in the State Senate
on February 4, 2021, by a vote of
Purpose: To reject Governor Scott’s executive order on Act 250 reform.
The order takes major permit review cases from Vermont’s nine Act 250 regional commissions and gives these cases to a restructured Natural Resources Board (NRB). No longer would 5 regional commissioners reach a decision about a major development permit, as has been the case for 50 years. Instead, 2 regional commissioners from the project’s location would be joined by 3 full-time specialists (from the NRB) to review each major Act 250 application. The 3 NRB specialists would be appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate. The regional commissions would retain their sole authority to judge smaller Act 250 projects.
There is legal disagreement about whether a majority vote in House is needed to countermand this executive order in addition to this Senate vote.
Analysis: Those voting YES believe Scott’s executive order presents no “permanent financial solution” to covering new costs for the NRB. The order only allocates one-time dollars to restructure the NRB, ignoring the current NRB deficit of $650,000. The executive order would increase the NRB's annual operating budget by $500,000. The order fails to spell out a process for appealing the NRB’s decisions and would “force” the Legislature to clarify the process under a time constraint, when more careful deliberation is needed.
Those voting NO believe the governor’s executive order will improve the uneven and sluggish application for Act 250 building permits across different regions of Vermont. The order maintains significant regional input while professionalizing the Natural Resources Board. Too often, ill-equipped laypersons on regional Act 250 commissions face hire high-powered lawyers from economic developers who want to push their permit through. The order would even the playing field, lower the cost of obtaining a permit, speed up decision-making, enhance consistency and improve predictability. Nothing in the order weakens Act 250 environmental protections. At the very least, those voting “no” hope to keep Act 250 reform alive, putting pressure on Senate Committees to find a solution. Economic development has stagnated in Vermont, and this order can help get it going again.
To view the Governor Scott’s Executive Order, click here.
How They Voted
Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) – NO
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – NO
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – NO
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – NO
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – YES
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – NO
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – YES
Joshua Terenzini (D-Rutland) – NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – YES
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – YES
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