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
Dear Constituents –
As both cases of COVID and vaccination rates rise, pandemic fatigue and Spring fever are working against the tide – please remember to keep our unvaccinated neighbors and communities safe as the economy opens back up and we look towards better times.
My work in the Legislature this week has been largely around H.157, an act relating to registration of residential construction contractors. On the House floor and in various Committees, amendments to the contractor registration bill were taken up, debated at length, re-worded, and decided upon, some in the negative and some in the positive. All of these proceedings are available to watch on the General Assembly and Committee websites by clicking on Livestreams, which will bring the viewer to the YouTube recordings. I am disappointed to report that this bill passed the House on April 6 on a second reading roll call vote of 97-52, and by voice vote the next day, when it was messaged to the Senate, where it is reported to have been referred to the Committee on Rules. However, as of this writing, the bill does not appear on the Senate Rules webpage.
In other Committee business, we continue to take testimony on the State eviction moratorium, hearing compelling accounts from landlords who have been adversely affected by a year-long delay in judicial proceedings. We also continued taking testimony on another bill, S.79, that is concerning. The bill proposes to create a rental housing registry of all properties in the State, including those listed for the short-term rental market. A Statewide registry is purported to be necessary for increasing health and safety measures, yet the agency tasked with maintaining the registry does not have inspection or enforcement powers, and the agency that will have them would only respond on a complaint basis. There is a disconnect in this process that leaves me uncertain of the validity of needing such a registry. The Senate removed much of the affordable housing incentive language from this bill that was recommended by the Governor, so it will be up to the House to work to re-insert it. Additionally, House General took up several bills dealing with land access and ownership and social equity, which we will take testimony on in the near future and whose language could possibly find their way into S.79.
In the special legislative caucuses, we continue to hear about the benefits of legislation passed and pending for our various constituencies, be they rural Vermonters, older Vermonters, or the tourism industry. I appreciate those meetings where a non-partisan effort is made to work together across our shared interests.
Of interest to the Towns, I attended a Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting, where I heard updates on various road projects. RT 120 in Franklin/Sheldon has been elevated to a priority project to be further discussed with VTRANS, RT 7 in Swanton/Highgate and Georgia/St Albans are on this season’s construction schedule, a few dangerous intersections in the County (including Franklin and Fairfax) were highlighted for further investigation, and the replacement of the RT 105 temporary bridge entering Richford from Berkshire is slated to be replaced in 2022.
Representative Lisa A Hango
Dear Constituents –
Floor time was very quiet this week, with H.315, an act relating to COVID-19 relief, being postponed each day for further work on the funding mechanism – the majority party believes that waiting for the new federal American Recovery Plan Act dollars, which haven’t yet been disbursed or have adequate guidelines, is preferable to the minority party position on using General Fund dollars and saving the ARPA money for other needs that are yet to be determined; we have until 2024 to use them, and it is not clear yet how they should be used. The other floor action was an unanimous, affirmative vote of 146-0 on JRH.2, an apology to all Vermonters and their families for harm caused to them by State-sanctioned eugenics policies and practices. It was with a feeling of satisfaction that this was passed by so many Representatives who have differing views, yet who came together on this issue to agree that an apology was needed. My Committee worked on this legislation for many years, and I’ve had the privilege to be a part of that work for the past two years.
Committee time was entirely taken up with hearing new bill introductions – relating to Recovery Residences, collective bargaining, Vietnam Veterans, tiny houses, abandoned swimming pools – and amendments to H.157, registration of residential construction contractors. This is a bill that is walking a fine line between its stated intent of consumer protection and regulation of the only other industry in Vermont that this would be a requirement for besides Funeral Directors. I remain unconvinced that this bill serves the purpose for which it is intended, and after hearing from constituents, I will not support it as it leaves my Committee on Tuesday. As it is currently written, I believe it will put unnecessary burdens on small, local contractors who are well-known to their neighbors and who often do business by word of mouth and with a handshake. We also heard about the re-start of a well-used, re-named Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), which will open to tenants on April 5 and landlords on April 7 on the Vermont State Housing Authority website, and will include both rental and utility arrears assistance.
