On Tuesday, the Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) gave the Senate Finance Committee an overview of the IT Modernization Fund, which has historically been supported by an internal service charge (a fee charged to each agency of department based on their overall budget). The Governor’s budget this year recommended that it be its own line item in the budgets for each fund (General Fund, Education Fund, Transportation Fund, etc.) in order to be more transparent.Read more
Two more major bills moved this week. In the House, the bill creating a carbon-pricing credit system advanced out of the Environment & Energy Committee with some relatively minor changes. However, it does provide some additional flexibility to the Public Utilities Commission to pause the credit program due to market conditions such as workforce shortages or supply chain issues. Additionally, the penalties on fuel dealers were reduced from 4x the credit amount to 2x.
The second major move was a bill passed by the Senate that would double legislative pay and create a new benefits package for legislators that includes health insurance and child care services. The goal is to make the legislature more attractive and accessible for working-class Vermonters, but it is still a historic increase in compensation for the State's citizen legislature.Read more
The Committee began marking up S.5 on Wednesday. Chairwoman Sheldon asked if cooking was included in the definition of thermal sector and therefore covered under the bill. Legislative Counsel confirmed that it was included and transitioning from gas to thermal induction stoves in restaurants qualifies for credits.Read more
On Wednesday, Chairman Campion asked Legislative Counsel to share, with the Senate Education Committee, background on Act 49 and Act 173 and how they relate to independent schools. Act 49 was passed in 2017 and created a task force on independent schools. The task force was split and could not find a consensus; instead of offering a comprehensive report, each member issued their own recommendations around enrollment policy, if schools should be required to deliver special education and which categories should be required, and special education required reporting. The legislation also paused rulemaking until the legislature could act on these issues.Read more
Susan Minter (Executive Director, Capstone Community Action) shared with the House General & Housing Committee on Thursday a report by the Community Action Team reiterating that housing was needed. Minter gave a very similar presentation to the one given in the Senate regarding S.100. The same risks were identified as in the Senate the same powerful stories that demonstrated the need for more housing.
She reiterated, again, that there was no focus on Act 250 or business issues addressed in the bill. Even so, Minter supported the bill as it was.Read more
Robin Lunge and Jessica Holmes, members of the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) presented the history and overview of the GMCB to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. Holmes introduced herself stating that she is an economist and has been a member of the Board for eight years. She explained how the uniqueness of health care justifies the extensive government oversight through laws and regulations. In most markets, transactions involve only a buyer and seller, but in health care there is the presence of third parties, including insurers as well as the role of government.Read more
The House Corrections and Institutions Committee took up water quality on Wednesday, hearing from Eric Blatt (Director of Engineering, Water Investment Division). Chairwoman Emmons noted that Appropriations usually includes 1:5 matching funds for the revolving loan fund as well as a state match for clean water and drinking water grants.Read more
Alex Weinhagen (President, Vermont Planners Association) spoke to the House Environment & Energy Committee on Wednesday about housing and permit reform legislation. He gave an overview with his opinion on the housing crisis and explained that State and local government can and should take action in the areas over which they have control. The Vermont Planners Association (VPA) strongly supports modernizing municipal land use regulations, state permitting reform (e.g., wastewater, stormwater, building codes, and Act 250), as well as changes to expedite development review appeals processes. This final point is one of the main focuses of S.100.Read more
The Health Equity Advisory Commission (HEAC) presented to a joint Committee meeting of the House Health Care and Senate Health and Welfare on Wednesday. The agenda included an overview of the HEAC responsibilities, a summary of the HEAC’s 2023 Annual Report, budget and fiscal proposals, and final notes and reflections. The Commission members include thirty representatives from various entities in Vermont. Rev. Mark Hughes is the Chair and represents Vermont Racial Justice Alliance. He and Kristen Murphy (Executive Director, Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council) presented the annual report to the committee, which included government equity, programmatic approach/framework, community engagement, legal and administrative support, policies and programs, funding, grants and training, and continuing education.Read more