Final Reading: Sinking boats in Vermont

The Lake Champlain ferry “Adirondack” pictured on the Burlington waterfront on March 4, 2020. Photo by Wilson Ring/Associated Press

After determining there is little they can do to stall the scuttling of a century-old ferry on Lake Champlain, lawmakers are drafting legislation that would set parameters for sinking other vessels in future.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy on Wednesday discussed a provision that would provide answers to a key question that drove the ferry-sinking debate: What exactly constitutes the use of public lake waters within “the public good” when it comes to sinking a large object?

Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, who chairs the natural resources committee, signalled Wednesday that the committee could look to advance the measure by amending the capital bill.

— James Finn

In the wake of Tuesday’s guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial, Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, D-Windham, began Wednesday’s Senate floor session by reading Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again.”

“I just want to acknowledge that many of us are feeling heavy hearts and also relief and also anticipation of what might come next for our nation,” Balint said.

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted Tuesday of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, last May.

“Although I am not a person of color; I am not nearly as talented as Langston Hughes was — he’s a phenomenal writer — I’m going to try and do justice to his words this morning,” she said.

— Kit Norton

Sen. Sears said Wednesday he wants to make sure legislation aimed at making it easier to prosecute hate crimes would cover violent offenses committed against people based on immigration status.

During a judiciary committee hearing, Sears said this would help address the recent spate of violence against Asian Americans as well as other offenses perpetrated against people based on their country of origin.

“We need to make sure that is covered by national origin,” Sears said.

— KN

As the Senate Committee on Agriculture readies to vote Thursday on legislation aimed at modernizing and rebranding the Vermont Pesticide Advisory Council, Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, expressed doubts about the bill.

The Agency of Agriculture has pushed for the creation of a new Agricultural Innovation Board that would take over the duties of the pesticide council under H.434

The new board would look at best agricultural practices for regenerative agriculture and soil health in addition to making general recommendations for reducing pesticide use, but there is no language specifically calling on the board to set concrete reduction goals.

The current state pesticide council, which was formed in 1986, has been legally tasked with recommending targets for reducing chemical use on Vermont land. 

Pollina’s contention is that this aspect of the council may disappear. 

“I’m not saying this board can’t do that, but I just feel that it’s not clear,” Pollina said.

— KN

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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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