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Voters hear updates from legislative delegation

PUTNEY—State elected officials — Representatives David Deen and Mike Mrowicki, who jointly represent Putney and Westminster, and State Senator Jeanette K. White — offered their traditional legislative updates to voters attending Annual Town Meeting.

Deen spoke briefly on his work as chair of the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources, specifically mentioning the bill to ban microbeads in personal care products.

He also spoke about H.35, “An act relating to improving the quality of state waters,” which Rep. Deen described as “the most complex and far-reaching bill I’ve ever worked on,” involving “hours of meetings,” he added.

The legislation has passed his committee, and he said next it goes to other committees for review.

Deen also reported on “something we never hope to use” — the first-ever ethics panel for House members.

Mrowicki talked about the “tough budget year,” due in part to Vermont “still cleaning up the mess” from the 2007-08 recession.

He also warned against taking seriously anyone who promotes the free market and deregulation, saying, “that’s how we got into this mess in the first place.”

Other items Mrowicki said he and the Legislature worked on this session included elder exploitation, the “death with dignity” bill, child protection, and “tweaking the current use law.”

Mrowicki also presented a Concurrent House Resolution honoring and recognizing Kathleen Bartlett for her 35 years of service to the Putney Central School as a teacher, guidance counselor, and former interim principal.

Mrowicki says the resolution “honors Bartlett as an outstanding educator.”

When Bartlett took to the stage to accept her award, she thanked many and urged “all in the community to be a mentor to young people,” asserting “we can all contribute by giving our time and sharing our talents” with the area’s youth.

After the lunch break, the meeting reconvened with an update from White. She had arrived after her colleagues Reps. Deen and Mrowicki, explaining Putney’s Town Meeting was “my seventh Town Meeting” today, but, she added, “I saved the best for last, obviously.”

Senator White noted the four main topics she had worked on in the last year: jobs and economic development, cleaning up the state’s waterways, education, and the budget. Of the latter, she reported the general fund’s $120 million shortfall.

To try to bridge at least some of that gap, White spoke about a possibility for saving the state $5 million, but her idea was immediately discouraged because it’s a “sacred cow” — tax-exempt properties. White says that “20 percent of property in Vermont is tax-exempt,” and the courts have interpreted the associated statutes “as written, so let’s re-write the statutes!”

She also reported onthe new “failure to protect” crime; a proposed bill allowing the state to prosecute gun offenses rather than rely on the federal government to do so, because “we’re the only state that doesn’t, and the feds won’t take small cases”; the closing of the Austine School in Brattleboro; Vermont’s Open Meeting Law; the Dental Practitioner Bill, which Senator White says “everybody in the state likes except the dentists,” and legislation to legalize marijuana.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #295 (Wednesday, March 4, 2015). This story appeared on page E2.

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