The Legislature is finishing up some key actions in its final days, including completing the state budget (minor task!), reconciling House and Senate versions of a number of bills, and finalizing some bills that are summarized below.
• Phasing out hydrofluorocarbons: I apologize in advance for using a few scientific terms in this article. One of the final bills of my Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife addresses hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs (bill S.30). You may have heard of its cousin, chlorofluorocarbons, also known as CFCs. CFCs were used in numerous products such as refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosols.
Back in 1987, President Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol, joining nearly 200 countries to ban CFCs, known to deplete the ozone layer of the atmosphere. That layer shields us from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. (Note that atmospheric ozone is not the same as ground-level ozone; the latter is a common air pollutant that causes smog.)
Along came HFCs, introduced as an alternative to CFCs for use in refrigeration, air conditioning, and insulation foams. However, HFCs pose two concerns. First, they also slightly contribute to ozone depletion. Second, HFCs are estimated to be nearly 2,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Due to political uncertainty at the federal level, state action is paramount in the global effort to phase down HFCs to meet a 40 percent reduction by 2030. The bill passed the House easily after receiving strong support from the construction and manufacturing industries, some of which testified that HFC alternatives are commercially available now and cost-effective. The bill focuses on phasing down the manufacturing or production of HFCs, with effective dates tied to specific product types. Products and equipment manufactured prior to the effective dates may still be sold, distributed, installed and used after the specified effective dates.
• Minimum wage: The House passed a minimum wage bill (S.23) to boost income for working Vermonters, allow all households to better participate in their local economies, and reduce demand on state programs that support low-income families. The minimum wage rate in Vermont is $10.78 per hour; at full-time, this wage amounts to about $22,400 a year. The bill that passed the House increases the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. (The original bill and the bill that passed the Senate sought an increase to $15 per hour by 2024). The House bill ties the minimum wage to a multiple of the Consumer Price Index and includes a mechanism to slow the growth of the minimum wage should the state experience an economic recession. The House and Senate are in conference to arrive at a final bill.
We expect to be at the Statehouse these final days. I would very much like to hear from you, so please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to resume my “Coffee with Kari” events and “Evening Meet and Greets” next month.
Rep. Kari Dolan, a Democrat from Waitsfield, also represents Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown and Warren in the Vermont House of Representatives.