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Legislative Update: February 21, 2024

Hi All,


It's been a busy few weeks but I will continue to work hard to get you all as much information as possible as I share the happenings under the Golden Dome.


Housing

This past week has reinforced my belief that housing reform should be at the forefront of this legislative session; many of us made promises to our constituents that this crisis would be addressed this biennium.


The General and Housing committee began the week by reviewing sections of H.719, the tri-partisan housing bill I have sponsored. These sections focused on appeal limitations and specifics regarding the Vermont Housing Improvement Program (VHIP). This week we heard testimony from members of the Department of Housing and Community Development relating to other specific sections of H.719. Although we are unsure if the entire bill will survive in the House, I am hopeful that the Senate will include essential sections of H.719 in their Omnibus Housing Bill, S.311, Be Home Bill. We followed this discussion by hearing testimony from members of the Department of Disabilities on H.137, a bill intended to increase access to VHIP by adding disability specific housing. Mobile homes and mobile home parks have also been at the center of our discussions on affordability, socio-economic justice, and climate resiliency. Representative Curt Taylor joined us to present the Mobile Home Task Force Report and introduce H.846 which intends to advance mobile homes as an energy efficient, affordable housing alternative.


Affordable housing took center stage at our joint hearing with the House Human Services Committee in which various witnesses testified on new initiatives for affordable housing. Chris Donnelly from Champlain Housing Trust revealed their Ten Year Affordable Housing and Services Modeling which lays out a holistic approach to creating homes, apartments, and shelters for people who are unhoused. We also heard from Chris Winters, Commissioner of the Department for Children and Families, on General Assistance Emergency Housing and Shelters and Maria Moore from Pathways Vermont who laid out their "Housing First" proposals. The testimony from these ten experts conveyed the intensity of Vermont's housing crisis and offered crucial alternatives to provide more housing and reduce costs while promoting environmental sustainability. Governor Scott expressed similar sentiments in last week's press conference and called for "bold action" to make housing creation "less expensive, faster, and easier to build or renovate the housing we desperately need." Although I am excited about these proposals, I agree with Governor Scott's concerns that bills such as H.719 are being put on the back burner while committees diminish the saliency of Vermont's housing crisis.


General Matters

Legislative pay increases under S.224 seem to be going nowhere, thankfully. I have said it before, voting for an increase to our pay while Vermonters have been suffocated by rising inflation and more tax increases is unconscionable.


The Budget Adjustment Act is heading into a committee of conference where both chambers will come together to discuss differences over the bill's specifics. I am deeply disappointed that the Senate removed all housing appropriations apart from upholding the General Assistance motel housing program.


Crossover day is a month away and both bodies are scrambling to meet their deadlines to move bills out of committee. March 17th is the deadline for policy committees and March 24th for money committees to clear their committees' bills. UVM students reached out to myself and other legislators inquiring about the most pressing issues currently facing Vermonters. I reiterated that I am greatly concerned about the housing crisis and how that directly relates to the affordability crisis.


Town Meeting Day

Town Meeting Day is just around the corner and I look forward to meeting you all, sharing my priorities for the rest of the Legislative session, and hearing your thoughts on the issues affecting our district. Here are important dates and times to know.


Fairfax Town Meeting

Saturday, March 2, 2024 | 10:00 AM

Bellows Free Academy Elementary Gym


Georgia Town Meeting

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 | 10:00 AM

Georgia Elementary & Middle School


Voting

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 | 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM

Fairfax: Bellows Free Academy Middle School Gymnasium

Georgia: Georgia Elementary & Middle School, Upper School Gym


Stay Updated

To stay informed on the latest news and events, please follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AshleyBartleyVT) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ashleybartleyvt/). Your continued engagement is appreciated.

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