Legislative Update - April 23, 2023

Before we dive into this week's update we need to get something unfortunate out of the way. Last week we had reported that the House had gutted the "check-back" provision in S.5 that requires the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to bring the Clean Heat Standard rules back to the legislature for a vote. This was in fact incorrect. The provision in question had been added in the Senate, not by the House Environment & Energy Committee as we had indicated. Our reporter on the bill didn't catch that provision until the walk-through in that Committee and didn't realize it was in the underlying bill, not the amendment being offered by the Committee. Our apologies for this mistake.

That being said, the provision in question is still concerning because it could potentially allow the PUC to skirt the "check-back" provision in the bill. The House did offer an amendment on the floor in an attempt to address this, but we will encourage legislators to strengthen the check-back provision and limit workarounds.

The bill creating the Clean Heat Standard (S.5) passed the House this week 98-46, two votes shy of a veto override. The bill now moves back to the Senate to see if they will agree with the (relatively minor) House changes or if a Committee of Conference will be called for. The Senate was one vote short of being able to sustain an override when they voted on the bill back in March.

Other topics this week:

  • Bill McKibben testifies on pension divestment.
  • Senate urged to hit the pause button on the independent school bill.
  • Advocates and legislators alike disappointed in housing bill.



Quote of the Week:

“I would say it’s already in the rule... the fact that we’ve had two schools withdraw their applications suggests that schools are taking the new rules seriously.”

Comments on anti-discrimination protections contemplated in H.483.


Jennifer Samuelson
Chair, State Board of Education

Vote for Vermont: Anne Donahue

State Representative Anne Donahue joins Pat and Ben to talk about key bills she is following in the 2023 legislative session.

Watch Now




Fiscal Sustainability

What you need to know:

  • New $1M line item in the Education Fund.
  • Amendment to limit cost increase of Clean Heat Standard voted down.
  • Clean Heat Standard passes House.
  • Bill McKibben weighs in on pension divestment.

IT Modernization Fund

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

Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - Tuesday

On Tuesday, Representative Sibilia gave the Committee the history leading up to the S.5.

  • In 2016, Governor Scott joined other states in committing Vermont to meeting goals of the Paris Climate Accords.
  • In 2020, Vermont passed Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA sets the mandates for greenhouse gas reductions, established the Climate Council to come up with the Climate Action Plan (CAP). The Clean Heat Standard (CHS) is the primary thermal sector solution for the CAP.

Sibilia claimed that Vermonters wanted them to act on climate, citing a poll that says 76% support climate action.

Read more

Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - House Floor Vote

The bill creating a carbon-pricing scheme, known as the Clean Heat Standard (CHS), reached the House floor on Thursday. Representative Sibilia presented the bill on behalf of the Environment & Energy Committee.

She described the bill as having the Public Utility Commission (PUC) develop the marketplace and rules for implementing the CHS. They will provide the 2025 legislature and Governor with the rules to implement the CHS. That is “all we are voting on today,” she claimed. She continued that “a yes vote today will not increase the cost of Vermonter’s fuel or protect the cost. We are not voting on those things today. We are voting on those things in 2025.”

Key Points:

  • Amendment adding some more protections for low-income Vermonters and putting an additional check on the PUC's rulemaking authority passes.
  • Amendment to contain costs by limiting heating fuel price to within $0.20 of the regional average failed.
  • Dozens of legislators spoke for and against the bill and it's amendments.
Read more

Divestment of State Pension Funds (S.42) - Wednesday

Bill McKibben from Third Act joined the House Government Operations Committee on Wednesday to discuss S.42. He noted divestment started here in Vermont years ago. Third Act was founded by McKibben, who wrote the "original book" about global warming. In LA Times and companies knew, all the way back in the 1980s, about the impact of fossil fuels and "lied about what fossil fuels can do to the environment," he claimed.

Read more


We are a donor-supported organization. We couldn't bring you any of the reporting and analysis without Vermonters like you pitching in to help. Will you join us?





What you need to know:

  • State colleges pitch their transformation plan. Remind legislators of mandates.
  • Senators discover that proposed admission rules for independent schools are more strict that public schools.
  • Agency of Education and State Board of Education ask for the implementation of new rules to play out before making additional changes.

State Colleges Transformation Plan

The Senate Education Committee were joined on Tuesday by representatives from the Vermont State Colleges to discuss their Transformation Plan. Chairman Campion invited Chancellor Zdatny to outline for the Committee what the colleges will look like going forward, that "there is a lot of competition out there." Specifically, he pointed to Southern New Hampshire University as a competitor.

