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Legislative Notes for May 3, 2012

April 29, 2012

It finally appears that the session is moving closer to adjournment.  The floor debate begins in the morning and lasts long into the evening.  Several bills come before us on a daily basis at this point in the session and it is very difficult to keep track of all information contained in each bill.  Bills that have been modified and return from the Senate are especially difficult.  Another critical factor that needs to be kept in mind is that the conclusion of this session brings a close to the biennium as well.  This is important to note because it signals the end for all bills that don’t make it through both legislative branches.   As a result, a bill that passes one branch and is not likely to make it through the other may get attached to some other bill altogether.  This strategy is quite common and blindsides many members of the legislature.

Several very important issues were up for debate this week including the legislature weighing in on whether Central Vermont Public Service Corp (CVPS) customers should be entitled to receive a refund should the proposed sale of the company to Gazmetro the parent company of Green Mountain Power be executed as planned.  There has been a lot of publicity surrounding this transaction since it was announced several months ago.  The crux of the issue is that in the 1990’s CVPS struggling financially was permitted by the Public Service Board to increase their electric rates to customers in order to prevent bankruptcy.  A condition of that approval which was negotiated by the Public Service Department, whose mission is to advocate for the ratepayer, was that CVPS would be required to repay the ratepayers should the company ever be sold.  That amount after being adjusted for inflation now totals twenty-one million dollars.  Gazmetro has proposed to invest this money as follows, nine million in efficiency and twelve million in weatherization programs around the state rather than return it to the people that paid the bill, CVPS customers.  It was disheartening to learn that under the current memorandum of understanding that Gazmetro has with the Public Service Department, CVPS customers will not get their money back and Gazmetro will be permitted to increase electricity rates and include a seven percent return on investment for their shareholders to pay for these programs.  This is a very complicated transaction and I respect the Public Service Board process however, it doesn’t appear that the Public Service Department and the Governor who supports this plan is looking out for the CVPS customers.  Therefore, when an amendment that requested the return of the money to the CVPS customers was brought to the House floor this week I supported it. 

The merger of Vermont’s two largest power companies may or may not be a good thing for electricity users in Vermont.  At this point, there are still too many unanswered questions to take a position and we owe it to our kids to allow this issue to be fully vetted by the Public Service Board.  With that said, I feel I was doing my job as your representative in the legislature to bring this issue up for discussion.  The debate provided more transparency while bringing awareness to the shortcomings of the proposed deal.  I will continue to support repaying the CVPS customer and the renegotiating of the MOU between Gazmetro and the Vermont Public Service Department. 

This week I had the pleasure of meeting with Mike Thompson, Ethel Brousseau, Bob Sekerat, Jim and Lorraine Manley at the Statehouse.  If you would like to visit the Statehouse please feel free to contact me to arrange a date and time.        

As your representative, I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you.  During the session, I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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