S.171 Summary - Statewide Code of Ethics

S.171 was the next step in years of work in moving Vermont towards having a universal code of ethics. This work started in 2018 when the legislature created the Vermont Ethics Commission that could be an educational resource to lawmakers about ethics issues. While this was a critical step forward, the Commission had no real enforcement powers and even their advisory role was somewhat limited because of the lack of a consistent ethical standard across state government.

This bill created that framework. Campaign for Vermont fought hard to make sure that all three branches of government where covered by this code.

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S.234 Summary - Changes to Act 250

S.234 was billed as an overhaul to Act 250, however most land-use and development experts agreed that it fell well short of holistic reform. That being said, the bill did strive to make improvements in key areas relative to housing, but even on this front it drew criticism from mayors and town administrators across the state.

It even took heat from Miro Weinberger who said it, "would take us backwards and undo one of the most important pro-housing state land use reforms of the past 20 years."

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S.100 Summary - Universal School Meals

S.100 creates a one-year universal school meal program that provides free breakfast and lunch for all public school students and independent school students who attend on public tuition.

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S.286 Summary - State Pension Systems

S.286 is meant to address deficits in both the State Employees' Retirement System (VSERS) and the Vermont Teachers Retirement System (VTRS) by adjusting contribution rates, prefunding, and other changes.

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H.737 Summary - Setting Property Tax Rates

Every year the legislature sets a yield amount that essentially identifies how much revenue the state expects to generate with a $1 statewide base tax rate. This number is used to calculate local tax rates by adjusting for local spending. According to the Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) projects a decrease for the average homeowner of about 9% from last year.

This year the property tax bill was particularly interesting for two reasons. First, the state went into budgeting for FY2023 with a $95M surplus from the current year (first time anyone can remember this happening) so legislators had some decisions to make about how to spend that money. The Governor wanted to spend half on property tax rebates and the other half on technical education investments.

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H.572 Summary - Retirement Allowance for Interim Educators

This bill creates a temporary program meant to address the perceived shortage of teachers in the state by allowing school districts to bring retirees back to work for one-year contracts without jeopardizing their retirement benefits. While clever, there are concerns from the Treasurer's office about the financial impacts of this program on the pension should it become widely used.

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S.226 Summary - Safe and Affordable Housing

Last minute Act 250 changes from S.234 were rolled into S.226 but the underlying bill was meant to address Vermont's housing crisis. Despite making steps towards assisting with housing development, the bill does contain a watered down version of a contractor registration provision that Governor Scott vetoed last year.

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S.11 Summary - Omnibus Economic Development

S.11 started out life as three separate bills - S.11, H.159, and H.703. In the final weeks of the legislature they were merged into one omnibus economic and workforce development bill. The goals of the bill are:

  1. Expand opportunities for workforce education, training, and development for Vermonters and to make meaningful investments to support and expand the workforce across the State
  2. Ensure that all Vermonters, and particularly marginalized populations, have the opportunity to benefit from the financial and programmatic benefits being made available.

The major factors that this bill is trying to address is a shortage of 28K workers (largely resulting from 26K workers leaving the workforce since 2019) and a workforce participation rate that has fallen to just over 60%.

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Legislative Update - May 15, 2022

The past few months have been filled with the hustle and bustle of the legislative session. Bills have been proposed, tanked, renewed, rewritten and debated over. Good work has been done and some have been left for another day. This week it all came to an end. The lead up to legislature adjournment on Thursday was filled with the typical last-minute deals, unforeseen circumstances, and passionate speeches on the floor that are to be expected.

In the end, the legislature passed the first statewide code of ethics for Vermont, took a step towards fixing our pension and housing crises, and invested nearly $100M into workforce development needs. In doing so, we also avoided tax increases on middle-class Vermonters and changes to Act 250 that would actually make our housing problem WORSE. There is a lot to be happy about.

We applaud legislators for their work and wish them all some much-deserved rest over the summer.

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Legislative Update - May 8, 2022

This week the legislature overrode Governor Scott's veto of the pension bill unanimously. While only addressing less than half of the deficit, the legislature resoundingly chose incremental progress over sweeping reform. Other bills are following this trend, such as the Act 250 bill, shying away from bold reforms and towards minor tweaks to existing laws.

Other bills moving forward include housing and workforce development, economic development, student weighting (headed for the Governor's desk). Universal school meals were also approved by the Senate this week, setting up a likely slash to the $36M in property tax savings that were offered by the House.

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