Key Points:

  • 30% of University space underutilized.
  • VSC tasked with reducing expenses $25M over five years.
  • Hybrid learning is having an impact.
Read more

Oversight Independent of Schools (H.483) - Wednesday

Chairman Campion welcomed Jay Badams (Superintendent, Norwich/Hanover Interstate School District ) to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, saying they wanted to know about the “whether there is ever any admissions process in our public schools.” He described H.483 as asking for “a kind of open enrollment where public dollars follow kids to whatever school they want.” He added that he thinks that is happening now in a lot of schools.

Key Points:

  • Little statutory guidance for public schools on enrollment for non-resident students.
  • Proposed rules for independent schools are more strict that what public schools are practicing.
  • Senate realizes that most of H.483 is already in law or rule.
  • Public School administrator argues independent schools are costing taxpayers.
Read more

Oversight Independent of Schools (H.483) - Thursday

On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee heard from Heather Bouchey (Interim Secretary, Agency of Education) and Chris Kane (Interim State Director of Special Education, Agency of Education) on H.483. Bouchey stressed the nature of public process and 2200 rulemaking stakeholder engagement. She believed this needed to be “implemented and experienced” as independent schools engage with that newly developed process.

Key Points:

  • Agency of Education and State Board of Education urge Senators to allow current rulemaking to play out.
  • The approval process for independent schools explained.
  • The enforcement mechanisms for the 2200 series rules explained.
Read more

Oversight of Independent Schools (H.483) - Friday

On Friday, Oliver Olsen (Former Chair, State Board of Education) joined the Senate Education Committee to speak on H.483 as a parent, former legislator, and community member from Southern Vermont. During his tenure, he oversaw the “significant effort” of updating the rules governing the approval of independent schools.

Key Points:

  • Parents and students have been missing from the conversation.
  • Pushed back on assertions about tuition costs, point to data inaccuracies.
  • Repeated calls to wait on new rulemaking to play out.
  • Shared a personal anecdote about his kids, who are being served by three different types of schools.
Read more





Economic Development

What you need to know:

  • Senate looks to new loan program for teachers in order to grow education workforce.
  • Housing advocates and legislators voice dismay with the housing bill's lack of progress on Act 250.

Workforce Development (H.494) - Tuesday

Legislative Counsel reviewed H.494 for the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill had already passed the house and the much of the discussion was focused on the forgivable loan incentive programs (subsection 6).

Read more

Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100)

On Tuesday, the housing bill, S.100, was moved to the House Environment & Energy Committee on the House floor. Advocates and many legislators are disappointed that the bill does not go far enough to address Act 250. Instead it focuses on municipal zoning issues that, in some cases, overlap with Act 250.

Read more





Good Government

What you need to know:

  • Ethics Commission highlights the need for municipal oversight.
  • Senate promises to take action next year.

Next Steps on Ethics (H.125) - Thursday

Christina Sivret (Executive Director, Vermont Ethics Commission) joined the Senate Government Operations Committee to discuss a provision they wanted added to H.125. The underlying bill dealt with boards and Commissions, but the Committee had previously indicated that this was a good vehicle for the language she was looking for.

Read more






Health Care

What you need to know:

  • Department asks for extension of certain Medicare oversight responsibilities.

Responsibilities of the Department of Health Access (H.206) - Thursday

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee heard testimonies on Thursday from various entities concerning H.206. The bill relates to the duties of the Department Vermont Health Access (DVHA), which was initially created in the House Health Care Committee back in February. Subsequently, reviewed by the House Appropriations Committee and then passed House sent to the Senate.

Read more




Things to watch for next week:

VOTE: FY2024 Budget (H.494) - Senate Floor (Wednesday)

Renewable Energy Standard - Senate Natural Resources (Tuesday)

Housing Bill (S.100) - House Environment & Energy (Tue/Wed) and House Ways & Means (Wed)

Accountability and Oversight of Independent Schools & Public Tuition (H.483) - Senate Education (Tue/Thurs)

Establishment of VTSaves (S.135) - House Government Operations (Tuesday)

Ranked Choice Voting (S.32) - House Government Operations (Thursday)

Divestment Fossil Fuel from State Pension Funds (S.42) - House Government Operations (Thursday)

Miscellaneous Changes to Election Laws (H.429) - Senate Government Operations (Friday)



We reviewed over 26 hours of legislative testimony to bring you this report, please consider supporting our work.


Sign up to receive email updates


A previous version of this report mistakenly stated that the House had limited future technologies from qualifying for clean heat credits.

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Volunteer Reduce Property Tax Burden


get updates