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Legislative Update - Adjournment 2024

Dear Constituents -

I will be seeking re-election to the House of Representatives in October.  It is an honor to represent my constituents in Richford, Berkshire, Franklin, and Highgate.

The Legislature adjourned at 2am Saturday after passing a staggering number of bills, many “half baked”, in the final hours, despite having had many months to get them right. As we end this 2023-24 biennium, I reflect back on our work, thinking about the legislation that passed, and my role in that process. We began this session with great hopes for a bill that I sponsored which would allow for the simpler, faster build-out of substantially more housing units. Despite efforts by the Rural Caucus and the Administration, we did not get that bill. We were left with H.687, the Act 250 bill, being the vehicle for all housing legislation. This is a massive bill that very few legislators had the opportunity to understand in the very short time between being presented to us and having to vote on it.  While I respect the input that made this bill better than it started out, it is still not the housing bill that we needed or anticipated in those early weeks of the session. A bill of this magnitude had too much crammed into one piece of legislation (167 pages!) too late in the session, and regardless of requests for more time, the Supermajority leadership chose to push forward. As one legislator put it, “I can’t vote yes on something that I haven’t had time to understand”, which was sadly the case with a number of bills that were passed in the final days of the session. I have serious doubts that this bill will allow development in places that really need it. Teachers, nurses, loggers, manufacturing workers, and law enforcement all need a place to live in our communities, and we already turn them away for lack of housing. This bill adds a new requirement for the re-imagined Land Use Review Board to make rules and to contemplate whether and how subdivisions are a jurisdictional trigger in Tier 3 areas – potentially much of the land in rural counties. What Tier 3 rule-making will bring is completely unknown, and at no point does it contemplate the impact on communities; only the environment, and I fear that the more rural areas of our county will be left behind economically if development is not easily accessible for our small towns.  Legislation that didn’t pass because for lack of support included several bills that would increase recruitment efforts, expand benefits for members of the military, and tax relief for veterans, survivors, and retirees. As a Co-Chair of the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs and a member of the Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee, I find it shocking that we rarely take up this type of legislation, let alone pass an act that honors those who served their country. Additionally, the failure to pass a Yield Bill (H.887) that produces any real savings in the education fund or makes necessary structural changes to the education funding system will be felt in our pocketbooks well into the future.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve Franklin-5. Please reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

 

 

 

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Legislative Update - 3 May 2024

Dear Constituents -

We are approaching the final week of the Legislative session, which is characterized by frenzied attempts to pass bills; this often looks like advocates requesting new policy at the 11th hour, new language being adopted without thorough review, reliance on other committees or individuals to “fix the issues” as it moves through the process, and a general “pass it any way we can” mentality. This is not good policy-making! The VT Legislature meets January-May, with the exception of Town Meeting Week. There would be plenty of time to get it right, if we had appropriate and reasonable criteria for a bill to be considered, rather than allowing the supermajority leadership to determine whose bills take priority; instead, we continue to take up an increasing number of new bills and leave others hanging until the final weeks.  Very few of the bills before us are “must pass” (the Budget is one). For example, last biennium, there were 130 bills in my Committee, and we took up 59 of them; this biennium, that number grew to 173 with 74 being passed out as of this writing. That is an unsustainable number! There is not enough time to adequately vet all of these bills, many of them priorities of the powerful lobbies that work year-round to put their preferred candidates in office. You will see the unfortunate results of those efforts in your hard-earned paychecks and at restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, and the gas pumps. Vermont is unaffordable for working Vermonters; taxpayers and businesses are bearing the brunt of that reality. To counter this trend, I work very hard to not raise taxes or add new fees, and I hope that my efforts will be supported at the polls this year, along with other fiscal conservatives like myself across the State. Candidates are currently circulating petitions to get their names on the ballot – please take the time to vet those candidates: look at their voting records and webpages to learn what issues they support.  Ask yourself if they truly represent the Vermont you want to live in!

To learn which bills were passed this week, the daily House and Senate Journals are available online at the Vermont General Assembly website; they are too numerous to list here. These can be found by clicking on “More House Information” and “More Senate Information”. Each committee’s webpages also list all bills passed from that committee, which can be found by clicking on “Bills Out of Committee”. To learn the status of those bills, type into the bill tracker the letter and number of the bill, and you will see its’ current location.

