8)  One representative of the Vermont press association, appointed by the association;

(9)  One representative of school or educational interests appointed by the governor;

(10)  One representative of a statewide coalition of advocates of freedom of access appointed by the speaker of the house;

(11)  One member of the American Civil Liberties Union appointed by the union;

(12)  One representative of the judiciary appointed by the court administrator.

(b)  The review committee shall review and analyze each of the exemptions in statute to the review and disclosure of public records required by section 317 of this title.  Annually, the review committee shall review at least 20 exemptions in statute to the review and disclosure of public records required by section 317 of this title.  Prior to each legislative session, the committee shall report to the house and senate committees on government operations and the house and senate committees on judiciary with recommendations concerning whether any public records act exemption should be repealed, amended, or remain unchanged.  The report of the committee may take the form of draft legislation. 

(c)  In reviewing and making recommendation regarding an existing public records act exemption under subsection (b) of this section, the committee shall review the following criteria:

(1)  Whether a record protected by an exemption is required to be collected and maintained;

(2)  The value to an agency or to the public in maintaining a record protected by the exemption;

(3)  Whether federal law requires a record to be confidential;

(4)  Whether the exception protects an individual’s privacy interest and, if so, whether that interest substantially outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of records;

(5)  Whether public disclosure puts a business at a competitive disadvantage and, if so, whether that business’s interest substantially outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of records;

(6)  Whether public disclosure compromises the position of a public agency in negotiations and, if so, whether that public agency’s interest substantially outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of records;

(7)  Whether public disclosure jeopardizes the safety of a member of the public or the public in general and, if so, whether that safety interest substantially outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of records;

(8)  Whether the exception is as narrowly tailored as possible; and

(9)  Any other criteria that assist the review committee in determining the value of the exception as compared to the public’s interest in the record protected by the exception. 

(d)  On or before January 15, 2010, the review committee shall report to the senate and house committees on government operations with a recommended fee structure for staff time associated with complying with and reviewing public records requests.  In making a recommendation under this subsection, the review committee shall attempt to balance the public policy in allowing for access to the public records of the state with the cost of public records requests on public agencies.

(e)  The review committee may hold public hearings and solicit the input of interested parties regarding exemptions under its review.  Meetings of the review committee and public hearings held by the review committee shall be subject to the provisions of subchapter 2 of chapter 5 of Title 1.  The office of the secretary of state shall provide staff services to the committee.  Members of the committee may receive a per diem and expenses pursuant to section 1010 of Title 32.


Sec. 3.  18 V.S.A. § 5001 is amended to read:

§ 5001.  VITAL RECORDS; FORMS OF CERTIFICATES

(a)  Certificates of birth, marriage, civil union, divorce, death, and fetal death shall be in form prescribed by the commissioner of health and distributed by the health department.

(b)  Beginning January 1, 2010, all certificates of birth, marriage, civil union, divorce, death, and fetal death shall be issued on unique paper with antifraud features approved by the commissioner of health and available from the health department.

Sec. 4.  1 V.S.A. § 317(b) is amended to read:

(b)  As used in this subchapter, “public record” or “public document” means all papers, documents, machine readable materials, or any other written or recorded matters, regardless of their physical form or characteristics, that are produced or acquired in the course of agency business any written or recorded information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which is produced or acquired in the course of public agency business.  Individual salaries and benefits of and salary schedules relating to elected or appointed officials and employees of public agencies shall not be exempt from public inspection and copying.

Senator Ayer, for the Committee on Finance, to which the bill was referred, reported that the bill ought to pass when so amended.

Senator Bartlett, for the Committee on Appropriations, to which the bill was referred, reported recommending that the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Government Operations with the following amendment thereto:

By striking out Sec. 2 in its entirety and renumbering the remaining section of the bill to be numerically correct.

And that when so amended the bill ought to pass.

Thereupon, the bill was read the second time by title only pursuant to Rule 43, and the recommendation of amendment of the Committee on Government Operations was amended as recommended by the Committee on Appropriations.

Thereupon, the pending question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Government Operations, as amended?, was decided in the affirmative.

Thereupon, pending the question, Shall the bill be read a third time?, Senator Condos moved to amend the bill by adding a new section  to read as follows:

Sec. 5.  32 V.S.A. § 405 is added to read:

§ 405.  TAXPAYER TRANSPARENCY WEBSITE

(a)  As used in this section “expenditure of state funds” means the disbursement of state funds, whether appropriated or nonappropriated, excluding: 

(1)  the transfer of funds between two state agencies;

(2)  payments of state or federal assistance to an individual;

(3)  child support payments; and

(4)  refunds issued by the department of taxes resulting from the overpayment of tax.

(b)  Beginning January 1, 2010, the secretary of administration shall develop and operate a website accessible by the public that shall include:

(1)  state revenue received in each fiscal year;

(2)  the total amount of state funds expended in each fiscal year;

(3)  individual expenditures of state funds in each fiscal year, including the type of transaction, the funding or expending agency, and a description of the purpose of the funding action or expenditure;

(4)  the total number of state contracts, their monetary value, and the number and percentage of Vermont businesses and out-of-state businesses awarded state contracts;

(5)  the name and principal location of the entity or recipients of state funds, excluding release of information relating to an individual's place of residence; and

(6)  The full text of state contracts with a monetary value of $25,000.00 or more.

(c)  Nothing in this section shall require the disclosure of information which is exempt from disclosure or confidential under state or federal law.  Prior to posting a state contract under subsection (b) of this section, the secretary of administration shall redact information that is exempt from disclosure or confidential under state or federal law.

(d)  The disclosure of information required by this section shall create no liability whatsoever, civil or criminal, to the state of Vermont or any member of the department of finance or any employee thereof for disclosure of the information or for any error or omission in a disclosure required by this section.

     Thereupon, pending the question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by Senator Condos?, Senator Condos requested and was granted leave to withdraw the proposal of amendment.

Thereupon, pending the question, Shall the bill be read a third time?, Senators Kittell and Collins moved to amend the bill by adding a new section to read as follows:

Sec. 5.  32 V.S.A. § 313 is added to read:

§ 313.  GRANT REPORT

(a)  Beginning January 15, 2009, each executive branch agency or department shall issue an annual report on all grants made by the agency or department in the preceding calendar year.  The report shall be formatted as a table and shall include:

(1)  An identification number or code for each grant issued by an agency;

(2)  The name and address of every applicant for each grant;

(3)  The name and address of the ultimate recipient of grant monies;

(4)  A description of the purpose or use of the grant;

(5)  The amount of the grant; and

(6)  Whether the agency acquired the grant funds from a federal or a state funding source.

(b)  Grant reports issued under this section shall be public records available for inspection and review.

     Thereupon, pending the question, Shall the bill be amended as recommended by Senators Kittell and Collins?, Senator Collins requested and was granted leave to withdraw the proposal of amendment.

Thereupon, third reading of the bill was ordered.

Adjournment

On motion of Senator Shumlin, the Senate adjourned until one o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, March 26, 2008.

 

 



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