Gov. Phil Scott and the Department of Housing and Community Development this week launched the Multiunit Dwelling Electric Vehicle Charging Grant Program to bring more home-charging opportunities to Vermonters.

According to a news release, $1 million is available to subsidize the cost of purchasing and installing Electric Vehicle charging stations at rental properties to provide residents with at-home charging access.

The grant program is an interagency effort between DHCD, the Agency of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Public Service Department. Grants will be awarded up to $80,000 per site and $300,000 per applicant, with priority grant awards given to affordable housing projects.

According to the release, while access to EV charging is not the only barrier to EV ownership among the renter population, it will become increasingly important as the market for EVs matures. As EVs become more affordable through market development, purchase incentives and re-sale of used EVs, access to charging will be critical for all Vermonters.

The deadline to apply is April 1.

DHCD will host an informational webinar about the program from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 26. There is no registration needed.

Off and running

Only hours after launching her campaign for Peter Welch’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic candidate Kesha Ram Hinsdale reported she had raised $129,602 in contributions from all of Vermont’s 14 counties. Her announcement was made Jan. 13.

She joins the race with fellow Democrats Becca Balint, the president pro tem of the state Senate, and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray.

Balint noted this week her campaign had raised $200,695 in three weeks.

Run or no?

Meanwhile, Vermont Daily Chronicle had an item this week that Gregory Thayer, of Rutland, is “nearing the end of an exploratory process for running for lieutenant governor.” According to the item, the Republican will make a final decision by the end of the month. The item also indicated state Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, also is exploring a run for lieutenant governor.

Last week, Democrat Rep. Charlie Kimbell, of Woodstock, announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor. So has fellow Democrat Patricia Preston, executive director of Vermont Council on World Affairs.

Driving legislation

Lawmakers this week advanced H.552, a proposal to address carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

According to a news release, the Transportation Innovation Act is the work of several members of the House Transportation Committee. Sixty members of the House have signed on as co-sponsors, “recognizing the critical need for Vermont to take a leadership role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Transportation Innovation Act proposes an ambitious suite of actions, incentives, and programs to help Vermont meet the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Rep. Rebecca White, of Hartford, acted as a liaison in the formulation of the bill. She states: “Vermonters are ready for a transportation system that meets their needs and meets our Climate Action Plan’s carbon emission reduction goals. The Transportation Innovation Act melds together the incoming Federal funding opportunities with the priorities of the Climate Action Plan to act as a catalyst for a new generation of transportation systems that benefit all Vermonters.”

COVID protections

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch joined 50 Democratic colleagues in the Senate and House in reintroducing legislation to manufacture and distribute highly-protective N95 masks to every person in America.

The Masks for All Act — first introduced in 2020 and developed in consultation with health experts — would help ensure every person in the U.S. would receive a free package of three N95 respirator masks.

According to a release, this includes individuals who are experiencing homelessness or living in group settings such as prisons, shelters, college dorms and assisted living facilities, as well as all workers in health settings, from administrative and janitorial, to food service, doctors, and nurses.

“We are proposing that we do what our public health experts and scientists say we must do: provide all of our people with high-quality, N95 masks without cost, which could prevent death and suffering and save huge amounts of health care dollars,” Sanders said in a release.

To date, the coronavirus pandemic has infected over 60 million Americans and killed more than 835,000, and just this week the U.S. reported a record-breaking 1.35 million new coronavirus infections in one day — the highest daily total in the world.

In addition, Welch and Sanders joined some 40 members of the House and Senate in a recent letter to President Joe Biden, calling on the administration to expand access equitably and quickly to rapid tests for COVID-19.

According to a separate release, the letter stressed the importance of eliminating logistical and cost barriers to test access for the remainder of the pandemic, including increasing manufacturing capacity and making free rapid testing available in pharmacies, grocery stores and other public locations.

“The omicron surge places an unprecedented strain on our health care system. While vaccination is critical and provides significant protection from severe infection, all Americans need additional help to remain safe,” said Welch. “To keep our families healthy and limit the virus’s spread, it is essential that all Americans have access to free COVID-19 rapid tests.”

Pension pondering

Vermont lawmakers, state employees and teachers reached an agreement that could save two state pension programs from future insolvency.