Legislative Caucuses held informative meetings on bills coming from the Senate that will affect rural areas (REDWnG), a presentation on the Vermont Outdoor Community Recreation Program and Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance grants and services (Tourism Caucus), another presentation on innovative new programs in our corrections institutions for women (Women’s Caucus), and information on the re-opening of Adult Day Programs (Older Vermonters Caucus).
As we all move into the vaccination-eligible stages in the next few weeks, please remember that public health protocols are still necessary to keep our community safe.
Representative Lisa A Hango
Dear Constituents –
As Spring begins, most of this week’s work revolved around the virtual House floor, with must-pass money bills. The Transportation Bill, the Capital Bill, and the Budget Bill all passed the House and are headed to the Senate. We also passed legislation opening the door to alleviate gaps in broadband access, childcare programs, and Vermont’s workforce. Although there are things that I hoped would be included (like the ability for private internet providers to receive funding for buildout) and things I would rather not have seen (reliance on Federal American Rescue Plan Act funding that is yet to be disbursed instead of State revenue for on-going programs), there was much to be pleased with in all of these bills, as the committees worked hard to allocate money to the most important needs of the State, and I supported them all. One bill that did pass without my support was H.437, affecting revenue of the state. Among other provisions, this bill adds a surcharge to the property transfer tax on properties sold for over $1million, which includes commercial and agricultural properties as well as residential, adding a burden to anyone wishing to purchase a high-value property.
Committee time was limited by long afternoons and evenings on the House floor. The House General Committee concluded its work on an apology for the Vermont eugenics movement and passed JRH.2 on Friday afternoon. This work was begun in the Legislature as early as 2009, and as more information became available, it evolved into the inclusive, historically accurate document that was sent to the General Assembly today. We all agreed that the pause the pandemic provided us was an opportunity to take more testimony, particularly around the French-Canadian experience in the early 1900’s, and to reflect on what we learned in past testimony.
On Thursday, we attended a virtual Joint Assembly of both chambers to hear judicial retention reports on candidates for Superior Judges and Magistrates so we could mail in our ballots. I also attended a meeting of the Rural Economic Development Working Group, where we discussed the House bills that affect rural constituents; next week we will hear about the Senate bills that do the same.
Representative Lisa A Hango
Dear Constituents –
This was a hectic week in the virtual Statehouse, as bills came to the House floor after crossover, other bills came over from the Senate to be referred to House Committees, and bills carrying appropriations or fees came out of the money committees at a fast pace.
My week began on Monday at a virtual Legislative Day with the Vermont Retail Grocers Association and a panel discussion withadult higher education students sponsored by VSAC, both very informative and worthwhile presentations. Later in the week, I attended the virtual Disability Awareness Day Legislative Panel, which was a rewarding event to witness.
On the House floor, we passed quite a few bills this weekdealing with the judiciary, mental health legislation, updating and clarifying statutes of the National Guard, State publications, alcoholic beverage, agriculture and energy subjects, and we extended deadlines on healthcare provisions passed during the COVID crisis. All of these bills will go on to the Senate for their consideration. I am very disappointed that legislation to exempt military pension benefits from Vermont personal income taxesdid not advance out of the Ways and Means Committee, despite a position letter in support for the concept being drafted by the National Guard Caucus and distributed to House and Committee leadership.
The General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee spent the week hearing new bill introductions and focusing primarily on JRH.2, which is an apology for State-sanctioned eugenics practices, legislation that we have been working on for several years.
Thursday evening brought some of the Franklin County legislative delegation to the Highgate Selectboard to discuss the expansion project moving forward at the Franklin County State Airport.This is an important economic development program for the entire region, and in our opinion, this is one of the most important projects to come before voters in Franklin County in recent history. The potential for increased economic activity would be an invaluable resource for our region, especially as we seek to re-open our economy and trade with our international and bordering state neighbors.
At Friday morning’s meeting of the Tourism Caucus, the topic was an introductory discussion about registration of short-term rental properties. There are a few bills in the pipeline that seek to register all rental housing, short-term rental housing, and/or add regulation and inspection of those types of units. There is much testimony to be taken on these issues, and language will be amended, merged, and discarded over the next couple of months.
