Legislative Update - April 30, 2023

Governor Scott has already promised to veto the Clean Heat Standard (S.5) passed by the Senate on Thursday. Senators voted 20-10 to concur with the House version of the bill that would create a carbon-pricing system for heating fuels based on their carbon intensity. This was one vote short of being able to sustain a veto, so one Senator would need to shift their position on the bill in order to Scott's veto to be successful.

In preparation for the vote, Campaign for Vermont sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee explaining why the "check-back" provision was weak and they should strengthen it. One of the bill sponsors acknowledged in the floor debate that the original version of the bill "fully implemented the Clean Heat Standard,” and that the check-back was an afterthought. Essentially, the bill allows the Public Utility Commission to implement key pieces of the system prior to legislative approval and exercise enforcement powers for non-compliance.

Other topics this week:

  • The head of a specialty school pushes back on the narratives surrounding the independent school oversight bill.
  • Senators are getting serious about changing the cap on income sensitivity in response to increasing home prices.
  • Vermont's public pension fiduciaries agree with climate action, but argue divestment isn't the way to get there.
  • Senate's latest version of the property tax bill sees a slight increase in expected bills.
  • New state-run retirement plan aimed at small businesses reaches the House.
  • Housing bill (S.100) moves on to money committee in the House.



Quote of the Week:

“[S.5] is a leap of faith more than I’m used to.”


Dick Sears Jr.
Senator, Bennington District

Vote for Vermont: Clean Heat Standard

Annette Smith from Vermonters for a Clean Environment joins Pat and Ben to discuss the Clean Heat Standard, a carbon-pricing model being proposed for Vermont.

Watch Now



Letter to Senate Appropriations on S.5

Dear Senate Appropriations Committee,

While we may differ on whether or not the Clean Heat Standard is the best path forward at this time, it is clear that this is the intention of the legislature. We would like to offer some constructive feedback on aspects of the bill that we believe are problematic to the stated goals of accountability, affordability, and carbon-reduction.

Read more

Weekly Message:


Pat McDonald
CFV President


April is Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. On April 20th, Governor Scott signed H.631 into law, making Vermont the eighth state to end child marriage. The new legislation sets the marriage age at 18 with no exceptions and marks a critical step forward in the fight to end this human rights abuse.

It is interesting to know that in 2023:

  • Only one country in the world – the United States – has not ratified the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes a child’s right not to be married.

  • More than half of the US states permit child marriage with either parental or judicial consent.

Obviously there is still work to be done. Let’s hope that Vermont’s success will encourage the other 42 states that currently allow child marriage to follow suit and end child marriage across the United States.




Fiscal Sustainability

What you need to know:

  • Senate sends the thermal carbon-pricing bill to Governor Scott.
  • Rapidly increasing home values is pushing some families out of income sensitivity, even if their income doesn't change.
  • Vermont's public pension fiduciaries agree with climate action, but argue divestment isn't the way to get there.

VOTE: Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - Thursday

The bill creating the Clean Heat Standard, S.5, made it back to the Senate Floor on Thursday. Senator Bray went through the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill...

Key Points:

  • Multiple Senators disputed whether or not the bill was actually a "study."
  • Senate voted 20-10 to send the bill to Governor Scott, one vote shy of sustaining a veto.
Read more

Increasing Housing Costs

The Senate Finance Committee met on Wednesday to discuss the impact of rapidly increasing housing costs. Chairwoman Cummings teed up the conversation by stating that some towns, like Stowe (as example) are seeing the number of people who qualify for income sensitivity drop, by no fault of their own. In some cases, homes have increased from $400K to $600K two years later (there is a $400k cap on house site value for income sensitivity). She mentioned the legislative goal of 80% of taxpayers being “income sensitized” (meaning they qualify for the property tax credit) and the state is now down to 64%. She was seeking solutions for how to address this long term.

Read more

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

The House Government Operations Committee returned to S.42 on Thursday. Katie Green (Deputy Chief Investment Officer, Vermont Pension Investment Commission). She shared that the Vermont Pension Investment Commission (VPIC) established an Environmental, Social, and Governmental (ESG) committee. Green noted that climate change is a "significant threat," adding that it's "not just fossil fuel" but also automobile industry, land use, and water quality. She was adamant that VPIC was accountable and transparent, which is why they created the ESG committee to report up to the commission. 

Read more


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What you need to know:

  • Independent school leader pushes back against narrative from public schools.
  • Senate version of the property tax bill sees a slight increase in expected bills.

Oversight of Independent Schools (H.483) - Tuesday

On Tuesday, C.J. Spirito, Head of School at Rock Point School in Burlington joined the Senate Education Committee to talk about H.483.

Rock Point is a small independent school with students ranging from “high-flying, college-bound students to kids in the hospital because they can't function or are not getting to school.” They are not competing with public schools or larger schools for students, he noted.

