March 29, 2013
Dear Members and Friends,
House Bill H.526 passed the House on 3/27/13. The bill passed by a vote of 105-42. The bill now advances to the Senate. The LDFLA Board will keep you informed on the progress of the bill in the Senate. We will also work with our Addison County Senators to address any concerns brought to our attention by the membership.
The bill, having gone through 11 drafts, finally came out of the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee on an 8-1 vote. It readily became apparent to the LDFLA Board that H.526 had the needed support to pass in the House. While the Board continues to support the goals of the bill to “prevent degradation of water quality in lakes and preserve natural stability of shoreline”, the bill did not address important issues of health and safety that are perhaps unique to our lakes. It also did not address the very important question of shoreland properties being viewed as part of the common-law public trust doctrine. It was critical, in board members’ opinions, that these issues be addressed in the bill before it continued to move forward. Therefore, Board members sought a meeting with our district State Rep. Willem Jewett. Rep. Jewett did meet with us informally on Sunday afternoon March 24. He listened to our concerns regarding how this bill could affect mosquito breeding habitat and that it could discourage the necessary upgrades to the lakes’ private roads that need to be kept accessible to today’s larger emergency vehicles. He also heard our concerns how privately owned shorelands could now, or in the future, be viewed as part of the public trust doctrine, thereby allowing unimpeded access by the public. There was also concern expressed by several Association members that the State’s parks should be required to be managed with the same requirements that private property is under the bill.
Rep. Jewett, as he had agreed at our meeting, took our list of concerns back to the Committee Chair, and author of the bill, Rep. David Deen. On March 27 Chairman Deen did offer four amendments addressing our specific concerns on the House Floor (a copy of the amendments is attached). These amendments passed the House and are now a part of H.526. The Board of Trustees will continue to follow this bill closely as it proceeds in the Senate and we strongly encourage you, the membership to do the same. A link to contact information for Vermont Senators is attached.
Without the involvement of our membership, the letters, telephone calls, and emails to your House Representatives, the bill would no doubt look much different than it currently does. The original H.223 (processor of H.526) was considered by many of us to be unduly restrictive and overreaching. As a result of our membership’s positive interaction in the legislative process, hopefully the LDFLA will be viewed as a credible stake-holder moving forward in the Senate process, and later in rule making if the bill becomes law.