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Legislative Update - 26 January 2024

Dear Constituents

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

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Legislative Update - 19 JAN 2024

Dear Constituents –

This week in the Statehouse felt more routine – bill introductions have slowed down, and we’ve begun our work on the issues before us.  In the Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee, that consists of diving into reports filed by the State Ethics Commission, the Cannabis Control Board, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Department of States Attorneys and Sheriffs, the Law Enforcement Advisory Board, and a joint hearing on the EMS Regional Coordination Study.  Each of these reports comes with recommendations for further legislation, which we must be diligent about researching and weighing the pros and cons within the construct of the State Budget. If you would like to learn more, these reports and the associated bills are on the House Government Operations & Military Affairs webpage under that day’s date or Reports & Other Resources. Resulting from this work, we are considering bills relating to a State and a Municipal Ethics Code, miscellaneous amendments to adult-use cannabis statutes, and further initiatives around public safety.  We also continued our work making recommendations to House Appropriations on the portions of the Budget that fall under our jurisdiction. While many are worthy, all programs cannot continue to be expanded in a year when taxes and fees are rising and the federal funding windfall is over; the Appropriations Committees have a monumental task ahead of them.  This Committee passed out one bill this week, H.649, an act relating to the Vermont Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Readers may recall from 2021-22 our work on the House General Committee trying to bring a more specific focus to this bill; we were not successful in narrowing the scope of Act 128, which set the mechanism to stand up a Commission to gather information on individuals and populations that were historically institutionalized and overlooked during the era of the eugenics movement. That Commission commenced operations last Spring, but when a Commissioner resigned, there was no mechanism in place to replace a vacant seat.  This bill, H.649, came to us with the request that we set up that mechanism, which we were ready to do as guided by the purpose of our committee work. However, the bill contained some other pieces that were less palatable: a request for an additional $1.1M, an extension of 10 months to complete the Commission’s work, and an exception to the Open Meeting Law because of the sensitive nature of this work.  Ultimately, it was this last piece that tipped the balance in the room to vote 9-3-0 to pass this bill, with myself and two colleagues voting no out of concern for the expansive scope of the Commission and its timeline and potentially limiting public participation in these open meetings.

The House Floor was very quiet this week, as we passed only a few bills that made municipal charter changes (H.516 for Essex Jct and S.141 for the Fairfax Fire District), some technical corrections (H.560 to workers’ compensation rulemaking and H.599 reinstating a statute that was inadvertently removed last session) and heard commemorative Resolutions.

The National Guard continued their series called Guard 101, this week focusing on the Mission of the Guard, in their roles for the State, the Federal Government, and in Global arenas. This series is brought to us by the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus, which I co-Chair, the VT National Guard, and the House Speakers’ Office as an educational resource for legislators who will be voting in the upcoming election for the Adjutant General of the VT National Guard.  Major General Gregory Knight will be running for re-election, and it is notable that we remain the only state in the United States that still elects our TAG; all other states’ Adjutants General are appointed by the Executive Branch. 

The VT Rural Caucus, which I also co-Chair, held its weekly meeting with presentations from the UVM Leahy Institute for Rural Partnerships, a USDA Rural Development specialist, and the VT Chief Recovery Officer, focusing on what those organizations can do for communities in recovery or revitalization mode.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]. It is an honor to represent Franklin-5. Stay well, Rep Lisa Hango

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Legislative Update - 12 January 2024

Dear Constituents –

It was our first full week back at the Statehouse, and a busy one it was. My week began with Co-Chairing the VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus meeting to discuss priority legislation and to recap meetings held during the Fall to implement various strategies to bring awareness to the Guard’s recruiting crisis. Legislators attended events hosted by the Guard at both Norwich University and UVM, with an exchange of ideas leading to legislation submitted on behalf of the Guard, H.739. The Guard also hosted part one of a Legislative orientation to their mission and vision, ahead of the February election for the Adjutant General, and we saw the changing of leadership with Deputy Adjutant General Mr Ken Gragg retiring and being succeeded by Brigadier General Hank Harder. We were pleased to offer a House Concurrent Resolution on the House Floor to honor Mr Gragg.

