Legislative Update - 19 JAN 2024

Dear Constituents –

This week in the Statehouse felt more routine – bill introductions have slowed down, and we’ve begun our work on the issues before us.  In the Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee, that consists of diving into reports filed by the State Ethics Commission, the Cannabis Control Board, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Department of States Attorneys and Sheriffs, the Law Enforcement Advisory Board, and a joint hearing on the EMS Regional Coordination Study.  Each of these reports comes with recommendations for further legislation, which we must be diligent about researching and weighing the pros and cons within the construct of the State Budget. If you would like to learn more, these reports and the associated bills are on the House Government Operations & Military Affairs webpage under that day’s date or Reports & Other Resources. Resulting from this work, we are considering bills relating to a State and a Municipal Ethics Code, miscellaneous amendments to adult-use cannabis statutes, and further initiatives around public safety.  We also continued our work making recommendations to House Appropriations on the portions of the Budget that fall under our jurisdiction. While many are worthy, all programs cannot continue to be expanded in a year when taxes and fees are rising and the federal funding windfall is over; the Appropriations Committees have a monumental task ahead of them.  This Committee passed out one bill this week, H.649, an act relating to the Vermont Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Readers may recall from 2021-22 our work on the House General Committee trying to bring a more specific focus to this bill; we were not successful in narrowing the scope of Act 128, which set the mechanism to stand up a Commission to gather information on individuals and populations that were historically institutionalized and overlooked during the era of the eugenics movement. That Commission commenced operations last Spring, but when a Commissioner resigned, there was no mechanism in place to replace a vacant seat.  This bill, H.649, came to us with the request that we set up that mechanism, which we were ready to do as guided by the purpose of our committee work. However, the bill contained some other pieces that were less palatable: a request for an additional $1.1M, an extension of 10 months to complete the Commission’s work, and an exception to the Open Meeting Law because of the sensitive nature of this work.  Ultimately, it was this last piece that tipped the balance in the room to vote 9-3-0 to pass this bill, with myself and two colleagues voting no out of concern for the expansive scope of the Commission and its timeline and potentially limiting public participation in these open meetings.

The House Floor was very quiet this week, as we passed only a few bills that made municipal charter changes (H.516 for Essex Jct and S.141 for the Fairfax Fire District), some technical corrections (H.560 to workers’ compensation rulemaking and H.599 reinstating a statute that was inadvertently removed last session) and heard commemorative Resolutions.

The National Guard continued their series called Guard 101, this week focusing on the Mission of the Guard, in their roles for the State, the Federal Government, and in Global arenas. This series is brought to us by the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus, which I co-Chair, the VT National Guard, and the House Speakers’ Office as an educational resource for legislators who will be voting in the upcoming election for the Adjutant General of the VT National Guard.  Major General Gregory Knight will be running for re-election, and it is notable that we remain the only state in the United States that still elects our TAG; all other states’ Adjutants General are appointed by the Executive Branch. 

The VT Rural Caucus, which I also co-Chair, held its weekly meeting with presentations from the UVM Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships, a USDA Rural Development specialist, and the VT Chief Recovery Officer, focusing on what those organizations can do for communities in recovery or revitalization mode.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]. It is an honor to represent Franklin-5. Stay well, Rep Lisa Hango

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