Legislative Update - 16 February 2024

 Dear Constituents -

The biggest Statehouse news of interest to constituents this week is H.850, a bill developed by House Ways & Means and House Education to “fix” a loophole in Act 127 from 2023.  When the implementation of the new pupil weighting system formula that determines the tax capacity of a school district with respect to the needs of its individual student population was enacted, a 5% cap was included for certain districts that needed a “soft landing” for a few years because they would be losing tax capacity.  Keep in mind that as a result of Act 60 in 1997, Vermont has a statewide education fund that all taxpayers pay into, and all school districts receive funding from. Also, not all students cost the same to educate (for instance, students who are multi-language learners or who live in poverty are are more expensive to expensive to educate, as are high schoolers vs preschoolers). Unfortunately, there were some districts across the state that submitted budgets over the 5% cap “because they could”, and that resulted in warned budgets that greatly exceeded education spending from last year and could cause all of our property taxes to rise, regardless of how many fiscally frugal districts submitted reasonable budgets. H.850, which passed the House and is in the Senate, seeks to remedy this by allowing for school districts who wish to re-work their budgets to hold that vote up until April 15. It also provides a discount for those districts that lost tax capacity due to the aforementioned changes in the pupil weighting formula.

Also on the House Floor, we passed: H.247 the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact; H.563 an act relating to criminal motor vehicle offenses involving unlawful trespass, theft, or unauthorized operation; H.649 amendments to the VT Truth and Reconciliation Commission; H.801 amendments to the Town of Waterbury charter; and S.154 an act relating to the Vermont State Plane Coordinate System.  We sent H.839 the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA) to a Committee of Conference and elected two trustees of the Vermont State College System and the Adjutant and Inspector General of the Vermont National Guard.  Of note, we are the only state in the US that still elects the TAG.

In Committee, we continued our work on: H.612 miscellaneous amendments to cannabis statutes; a state and a municipal code of ethics; H.626 animal welfare; miscellaneous amendments to the Department of Liquor and Lottery statutes; H.794 services provided to the Vermont Veterans Home; and H.641 authorizing boards of abatement to hear like cases as a class. I spent some time in House Appropriations hearing about the military budget.

In Rural Caucus this week, our NRPC Regional Planner presented a model of smart development based on the village of Richford VT that could be replicated throughout the state in communities whose downtowns lie in river corridors. We also heard from a local forester about development in rural areas outside of downtowns and the VLCT on Act250.

It is an honor to serve – [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

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