Changes to Election Laws (H.429) - March 21, 2023
Representative McCarthy was introduced to the Senate Government Operations Committee on Tuesday by Chairwoman Hardy. Out of the gate she wanted to advise everyone they would be hearing from lots of others on H.429 and passage was not likely to occur soon. She acknowledged lots of media attention and outreach to her and other members about the bill.Read more
Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - March 21, 2023
On Tuesday the House Environment & Energy Committee began taking background testimony on S.5, beginning with Representative Sibilia providing a recap of what happened with H.715 (The Clean Heat Standard bill vetoed by the Governor) last year, and passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA created the Climate Council which in turn created a Climate Action Plan. She emphasized that Vermont needs to reduce emissions from the thermal sector, and one recommendation was for a Clean Heat Standard. It did not quite make it last year, but a lot of work went into it, and here we are again with an “improved” bill.Read more
Legislative Update: March 19, 2023
Two more problematic bills moved out of committee this week. The first was a bill tightening restrictions on independent schools who receive public tuition dollars under Vermont's historic town tuitioning system. We have been following this bill for quite a while and, although duplicative, the bill was generally acceptable until a new provision was added the day before the Committee was set to vote on it... That provision would disallow any sort of normal application processes to play out before schools make enrollment decisions. Current rules prevent discriminatory behavior, but schools still saw value in bringing students in for site visits before enrollment so they could begin planning how to best meet their needs. The bill would prevent this as well as other criteria such as program alignment. This was particularly concerning for students ability to use their tuition dollars at specialty schools like ski academies, which were not given an opportunity to comment on the bill. We are hopeful that this language will be fixed by a House floor amendment or by the Senate.Read more
Divestment of State Pension Funds (S.42): March 14-17
The Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony on Tuesday regarding S.42, which proposes to divest fossil fuel investments from the state's pension funds. In their previous meeting, the Committee still had not come to a consensus on several issues. Some stakeholders agreed to meet Friday and Saturday to hopefully come up with a compromise so bill could be voted out of Committee.Read more
Independent School Oversight: March 14-17
Dan French (Secretary of Education) shared with the House Education Committee on Tuesday that the Agency of Education did not fully support the bill. The main reason is because they just embarked on rulemaking with the State Board of Education (SBE), which he described as “yeoman’s work… to bring forward a much-improved regulatory framework for independent schools.”
He is concerned about changing the rules before they even go into full effect. His preference would be to see the new 2200 series rules go into effect and then make adjustments as necessary.Read more
Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100): March 14-17
On Tuesday, Gus Seelig (Executive Director, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board) spoke to the Senate Natural Resources Committee about their version of S.100.
He commented on the state’s failure to pass statewide land use planning back in the “Act 250 days.” Specifically, he pointed to the abundance of opportunities during the permitting process for folks to increase costs and raise objections that lead to a lack of affordable or lower market rate housing generally.
He pointed out that the Vermont Housing Conservation Board (VHCB) is the financing arm of the state’s housing development efforts and recanted some stories about a designated smartgrowth site in Putney adjacent to the food coop. The same person came forward and appealed at two different stages of the process. Both times they won the initial appeal against the objections, but now it is headed to the Vermont Supreme Court. The town of Putney was all on board, however the resulting delays will be 18 months by the time the appeals play out, and it will raise the per unit cost by an estimated 20% (originally expected to be $400,000).Read more
Workforce Development: March 14 - 17
The House Commerce Committee pivoted on Tuesday and took up draft bill 23-0991, which deals with enhancing workforce and economic development opportunities, a topic they had not previously covered in earnest. The bill appears to be a replacement for H.452.Read more
Ranked Choice Voting (S.32): March 15th
Legislative Council provided the Senate Government Operations Committee with an overview of the newest draft of S.32 on Wednesday. They noted that in draft 3.1 if a municipality wanted to get rid of ranked choice voting (RCV) once approved either the voters of the municipality or the legislative body would have to vote to move away from it. However, the legislative body could not vote to get rid of RCV if the voters of a municipality had voted to adopt it originally. Only the voters could repeal RCV in that case.Read more
Creating a Housing Advocate (H.378)
The House General & Housing Committee took up H.378 on Wednesday, which would create an Office of the Housing Advocate to assist landlords, tenants, and homeowners with housing-related questions by providing information, referrals and assistance to individuals about obtaining or providing housing services.Read more
Legislative Update - March 5, 2023
The week leading up to town meeting was a mixed bag. The full potential impacts of the carbon-pricing legislation (S.5) were averted by an amendment from the Senate Appropriations Committee, which they claim turns the bill into a "study." In actuality it still asks the Public Utilities Commission to build a carbon-pricing system for heating fuels, but then the legislature will need to sign off on it before those rules they develop go into effect. Essentially they are building the bus and then deciding whether or not to drive it, versus designing the bus first and then deciding if they should build it. Perhaps a small distinction, but an important one.
Also, despite a full-throated attack from from public school administrators, the House seems reluctant to move forward on a bill that would end Vermont's historic town tuitioning system. If that holds true, that's a win for rural Vermont!Read more