UPDATE: House Advances Shoreland Protection Bill, Turns To Taxes

Lake Shore Protections

Houses line the shore of Woodbury Lake in Woodbury. (AP/Toby Talbot)

By Kirk Carapezza

The Vermont House takes up a bill that would establish lake shoreland protection standards. Advocates say the bill would preserve the ecosystem and is needed to slow down and filter polluting run-off. They say the bill has been reworked to address property owners’ concerns by saying shorelands of the state owned by private citizens will remain private property.

UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: The House has advanced the bill, but The Associated Press reports that environmental groups say the measure has been significantly watered down:

Jake Brown of the Vermont Natural Resources Council is calling the House version weak, and says he hopes the Senate can strengthen it.

Rep. Kate Webb, a Shelburne Democrat and a leading sponsor of the bill, says it went through 12 drafts as attempts were made to compromise with municipalities and property rights advocates.

The bill originally called for new restrictions on development within 100 feet of the water’s edge on Vermont lakes, and for preservation of most vegetation along the shore.

Now it calls for a permit for building within 250 feet of the water.

This afternoon, the House will consider a $26 million tax package that would include a half percent increase on rooms and meals. It would also apply the sales tax to soda, candy, bottled water and clothing costing more than $110. There are currently no amendments to the bill, but some could arise on the floor – including one that would support a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The package would also make changes to the income tax in 2015, putting a cap on certain itemized deductions to raise an additional $19 million.

The Vermont Judiciary Committee is preparing to take up a bill on Thursday that would replace criminal penalties with a $100 fine for those caught carrying less than two ounces of marijuana. Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, is sponsoring the bill that would decriminalize growing a small number of marijuana plants. Pearson gets a hearing before the committee tomorrow morning. Commissioner of Public Safety Keith Flynn , who’s been lukewarm on the idea, is also set to testify before lawmakers.

In the Senate, after a long day deliberating renewable energy projects, a bill that aims to regulate how long police authorities can retain information gathered by automated license plate readers is on the calendar. As proposed, the bill would require information be retained for only 18 months after it is collected:

“The Department of Public Safety shall establish a review process to ensure that information obtained through use of [automated license plate readers] systems is used only for the purposes permitted by this section. The Department shall report the results of this review annually on or before January 15 to the Senate and House Committees on Judiciary and on Transportation.”