A bill changing numerous education provisions, H.429, generated a great deal of interest this session. Numerous people testified in both the House and Senate. On May 9th, a strike-all amendment from the Senate Government Operations Committee was considered. It incorporated provisions from S.32, which would create a Ranked-Choice Voting system for presidential primary elections.
Testimony on the bill included:
- Will Senning - Director, Elections and Campaign Finance, Secretary of State's Office
- Carol Dawes - Legislative Committee Chair, Vermont Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Association
- Paul Dame - Chairman, Vermont Republican Party
- Josh Wronski - Executive Director, Vermont Progressive Party
- Paul Burns - Executive Director, Vermont Public Interest Research Group
- Jim Dandeneau - Executive Director, Vermont Democratic Party
- David Zuckerman - Vermont Lieutenant Governor
- Zach Scheffler - Chair, Franklin County Democrats
- Elizabeth Medina - Executive Director, Vermont Labor Council, AFL-CIO
- John Rodgers - Former State Senator
- Harlan Smith - Citizen
- James Gregoire - State Representative
- Laura Sibilia - State Representative
- Christina Sivret - Executive Director, Vermont State Ethics Commission
- Rick Hubbard - Voting Rights Advocate
- Angelo Lynn - Editor/Publisher, Addison County Independent
- Susan Greenhalgh - Senior Advisor on Election Security, Free Speech For People
- Bryan Finney - CEO, Democracy Live
- Betty Keller - Member, Vermont League of Women Voters
- Emma Shouldice - Lobbyist, Vermont Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Association
The bill included changes to current statues in the following areas:
- Creates a new "sore loser" law.
- Sets new campaign finance limits for statewide candidates.
- Requires a new bi-annual committee reorganization report.
- Requires asking candidates for demographic information.
- New write-in candidate registration and minimum thresholds in primary elections.
- Electronic ballot returns for military and disabled persons (also requires a report on the usage of this).
- Delinquent disclosures for candidates for statewide office and the legislature (see below)
- This provision would penalize Candidates who do not properly and timely file their disclosure forms.
- Non-compliant candidates would pay a $10 penalty for each day they are delinquent.
- The cumulative penalty is capped $1K per instance.
- Opt-in Ranked-Choice Voting System (RCV) for municipalities.
- Provides education for voters and elections officials on RCV.
- Creates a Ranked-Choice Voting Study Committee.
- Creates implements RCV for Presidential Primary Elections starting in 2028.
Campaign for Vermont has been tracking this bill primarily because of the State Ethics Commission’s interest in requiring candidates for office to provide the State Ethics Commission with financial disclosures and also implementing penalties for failure to do so.
It is also worth noting that the Ethics Commission is close to finalizing its implementation of a Statewide Code of Ethics. They have notified the legislature that they will want to discuss enforcement and are planning to present this to the Legislature in 2024, as well as implementing structure for ethics at the municipal level (in a separate bill, H.125).
The bill failed to make adjournment on Friday and will have to wait until January for the Senate to take it up again.