2.11.2022 – The Reproductive Liberty Amendment, the Vermont Child Tax Credit, and Neonics
It was a busy week as we took another step in assuring personal reproductive autonomy with the passage of Proposal 5 on a strong 107 – 41 vote. This is the second time we voted on it, the first time was last biennium, which is all part of the process in amending the Vermont Constitution.
The Reproductive Liberty Amendment will guarantee, well into the future, a person’s right to make decisions about whether and when to have children. There is one more step in the process and that is the voters of Vermont will decide on Election Day in November 2022 to affirm the Legislature’s action or not.
As a young woman before the Roe v. Wade decision, I can remember what I think of as “the bad old days” when women had to obtain sometimes unsafe illegal termination procedures. At the same time, women of means always had access to safe abortions, either by traveling or from their own doctors.
When I was thirteen and my sister was ten, my mother became pregnant due to faulty birth control. After the positive test came back, her doctor asked her if she wanted to terminate the pregnancy via a procedure called dilation and curettage, or D&C. This was in suburban New Jersey in the early 1960s.
In college, I met young women who had obtained what we called “back alley” abortions where coat hangers or detergent were inserted into their uteruses, sometimes with dire results. One woman in her very early twenties already with two children and not able to afford a third at the time, resorted to a detergent abortion that sent her to the hospital.
I think it’s safe to say that no one wakes up in the morning and says to themselves, “Oh goody, I can get an abortion today!” It is something to be avoided, which is why I’m a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood and any other organization that provides birth control medications and devices. They prevent more abortions than they perform.
It is my hope that in November 2022, Vermonters will vote to enshrine Prop 5 in the Vermont Constitution so that all women, not just ones with money, will have the same rights that we’ve had for the last 50 years. Regarding my mother, she was a strong supporter of reproductive rights, and chose to carry that pregnancy to term. My brother was born and was the joy of our lives because, though unexpected, was ultimately wanted, which is what I would wish for all children.
We also worked on and passed H.510, which creates a Vermont Child Tax Credit. Windham County’s own, Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, reported the bill and explained that it would provide $1,200 per year for qualifying children six and under to parents and guardians with adjusted gross incomes of up to $200,000. If a family did not have any tax liability, they would get money back.
It is hoped that the Vermont Child Tax Credit will incentivize young families to stay in or come to Vermont. Experience with the American Rescue Plan Act money that expanded the federal child tax credit indicates that this money was used by families to help pay for basics like rent, utilities, and car payments and, in some cases, helped reduce food insecurity by 25%.
The additional good news is that H.510 would reduce the amount of Social Security that is taxed for middle-income Vermonters. The bill passed on a strong 102 – 46 votes and now goes on to the Senate.
In our committee, we continue to work on H.566, the Forest Future Strategic Roadmap; our Housekeeping Bill for the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets; and H.626, regarding the sale, use, and application of neonicotinoid pesticides.
We are making good progress on the Housekeeping Bill, which makes very technical changes to agriculture, food, and market statutes. I’m hoping to vote that out early this coming week.
There is an updated version of the Forest Future Strategic Roadmap bill (H.566), that can be viewed on House Agriculture and Forestry’s webpage. Several key stakeholders have weighed in on it favorably and we feel that we may be close to a final version.
A tougher nut to crack is H.626, which would prohibit the sale, use, or application of neonicotinoid pesticides starting on July 1, 2022, unless the Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets determined “that a threat to Vermont crops exists that requires the use of that pesticide and no other pesticide or class of pesticides would be effective in addressing the threat.” This is extremely problematic because farmers have already ordered their seed for the next growing season and untreated seed is hard to obtain.
In recent years, we have taken several steps to reduce the use of products containing neonics including prohibiting the sale, use, and possession of household products for outdoor use. Additionally, we have required that seed dealers who sell treated seed also make available untreated seed though it has to be ordered the September before the growing season.
In order to implement Integrated Pest Management, which is how a farmer determines whether or not she/he needs to use treated seed, they have to do scouting that is essentially testing to see if certain critters exist in the soil. This takes time and advance work that would probably not be possible before July 1, not to mention that their seed, already mentioned, has already been ordered.
As a beekeeper myself, I would like to take steps to reduce the use of neonics, but the deadline in the proposed bill is not possible to meet. We are considering other possibilities that may work for the near term, but we also know that additional scientific studies need to be done to make sound judgments for the future.