House Passes Gas Tax, Equal Pay; Senate Turns To Social Media

VPR Staff

By a three-to-one margin, the Vermont House has given preliminary approval to a bill that would significantly change the way the state taxes the sale of gasoline. The bill moves away from the current per gallon tax and towards a sales tax on the price of gas.

A final vote is expected on Thursday.

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Fifty years after Vermont outlawed pay discrimination, the House has advanced a bill that would ensure equal pay for all employees by prohibiting discrimination based on sex.

In 1963, Vermont banned pay discrimination in the Fair Employment Act. Since then, the gender-based wage gap has narrowed to 77 cents on the dollar. But advocates say new legislation is needed because progress has stalled in recent years.

“Half a century later, it’s amazing to think that women in Vermont are still paid less than men for the same jobs,” Speaker Shap Smith said in a statement. “It’s not enough to celebrate that Vermont is at least better than other states. If you do equal work; you ought to get equal pay, and this principle should drive employers to compensate their employees in a fair and balanced way.”

In Vermont, women earn about 84 cents for every dollar that men earn.

Opponents argued the bill passed in the House goes too far and could carry unintended, anti-business consequences.

The vote was 115-to-22 and the bill now goes to the Senate.

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Earlier in the day, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would prohibit employers from getting into the social media accounts of their staffs.

The measure, known as the Facebook bill around the Statehouse, would forbid employers from requiring potential employees to provide passwords to their social media networks. Other states have adopted similar measures, including Illinois, New Jersey and California.

The bill is likely to come up for final approval before the Senate on Thursday. Advocates say the bill is needed because people are increasingly sharing their lives online.