As the good news of more age bands for vaccination opening up comes to us, I ask you to continue to exercise vigilance as you are out in the community. Please reach out to me at [email protected] or www.hangoforhouse.com with your concerns or comments.
Rep Lisa A Hango
Dear Constituents –
Crossover week in the Legislature is complete. What this means is that all policy bills that are destined for passage this session have been passed out of policy committees and are headed either to the House floor or to a money committee, if they hold an appropriation; those bills have one more week to make it to the floor.
In the General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee, we took up H.149 (Modernizing National Guard Statutes), H.313 (Omnibus Alcohol Bill), and H.157 (Registration of Residential Construction Contractors) this week. All passed out of Committee favorably after much discussion. I was unable to support H.157, which I see as over-regulation of the “handyman” industry, despite the Committee consensus that this is a consumer protection necessity. I will be interested to see what my counterparts in the Senate do with this bill. On Thursday, we had a welcome break with a presentation from the Dept of Defense State Liaison on government initiatives that arepriorities for supporting military families.
On the House floor, we debated and passed several bills, including S.110, a fast-tracked Unemployment benefits bill using Federal funds that will allow for a seamless extensionwhen PEUC benefits expire next week. Other bills that I supported were relating to criminal defenses based on victim identity (H.128), the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement in cases involving sexual exploitation of children (H.195), a miscellaneous Agriculture bill (H.420), and one providing for animal cruelty and investigation response and training (H.421). Additionally, bills that passed without my support were relating to emergency relief from abuse orders and relinquishing of firearms (H.133) and changes to the Charter of the City of Montpelier allowing non-citizen voting (H.177). Several bills were postponed until next week to give Committees more time to work on those bills needing to be voted out by crossover.
Throughout the week, I attended various meetings: the National Guard Caucus, where we heard a presentation on Recruitment and Retention in the Guard and discussed military retirement benefits tax exemption bills; the Vermont Early Childhood Day at the Legislature on Zoom, where H.171, an important childcare bill that was passed out of House Human Services, was the topic; the Rural Economic Development Working Group (REDWnG), where members pitched bills in the pipeline that pertain to Rural Vermont communities; and the Women’s Caucus, where the Public Assets Institute issued their annual report on the economic health of women in Vermont.
Please feel welcome to reach out to me on any of these issues at [email protected] or
Www.hangoforhouse.com Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Rep Lisa A Hango
2021 Town Meeting Update
Thank you to town officials for being flexible and adapting to the COVID situation and Town Meeting; it is all new to many of us, and I commend your for your work!
The Legislature continues to work remotely and will for the remainder of this session. The silver lining to our remote work is that we are able to attend more meetings locally – you all are just a click of a button away on my computer – something that isn’t always possible when I spend my weeks in Montpelier. The downside to this is zoom fatigue – 10 hours a day on zoom can be really tiring.
As a body, the General Assembly is working to ensure that Vermonters continue to receive assistance for a variety of issues compounded by the pandemic – small business relief, unemployment benefits, rental and utility assistance, food security, greater broadband capacity, increased COVID testing and vaccine distribution, and helping municipalities navigate this unprecedented Town Meeting schedule.
In my House committee, General, Housing, and Military Affairs, we are working with the Administration to properly allocate $200 million in rental and utility assistance for landlords and tenants that was passed by the Federal government at the end of 2020, and we continue to work with our community partners on long-term goals of ending homelessness and increasing the supply and affordability of our housing stock on a State-wide level.
We are taking up legislation to make small changes to liquor licensing statutes, such as continuing to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold with take-out meals, modernizing statutes pertaining to the National Guard, and improving on rental housing health and safety standards.
As part of my work, I am one of a tri-partisan group of legislators to found the Legislative National Guard Caucus, and our work has been focused on supporting National Guard troops on their various deployments to the US Capitol, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as their mission at home to assemble COVID test kits, provide COVID testing, stand up and dismantle alternate ICU sites, and distribute food to our communities. We are grateful for their service and to the leadership of Major General Greg Knight, our Adjutant General, to successfully fulfill their State and Federal missions.
Thank you for the privilege to represent you in the Legislature.
