Legislative Report from Rep. Dennis Devereux
for Ludlow, Mount Holly and Plymouth
Our grade at the end of the first year of a new legislative session is often an incomplete. This stems from the many ideas that are put forward as bills, with only few being finalized. The more complex issues demand additional information to make the most informed decision, or in this case to finalize legislation.
This year seemed unusual in that major steps were taken to improve bills from last session. A couple that come to mind are the changes to our land use program, and the strengthening of the DUI legislation that is set to be implemented this July. I was pleased with the final results, and hope both move us in the intended direction.
Our land use program, also known as current use, allows people with more than 25 acres of land to receive a reduced property tax to keep it in approved agricultural use. This land is not appraised for property tax purposes at its potential value for development. Last session’s version was vetoed, and many of us had concerns about the program’s future. The changes enacted with House Bill No. 237 amend the program to allow land currently enrolled to be withdrawn by October 1, 2011. However, people need to be aware that there are some tax impacts with these withdrawals. Under current law, the value would be set at its pro-rated fair market value at the time of withdrawal.
After October 1, 2011, land withdrawn from the program would be subject to the new land use change tax as modified with this bill. The taxable value would be at its fair market value at the time of withdrawal, and the rate will be tiered based on the length of continuous enrollment. The three tiers will be set at less than 12 in the program, between 12 and less than 20 years, and more than 20 years. It is estimated that with the projected 3% decline in the amount of land enrolled, the state could see a yield of more than $1.4 million to the education fund in fiscal year 2013. The easy opt-out option could also add to the future value of grand lists.
Some of the important pieces allow a person to transfer ownership to a family member and still keep it continuously enrolled in the program. Also a study committee is created to make recommendations next January to the legislature concerning formulas for municipal reimbursement payments to determine if they are now equitable.
The ignition interlock system is scheduled to start on July first of this year for repeat DUI offenders. We passed House Bill No. 264 to establish mandatory minimum sentences for a third offense with death or serious injury resulting. I am hopeful that we do see a decrease in violations from those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
There are always some unfinished bills that were approved by one body of the legislature only to be left by the other for the following January. It was frustrating when the vital records bill that our committee had worked so hard on was not finalized. Our Vermont Department of Health had hoped to see it pass to implement next January. The changes to our vital records security systems were to address concerns about accessing our personal information. I am sure that this important piece of legislation will pass with a few minor changes by the senate.
I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me with your concerns before we start back in session in January. When we are not in session, it is best to reach me with a message at 802-259-2460, or firstname.lastname@example.org.