A sampling of bills of interest this week include:  S.259 (climate change cost recovery); S.195 (how a defendant’s criminal record is considered in imposing conditions of release); S. 58 (public safety); H.766 (prior authorization and step therapy requirements health insurance claims, and provider contracts); S.196 (types of evidence permitted in weight of evidence hearings); S.309 (miscellaneous changes to laws related to Department of Motor Vehicles, motor vehicles, and vessels); S.213 (regulation of wetlands, river corridor development and dam safety); H.889 (Pay Act). Please reach out at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

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Legislative Update - April 26, 2024

Dear Constituents -

This week at the Statehouse found Committees responding to Senate proposals of amendment to bills passed earlier in the biennium and bringing those bills to the House Floor.  The Government Operations Committee finished our work on S.310 (natural disaster government response, recovery, and resiliency), HR18 (Resolution from the Special Committee on Impeachment) and a few more municipal charter changes; we also continued to work on S.55 (changes to Vermont’s Open Meeting Law), S.220 (act relating to Vermont’s Public Libraries), S.96 (act relating to privatization contracts), S.159 (County and Regional Governance study), and took a straw poll on H.887 (homestead property tax yields, non homestead rates, and policy changes to education finance and taxation – the Yield Bill). With regards to H.887, there is nothing in this bill for either short-term or long-term cost containment, or structural reform beyond an excess spending threshold and a penalty, neither of which have ever been effective in Vermont. Taxpayers will continue to feel the brunt of higher-spending districts across the state as we receive our property tax bills, and this is a direct result of the statewide funding formula that has existed since Act 60 was passed, making local decisions subject to the impact of a statewide education fund and the whims of other school board decisions across the state.                                                   On the House Floor, the following bills were passed: S.30, S.109, H.887, S.209, S.191, H.881, H.40, H.861, H.563, and H.659. Readers can find the content of these bills by typing the bill letter and number in the bill tracker on the General Assembly website and looking at the most recent “as passed by” copy. We also voted on PR3, a proposed constitutional amendment that will go through a four-year process that amends the Vermont Constitution to add the right to collectively bargain.  My explanation on the House Floor, as one of only eight Representatives to vote no, was “I believe in the power of unions, but I am never in favor of changing our precious and historic Vermont Constitution”. Additionally, and most importantly, the Budget “Big Bill” (H.883) was returned to us from the Senate and immediately sent to a Committee of Conference to resolve the differences between the two Chambers. This is one of only a couple of bills left to be sent to the Governor that are considered to be “must pass”, and once this is done, we will be able to adjourn.                      In Rural Caucus this week, we heard about a new program that the USDA will be offering in conjunction with the Administration for rural communities that will bring assistance to our neediest municipalities as they navigate the red tape that comes with applying for aid from FEMA, the SBA, and other federal governmental agencies. We also heard the latest update to the $3M Municipal Technical Assistance Program (MTAP), launched by the Administration in 2023 with the help of our advocacy, and we were pleased to hear that all of the funding has been obligated to municipalities for crucial work on projects and assistance with identifying and scoping those projects.  Many were developed in response to the need for new housing stock.  Please contact me at [email protected]             

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

 

 

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Legislative Update - April 19, 2024

