The House Government Operations Committee returned to S.42 on Thursday. Katie Green (Deputy Chief Investment Officer, Vermont Pension Investment Commission). She shared that the Vermont Pension Investment Commission (VPIC) established an Environmental, Social, and Governmental (ESG) committee. Green noted that climate change is a "significant threat," adding that it's "not just fossil fuel" but also automobile industry, land use, and water quality. She was adamant that VPIC was accountable and transparent, which is why they created the ESG committee to report up to the commission.Read more
Bill McKibben from Third Act joined the House Government Operations Committee on Wednesday to discuss S.42. He noted divestment started here in Vermont years ago. Third Act was founded by McKibben, who wrote the "original book" about global warming. In LA Times and companies knew, all the way back in the 1980s, about the impact of fossil fuels and "lied about what fossil fuels can do to the environment," he claimed.Read more
Senator Clarkson presented S.42 to the House Government Operations Committee on Friday. She introduced the bill by saying that, "many of us wanted to have happen a long time ago" and that it was a "win for everyone." The bill was the result of negotiations between Third Act, the Treasurer's Office, the Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC), the Senate Government Operations Committee, and other experts.Read more
Senator Clarkson presented S.42 to the Senate on Tuesday, positioning the bill as a "win-win." She listed a number of individuals that were involved for the bills development, including the Treasurer, the Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC), and several other experts. She cast the bill as the result of "productive negotiations" lead by the Senate Government Operations Committee with with the intent of divesting fossil fuel investments while simultaneously protecting the state's pension funds and Actuarial-Defined Employer Contribution.Read more
The Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony on Tuesday regarding S.42, which proposes to divest fossil fuel investments from the state's pension funds. In their previous meeting, the Committee still had not come to a consensus on several issues. Some stakeholders agreed to meet Friday and Saturday to hopefully come up with a compromise so bill could be voted out of Committee.Read more
Legislative Counsel presented an amendment, recommended by the Treasurer, on Friday. The amendment adds a new definition of de-minimus exposure which means holding less than 2% of the overall investment. The language recommends that VPIC develop a plan which identifies stocks and securities are carbon-heavy and make suggestions on how to divest by the end of 2030 with minimum exposure of funds.Read more
This week the legislature overrode Governor Scott's veto of the pension bill unanimously. While only addressing less than half of the deficit, the legislature resoundingly chose incremental progress over sweeping reform. Other bills are following this trend, such as the Act 250 bill, shying away from bold reforms and towards minor tweaks to existing laws.
Other bills moving forward include housing and workforce development, economic development, student weighting (headed for the Governor's desk). Universal school meals were also approved by the Senate this week, setting up a likely slash to the $36M in property tax savings that were offered by the House.Read more
The pension bill is now in the Governor's hands after the Senate gave final approval on Friday. He will be faced with a choice to approve a bill he has criticized in recent weeks as not going far enough to address the pension deficit or accept the incremental progress that the bill offers.
We are also, by the way, waiting for the Governor to sign the ethics bill which passed over a week ago...
After the House more or less accepted Governor Scotts plan to return half of the $95M property tax surplus to taxpayers, the Senate may not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon. After testimony this week they seem inclined to reject the 20 cent decrease to property taxes in favor of providing funding for both PCB remediation and universal school meals.Read more