Rep Lisa A Hango
Dear Constituents –
As the days grow longer and Spring approaches, the work in the virtual Statehouse also gets busier. With Annual Town and School District Meetings being conducted remotely, days as well as evenings have been slated for Zoom. I would like to take this time to commend your town and school district officials who have successfully enabled us to participate in the electronic version of Town Meeting. I found the meetings I’ve attended to be well-run, informative, and timely; if you haven’t been able to attend your meeting, you can find a recording on your town or school district website or on YouTube, and if you have not already done so, please exercise your right to vote by mailing in your ballot or visiting your socially distanced, safe municipal polling place on Town Meeting Day.
On the House floor, we successfully passed H.89, limiting the liability for on-farm Agritourism activities, two Resolutions - regarding continuation of our remote work until May 15 and clarifying that devotionals and floor speeches are not to be journalized - and H.317, our newest COVID relief bill, among others. Nearly 400 bills have been introduced, among them H.332, co-sponsored by myself and Rep Durfee from Shaftsbury, which is a Healthcare workforce development/ educational assistance bill establishing a scholarship/loan repayment program with a service obligation for eligible Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses/students. I am also co-sponsoring a loan repayment bill (H.219) for Guard members, with Reps Birong and Sibilia, my Co-Chairs in the Legislative National Guard Caucus, and H.328 that provides greater access to educational opportunities for Guard family members. Education is very important to me!
The House General Committee continues to take testimony on JRH.2, an apology for the eugenics movement, and H.96, the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force. We also began taking testimony this week on H.256, a bill dealing with rental housing health and safety standards, H.157, a bill requiring registration for construction contractors through the Office of Professional Regulation, H.313, a miscellaneous alcoholic beverage bill, and H.149, a modernization of the National Guard Statutes. Most of these bills are prioritized by leadership for passage prior to crossover on March 12.
Caucus meetings attended this week were informative – at the Older Vermonters Caucus, I was able to present my PA/APRN scholarship bill in the context of a very similar nursing scholarship bill that was passed last year as Act 155 and is serving as a driving force in recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals for the home health agency and long-term care facility sectors. At the Tourism Caucus, the discussion centered on a letter presented to the administration requesting clear guidelines for safe reopening of the events economy and additional ways to assist the hospitality industry in recovery from the pandemic.
I hope by now I have seen many of you at your Town or School District meetings, and I am grateful for your support of my work. You may reach me at [email protected] or www.hangoforhouse.com
Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5
COVID numbers in our region continue to be of concern, with community spread seen as the primary driver, so please take the necessary precautions to keep our neighbors safe!
It was another busy week in the remote Statehouse, beginning early on Monday with a meeting of the Franklin County delegation with Franklin Watershed/Lake Carmi Campers Association members to hear their priorities for the legislative session and a recap of progress that has been made. Lake Carmi is a valuable asset to our region that has been enjoyed by generations of Vermonters, and it is Vermont’s only designated “Lake in Crisis”; it is well-deserving of our attention in the Legislature.
Later that day, the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association hosted a Legislative priorities meeting on Zoom, providing a laundry list of issues that we should be paying attention to – pupil weighting, school construction, ethnic studies, and early literacy are all a priority for the CVSA this biennium.
It is important to note that the date to introduce long-form bills is February 23, and the crossover date is March 12 – this is the date by which the House must pass bills to the Senate if they are to be taken up by both chambers this year. Please recall that this is only the first year of a two-year cycle, so anything not passed by adjournment of this session can be taken up again next January.
On the House floor, there was debate about H.81, a bill relating to collective bargaining for healthcare benefits for public school employees, which passed without amendment. Nearly another 50 bills were introduced, the Budget Adjustment Act passed, and H.89, a liability exemption bill for the Agritourism industry was debated and supported. Additionally, the House approved an appointment to fill a vacancy on the Judicial Nominating Board, and the Joint Assembly re-elected the Sergeant at Arms and the Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard in uncontested elections. Because we are operating remotely, and the ballot was contested, members were instructed to cast paper ballots for three UVM Legislative Trustees and mail them in to the Statehouse.
