Closing out Week 6 of the 2023
The legislature’s budget covers 18 weeks and lawmakers work very hard to keep to that schedule. Last week marked one-third of the way through the session and we can expect that committees will begin voting out their larger bills in time for “crossover.”
Crossover (expected to be March 17th) is the deadline for bills to move from their original committee of jurisdiction to the floor. Budget and tax bills are exempted from this requirement. Bills that don’t make the crossover deadline are shelved for the rest of the year unless they are granted an exemption.
Each year there are bills worked on by the General Assembly that are essential to core operations of the state. This week we’ll take a look at some of the recurring and necessary actions undertaken by the General Assembly.
The Transportation Committee spends most of its time working on the transportation budget. The transportation bill (T-bill) funds maintenance of roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure, and also addresses the changing nature of transportation over time. For example, the T-bill may contain language about the need to address declining gas tax revenues as drivers switch to more electric vehicles.
The Capital bill is worked on in the House Corrections and Institutions Committee and when it moves over to the Senate, by the Senate Institutions Committee. The Capital bill is a two-year budget and plans for construction projects that are generally paid for through state bonding.
The statewide budget bill (also called the Big Bill) is handled by the Appropriations committees in the House and Senate, always beginning in the House. The budget bill is where the General Fund (the state’s single biggest pot of money) is appropriated to state agencies, funding positions and activities. The Big Bill is the very last bill passed before session adjourns for the year and it often becomes a repository for other important provisions that have not made it through other bills.
Vermont is required to have a balanced budget and a necessary adjunct to the Big Bill is the revenue bill. Enough money must be raised to balance the spending as set forth in the Big Bill. Each year, the state’s taxes and means of raising revenue are re-considered, and re-balanced, first in the House by the Ways and Means Committee and then in the Senate Finance Committee.
The revenue committees also pass a “Yield Bill” each year to balance education spending and the monies available in the Education Fund. Since Vermont has statewide education property tax, the Yield bill balances anticipated education spending with funding by setting the non-homestead tax rate and homestead yields in order to raise the requisite funds.
Most of the policy committees—Judiciary, Health Care, Human Services, Government Operations, Education, Energy/Natural Resources, and Agriculture—will work on “miscellaneous” bills. State agencies responsible for a particular subject area work with the corresponding legislative subject matter committee, usually coming in with a laundry list of necessary or desired changes, both technical and substantive, big or small, that require legislative action to re-write the statutes.
Finally, each year there are major policy initiatives whose advocates decide it is “an idea whose time has come.” This year bills addressing childcare, paid family and medical leave, the clean heat standard, online sports wagering, and the omnibus housing bill are all examples of bills being considered.
What to expect in Week 7
February 13 – February 17, 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. With news that the federal government will be cutting back on some funding for the 3SquaresVT program there could be a challenge in funding this lunch program when others will be looking to supplement meal funding for low income families. The revenue committees will continue to look at potential funding sources—last week the Senate Finance Committee reviewed this report from the Joint Fiscal Office examining the cost of the program and potential funding sources.
Appropriations – will continue their work on the theFY’24 Budget. Among the agencies and organizations that will be considered: Department of Liquor and Lottery, Cannabis Control Board, Department of Taxes, Vermont Arts Council, Vermont Humanities Council, Department of Motor Vehicles, University of Vermont, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.
Commerce and Economic Development – will review a new draft of H.10, an act to amend the Vermont Employee Growth Incentive Program. They will continue discussion on their two Unemployment Insurance Bills, H.55 and H.92. And will also continue testimony related to H.87, an act relating to regulating earned wage access services.
Corrections and Institutions – will review H.102, an act relating to Art in State Buildings on Tuesday and then continue their work on the FY’24-FY’25 Capital Budget Proposal. The committee will also receive an overview of the state of school construction.
Education – will begin their consideration of a committee bill that will propose major changes for Vermont’s independent schools. They will also receive a presentation regarding school construction funding.
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 is also on their schedule.
Health Care – TBD
Human Services – will continue with H.171, an act relating to adult protective services along with H.190, an act relating to removing the residency requirement from Vermont’s patient choice at end of life laws.
Judiciary – will review H.173, an act relating to prohibiting manipulating a child for the purpose of sexual contact, H.41, an act relating to referral of domestic and sexual violence cases to community justice centers, and H.148, an act relating to raising the age of eligibility to marry.
Transportation – will continue their work with the Agency of Transportation to build this year’s transportation budget. They will get an update about the Downtown Transportation Fund Program, Better Connections Grant Program, Mobility and Transportation Innovations Grant Program, E-Bike Program and Town Highway Programs,
Ways & Means – will review two new committee bills; one to define new categories of non-homestead property and one to impose a moratorium on the current reappraisal requirements.
Senate Committee Work
Agriculture – will review a committee bill relating to protection from nuisance suits for agriculture activities and hold a hearing on the Working Lands Enterprise Fund. They will also work on a committee bill relating to miscellaneous agriculture subjects.
Appropriations – TBD
Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs – will continue their work on the crucial omnibus housing bill. They will hold a joint public hearing on housing with the House Committee on General & Housing in Room 267, Pavilion Building, 109 State Street. Pre-registration for testimony is required and the hearing will be livestreamed here.
Education – will receive a “sneak-peek” of S.56, an act relating to child care and early childhood education (aka The Childcare Bill) on Tuesday. They will also review Education Quality Standards and consider school construction legislation.
Finance – will review S.63, an act relating to health insurance for fertility related services. They will also consider funding sources for universal school meals, and discuss funding for early childcare. There will have an introduction to S.69, an act relating to a surcharge on nonprimary dwellings. On Thursday they will receive energy updates from VPPSA, VEC, WEC, GMP and Burlington Electric. They will give some more time to S.45, an act relative to pass-through entity income tax and credits.
Government Operations – will begin work on S.9, an act relating to the authority of the State Auditor to examine the books and records of state contractors. This bill is a concern for many Vermont businesses. They will also take up S.17, an act relating to sheriff reforms. S.39, an act relating to compensation and benefits for members of the Vermont General Assembly, will garner a lot of attention.
Health and Welfare – will continue working on S.37, an act relating to access to legally protected health care activity and regulation of health care providers. They will also continue hearings on S.56, an act relating to child care and early childhood education.
Institutions – will continue their work on the Capital Budget learning about the Capital Expenditure Cash Fund.
Judiciary – will vote out S.6, an act relating to custodial interrogation of juveniles, and S.3, an act relating to prohibiting paramilitary training camps and finalize work on S.4, an act relating to reducing crimes of violence associated with juveniles and dangerous weapons.
Natural Resources – After weeks of testimony from environmental groups, fossil fuel heating companies, low income advocates and state agencies, the committee plans a Friday committee vote 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.
Transportation – will be hearing from the Paving Association, foster children and driver education. They will receive an updated on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail and consider a mileage based user fee program.