Gov. Phil Scott vetoes Act 250 reform bill

Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 12:09 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2020 at 6:47 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s back to the drawing board for lawmakers, environmental groups, and developers after Governor Phil Scott Monday vetoed a pared-down Act 250 reform bill.

In his veto letter, Scott said the bill was a shadow of itself and it would just create more regulatory confusion. The initiative to reform Vermont’s land use-law was thrown off track by the pandemic and whittled down to just two proposals -- an Act 250 review exemption to recreational trails and new rules to curb forest fragmentation which aims to bolster habitats and forest health.

Scott and others wanted to balance out the new rules with Act 250 exemptions in Vermont’s downtowns. The governor issued an executive order suspending certain act 250 reviews of trails - while the agency of natural resources collects data for the legislature to mull over for more comprehensive reform.

“The executive order will basically take the place of what was in the legislation for help of this so-called band-aid over the next few months for the trail associations and address their concerns,” Scott said Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday, Senate President Tim Ashe said the governor’s veto, and executive order raise serious questions of executive overreach.“ Governor Scott’s throwing away the good policies we were able to finalize, though, is surprising in light of the Administration’s previously articulated support for both of the key provisions in H.926. In a memo sent in August, the Administration expressed support for both the trails and forest fragmentation provisions when they appeared in an earlier draft of the bill,” Ashe said. “the Governor’s apparent legislating-by-way-of-Executive-Order in Section I of the order at a minimum raises concerns about the separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches. It is the Legislative branch, not the Executive branch, that writes legislation.”

Ashe did not say if lawmakers would reconvene for an override vote.

Meanwhile, the regulated cannabis bill, S.54, remains on the governor’s desk. He has until midnight to take action or let it become law.

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