Legislative Update – 25 March 2022
Dear Constituents –
This week was one of long Floor times in the House, as we worked through all of the bills passed last week that affected revenue of the State. Prior to starting our marathon sessions on the Floor that extended well into the evening, 34 new members of the House of Representatives who had never formally been seated participated in a Seating Ceremony ; these included members who have been recently appointed as well as those who had been elected during the pandemic. The first bill up for consideration was H.96, establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that came out of the House General Committee on a party line 8-2-1 vote, with one member being absent. The objection to this bill is not only the breadth of the inquiry but also the cost to establish a professional office that will investigate claims of systemic injustices perpetuated by the State – the Joint Fiscal Office estimates that the total cost will start at $4.5M over the four year lifespan of the Commission. Other bills that were debated and passed include : H.492, changing the structure of the Natural Resources Board ; H.635, secondary enforcement of minor traffic offenses ; H.720, system of care for individuals with developmental disabilities; H.464, miscellaneous changes to the Reach Up program ; H.512, modernization of land records and notarial acts ; H.624 supporting creative sector businesses and cultural organizations ; H.728 opioid overdose response services ; H.410, Artificial Intelligence Commission ; H.553, eligibility of domestic partners for reimbursement from the victims compensation fund ; H.661, licensure of mental health professionals ; H.729, miscellaneous judiciary procedures ; H.730, alcoholic beverages and the Department of Liquor and Lottery ; H.738 miscellaneous changes to Vermont tax laws ; H.293 establishment of the State Youth Council ; H.718, dissolution of Colchester Fire District #1 ; H.353 Pharmacy Benefit Management. Of these bills, I opposed H.492 on the grounds that forming a new Board would take ACT 250 appeals hearings away from the Environmental Division of the Court System and hand them over to the new Board of appointed officials. In addition, the House passed four other bills necessary for the operation of the State : H.737, the « Yield Bill » an act relating to homestead property tax yields and non-homestead property tax rates ; H.736, the Transportation Bill ; H.740, the Budget « Big Bill » ; and H. 739, the Capital Budget Bill. H.737 contained problematic language reserving $36M for Universal School Meals, and many members expressed frustration that money was being set aside for potential policy that hasn’t yet passed from the Senate to the House, when that money could be used for tax relief or as investment in our CTEs (Career Technical Education Centers). H.740, although containing provisions for many worthy programs, did not meet the Governor’s economic development requests, nor did it fully take advantage of ARPA funding for housing needs, particularly in the « missing middle », or offer any tax relief to retirees or individuals working in high-demand, lower-paying, essential professions. Finally, the House passed a comprehensive workforce development bill, H.730, that House Commerce worked diligently on, taking testimony on where best to fund programs that would retain and attract working-age Vermonters. Changes to the CTEs and various scholarship, internship, work-based, and experiential learning opportunities for students of all ages in the trades and medical field are highlights of this bill.
Committee time was curtailed due to the long hours spent on the House Floor, with House General taking testimony on H.329, a pervasively problematic anti-discrimination bill, and H.638, an act relating to direct to consumer spirits shipping licenses.
Most special interest caucuses were also postponed this week as a result of time needed to attend to bills on the Floor. It is an honor to serve as your Representative, and when bills that I co-sponsored pieces of, such as the Workforce Development bill (H.703) and the Creative Futures Act (H.624), are overwhelmingly passed, I take pride in the work we do together to ensure the economic viability of Vermont.
Please feel welcome to reach out to me at [email protected]
Rep Lisa Hango, Berkshire