The rhythm of the Legislative session has set in as we complete our third full week back in Montpelier. The House floor continued to be mostly uneventful, with more municipal charter changes and a captive insurance bill (H.659) passing. We heard the Governor’s Budget address, where he laid out his priorities within the confines of the resources we currently have without raising any new taxes or fees. The House passed H.839, the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA) late Thursday, on a roll call vote of 112-24. This Act is the traditional “truing up” of last year’s budget, whereby any remaining funds are re-distributed, and any emergent issues are taken care of. In the past few bienniums, more and more policy decisions have been inserted into the BAA, without the benefit of robust committee hearings throughout the session to vet those changes to statute. This year, the House Human Services Committee, requested through the BAA an extension of the hotel/motel program until June 30 and a reversion to the pre-pandemic “adverse weather” sheltering policy, a discussion that at the very least should have happened within the committee hearing process (it didn’t) and the opportunity for the House to vote on this policy separately from the rest of the BAA (it didn’t). For that reason, I and 23 of my colleagues, voted no on this important mid-year bill. H.839 as written without this very late in the day change was a reasonable bill, containing many good funding decisions. I am grateful to my colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee for working so diligently to produce what was a bill worthy of a yes vote until the last-minute addition of $5M for this program extension and change in policy.
In the House Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee, we have had several new bill introductions and taken up some complex legislation: Two draft bills on Ethics, dr 24-0461relating to a Municipal Code of Ethics and dr 24-0229 relating to a State Code of Ethics; and H.626 relating to animal welfare. All three of these bills are long and contain many issues that will need much committee time to hear from witnesses.
The National Guard continued their four-part series, this week on Funding sources and Facilities. It is astonishing how much our VT Guard contributes to the State’s economy by bringing in federal dollars for construction projects, which in turn employ Vermont workers, who pay income, property, sales, and meals taxes. These projects have a direct line to much-needed revenue growth for services and programs that benefit all Vermonters.
The Rural Caucus meets weekly, and this week’s discussion topic was community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use, as presented in bill H.687. A priority for the Rural Caucus this session is to look at Act 250, its impact on rural areas, and the bills that touch on it, with this bill being the first of several that we will hear about.
It is an honor to serve.
Stay well, Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5