VBSR Releases 2013-14 Legislative Scorecard
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Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) released a scorecard today grading members of the Vermont Legislature on recent votes at the Statehouse that were important to its members.
The scorecard gives members of the Vermont House and Senate scores from 100 percent to 0 percent, depending on how they voted on a number of important business issues during the 2013-14 biennium. VBSR considered votes on raising the minimum wage, GMO labeling, universal pre-kindergarten, equal pay, expanding net metering, updates to Act 250, and toxic chemical regulation and reform.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and Seventh Generation, applauded the signing of Vermont Bill S.239. The bill, which was signed today at the VT headquarters of Seventh Generation, allows state health officials to regulate and ban the use of hazardous chemicals in children’s products. These business leaders said that they look forward to working with the Vermont legislature next year to strengthen the bill and ensure its’ proper implementation.”
Vermont’s action on chemicals reform comes as Congress remains unable to reform the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has been unchanged since its passage in 1976. The Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition, which is led by ASBC and Seventh Generation, has urged Congress to modernize TSCA, while supporting transparency, innovation, and safety.
At the bill signing, Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle said, “It’s a proud day for Seventh Generation and for our home state of Vermont. The Toxic-Free Families bill will protect thousands of Vermont families from exposure to dangerous toxic chemicals and will, hopefully, spur other states to adopt similar reform to protect their families across the country.”
“While the country waits for the long-overdue reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, Vermont has joined other states in leading the way towards a healthier and safer economy,” said David Levine, CEO of ASBC. “The American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund and Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition applaud the Vermont legislature and Governor Shumlin for passing and signing into law a bill that will drive further innovation in the marketplace by seeking to advance safer chemicals.”
“Regulating the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products will create a stronger, healthier and more sustainable economy,” said Andrea Cohen, Executive Director of VBSR. “Giving consumers more information about dangerous chemicals found in products they purchase will expand the market in Vermont for clean, green and safe products.”
The American Sustainable Business Council and the ASBC Action Fund represent a membership network of more than 200,000 businesses nationwide, and more than 325,000 entrepreneurs, executives, managers and investors. The Council http://www.asbcouncil.org informs policy makers and the public about the need and opportunities for building a vibrant and sustainable economy. The Action Fund http://www.asbcaction.org advocates for legislative change.
Founded in 1990, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) is a non-profit, statewide business trade organization with a mission to advance business ethics that value multiple bottom lines: economic, social, and environmental. VBSR members employ more than 13% of Vermont’s workforce and generate more than 4 billion dollars in revenue annually. It helps members set a high standard for protecting the natural, human and economic environments of the state's residents, while remaining profitable. The organization advances its mission through education, public influence and workplace quality. www.vbsr.org
Established in 1988, in Burlington, Vermont, Seventh Generation is one of the nation's leading brands of household and personal care products. The company lives its commitment to "caring today for seven generations of tomorrows," with products formulated to provide mindful solutions for the air, surfaces, fabrics, pets and people within your home -- and for the community and environment outside of it. A pioneer in corporate responsibility, Seventh Generation continually evaluates ways to reduce its environmental impact, increase performance and safety, and create a more sustainable supply chain. To learn more about Seventh Generation products and business practices, locate a retailer in your area, or review Seventh Generation's Corporate Consciousness Report, visit www.seventhgeneration.com.
The 2014 legislative session opened with some VBSR priority areas carrying over from the 2013 session, in particular legislation on the labeling of genetically modified food and expansion of Pre-K education. Other issues, such as net metering, a minimum wage increase, and toxic chemical reform, were new to this session and VBSR worked closely to influence these policies.
We received tremendous support from our members this year, working to advance VBSR's legislative agenda and making positive change for Vermonters. We want to extend our gratitude to the many members who either spent time writing to legislators, testifying in committee hearings or simply taking time away from their daily jobs to support advocacy that truly makes an impact in promoting socially responsible businesses in Vermont. Below you will find a few of VBSR’s successful policy efforts from the last session; if you have questions or comments about any of this information, we invite you to contact our Public Policy Manager Daniel Barlow.
Net Metering (H.702)
VBSR came out in strong support of H.702, a bill that works to expand what is arguably the most beneficial renewable energy program in Vermont. The bill raises the net metering cap from 4 to 15 percent of peak load coming from renewable energy sources, streamlines the approval process for projects of less than 15KW, and works with stakeholders to determine a sustainable future for Vermont utilities with regards to renewable energy. Sweeping through the House early on in the session with a 138-8 vote, H.702 passed the Senate with a 28-0 vote in March, helping to bring Vermont forward with continued action around energy conservation in response to the impacts of climate change. VBSR was the largest business association to support this legislation.
Designated Growth Centers (H.823)
VBSR businesses were in strong support of a bill that would provide better opportunity for affordable housing while protecting natural resources. H.823 encourages more concentrated growth in designated downtown areas with guidelines for protecting critical environmental conditions. The bill conveys a comprehensive economic development strategy expanding opportunity while respecting a balance with environmental conservation.
Jobs Bill (S.220)
A compromise bill between the economic development committees of the House and Senate, this omnibus bill includes changes to the state's worker compensation laws, a boost to the state's workforce development and training programs, increased access to credit for small businesses, and the launch of a loan forgiveness program for some new college graduates who get a job in Vermont after finishing school.
Minimum Wage (H.552)
Vermont's plan to reach a $10.50 an hour minimum wage by 2018 puts the state above President Obama's plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. With a graduated plan to arrive at this rate, the current baseline wage of $8.73 will be raised to $9.15 in 2015. VBSR supports not only an increase in the minimum wage but the promotion of a livable wage for all Vermonters and feels that it makes economic sense for Vermont businesses and working families. VBSR was the only business association to support this legislation.
GMO Labeling (H.112)
Vermont is officially the first state in the nation to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. A huge step in promoting consumer's right to know, VBSR thanks our members for their strong support through numerous testimonies, press events and continued feedback on the benefits of this bill. With broad public support, Vermont will lead what may continue as a trend in giving consumers basic information about what they eat as an estimated two dozen states are also considering GMO labeling bills. A big win for the bill's supporters, Gov. Shumlin announced that he would sign the bill into law shortly after the final vote on the House floor. On May 8th a ceremony was held on the Statehouse lawn to celebrate the victory of getting this bill onto the Governor's desk, which was brought outside into the sunshine for everyone to witness the signing! VBSR was the only business association to support this legislation.
Toxic Substances (S.239)
Toxic chemical reform will take a step forward as S.239 was passed by strong margins both in the House and the Senate but with substantial amendments from its original introduction. The bill was written with the intent to implement regulation that would require the removal of toxic substances from everyday, household products to protect public health and provide a market for safer, greener products. Lack of precedence from other states around regulation and challenges with manufacturing processes redirected the focus of regulation on products marketed to or sold for use by children under 12. VBSR was the only business association to support this legislation.
Publicly Funded Pre-K (H.270)
Vermont has passed a bill to provide equitable access to pre-k education for all children. The bill delivers a statewide tuition rate to aid programs, parents, and school districts in predicting costs and revenue driving a simplified payment and oversight process for early childhood education. Investing in early childhood education is economic development. VBSR member businesses support the wise investments this bill outlines for our education dollars.