Closing out Week 16 of the 2023
S.5, the Clean Heat Standard bill was approved by the House this past week. The bill sets up a marketplace for credits that would provide a system of carrots and sticks towards incentivizing greenhouse gas reducing activities in the thermal sector. Each fossil fuel dealer would be assigned a certain amount of credits they must seek through clean heat activities such as weatherizing homes and installing cold climate heat pumps. Dealers that do not meet the requirements would be penalized and the price of heating fuel would rise accordingly. The Public Utility Commission will be responsible for designing the system of credits and demerits. The 2025 legislature will then act on the draft rule, containing all the design details of the program, by passing another bill that approves the design. The program would then go into place by June 2025.
Governor Scott vetoed a similar bill last year and the legislature failed to override the veto by a single vote. If a veto comes again, the legislature, with its Democratic supermajority, would likely have the votes for an override.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also unanimously voted out their $8.5 billion budget on Friday. The bill, which will be on the Senate floor this week, leaves untouched many of the House’s proposals, but makes some changes including ending the motel voucher housing program, increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to some service providers, removing the funding for universal school meals to be considered separately in H.165, providing an initial appropriation for Afterschool grants, and allocating over $9 million to a youth inpatient psychiatric facility.
The housing bill, S.100, saw a new party enter the fray last week – The Rural Caucus. In a letter to the Speaker of the House, Jill Krowinski, over 30 tri-partisan members of the House of Representatives supported regulatory changes, including expanded exemptions for Act 250, to address the housing crisis. As the bill currently stands in the House Committee on Environment and Energy, it focuses on the very small footprints of the states developed designated areas and does little to help rural areas. Two weeks ago, Democratic leadership sided with special interests in deciding that housing development regulation would not be discussed in the Housing Committee, leaving that task instead to the Environment and Energy Committee, a committee not known for being friendly to development. For now, the Rural Caucus is siding with campaign promises to constituents in addressing the states housing crisis and not with the diluted bill favored by leadership.
What to expect in Week 17 – April 24 – April 28, 2023
Note: Legislative Committee Agendas are updated frequently throughout each day. The latest committee schedule can be found on this link. A list of weekly hearings for all committees can be found here.
House Committee Work
Appropriations – TBD
Commerce and Economic Development – will continue work on H.81, an act relating to fair repair of agricultural equipment, and H.434, an act relating to creating the Vermont Office of Film and Creative Media. The committee will possibly vote out S.95, an act relating to banking and insurance.
Education –will spend the week on S.56, an act relating to child care and early childhood education, as it relates to Pre-K and afterschool funding.
General and Housing – will take time for H.132, an act relating to establishing a homeless bill of rights and continue consideration of H.391, an act relating to creating an eviction diversion program, H.21, an act relating to landlord notice of utility disconnections and S.103, an act relating to amending the prohibitions against discrimination.
Government Operations and Military Affairs –will continue work on S.32, an act relating to ranked-choice voting for presidential primary elections, S.42, an act relating to divestment of State pension funds of investments in the fossil fuel industry, and S.17, an act relating to sheriff reforms.
Health Care –will discuss S.47, an act relating to the transport of individuals requiring psychiatric care. They will take testimony on S.65, an act relating to commercial insurance coverage of epinephrine auto-injectors. On Wednesday the will receive testimony from pharmacists regarding Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) and receive a report regarding Prior Authorizations and Administrative Cost Reduction.
Human Services –will devote most of their week H.72, an act relating to a harm-reduction criminal justice response to drug use.
Judiciary – will possibly vote out of committee S.91, an act relating to competency to stand trial and insanity as a defense. They will also hear testimony on S.4, an act relating to reducing crimes of violence associated with juveniles and dangerous weapons.
Transportation –will review the Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation.
Ways & Means – will continue their discussions related to child care financing. They will begin work on S.100, the housing bill, and S.99, an act relating to changes to laws related to vehicles.
Senate Committee Work
Appropriations – TBD
Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs – will take testimony on H.270, an act relating to miscellaneous amendments to the adult-use and medical cannabis programs. They will also work on H.217, an act relating to workers’ compensation amendments and get a walk-through of H.66, the paid family leave bill.
Education – will continue work on H.461, an act relating to miscellaneous education law and H.483, an act relating to the accountability and oversight of approved independent schools that are eligible to receive public tuition.
Finance –will vote out of committee H.127, an act relating to sports wagering, and continue work on H.110, an act relating to extending the Act 248 sunset.
Government Operations – will hold committee discussions on H.291, an act relating to the creation of the Cybersecurity Advisory Council, and will receive walk-throughs of various charter changes.
Health and Welfare –will take testimony and possibly vote out of committee; H.206, an act relating to miscellaneous changes affecting the Department of Vermont Health Access, H.481, an act relating to public health initiatives to address death by suicide, H.171, an act relating to adult protective services, H.414, an act relating to establishing an unused drug repository for Vermont, and H.94, an act relating to removing the Reach Up ratable reduction.
Institutions – plans to vote H.493, the Capital Bill, out of committee this week.
Natural Resources and Energy– will continue discussions regarding an act relating to the Renewable Energy Standard. They will also continue work on H.158, an act relating to the beverage container redemption system and spend time on H.67, an act relating to household products containing hazardous substances with a possible vote planned for Friday.
Transportation –will review H.479, an act relating to the Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation (aka “The T Bill), with a possible vote on the Caledonia County Airport potential sale amendment.