Legislative Update: February 19, 2017

Legislative Update Sent to Supporting Partners on February 19, 2017.

The Legislature seemed to hit its stride this week as it settled into the budgeting process and bills began moving onto the floor in both the House and Senate.

Here’s What Happened this Week:

  • The House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on the state budget with nearly three dozen attendees. Advocates for health and child care, reproductive rights, and higher education turned out in force.
  • House and Senate Education committees both decided not to change the “preferred model” under Act 46 and instead are pursing slightly more flexible alternative structures. Their goal is to prevent districts from opting out from the process, but also make it easier for districts that are struggling to comply with the law.
  • House committees were briefed on workforce and technical education training this week. A number of students from Vermont’s technical education centers, state colleges, and high school students taking advantage of dual enrollment and other programs shared their experiences.
  • The House dug further into a $15 minimum wage proposal. State Economist Tom Kavet warned about drastic year-over-year increases in the minimum wage.
  • Marijuana legalization discussions continued in the House around a bill that would allow home grown use of marijuana but does not seek to create a corporate regulatory structure.
  • House members are looking to strengthen sex crime laws by extending the statute of limitations and creating a bill of rights for sex assault victims.
  • The House shot down a measure that would make happy hour legal at Vermont bars and restaurants (it is currently not).
  • S.8, the ethics bill passed by the Senate two weeks ago arrived in the House Government Operations Committee Friday morning with some resistance. Most concern centered around financial disclosures for public officials and independent oversight of lawmakers.

What to keep an eye on next week:

  • The House Appropriations Committee (who is largely responsible for writing the budget) will wrap up their series of meetings with department heads and start reconstructing the budget. It is likely that counter proposals to Governor Scott’s budget will be discussed in committee this week.
  • The $15 minimum wage discussion will continue in the House and a paid family leave bill will be introduced in committee.
  • House members are expected to conduct a recount for the contested Orange-1 district on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. The Republican candidate from that district has been seated in the House, but that may be overturned pending the results of the recount. Republicans have vocally opposed the third recount for this district as it may cost them a deciding vote to sustain a veto from Governor Scott.
  • Committees in the House and Senate will look at changing penalties for Marijuana possession and allowance for small numbers of home grown plants.
  • The House Natural Resources Committee may vote out a water quality funding bill by the end of next week. It is likely to include a tiered per parcel fee that is income sensitized.
  • The Senate may move new net-metering rules out of committee next week.

Interesting News:

Legislative Roomies Share Boxed Wine and Political Strategies – Seven Days

Education, Child Care, Mental Health Key Issues at Budget Hearing – VT Digger

Vermont PBS Gets ‘Transformational’ $56 Million for Sale of FCC License – VPR

Montpeculiar: Vermont House Votes to Keep Happy Hour Illegal – Seven Days

To Address Vermont’s Housing Crunch, Lawmakers Consider $2-Per-Night Hotel Tax – VPR

Lawmakers Consider Proposing Tax on Coffee – VT Digger

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