Dear Constituents -

At the Statehouse this week, the countdown to adjournment has begun.  Good sources have the target date set as May 10 – I look forward to seeing if they are right! The pace is frantic, with last-minute witnesses testifying in committees on crucial bills, side deals being made in hallways, bills being held hostage by one chamber to get something in return from the other, and caucuses jockeying for position on must-pass legislation. In Committee, we are focusing on S.310 (natural disaster response, recovery & resiliency), trying to understand the intricacies of emergency management when disaster strikes. We are also continuing to take testimony on S.55 (changes to Open Meeting Law).  If municipalities or others have comments on the most recent draft (found on the House Government Operations webpage), time is ticking, and we need to hear comments this week!On the House Floor, we passed several bills this week: S.199 (governance & merger of CUDs); S.189 (mental health response service guidelines); H.626 (Animal Welfare); S.30 (study to create a Sister State Program); S.109 (study of Medicaid coverage for doula services); the “ghost gun” bill final reading was postponed. It was a busy week outside of our usual committee/floor schedule: with a meeting of the  VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus on Tuesday, where we heard about the VT National Guard Primary Prevention Workplace Program, which strives to provide opportunities to prevent assault and harassment; and a Rural Caucus meeting on Thursday, where we heard from both sides of S.258 (an act relating to the management of fish & wildlife), weighing in on the potential change in makeup of the Fish & Wildlife Board and the ban on hunting coyotes with dogs. This is legislation that is near and dear to our hearts in rural Vermont, and if you have an opinion, please reach out to the House Environment & Energy Committee, which is taking testimony this week in hopes of voting out those changes. On the House Floor, there was a reading of the Resolution honoring the USS-VT Support Group’s work on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the commissioning of the USS-VT submarine. I introduced the group on the House Floor and relayed the crew’s sentiments that the items donated by Vermont businesses that make their way to the boat via the VSG are much appreciated by those sailors who call themselves honorary Vermonters. At Farmers’ Night on Wednesday, a weekly cultural diversion from our hard work under the Dome, the Lieutenant Governor referenced “sausage-making” when speaking of these last few weeks of the biennium when most legislators are trying to get their bills across the finish line in any way, shape, or form that they can.  I can honestly say that is what we are doing! Thank you all for reaching out on various bills that are coming before us – constituent voices are the most powerful when it comes to legislating, so keep up the great work informing us of your opinions.  My email is [email protected] 

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

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Legislative Update - April 12, 2024

Dear Constituents –

Post-Eclipse: the Statehouse is back to its usual rhythm. Committees are digging into bills passed over from the other body, taking testimony, and prioritizing for the end of session. Rumor has it that we have just four weeks until adjournment; the second half of the session always seems to go faster than the first half!

In House Government Operations, we’ve begun our work on: S.310 (natural disaster government response, recovery, and resiliency); S.42 (divestment of state pension funds in the fossil fuel industry); HR.18 (House Resolution calling for Franklin County Sheriff to resign); and S.220 (relating to Vermont’s Public Libraries) and continued our work on S.55 (changes to Open Meeting Law).  These bills are all complex pieces of legislation, demanding much more testimony and consideration than I think we have time left for in the session.

If you’d like to learn more about these bills, go to the House Government Operations webpage, open the tab “bills in/out of committee”, click on the bill number, then “drafts and amendments”, and choose the highest draft number to click on for the latest version. Please feel welcome to pass along your comments to the Committee (email addresses are found on the home page for the Committee).

On the House Floor, we passed: S.659 (relating to captive insurance); S.25 (regulating cosmetic and menstrual products containing certain chemicals and chemical classes and textiles and athletic turf fields containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs)), with an amendment to change the threshold of lead from 5ppm to 10 ppm; and H.543 (Vermont’s adoption of the Social Work Licensure Compact).

If you’d like to learn more about these bills, type the letter and number into the bill tracker on the General Assembly website and click on either “as passed by the House” or “as passed by the Senate” to get the most up-to-date version.

In Rural Caucus, we reviewed the progress of bills pertaining to rural Vermont and discussed potential vehicles to move those that aren’t making progress and future plans.

I am continuing to follow bills of interest to my constituents as they make their way through the process, as well as representing the interests of the Vermont National Guard and veterans in various committees. The VT NG&VA Caucus, of which I am a Co-Chair, values the contributions the Guard makes to Vermont and is grateful for the sacrifices made by the many veterans who call Vermont home.

Please reach out to me at [email protected] with questions or concerns.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5

 

 

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Legislative Update - 5 April 2024

Dear Constituents –

The Statehouse this week was eerily quiet.  With the snowstorm sending members home early and the abrupt end to frantic crossover activity, we had plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of the living museum that we work in and to catch up with everything that’s been put on hold for the past three weeks as we worked very long hours. In the Government Operations Committee, we took up the following new bills : S.55 (authorizing public bodies to meet electronically under Vermont’s Open Meeting Law), which should be of great interest to municipal officials ; and S.310 (natural disaster government response, recovery, and resiliency), both of which were brought to us as passed by the Senate. If constituents wish to testify on these bills, please reach out at [email protected]. To learn more, please enter the bill number into the bill tracker on the General Assembly website.  A few bills were passed on the House Floor : H.872 (amendments to the charter of Barre Town) ; H.884 (modernization of governance for the St Albans Cemetery Association) ; H.874 (misc education bill) ; S.190 (statements made by a child victim of an offense involving serious bodily injury) ; H.876 (misc amendments to corrections laws) ; and H.882 (Capital Bill).

