Report from Montpelier

By Tim Ashe

I want to report on a few areas where ideas originating from constituent calls and e-mails passed into law in 2016.

I’ve been contacted by many young Vermonters with a similar story. They graduate college, land a job, sow their oats, realize they want to plant roots and buy a home, then realize they can’t afford to in Chittenden County. It’s also a problem for employers who struggle to retain and recruit quality employees. So over the last two years we created a down payment assistance program through VHFA to assist income eligible first-time home buyers. It’s helped 115 people buy a home, with another 230 expected by next year. Within three years the program is expected to be a self-funded financing source to make homeownership affordable for still more younger Vermonters.

Now that cell service is near ubiquitous in Chittenden County, many constituents asked me to look into permitting rules for cell towers to make sure we aren’t overbuilding towers. In response, we passed Act 130 that gives municipalities more say in cell tower siting, and stresses locating antennas on existing towers wherever possible.

I heard from small ambulance services and our local VNA that the state’s method of funding their critical services was disadvantaging them because of their specific patient mix. My committee was able to revise both systems to provide financial relief to these agencies, helping them avoid cuts in services.

These non-headline grabbing laws wouldn’t have happened without active citizens contacting me and other legislators.