Caucus meetings this week focused on a Broadband bill coming out of House Energy and Technology (Rural Economic Development Working Group) and the Vermont Event Planners Association with regards to COVID restrictions/loss of revenue (Tourism Caucus).
I also attended the second of four lunchtime briefings on the State Employees and Teacher Pension Funds – a who, what, where, and why of how they work and what the issues are that they are facing.
In the House General Committee, our week was packed with bill introductions and testimony – H.211 (Recovery Residences), H.96 (Truth and Reconciliation Task Force), J.R.H 2 (Eugenics Apology), H.149/H.188/H.295 (Adjutant General qualifications/selection process) and information sessions on the Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition and Pathways VT. To wrap up the week, we put the finishing touches on our Committee’s memo to Appropriations on the Governor’s FY’22 Budget. Although there were a few items that the Committee was not united on, for the most part we were in agreement, particularly if supporting legislation can be passed to stand up those budgetary asks.
I look forward to “seeing” many of you on Zoom for the second Franklin Co Legislative Breakfast on Feb 20 and at Town and School informational meetings throughout this week and on March 1. Please do not forget to vote – you may request an absentee ballot from your Town Clerk or vote in person on March 1. Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Your comments and concerns are welcome at [email protected] or www.hangoforhouse.com
Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5
Dear Constituents –
I will start by reporting that local Legislators and town officials met with Dr Levine and Commissioner Smith of the Agency of Human Services on Thursday afternoon, and we were told that COVID cases are increasing at a concerning rate in Franklin County. We have been so very fortunate to be spared the worst of this pandemic, so this was indeed troubling news. I hope that by working together, we can halt the spread of this virus. Masks on faces, six foot spaces, and proper hand hygiene go a long way towards prevention - and the latest trend is double-masking! If you suspect that you have been exposed in any way, self-isolate and make an appointment to be tested – testing sites in Franklin Co are managed through your primary care provider at NOTCH or NMC, the Vermont Department of Health, and Kinney Drugs. With an increase in cases, please expect some delays and take necessary precautions to keep your household and community safe. More information may be found at www.healthvermont.gov
The good news from the Health Department is that beginning on Tuesday, Feb 16, Vermonters ages 70 and up may begin receiving vaccines. The website also has this information, and others are asked to create accounts so you will be ready when your grouping is announced through media channels. For those who do not have access to the internet, you may call 1-800-464-4343.
The Legislative week began on Monday with two budget hearings – various advocacy groups and agencies made their cases to the Appropriations Committee to be included in the upcoming budget bill. Caucuses discussed pertinent issues – the National Guard Caucus heard a presentation about Family Readiness Groups that support service members and their families before, during, and after deployment; the REDWnG Caucus heard bill introductions pertaining to rural economic development; and the Tourism Caucus heard a presentation on Castleton University’s School of Resort and Hospitality Management Program at Killington, which is a workforce development program on a satellite college campus. If any of these issues interest you, I welcome your comments and questions.
In Committee, our time was spent listening to Budget presentations from the organizations that we have jurisdiction for – Housing, Military, and the Department of Liquor and Lottery. We also learned about the incoming Federal Emergency Rental and Utilities Assistance Program. Committee work included passing H.81 relating to collective bargaining for public school employee healthcare benefits, hearing bill introductions for J.R.H.2 pertaining to an apology for the eugenics movement of the 1920’s, H.168 eliminating Daylight Savings Time, H.157 requiring registration of residential construction contractors, and H.96 establishing a truth and reconciliation commission for past injustices. All are bills that I remain mystified that we are taking up while we should be focusing on COVID mitigation and recovery. I am pleased to report that members of the National Guard Caucus, along with officials from the National Guard, the Veterans Advisory Council, and the Department of Defense state liaison, identified and sponsored ten bills this biennium, addressing such issues as exempting military retirement pay and housing and subsistence allowances from VT personal income tax calculations, exempting veterans’ disability pensions from property tax calculations, aligning State Active Duty with federal employment protections, establishing qualifications for the Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, and establishing a student loan repayment program in exchange for years of service in addition to the existing tuition benefit program.
I am honored to represent you in the remote Statehouse. You are welcome to connect with me at [email protected] or www.hangoforhouse.com
Rep Lisa Hango, Franklin-5