Dear Constituents –
This has been a long week in the virtual Statehouse – Floor time commanded most of our time, with days stretching long into the evening. In Committee, we continued to take testimony on S.79, a rental housing health and safety bill that proposes, among several other concepts, to implement two rental housing registries – for both long-term and short-term rentals. We also received the statutorily mandatory Annual Sexual Harassment and Assault Report to the Legislature from the National Guard. In the National Guard Caucus this week, we held a joint hearing with the Legislative Women’s Caucus for an informative Q & A session with the Guard leadership on these issues, and more discussion ensued at the Women’s Caucus meeting later in the week. The remainder of our committee time was devoted to a “Mobile Home Park 101” presentation and testimony on collective bargaining and wage and hour bills.
Most of my time was taken up with meetings to craft an amendment to S.53, which during the week became a “Christmas tree” with everything but the kitchen sink hung on it. This bill was a simple bill that came over from the Senate exempting feminine hygiene products from taxation. During the course of its time in the House, language was added to amend corporate tax codes, change fees charged to companies selling mutual funds in the State, exempt said products from sales tax, and add a “Cloud tax” for any use of cloud-based software as a service that we may use. My involvement in this bill came about suddenly when the House Ways and Means Committee at the 11th hour took language from a bill on the wall that proposed to exempt military retirement pensions from Vermont State personal income tax and inserted it into this bill. This is legislation that the National Guard Caucus with the Department of Defense, has identified as a priority for separating service members. More personally, we all know that the State faces a serious workforce shortage – companies can’t find enough workers. Retiring service members who are looking to make their last move to a state of their choosing are often reluctant to choose Vermont as their “forever home” because of the lack of hospitable legislation to protect their assets. The last-minute addition of the pension exemption language created a perfect storm for amendments, divisions, and roll call votes. The NG Caucus got to work immediately, after determining that although the addition of this language was an unexpected and welcome addition, it was more of a case of carrot and stick, to entice those of us who favor the tax exemption as a way to honor military service members, to vote for a hefty tax increase. We crafted an amendment asking for an increase in the threshold amount, which was defeated in Ways and Means and on the Floor, despite welcome tri-partisan support for it. The bill was divided and amended over four hours of floor debate, giving us all the opportunity to show support for the portions that were important to our constituents. The final bill that passed the House unfortunately contains the Cloud tax that will raise $11 million over four years at a time when we are receiving a bounty of federal dollars into State coffers and don’t need to be raising taxes on hard-working Vermonters. The other bill that caused us to lose sleep was H.175, an update to bottle redemption statutes, which includes new types and sizes of containers in the redemption category, making a trip to the grocery store a more costly venture and a trip to the redemption center more cumbersome. Over at least six hours, on two different days, this bill was debated and amended. The end result was in my opinion a poorly thought-out piece of legislation that does nothing more to advance clean water or reduce litter than is being done by the recycling and redemption laws that already exist; in fact, it appears to make that trip to the grocery store or redemption center even more costly and complex. Both of these are on their way to the Senate where we will wait with interest to see what action they take.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your concerns at [email protected] or
Representative Lisa A Hango