In Committee, we passed several municipal charter changes favorably, as well as hearing several bill introductions, beginning our work on technical challenges to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and most importantly, amendments to the Cannabis Control statues H.612. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your concerns on this bill!

On the House floor, we saw action on H.27, an act relating to coercive controlling behaviors and abuse protection orders and H.72, an act relating to harm reduction criminal justice response (formerly known as “the safe injection site” bill). Both passed on roll call votes, and you can see how your Representative voted by typing the bill number into the bill tracker on the General Assembly website and clicking on “roll calls” under House Action.

I was honored to be part of a tri-partisan coalition of legislators who wrote a bill in consultation with the Administration to expand the number of housing units in Vermont by regulatory reform and incentivizing smart growth, H.719 - https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2024/H.719

 

This coalition bill was the focus of the Governor’s weekly press conference, linked at https://www.google.com/gasearch?q=governor%20scott%20press%20conference%201/10/2024%20vermont&tbm=&source=sh/x/gs/m2/5#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:8582408a,vid:QevoVwhP4dc,st:0

 

The Rural Caucus of VT met and set our priorities (voted on by membership) for the session.  You can view them and learn more about the Caucus, which I also Co-Chair, at https://www.vtruralcaucus.com/

This week also brought new interns to the Statehouse, two of whom are interning for me;  one with the Rural Caucus, and one with the Republican Caucus.

Please note that there will be a Legislative Breakfast at the Enosburg American Legion on January 22 at 8am – the public is invited to attend and meet your legislators.

You may reach me at [email protected]

Stay well, Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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St Albans Messenger article - Jan 4, 2024

Please see link for an interview with the St Albans Messenger on Legislative priorities for the 2024 session:

https://www.samessenger.com/news/rep-lisa-hango-highlights-her-work-for-the-upcoming-legislative-session/article_94610cfe-ab13-11ee-9528-474d6e48bd36.html

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Legislative Update January 5, 2024

Dear Constituents -

The 2024 Vermont Legislative session opened this week with the Governor’s State of the State address highlighting the challenges that we face and those that we’ve surmounted since adjournment.  More on the Governor’s budget will follow later this month after he’s given his Budget Address, but the general theme is one of caution and thoughtful consideration of each and every funding request.  Are the dollars that are being allocated truly benefiting Vermonters? Stay tuned.

 

The Governor’s address underscored three main issues to focus on: Housing, Public Safety, and Affordability.  Representative Ashley Bartley (Fairfax, Georgia) and I are co-sponsors of a non-partisan bill outlining reforms to Act 250 and municipal zoning laws and implements various housing concepts that will help to alleviate the housing crisis that Vermont is experiencing by making new units available for all Vermonters. We worked diligently to bring together a tri-partisan group of legislators who signed on as lead sponsors, and we are grateful for the opportunity to work across the aisle on such an important issue.  Senator Randy Brock is the co-sponsor of a companion bill in the Senate that also has bi-partisan support.

 

Other Franklin and Grand Isle County Representatives and Senators have sponsored important legislation, which I have co-signed, relating to public safety issues, something that is foremost on our minds as Vermont headlines shout the news of increases in both petty and violent crimes. On a recent visit to the courts, we saw firsthand some of the results of state policies going soft on crime, and the outcome is concerning.

 

Affordability is on all of our minds.  As we knew would happen, the influx of Federal money has come to a screeching halt, and unfortunately our colleagues’ priorities have not caught up with this reality.  Increased DMV fees, a mandatory payroll tax to fund childcare, and a looming property tax increase in many communities are taking effect this year, and we are all feeling the effect on our household budgets.