In Rural Caucus, we heard from the sponsors of S.213 (regulation of wetlands, river corridor development, and dam safety), another bill that has just come over from the Senate worth taking a look at. We also had a brief and very timely tax presentation from the Public Assets Institute  where we learned that many Vermonters qualify for Vermont's anti-poverty tax credits (the Vermont Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit). But if families don't file their taxes, they won't receive the credits. After April 15th, families can still file for the credits, but they may have to pay a late fee. Go to TaxCreditsVT.org for information about what the credits are, if you qualify, and how to file for them for free.

Please also note that the NMV/E-R UUSD school districts will be holding informational budget meetings at the following times:

NMV: April 13 10am - Berkshire Elementary School, April 15 6:30pm - Sheldon Elementary School, April 24 6:30pm - Bakersfield Elementary School, April 29 6:30pm - Montgomery Elementary School ** REVOTE is April 30 at your polling location or absentee ballot. ERUUSD: April 16 6pm - Richford Jr/Sr High School, April 23 6pm - Enosburg Falls Middle/High School. ** REVOTE is April 30 at your polling location or absentee ballot

It is an honor to serve you in the Vermont Statehouse.  Please reach out with questions or concerns.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

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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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Legislative Update - 22 March 2024

Dear Constituents –

Vermont is unaffordable, and this Legislature is making it even more so. Despite efforts by a minority-led coalition voting against legislation that contributes to the creep in new programs and government positions, study committees, task forces, and increased costs for anyone who pays for utility rates, insurance premiums, DMV fees, payroll taxes, and property taxes, this a burden that Vermonters just cannot sustain. Much of the legislation passed affects all of us in our day-to-day lives, and Vermonters are making it known that they’ve had enough. The minority in the General Assembly hears this loud and clear – we vote against tax and fee increases, but the supermajority hasn’t gotten the message. Their agendas must be passed, regardless of the effect on constituents from all walks of life.  Vermonters need to stay informed and use that knowledge to inform their actions when they choose their government officials, at all levels.

Bill language can be read by typing the bill number into the bill tracker on the General Assembly website.  As of Thursday, March 21, bills that passed the House and will go to the Senate for further consideration: H.279 (Uniform Trust Decanting Act); H.350 (Uniform Directed Trust Act); H.868 (2025 Transportation Program); H.794 (services provided by the VT Veterans Home); H.741 (health insurance coverage for colorectal cancer); H.667 (creation of the VT-Ireland Trade Commission); H.644 (access to records by individuals who were in foster care); H.614 (land improvement fraud and timber trespass); H.606 (professional licensure and immigration status); H.173 (prohibiting manipulating a child for purposes of sexual contact); H.233 (pharmacy benefit management and Medicaid wholesale drug distribution); H.867 (miscellaneous amendments to the laws governing alcoholic beverages and the Dept of Liquor and Lottery); H.664 (designating a State mushroom); H.10 (amending the VT Employment Growth Incentive Program); H.621 (health coverage for diagnostic breast imaging); H.661 (child abuse and neglect investigation and substantiation standards and procedures); H.704 (compensation disclosure in job advertisement); H.289 (Renewable Energy Standards); H.878 (miscellaneous judiciary procedures); H.706 (banning the use of neonicotinoid pesticides); and H.121 (enhancing data privacy). There is not enough space in this column to describe each bill, but it is imperative to call your attention to H.289, the Renewable Energy Standards, which would require utilities to use 100% renewable sources by 2030 (2035 for smaller utilities), necessitating upgrades to transmission lines and infrastructure, which costs would be passed on to rate-payers; I urge you to learn what this legislation could mean for you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Representatives and Senators about any of the bills that you are hearing about. You can locate their contact info by typing your town into the Legislator tracker on the General Assembly website. I can be reached at [email protected], and I am honored to represent you.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

 

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Legislative Update - 15 March 2024

Dear Constituents -

Friday, March 15 marked the midpoint of the Legislative session with crossover day, and all bills with viability, unless they contain appropriations, have moved to the other body in the Legislature for further review. Those that do require appropriations have an extra week to pass to the other chamber.

