2022 Town Meeting Legislative Update
Dear Constituents –
I regret that I was unable to be in each of my four towns for your Annual Meetings due to scheduling conflicts. This is the second year of a biennium, and the pace has been even faster than usual, as the Legislature works to continue its response to COVID challenges while prioritizing social and environmental equity legislation. While most of the House has returned to work in person, the Senate and legislative staff remains largely remote, which presents a number of challenges to effecting change. By March 8, we anticipate all members and staff will return in person, and our work will (hopefully) be back to « normal » for the first time in two full years.
The budget process has taken an unusual turn in that the typically uneventful Budget Adjustment Act has been committed to a Committee of Conference. There remain enough differences between the House, Senate, and Administration’s priorities and uses of ARPA vs General Fund monies that it was determined that the best way forward was to send this important legislation for a more in-depth conversation.
One of the hottest topics in the Legislature that affects all voters is re-districting. The map recommended by the Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB) was presented to the Committee of Jurisdiction, House Government Operations, in November, after BCA input was given ; the Committee declined to take up that map and put forth their own map, which went out to BCAs in late January. All towns should have had the opportunity to weigh in with their preferences in the first two weeks of February. The Government Ops Committee is currently working their way through the statewide maps, and I am pleased to report that, thanks to your input, our Franklin-5 District is slated to remain as we’ve known it into the next decade. With respect to our District, please note that Paul Martin (Franklin) tendered his resignation from the House on February 10, and by February 15, the Governor appointed and seated Rep Wayne Laroche of Franklin. I would like to take this opportunity to wish Paul all the best and to congratulate and thank Wayne for taking on this obligation to serve Vermonters. It is crucial that we are appropriately represented in Montpelier, and I am grateful that we are fully represented and that our District will remain untouched by re-districting.
The all-important Crossover Date is March 11 for policy bills and March 18 for money bills this session. We continue to work on bills that broaden anti-discriminatory practices in employment (H.320/329), update alcohol statutes (H.178/590), allow for new methods for disposition of human remains (H.244), and address demands for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (H.96), reparations for historical systemic discriminations (H.387), and promote racial and social equity to land access and property ownership (H.273). Bills of note that have already passed the House include : setting Cannabis licensing fees (H.701) ; a child tax credit bill (H.510) that didn’t consider military retirees, childcare workers, expanded Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs), or student loan debt ; a gun control bill (S.30) ; and a residential contractor registration bill (H.157). The status of bills can be found by logging into the General Assembly website www.legislature.Vermont.gov and typing in a keyword or bill number, which will give you the bill status, as well as its progress through the committee and chambers, including any roll call votes. You may also find Committee webpages on this homepage ; by clicking on the Committee, you will be able to see the agenda, committee members and email addresses, and any bills or testimony relating to those bills that are on their virtual wall.
Also passed this session were two Proposals of Constitutional Amendment : Prop 2, which eliminated slavery of all persons, regardless of age ; prior to this, the Vermont Constitution stated only that slavery was eliminated after age 21. The other amendment, Prop 5, the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, allows for persons of any age or gender to determine their own reproductive needs and to seek care from any provider in the State of Vermont at any time. This proposed amendment goes over and beyond H.157 of 2019 that enshrined Vermonters’ right to abortion services in statute and broadens the reach to all reproductive procedures. The process of a Constitutional Amendment is threefold : In one biennium, the amendment originates in the Senate, and if it receives a 2/3 vote, goes on to the House for a simple majority vote. In the next biennium, the Senate and then the House must again vote with a simple majority after a public hearing is held. The language of the amendment then goes to the voters in November, so please take the time to read these two Proposals and become informed. Thank you all for your petitions on these serious issues.
I am a regular attendee at the Rural Economic Development Working Group (REDWnG) and the Tourism Caucus, and I am the Co-Chair of the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus. Each of these special issues caucuses is a powerful voice within the Legislature and seeks to effect change. Some of the issues we’ve worked on this session include the VT Creative Futures Act, the On-Farm Accessory Business Act, and a personal income tax exemption for military retirement pay and survivors’ benefits. Although House and Senate leadership declined to take up the tax exemption, the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee unanimously passed H.517 that expands scholarship opportunities for National Guard service.
It is an honor and a pleasure to serve you in the Statehouse. Please feel welcome to reach out to me with your concerns at [email protected]
Rep Lisa A Hango, Berkshire
House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs
Co-Chair, VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus