First Session Legislative Report
What I worked on, What I found significant,
What I think will be a priority in January.
Bob Hooper (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When I came knocking at your door last fall, one of the points I made was that I intended to go to Montpelier and DO SOMETHING, not just occupy a seat— I wanted to try to make a difference for you. This is my report on what I did, helped to do, and helped to gain consensus on with other parties.
Please reach out to me if you would like to discuss things in detail, or stop in to the Bagel the 2nd or 4th Saturday of the month, 8 to 9 AM, at Beach Bites or other POP UP sites around our district. The card in the upper left has my contact information. Thanks!!
Quick synopsis is this: We passed a budget that was 2.6% above last year and balanced. We invested in your health, your environment, workforce development and training, and paying our bills. We removed single use plastic from our waste stream, put dollars behind cleaning up our water, regulated chemicals like those polluting the drinking water in Bennington and helped to move folks off of gas guzzlers and into electric vehicles, with a subsidy and infrastructure expansion. Environmental investment totaled $167 million plus.
We invested in supporting local efforts by communities for broadband buildout, streamlined regulation for brewers and distillers, and invested in bridges, roads and rail upgrades. We moved to discussions on equity issues, burying our veterans in a timely fashion and creating the veterans burn pit health registry to track illnesses. We funded a program to reduce the amount of lead in the drinking water of our schools, and preventing our under 21 year old youth from accessing tobacco and vaping products. We increased our investment in childcare availability by over $7 million for accessibility and affordability. Most importantly, we removed the statute of limitations on prosecuting allegations of child sexual abuse.
Now some discussion and personal details.
As you may have read on my Facebook page, in the North Avenue News or Front Porch Forum, my personal accomplishment was to do something a lot of the “seasoned” legislators tell me is uncommon. I was able to author, seek sponsors, testify in committee, line up Senate support and eventually participate in a signing ceremony with the Governor. My bill facilitates the burial of Veterans cremated remains in the Veterans Cemetery within 180 days (previously Veterans could remain in a funeral home for an embarrassing amount of time). The testimony taken stated one known Vet waited over 20 years as no one claimed or authorized his burial. Now, the funeral director can transfer remains to Randolph after a diligent search and the Veteran can be given the Honors they deserve in a timely manner. I am proud of this accomplishment and if I get nothing else passed in my legislative career, will consider this a success. I also introduced bills that would protect elderly individuals from being preyed upon economically, a plan to offer recognition to Veterans by making the Vets license plate available at a reduced rate, and a bill to allow people to designate a representative to assist in local government actions.
The press is talking about the two significant issues that DIDN’T cross the finish line this year. Although I thought the Paid Family Leave bill may have needed a little more discussion, I would have been happy to have voted for such a policy for workers. Likewise, the changes to the minimum wage would have, in my estimation, created an economic stimulus for Vermont small businesses. Many argued that it would have negatively impacted small business owners, but I disagree. I will continue to support a path to a higher minimum wage to help our young workers and new Americans get off to a good start in this economy.
I supported the 24 hour waiting period for gun purchases BECAUSE I am a gun owner, and in many many conversations with constituents MOST agreed that this bill was an excellent compromise for both sides. The waiting period does have an impact upon those contemplating self harm. This shorter waiting period (not 72 hours as first proposed) still allows gun show and short notice sales to happen. I considered this bill a WIN/WIN. I know this is a divisive issue and welcome discussion with you on the subject.
As I have noted several times at the NPA meetings, some single use PLASTIC BAGS are going away. Vermont now has the most comprehensive single use ban in the country and you will be impacted. I supported this in part due to pollution issues, but also due to using chemicals for single use bags rather than saving them for important things like medical devices—where having plastic makes life much more comfortable. Our general idea that we don’t need to watch out for our grandchildren’s grandchildren is seriously flawed.
I was happy to support a bill that limited the use of chemicals that are proven to be lethal to our pollinators……bees and such. Just like having a couple of million bats flying around helps with the mosquitos, having bees in the neighborhood gives us the best fruits and veggies. They need protection-frankly I would have favorably reacted to banning the chemicals period. Better living thru chemistry is often a lie.
The Governor vetoed a bill this year that essentially dealt with WHO pays for medical monitoring when corporations create environmental conditions that impact public or individual health. S-37 was the bill and it basically said the offender needs to pay for the monitoring of the health impacts on persons who were exposed to businesses action. For me, to realize that people who’s lives are impacted by corporate/industrial pollution could be told it is their financial responsibility to take care of negative health impacts—or even that it is their insurance companies responsibility- is wrong. In the distant past, corporations were charged with an ethic to exist and function in the public interest! I really don’t like throwing anyone overboard because the Corporation made a “mistake” or that they tried to hide their actions (remember the Love Canal?) only to be found as a Cancer cluster years down the road. Businesses are good. Good paying jobs are good. Economic development is good. BUT, irresponsible profit grabbing behavior at the expense of health or lives is simply not acceptable. I will continue to work to have corporations “pay their own way” and not ride on taxpayer’s backs.
Next year, I will continue to push for positive change in areas like: Keeping our environment safe and clean, recognition of our state Veterans, WIFI availability to the last mile (there are even some bad areas in our own district), as well as some of the initiatives that did not make it over the finish line OR were Vetoed this year.
Looking forward and locally, people have been noticing strange things popping up on top of telephone poles in our neighborhoods. They look like a big can and are attached to a couple of boxes farther down the pole. From everything I have found out so far, they are evidence of a roll out of small site 5G systems. Unless you spend a bunch of time looking UP, you would never notice that just outside your house, a cell site had been installed. I do not believe these sites have been activated yet, but have not found anyone who is able to say what the time frame for using them will be. Keep an eye on my facebook page for developments (Bob Hooper State Representative on facebook).
I can not emphasize strongly enough how much I would appreciate hearing from YOU about what your feelings are with regard to the issues of the day and how we should deal with them in Montpelier. As a member of a citizen legislature, I don’t feel it is my job to create things out of whole cloth, but to digest your thoughts and ideas into proposals for consideration in Montpelier. YOU in that sentence means “as a community” and not individuals pushing their own agenda. Often that is hard to sort out, but I think as long as folks are willing to discuss and compromise, a good position can be reached.
As I have said before, I really appreciate your allowing me to enjoy the honor of representing you in the Legislature. I continue to promise to not just sit there and say YES or NO, but to actively work to make Vermont a better place, moving us forward in a responsible and determined way.
The GREAT North End