This week in House Government Operations & Military Affairs, we continued to take testimony at a frantic pace, producing draft after draft of legislation as we tried to keep up with all the changes generated from committee members’ questions, wording gotten “not quite right”, and outside meetings that happened after hours to rework the language to try to “get to a yes vote”. Bills that passed out of the committee just this week are: H.702 (legislative operations and government accountability); H.872 (VT criminal justice council amendments); H.606 (professional licensure and immigration status); H.644 (access to records by individuals in foster care); H.622 (Emergency Medical Services); H.140 (state-funded grants); H.845 (designating November as Vermont Month of the Veteran); H.585 (amending the pension system for sheriffs and certain deputy sheriffs); H.875  (State & Municipal Code of Ethics); and H.626 (Animal Welfare).

On the House Floor, we had an extended debate on S.18 (banning flavored tobacco products and e-liquids) and a long debate on H.645 (expansion of approaches to restorative justice); we also passed H.534 (retail theft), H.870 (professions and occupations regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation); H.766 (prior authorization and step therapy requirements, health insurance claims, provider contracts, and collection of cost-sharing amounts); H.856 (medical leave for a serious injury). We also had the distinct pleasure of honoring Torpedoman Henry Breault, on the 100th anniversary of him being awarded the Medal of Honor; he was the first enlisted man to have ever received the Medal, for saving the life of his fellow submariner while in the Panama Canal.

If you would like to read more about these bills (and those passed by the Senate), you can type the bill number into the bill tracker on the General Assembly website and click on the most updated version of that bill (“As passed by the House” or “As passed by the Senate”, official or unofficial).  You may also explore that webpage further and click on “details” below the passed bill language for any roll call votes to see how your Representative or Senator voted on that bill.

The next steps for these bills will involve taking more testimony in sister committees in the other body. They stand to be changed in many ways. You can follow the progress in the committees where the bill is assigned by viewing that committee’s posted agendas. All committee hearings are available recorded on YouTube through the General Assembly website. Please reach out to me at [email protected].

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango

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Legislative Update - Town Meeting Day 2024

The Vermont Legislature is on Town Meeting Break. On everyone’s minds this week is affordability, housing, and public safety.  I have heard from constituents throughout my District and beyond with serious concerns about the shortage of law enforcement officers and first responders contributing to life-threatening situations, unaffordable housing costs, increased taxes, and escalating budgets. While these very concerning issues are brewing, the Legislature is addressing very few bills that get to the heart of these matters. Most of my committee time has been spent listening to hours of testimony amending cannabis statutes, standing up ethics policies for both state and municipal officials, and amending alcohol permits. Given the crisis that our state is in, every committee should be collaborating to solve the triple whammy of unaffordability, non-existent housing, and rising crime.  The majority party leadership is the driver of what gets taken up by committees, whether the House or the Senate will “take the lead” on developing bills, who is invited to testify, and how new drafts of legislation are presented. Regardless of who submits a bill for introduction or which committee does the hard work on the bill, who you know in this session is the determinant of a bill’s fate. I’ll point to housing as an example that everyone is familiar with: A tri-partisan housing bill H.719 was introduced into the House on January 10; it remains on the wall in House Environment & Energy.  A companion committee bill, S.311(BE HOME), was voted out favorably on February 20 after several weeks of hard work by that committee, only to remain on the wall in Senate Natural Resources, the sister committee to House E&E. During the summer, three separate study committees came together to produce three reports on ACT 250 reform that are interdependent (Natural Resources Board necessary updates to ACT 250, State Designation Programs, and Regional Planning Commissions). Those recommendations were published with the expectation that committees with ACT 250 jurisdiction would take them up concurrently, knowing that the reports represent a collaborative compromise. But House E&E has worked almost exclusively on H.687, an act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use, since January 9, without regard for the work of those three reports to advance housing goals, and despite requests from the Rural Caucus to do so. We now know that leadership is using the expected passage of this bill, which is centered on land conservation, as the vehicle for any and all housing legislation being taken up this session. In other words, whether or not housing advocates agree with the sweeping land conservation efforts being proposed in H.687, the only chance we have to enact legislation making significant investments in housing, something that hasn’t been done in over 40 years, is to agree with H.687 – that’s the train the housing caboose is being hitched to.  This Legislature needs to take a hard look at what the priorities are for Vermonters and how to achieve them in the most efficient, affordable way we can without creating overreaching and onerous regulations that drive away the people we most need to stay in our beautiful state.

Although I am not in person at meetings this week, I am always available at [email protected] and will respond within 48 hours.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango, Berkshire

 

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