 

On the House floor, aside from a few Resolutions and routine announcements, the only other business that was taken up was to vote on the Governor’s veto of H.158 (expansion of the Bottle Deposit statute to include glass wine bottles and plastic water bottles). This bill was touted as a much-needed update to the current law, but I see it as a shift away from the recycling facilities that have made numerous capital investments to handle these items and putting the cost of handling deposits squarely on the consumer and the producer. The veto was handily overridden, 112-32.  On any roll call vote, you can see how your legislators voted by typing the bill number into the bill tracker on the General Assembly website and clicking on Roll Call Votes.

 

In the House Government Operations and Military Affairs Committee, we discussed priorities for the session, which is the final year of the biennium, in order to ensure that our interests make it over the finish line by May.

 

It is an honor to return to the Statehouse to represent you. Please feel welcome to reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay well,

Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5

 

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Legislative Update 24 JUNE 23

Dear Constituents –

Tuesday, June 20 marked an historic day in the Vermont Legislature: without hesitation, the majority party in the House of Representatives overrode five gubernatorial vetoes, and adjourned an expected three-day session at the end of one day. Despite pleas on the House floor for reason and fiscal prudence, the majority rapidly dispatched the Governor’s concerns on: H.494 (Budget) – it has swollen by 13% over last year and contains $22M in unsolicited DMV fee increases; H.217 (Childcare) - sets up a brand-new $125M payroll tax largely funded by employers, although all workers will be required to pay their share; H.305 increased professional licensing fees for critical occupations; H.509 (non-citizen voting in Burlington) and H.386 (16/17-year old voting in Brattleboro). To say it was an exhausting, overwhelming, and disheartening exercise is an understatement; 37 Republicans (plus one, the Governor) essentially had no voice for the pocketbooks and sensibilities of the voters of Vermont. The same can be said for the Senate, which although they did not override any vetos, sent back to committee S.39, a legislative pay raise, for a second bite of the apple in January that will cost Vermonters another $4.7M in revenue (raised by taxes and fees). Vermont has truly become one of the most unaffordable states in the nation to live in.  The 2023 session began in the spirit of compromise and promises that even though a supermajority exists thanks to the 2022 election, we would be collaborating and coming up with mutually agreeable solutions to Vermont’s biggest problems.  Nowhere was that more unapparent than with H.217, the childcare bill.  The Governor proposed a reasonable solution that would have put Vermont with the most generous in the nation for subsidies to families and wages for childcare providers, and that bill (H.340, co-sponsored by myself and other Franklin County Reps) was summarily disregarded in favor of an even more generous package that advocates have been touting for a decade. Their victory was celebrated on the Statehouse steps on June 21, and it is but the tip of the iceberg of fully subsidized childcare for all, courtesy of raising more taxes and fees in the future. How elected officials can with a clear conscience vote to increase the cost of living in our beautiful state and not expect a mass exodus to more business-friendly places, especially with an economic downturn looming, is beyond me – do the benefits of being the number one state offering social services really outweigh the cost to its citizens, particularly low-income and elderly residents who will suffer under a regressive tax structure?  I don’t think we need the distinction of being the number one most generous state for benefits or the number one state for highest taxes and cost of living. And did I mention that for the cost of $3.5M, we somehow cannot see fit to honor our military families for their service and sacrifice by exempting their retirement pensions or survivors’ benefits from state income tax (H.255, another concept that has been around for at least a decade)??  With comments and concerns, please reach out to me at [email protected].  You can find any of these bills on the Vermont General Assembly website by typing the bill number in the bill tracker field on the front page.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in the Statehouse.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango

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ARPA Tour Recap - 15 MAY 2023

