The Rural Economic Development Working Group (REDWnG) has 15-20 members in the Vermont House of Representatives working together to advance legislation and policy initiatives that will help strengthen the economy in rural Vermont communities.
At the beginning of the 2018 legislative session REDWnG identified three primary issues on which to focus:
- Provide regulatory relief for the forest products industry and for additional ways to support their industry.
- Expand high speed, broadband technology into rural Vermont to give communities the opportunity to participate in today's economy.
- Provide small communities with planning assistance and access to financing to design, build and maintain community wastewater and potable water systems.
Several bills passed the legislature with REDWnG's support and assistance that provided the following:
a. Gave individual homeowners, including owners of multifamily homes, access to funding for wastewater systems that are failed or close to failing, with very favorable terms.
b. Enabled private entities to tap into the state Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund to build wastewater treatment systems.
c. Foresters were granted the right to conduct forest harvesting operations without risk of being shut down because of complaints of neighbors provided that they follow best forestry practices.
d. Certain forestry machinery was granted exemption from purchase and use tax to make it more affordable to purchase new equipment.
e. Funding for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund, supporting agricultural businesses, was increased to $700K.
f. Freed up $1.2 million that had been parked in a now defunct telecommunications authority project to be used to support the expansion of broadband and cellular phone connectivity.
g. Created a pilot project to fund expansion of the outdoor recreation industry through "model communities."
In part because of our advocacy, the Department of Environmental Conservation is working closely with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to remove regulatory obstacles for towns looking to replace or construct properly sized wastewater systems