The legislative session is in full swing, marking the commencement of the second half of the biennium. In the General and Housing Committee, we've been actively engaged in the process, introducing bills, presenting witnesses, and participating in discussions in other committees to advocate for our priorities of housing affordability, development, and transparency. Various bills are currently navigating through committees, traversing the statehouse, and undergoing deliberations on the House Floor. Recently, we convened to hear Governor Phil Scott’s budget address, where he elaborated on his key priorities: housing, affordability, and public safety, outlining specific fiscal proposals to tackle these challenges. I agree with these priorities and will continue to work closely with the administration on them.
I am pleased to report progress on two housing-focused bills, H.719 and H.686, for which I serve as a lead sponsor. H.719 was introduced by my co-sponsor, Representative Katherine Sims, in the House Committee on Environment and Energy. The bill aims to create more housing units and revitalize neglected neighborhoods. Simultaneously, my fellow lead sponsors introduced the bill in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. It’s unclear if the House will seriously consider this legislation and we hope significant portions will be incorporated into the Senate Omnibus Housing Bill. I was pleased to see my committee will be reviewing certain sections of the bill - but not the whole bill. More on this later.
H.686, introduced in my committee, General and Housing, has undergone hearings emphasizing the importance of targets and goals. I am optimistic that this bill will progress and become part of the broader housing legislation, especially considering the need for Act 250 jurisdictional reform to meet Vermont's housing needs and goals.
Our committee also addressed the introduction of H.137, which proposes expanding the Vermont Housing Improvement Program to include incentives for home share modifications benefiting Vermonters with disabilities. Emphasizing the significance of Additional Dwelling Units and shared housing, we recognize the Northwestern Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) for its role in promoting equitable, accessible, and sustainable housing development through initiatives like the Housing Choice and Affordability Project. I supported this bill and am excited to vote for it.
This week, our committee delved into discussions on H.297, focusing on workers’ compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by certain State employees. Additionally, we reviewed H.751, a bill seeking to extend equal pay protections to individuals in all protected classes.
Amidst our legislative work, we took a pause to observe Mental Health Advocacy Day and Homelessness Awareness Day. Outside of committee activities, I participated in the Franklin County Delegation meeting to discuss available land for Fairgrounds.
Bills to Watch
I've received numerous inquiries about S.18, the act aiming to ban flavored tobacco products and e-liquids. With the bill having passed the Senate and received recommendations from all House Committees, I anticipate its discussion on the floor this week.
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