Dear Constituents –

May 15 marked a transformative day for Franklin County VT.  The Scott Administration sent 15 agency and department heads and their deputies to Richford for a round table presentation and Q&A on ARPA funding and other grant opportunities.  Municipal and community leaders attended from across Franklin County to learn about money that is available to their communities and organizations.  The purpose of the meeting was to highlight grant opportunities, but the biggest takeaway from the meeting is that the Administration isn’t a group of State employees working in a vacuum in Montpelier; they are people who live in struggling communities like ours who want to see rural Vermont communities access the types of programs advancing economic growth that they have built in their portfolios with the help of federal and state funding. The VT Rural Caucus ( https://www.vtruralcaucus.com/), of which I am a Co-Chair, under tri-partisan leadership, successfully advocated for inclusion of $3M in Rural Technical Assistance for the most underserved Vermont communities. Although no towns in Franklin County pre-qualify to receive technical assistance (based on metrics developed by the Administration with input from various stakeholders), several of our towns will qualify if they apply for consideration. Please reach out to them at [email protected].  This team dedicated to assisting municipalities with their ARPA funding needs have held these forums in almost every county of the State over the past year, and other communities have found their guidance to be informative and timely. I highly encourage all Franklin County municipalities to reach out to them.

After the round table discussion, several groups went off in different directions: Richford Natural Forest Products and Kaytec in Richford; the Perley Block in Enosburg; the Franklin Co State Airport; Swanton Village; Fletcher; and several area libraries. These events were organized with the goal of introducing the Administration and their programs to municipal and community leaders and reinforcing those connections through their State Representatives and Senators. The message that was sent to communities is that there is money for assistance, and if you don’t know where to look for it, reach out to your elected officials, and they will connect you with the right government entities to assist you with your projects, from brain-storming to conceptualizing to implementation.

I would like to thank the Scott Administration, Richford Town Administrator Michael Olio, Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, and the Representatives and Senators who attended the events for their roles in planning and organizing the day’s events. I would also like to thank Greenwood’s bakery for preparing refreshments, FCIDC for providing the funding, and various businesses and municipalities for opening your doors and leading tours.

Please feel welcome to reach out to me at [email protected].  As we are not currently in session, it may take longer for me to respond, but I will do so as my availability allows.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

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Legislative Update - 13 MAY 2023

Dear Constituents –

The Legislature adjourned just shy of midnight Friday night. It was a long day, with bills being amended in Committees and coming and going on the House floor. The pace of this session started at a run on January 4 and never slowed down! The main attraction, and the only must-pass bill that was left by 10PM was H.494, the Budget “Big Bill”, and it was saved until the bitter end. This is an $8.5 billion piece of legislation, the likes of which Vermonters have never seen before, and I hope to never see again. It represents a 13% increase in spending, including one-time money that was meant for historic investments in infrastructure and initiatives, not for on-going programs that will need to be supported in the future when we won’t have this funding windfall. This bill, combined with other very costly pieces of legislation, including childcare (H.217), Universal School Meals (H.165), increased professional registration fees (H.305), increased DMV fees (in H.494), and the pay raise/compensation package legislators voted themselves (S.39), not to mention S.5 the UN-affordable heat act, will make Vermont the second most expensive state to live in after Hawaii.  This is not a distinction that I am proud of. Those of us who opposed these tax and fee increases in a time of surplus, with the dread that these initiatives will be on-going without the continued influx of federal dollars, tried to convince the majority party that they were squandering once in a lifetime monies, which should be saved as federal match money or capital investment; those pleas fell on deaf ears, and we will all be paying the price as we watch our cost of living increase unsustainably.  On the House floor, during vote explanations for my no vote on the budget, I pointed out that with hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on new programs and personnel to stand up those programs, the General Assembly could not see fit to take up a bill honoring military retirees and their survivors who made the ultimate sacrifice with state income tax exemptions, the cost of which would be $3.5M – a drop in the bucket of an $8.5B budget – even though that bill has been introduced for five bienniums. Vermonters will continue to leave the State when their service commitment is fulfilled.

As a leader in the majority party stated, “elections have consequences”; well, we will certainly see the consequences of the 2022 election of a Democratic supermajority in the coming years as these programs take effect and we must dream up ways to pay for them. The only way to stop this tidal wave of spending is to elect more fiscally conservative members to the General Assembly, so we have a chance to put up alternatives that are supported by many and not just a few.  That starts with each and every one of us thinking hard about who we want to represent us from our communities and if their views reflect the values that truly benefit all Vermonters. We get another chance to see that “elections have consequences” in 2024, and now is not too soon to think about how to make that happen.

