Closing out Week 5 of the 2023
The House passed the FY’23 Budget Adjustment Act on a vote of 107-33. Republicans objected to allocating an additional $50 million to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board for housing without assurances of how the money would be spent or if it would be distributed to regions equitably. The bill moves to the Senate Committee on Appropriations where they hope to finish work on budget adjustment by the end of the month.
The Senate’s long-awaited childcare bill, S.56, was introduced this week with 17 of 30 Senate co-sponsors. Senate Pro Tem Phil Baruth D-Chittenden, provided a rare pep talk to members of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare on their first day of testimony, stating that the childcare bill is one of the Senate’s three top priorities. The other two are climate action and housing work. Notably not present on that priority list was a paid family leave bill. Baruth stated that the issue of childcare is “staggering in its complexity,” but thanked members in advance for working quickly and efficiently. Watchers of the childcare debate were disappointed that the bill currently does not name a revenue source.
Though seemingly not a top priority for the Senate, Paid Family and Medical Leave is a top priority for the House, as The House Committee on General and Housing has started working through H.66. The bill offers 12-weeks of leave at 100% wage replacement up to the state’s average weekly wage of $1,001 and is designed to include seasonal and part-time workers who were previously ineligible. Eligible employees would be able to take leave for parental bonding, bereavement (two weeks), their own medical reason, or the medical reasons of any family member. The system would be funded by a 0.58% payroll tax split evenly between the employer and employee.
House Committee on Ways & Means will hold their Tax Workshop on Consumption Taxes on Friday at noon and will be streamed on their YouTube channel here.
Public hearing on Housing on February 16, 2023, at 5:00 in Room 267 of 109 State Street.
What to expect in Week 6
February 6–February 10, 2023
Note: The 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
Agriculture, Food Resiliency, & Forestry – The committee will spend much of their time reviewing H.165, an act relating to school food programs and universal school meals.
Appropriations – With the FY’23 Budget Adjustment Act passed out of the House, Appropriations will begin their heavy lift of putting together the FY’24 Budget. Among the agencies and departments that will testify this week: Agency of Human Services, the Green Mountain Care Board, the Department of Health, Department of Corrections and the Department for Children and Families.
Commerce and Economic Development – will take testimony on H.10, an act to amend the Vermont Employee Growth Incentive Program. This bill would severely impact the state’s only program that provides incentives to businesses who grow their number of employees or invest in capital infrastructure. The committee will continue its work on H.55 which would require all Vermont nonprofit employers to participate in the unemployment insurance program, require nonprofit reimbursable employers to provide security for the potential cost of unemployment benefits, and amend the sunset for supplemental unemployment insurance benefits paid out pursuant to 2022 Acts. They are also moving forward in discussions regarding H.92 which proposes to establish additional instances in which an employee who voluntarily separates from employment may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. On Thursday, H.121, an act relating to enhancing data privacy protections for Vermonters, is on deck. The Deputy Commission of the Department of Financial Regulations will testify on H.87, an act relating to regulating earned wage access services on Friday.
Corrections and Institutions – will continue their review of the Governor’s recommended FY’24-FY’25 Capital Budget Proposal. Later in the week they will review the Department of Corrections Inmate Grievance Procedure.
Education – The committee will expand beyond examining every facet of independent schools to learn about school infrastructure upgrades currently underway while the state is facing a backlog of additional needed work. Then they are back to delving into special education work done in the independent schools. On Wednesday morning the committee will review their new town tuitioning committee bill.
Environment and Energy – will continue their hearings regarding H.67, a bill that considers household products containing hazardous substances. They will also hear testimony on H.126, an act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection that proposes goals of conserving 30 percent of the land of the State by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. H.158, an act relating to the beverage container redemption system and requiring manufacturers and distributors to join producer responsibility organizations, is up on Wednesday.
General and Housing – will be devoting most of the week continuing their discussions on H.66, an act relating to Paid Family Leave. It will be interesting to see how this work will dovetail with universal childcare priorities with regard to funding sources.
Government Operations and Military Affairs – TBD
Health Care – will take up H.77, an act relating to Vermont’s adoption of the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact, H.86, an act relating to the adoption of the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Compact and H.62, an act relating to the interstate Counseling Compact. Suicide prevention discussion is on the agenda on Thursday and Friday.
Human Services – H.171, an act relating to adult protective services is the focus of the week’s work. Thursday will include testimony about Parent Child Centers.
Judiciary – will continue work on H.89, an act relating to civil and criminal procedures concerning legally protected healthcare activity, with a vote to move the bill out of committee on this week.
Transportation – will work with the Agency of Transportation to build this year’s transportation budget. A focus will be mileage-based user fees along with carbon reduction strategies and programs. The committee will also receive a Climate Action Plan update regarding timeline and performance indicators.
Ways & Means – will have a busy week covering varied topics; a report on possible revenue sources for the universal school meals program, an update on school budgets, judiciary fees and other fees discussions, UI Trust Fund Report, property appraisal changes, a Treasurer update, and reviewing transportation fees.
Senate Committee Work
Agriculture – A “sweet” industry update from the Maple Syrup Sugar Makers’ Association, Farm to School Day meetings, small farm issues, and dairy industry mill bonding will be on the agenda. Friday there will be a morning discussion about farm use of sludge on fields and the concerns around PFAS contaminants.
Appropriations – TBD
Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs – will continue their work on the crucial omnibus housing bill.
Education – Taxes for education, and how Vermont compares to other New England states, funding for Career Technical Education, an overview of S.34, an act relating to kindergarten enrollment age. A discussion of high school athletics and an overview of Act 173 midweek along with Dual Enrollment and Act 1 overview. They will close out the week with a discussion on Education Quality Standards.
Finance – Consideration of employer payroll-based taxes, review of S.45, an act relative to pass-through entity income tax and credits, and a report on the possible revenue sources for universal school meals will all be on the docket this week.
Government Operations – will consider ranked choice voting for presidential primaries, hold a hearing on retired state employee benefits and learn about emergency response operations.
Health and Welfare – will invest most of its week working on S.37, an act relating to access to legally protected health care activity and regulation of health care providers. They will also begin their work on S.56, an act relating to child care and early childhood education. The President Pro Tem has identified this issue to be one of the top Senate priorities.
Institutions – will continue their work on the Capital Budget learning about the Capital Expenditure Cash Fund.
Judiciary – will be completing their work on S.6, an act relating to custodial interrogation of juveniles and S.4, an act relating to reducing crimes of violence associated with juveniles and dangerous weapons.
Natural Resources – Continued work on S.5, an act relating to affordably meeting the mandated greenhouse gas reductions for the thermal sector through electrification, decarbonization, efficiency and weatherization measures. This is the Clean Heat Standard bill that was vetoed last year, back with a much longer name.
Transportation – TBD