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Op-Ed: Lack of Housing Reform?

In the infancy of the legislative session, I joined a tri-partisan coalition of legislators during a press conference hosted by Governor Scott to announce an all-encompassing housing reform bill. Speakers from all political parties spoke, highlighting why they supported reform efforts and a desire to provide a solution to our Housing Crisis. This tri-partisan housing bill came to be numbered H.719.

 

At the same time, legislation coined the “BE Home” bill was being drafted in the Senate Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs Committee, later numbered S.311. The proposed companion bills would enable both bodies the ability to work on similar bills concurrently. Housing reform, collaborative housing reform, was on the way for desperate Vermonters.

 

The momentum and excitement I heard from constituents, agencies, housing activists, about the bill came with a harsh reality: the Super Majority Leadership would send the legislation to the House Committee on Environment and Energy Committee where any ACT 250 jurisdictional reform has historically died. H.719 has sat ‘on the wall’ in that committee since January 10th.

 

Hope was then put squarely on the shoulders of S.311, the “BE Home” bill. While the bill didn’t contain all elements proposed in H.719, I was reassured to see the collaborative efforts made in drafting the legislation. Progress was made and I was excited to see it pass the Senate Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs Committee with unanimous support on February 13th, more than a month before crossover.

 

After passing just over two weeks ago, the bill was sent to the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, giving the committee over a month's time to work through the bill. But now, two weeks later, I have been told the bill will not meet the predetermined deadline of crossover. Instead of taking up S.311, a critical housing bill, the committee has instead chosen to focus on trivial bills, refusing to hear any testimony on the “BE Home” bill. How is that possible with so much time dedicated to this bill in the original committee? Process. Apparently, it wasn’t sent out of the Senate Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs Committee “fast enough”.

 

What has the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee chosen to spend its time on instead of the housing bill? Last week, it was S.258 that dominated their agenda. It’s a bill that dilutes the Governor's authority over Boards and Commissions pursuing a change to a 14-member Fish and Wildlife Board appointed by the Governor and instead vastly appointed House and Senate leadership; spelling danger for Vermont’s deep-rooted tradition in fishing, hunting, and trapping.

 

This week, S. 254, “an act relating to including rechargeable batteries and battery-containing products under the State battery stewardship program” took up a majority of their time.

 

I’ve been a broken record for the last two years, I even spoke on it on the House floor this week; process matters. We cannot afford to grandstand or be semi-serious in our efforts for Housing reform. We must act now. Act 250 reform has been called on for over 30 years by Vermonters, and the House Majority leadership has failed to and continues to fail to act in earnest – placing more stock in political gamesmanship than implementing solutions.


Now, they are aiming to tack S.311 onto H.687, after it presumably passes through the House. H.687 is a disaster of a bill that will only strengthen and expand Act 250’s jurisdiction throughout 90% of the state; with more hurdles to solving our housing crisis. H.687 has been firmly opposed by housing advocates, municipalities, and homebuilders.


Vermonters don’t care from where or whom solutions come, they just care that there is a solution. They also deserve to know why there isn’t a solution.

 

I’m at the table. Many of my colleagues, from all parties, are at the table. When will House and Senate Leadership join us? When will committee chairs be given direction to work on the proposed meaningful, tri-partisan legislation rather than left to their own, personal agendas?

 

Vermont: Many of us are trying to work for you.

 

 


Act 250 before H.687

Act 250 after H.687

Rep. Ashley Bartley was elected in 2022 and serves the towns of Fairfax and Georgia. She is a member of the House Committee on General & Housing.


 



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