I welcome your comments and concerns at [email protected]. It is an honor to serve you.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

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Legislative Update - 5 MAY 2023

Dear Constituents –

As the final weeks of the legislation draw to a close, bills are passing through committees and in the chambers at a much faster pace, and changes to them are being drafted even faster than they can be printed. For the most up to date information, please go to the Vermont General Assembly website and click on House and Senate calendars, or specific committees for agendas, bills, and amendment drafts. If you know the bill number,  you can also type it into the bill tracker on the General Assembly website, and you can scroll down to see the latest action taken on that bill.

Typical of this time of year, I begin to question the speed at which some legislation passes while other bills sit for an entire session on the wall. I have explained in this space in the past that it is legislative leadership’s sole discretion to take up bills or not, and when, provided it meets crossover in order to pass that session – at least this is how it works in the House ; the Senate has its own version of how late in the session a bill can be taken up. The Senate Rules Committee can decide if a bill is prioritized even if it didn’t meet the House crossover deadline. This session, I have seen evidence of this happening more frequently than I have in the past, and I am not in favor of using this method to advance bills.  For instance, Senate Rules allowed S.39, an act relating to compensation and benefits for members of the Vermont General Assembly, to be debated on the Senate floor beginning on April 11, and it finally came over from the Senate to my committee, Government Operations on April 19. Recall that policy crossover in the House was on March 17. We did not hear a bill introduction for this bill until May 2, and we are in the process of passing that bill out of committee as of this writing. A few of my fellow committee members joined me in objecting to the compressed timeframe , but the majority were more than OK with passing a bill that lacked extensive testimony and time to digest the content.

Because legislation is moving so fast and being changed so dramatically in these last couple of weeks, I plan to bring you more news in next week’s report. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]. It is an honor to serve.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

 

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Legislative Update - 28 APRIL 2023

Dear Constituents –

This week marks the official countdown to the end of the Legislative session. We are projected to adjourn in two weeks, and committees are seeing a flurry of activity with bills passing between chambers for approval or amendments.  As reported last week, S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, passed the House and is in the Senate, waiting final reading as of this writing, having passed both bodies with a majority. Other major pieces of legislation also remain embroiled in the process : H.66, paid family and medical leave, has returned to Senate Economic Development ; H.165, Universal School Meals, is in Senate Appropriations ; S.56, the childcare bill, is making its way through the House money committees on its way to the floor next week ; and S.100, the HOME bill, is still in House Environment & Energy in hopes of adding amendments that address ACT 250 reform. The Transportation and DMV bills are also making their way through the process, and the must-pass « Big Bill » (Budget, H.494) appears to be heading for a Committee of Conference next week. Of note on the House floor this week, we passed several more amendments to municipal charters ; S.36, an act relating to permitting an arrest without a warrant for assaults and threats against health care workers and disorderly conduct  at health care facilities ;  S.73, an act relating to workers’ compensation coverage for firefighters with cancer ; and S.91, an act relating to competency to stand trial and insanity as a defense.

In the House Government Operations Committee, we continued our work on several amendments to the charter of the City of Burlington (H.506, 507, 508, and 509) regarding elections ; S.42, divestment of State pension funds of investments in the fossil fuel industry ; and wrapped up our work on S.17, an act relating to sheriff reforms.  All of these bills can be found in their most updated form by typing the bill number into the bill tracker on the Vermont General Assembly website.  As most bills change substantially during the legislative process, it’s advisable to read them in their most recent form, and I will endeavor to keep the public informed as they advance.

The VT Rural Caucus met this week to hear about issues related to childcare, which is in a crisis state throughout Vermont but particularly in rural areas. The Senate passed S.56, which House Human Services and House Education amended ; this bill is projected to cost $150M. The Administration has also proposed a more reasonable version (H.340) addressing childcare needs that would require just 1/3 the investment and continue to serve Vermont families that need it most.

Please reach out to me at [email protected] with questions and concerns. It is truly an honor to serve you.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5

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