Politics

Lobbyist spending dipped during 2019 legislative session

The amount spend on lobbying at the Statehouse last year was below average.

The 2019 legislative session was a down year for lobbyists in the Statehouse, with only $5.8 million being spent on their services during the first half of the biennium.

Approximately $20 million was spent on lobbying each of the past two bienniums — 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 — but in 2019, despite contentious issues including abortion rights and gun control, spending on lobbying was down.

The top issues that drew the most lobbying spending in 2019 were health care, $1 million; the environment, $396,000; pharmaceuticals, $304,000; energy, $302,000; and telecommunications, $285,000.

Lobbying on behalf of the health care sector has long been the top category in Vermont, with $1.1-$1.8 million being spent on average each year since 2011 to represent the interests of insurers and health care providers in the Statehouse. 

VTDigger published a full report of lobbying in January 2019 on how much money is spent representing health care interests into Montpelier.

Planned Parenthood was among the groups that spent the most money on lobbying last year as it pushed for lawmakers to support H.57, a bill that would prohibit restrictions to abortion, and a constitutional amendment which would make reproductive freedom a fundamental right.

Planned Parenthood Northern New England/Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund spent $109,000, behind only the $116,000 spent by the Vermont State Employees’ Association as it haggled for its new union contract, and tobacco giant Altria.

The top spenders on lobbying in 2019 also include Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS), with more that $99,000. VAHHS spent $346,000 representing its health care clients in 2017-2018 and has spent $1.8 million over the last six years.

Another of the top spenders was GlobalFoundries, which before it closed on Nov. 19 spent $83,918 in the Statehouse. 

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While Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed the abortion legislation into law, Altria and the tobacco industry were less successful with their lobbying efforts.

Last year, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. — which produces Camel cigarettes and also owns the e-cigarette brand Vuse — and Altria which owns 35% share of the popular e-cigarette company Juul, pumped $196,683 into Vermont in a failed attempt to cushion a 92% tax on vaping devices and nicotine pods as well as banning online sales of products. 

The two tobacco companies are expected to spend more in the state this year, as lawmakers plan to propose legislation to ban flavored e-cigarette and tobacco products — including menthol cigarettes.

The Vermont House and Scott have signaled they would support banning flavored vaping products. 

The Trump administration announced on Jan. 2, it would forbid the sale of most flavored e-cigarette capsules. Menthol products, however, were exempt from Trump’s ban.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Gov. Scott did not sign the abortion bill, H.57.

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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