It took seven months, 17 meetings and hundreds of hours of work to get there, but officials say if all goes according to plan, the state employee and teacher pension plans could be fully funded by 2038.

Response to recommendations this week from the Pension Benefits, Design and Funding Task Force were mixed. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, a Democrat, noted, “I recognize the difficulty of achieving pension reform and am encouraged by the hard work and cooperative action taken by the Vermont state employees, teachers and legislative members on the Task Force in proposing a package of recommendations. … There is still a lot of work to be done — but seeing this agreement through to law will safeguard commitments made while putting the state on more secure financial ground. This proposal honors the incredible service of our state employees and teachers, and supports their ability to retire with dignity and financial security.”

Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, also a Democrat, said, “This is a hopeful day for Vermont public employees and for Vermont taxpayers. The agreement we’ve struck will protect the public pension system and will save Vermonters millions and millions of dollars through the coming years. This big financial investment will right a wrong, give public employees peace of mind and will benefit all of us. … Together we protected the defined benefit plans that are so important to public employees and to us. Together we agreed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. Together, teachers, public employees, and legislators found a positive way forward.”

Myth vs. Fact

This week Secretary of State Jim Condos and Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters launched an Elections ‘Myth v. Fact’ page on the secretary of state’s website in an effort to inoculate voters from election related disinformation stemming from baseless conspiracy theories surrounding elections.

This resource is being released in conjunction with the launch of the #TrustedInfo2022 campaign by the National Association of Secretaries of State. #TrustedInfo2022 is a bipartisan effort to combat election disinformation by promoting trusted, official sources like the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, according to a news release.

“Despite the inability of the former president and his allies to provide any evidence of widespread election fraud or wrong-doing in the 2020 election, they continue to spread disinformation and outright lies about the elections process, which has been highly scrutinized and has proven to be fair and secure, producing accurate results with integrity,” said Condos.

The ‘Myth v. Fact’ page on the secretary of state’s website is divided by category, based on some of the more common baseless claims made about U.S. and Vermont elections. The page will be updated as a resource to Vermonters as we enter the 2022 election season and beyond.

GunSense hires Casey

GunSense Vermont this week announced the hiring of Conor Casey, of Montpelier, as its executive director.

According to a news release, Casey began his career in the office of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, (D-Mass.) and brings with him over 15 years of public policy experience in Vermont, serving recently as the executive director for the Vermont Democratic Party after spending eight years as legislative director of the Vermont State Employees’ Association.

Casey is currently serving his second term on the Montpelier City Council, where he sits on the Investment Committee and Homelessness Task Force.

Casey has also organized for the National Education Association affiliates in Vermont and Connecticut, where he lobbied for gun violence legislation after the Sandy Hook mass shooting.


Gov. Phil Scott this week appointed Golrang “Rey” Garofano, a Democrat, to fill the Chittenden-8-1 House District vacancy. Garofano replaces former Rep. Marybeth Redmond, D-Essex, who resigned last month.

Garofano has been a public servant in Vermont for 16 years, serving in various leadership roles supporting Vermonters, including the most vulnerable. She currently serves as a child care quality program administrator at the DCF. She has a deep personal commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and has been actively engaged in multiple community projects over the last decade to promote racial equity and inclusion in and around Essex.

Working Lands grants

The Working Lands program has announced historic funding for those who make a living off the land.

The program has awarded $2.1 in grants that will help grow agriculture and small businesses in Vermont. This latest round of funding will address meat slaughter and processing bottlenecks, supply chain resiliency, marketing plans and overall business development.

According to a news release, awards from this program also support farmers, producers, markets and co-ops that make up our food system, Vermont loggers, foresters and forest products businesses managing our natural resources and service provider organizations that help strengthen our supply chain. A total of $5.294 million was allocated to the Working Lands Program this year. Another $3.2 million in Working Lands Program grants will be announced in the spring. “These investments will support businesses who make their living off the land. These investments will make it more affordable for these businesses while growing the rural economy. At a time when businesses continue to navigate the pandemic, Working Lands investments help these companies innovate and grow,” said Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets Secretary Anson Tebbetts in a prepared statement.

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