He was there to raise concerns about some of the major provisions in the bill and how they would impact his specialty school. He noted that if they “took any kid without an admissions process,” they would not be able to “protect the space for the kids that are here now” and continue to successfully serve them. The bill would put the school in a difficult place because they would have to deny publicly-tuitioned students that they could help, in order to protect the current students.

Read more

Property Tax Bill (H.492) - Friday

The Senate Finance Committee had been kicking around the property tax bill, H.492, for a couple weeks and circled back again on Friday. They also had a fresh Education Fund Outlook to look at. The Senate’s version did not include cannabis retail taxes and had a slightly higher average property tax bill. It also had a slightly lower carry-over from the previous year based on the latest projections.

Read more





Economic Development

What you need to know:

  • New retirement plan aimed at small businesses reaches the House.
  • Interim President of Vermont State University visits Senate.

Establishing VT Saves (S.135) - Tuesday

Chairman McCarthy introduced Senator Brock to the House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday, saying that he “loves this bill” as it solves a problem, does not cost much to start up, or to continuing operating, and does not raise taxes. It “actually gives something back to Vermonters,” he claimed. He continued that often they “pass things, we’re the first in the nation to do it. And then we pay the price because we don’t know how to do it,” he quipped.

Key Points:

  • Only 5% of Americans are saving for retirement.
  • Bill would create a retirement plan with a default 5% savings rate.
  • Meant to provide an option for small businesses can afford.
Read more

Interim Vermont State College President

On Friday, the Senate Education Committee welcomed Mike Smith. Chairman Campion thanked him for coming in person to talk to the Committee. Smith was born in Rutland County, went to high school in Woodstock, and then pursued military service right after high school. When he came out of the service he went to UVM for a graduate degree. Most of his career was spent as CEO of several companies and held a number of positions within state government.

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Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100) - Environment & Energy (Wed)

The House Environment & Energy Committee heard from a few repeat presenters on Wednesday from the Agency of Natural Resources, the Department of Public Service, and Green Mountain Power. They didn't have much new to add to the conversation and one of them even said “I don’t really know what else I can offer to help you.”

Read more

Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100) - Ways & Means (Wed)

The House Ways & Means Committee also took up the bill on Wednesday. Chairwoman Kornheiser immediately set the foundation that S.100 was to be approached ONLY with their jurisdiction over fines and fees and not "policy changes." Legislative Counsel addressed the $116M appropriated from the General Fund.

Read more

Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100) - Friday

On Friday, Legislative Counsel continued walking through the bill with the Environment & Energy Committee. One section of particular discussed was the Act 250 appeals section where any person aggrieved by the residential component of the bill, included affordable housing, could appeal.

Read more





Good Government

What you need to know:

  • House debating giving the Ethics Commission express oversight over Sheriffs and Deputies.
  • House expresses interesting in adding more enforcement powers over ethical violations.
  • Ranked-Choice Voting bill gets another look in the House.

Ethics Commission Oversight (S.17) - Tuesday

Christina Sivret introduced herself to the House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday. She talked about the Vermont Ethics Commission and the service they provide. The majority of their current responsibilities relate to training and providing advice; they have ability to receive complaints but not to investigate them. However, they do oversee that State Code of Ethics.

The concept, she explained, is that the State Code of Ethics should apply to all state employees. She discussed the fact that if there can be additional codes of ethics within a state department that may be more stringent than the statewide code.

Read more

Ranked-Choice Voting (S.32) - Thursday

On Thursday, the House Government Operations Committee returned to work on S.32, which would establish a ranked-choice voting (RCV) system for presidential primary elections. Katherine Schad (Chief Administrative Officer, Burlington City) joined the Committee. Chairman McCarthy asks her to comment specifically about operating an RCV system with multiple precincts.

Read more






Health Care

What you need to know:

  • Green Mountain Care Board reviews prior authorization policies and oversight.

Prior Authorizations for Health Care

On Tuesday, Julia Boles, Health Policy Advisor at Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB), presented a report regarding Prior Authorization (PA) to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. She explained that “Prior Authorization” means the process used by a health plan to determine the medical necessity, medical appropriateness (or both) of otherwise covered drugs. It is also applied to medical procedures, medical tests, and other health care services. Prior authorization is a process by which a medical provider (or the patient, in some scenarios) must obtain approval from a patient's health plan before moving ahead with a particular treatment, procedure, or medication.

Read more




Things to watch for next week:

Housing Bill (S.100) - House Ways & Means (Monday)

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

Enhancing Workforce and Economic Development - House Commerce (Tuesday)

Apprenticeship Statute Rewrite - House Commerce (Tue) & Senate Economic Development (Wed)

Adjustments to Income Sensitivity - Senate Finance (Thursday)



We reviewed over 25 hours of legislative testimony to bring you this report, please consider supporting our work.


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