Legislative Update - 29 March 2024

Dear Constituents -

The Legislature is digging out from under the backload of bills passed ahead of the policy and money crossover deadlines. The week began with a Joint Assembly for Judicial Retention and a ceremonial reading of the Medal of Honor Resolution. Throughout the course of the week, the House passed the following bills to the Senate: H.612 (miscellaneous cannabis amendments); H.622 (Emergency Medical Services); H.655 (qualifying offenses for sealing criminal history records and access to sealed criminal history records); H.702 (legislative operations and government accountability); H.878 (miscellaneous judiciary procedures); H.877 (miscellaneous agricultural subjects); H.585 (amending the pension system for sheriffs and certain deputy sheriffs); H.630 (boards of cooperative education services); H.880 (increasing access to the judicial system); H.721 (access to Medicaid and Dr Dynasaur); H.546 (miscellaneous tax bill); H.873 (testing for and remediation of PCBs in schools); H.687 (community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use); H.833 (the Budget) is concerning because of the amount of money contained within other bills isn’t found in this version! You can see the text of these bills in the online Journal of the House, with any amendments and roll call votes. A hotly-debated bills was H.687, aka the Act 250 bill masquerading as a housing bill.  This bill and its 14 individual amendments spurred 5 hours of debate, with members from rural Franklin Co speaking out against the overly-restrictive new triggers and the lack of incentives to build new housing. The number of amendments alone tell a story – the bill came out of committee through a top-down process that was not inclusive of folks who advocated for Act 250 reform. My remarks on the Floor captured the frustration of the Rural Caucus: “We convened this session with the affirmation by all parties that Vermont has a housing crisis, and finding a way forward to building more housing would be of the highest priority. We had a tripartisan housing bill that pulled together the goals of all of our constituencies across the state. It got no attention. To that end, over the Fall, driven by the need to modernize ACT 250 jurisdiction and governance, three crucial stakeholder groups met and did the work to form a coalition that prioritized a fragile balance between land conservation and increased housing construction; the housing bills put forward did just that. The committee almost exclusively focused on H.687 this session, and it fails to honor the provisions of that hard-earned collaboration that the three published reports represent. Instead, the bill disregards the laudable progress made by those study groups and a request by the Rural Caucus to streamline and modernize the process to make it simpler to build housing, and significantly expands Act 250 triggers to impact over 97% of Vermont land. This new map shows that our state’s most rural towns will be disproportionately penalized, and these new triggers will stunt the economies of those communities by making it nearly impossible to build much-needed housing to support the workforce of local industries and public services. Our rural communities do not have the resources to jump through the hoops that are being proposed to enable significant housing development, and without that infrastructure, nor will they be able to adequately respond to what is required of them. I urge members to join me in voting against this bill and standing up for all Vermont communities that have been waiting decades for the opportunity to bring their economies into the 21st century”.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango




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