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Weekly Legislative Update: January 12, 2024

The Legislature reconvened for the second half of the biennium last week. It takes a couple days to reacquaint yourself with the building but that didn’t stop us from picking up where we left off in 2023. As we did last year, Representative Carolyn Branagan and I will pen legislative updates frequently. Our goal is weekly but sometimes the speed at things move under the Golden Dome, it makes more sense to delay a little bit so we can provide a comprehensive update.

As your Representatives, we want to hear from you. Feel free to contact us any time at and In the coming weeks, we plan to hold a casual meet and greet in both Fairfax and Georgia. Once the details are finalized, we’ll distribute them to you.

Below is our first update!

Ashley and Carolyn

State of the State

Last Thursday, we heard from Governor Phil Scott with his yearly “State of the State” address. You can view the speech in its entirety here. 

The highlights of the speech and the Governor’s priorities include:

  1. Public Safety

  2. Affordability

  3. Housing

Housing Update

, We need to build more housing and to do so we must support universal housing reform, through Act 250 jurisdictional changes. We also must recognize the housing crisis impacts transcends political affiliation and economic divide. Therefore, we cannot approach the crisis in a partisan manner, we must build a coalition. We all have great ideas. We agree we must find solutions and it’s ok to disagree on what they are; but all ideas must be on the table.

Montpelier’s approach to the housing crisis has been siloed and ineffective. This could be because of a small minority unwilling to address Act 250 or it could also be that the solutions are so complicated that it is difficult to understand the crisis holistically. Regardless of why, it’s time we look holistically at Housing. We can’t nibble at the problem, we need to take a giant bite.

Over the last three months, I have worked closely with various committees, the administration, and many colleagues in the House and Senate on comprehensive housing reform. What started as ideas from the Governor’s administration, I worked to draft universal housing reform legislation. I was thrilled to be able to collaborate closely with Representative Katherine Sims (D), Representative Taylor Small (P), and Lisa Hango (R) to add additional ideas that truly made the legislation tri-partisan.

The bill number is H.719 and can be read here. It was an honor to have the opportunity to present the bill, along with Representatives Sims, Small, Hango, and dozens of co-sponsors at the Governor’s weekly press conference. You can watch the press conference below.

A version of this bill will also be introduced in the Senate. Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs has asked Rep. Sims and I to testify in her committee this Friday on this initiative. 

We’re ready to get to work.

My statement at the Governor’s press conference is below.

Thank you Commissioner Farrell, 
Let me first start by thanking not only my co-lead sponsors, but also all other 32 members of the house who sponsored H.719, committing to finding solutions for Vermont's housing crisis. 
Representative Sims, Small and Hango and I all recognized the need for a holistic solution to our Housing Crisis. After countless emails, phone calls, text exchanges and zoom calls H. 719 was drafted to be introduced on the house flood later this afternoon. 
The overarching and primary objective of this legislation is to create more housing units and to reinvest in neglected neighborhoods. Plainly stated, housing and community redevelopment. This bill addresses Act 250 in a way that promotes smart growth and revitalizes our communities in a sustainable way for generations to come. 
For too long the solution to the housing crisis has been siloed. The crisis impact spans across every facet of our community, transcending political affiliations and economic divides. Regardless of income level—be it lower, middle, or tied to generational wealth—each Vermonter has felt the weight of this crisis. I am incredibly proud of the collaborative work with my colleagues, making a good bill better. While taking into consideration the needs of different communities, constituent viewpoints and stakeholders, to ensure that housing development can happen throughout Vermont, not just a minute portion of the state. 
Yet, it goes beyond housing. Through the expansion and restoration of our housing, we can foster affordability for Vermont families, provide shelter for Vermonters experiencing homelessness, entice workers to fill vital positions in our workforce, and offer necessary services to our communities. This concerted effort not only ensures housing stability and opportunities but also plays a pivotal role in reducing crime, addressing substance abuse, and breathing new life into long-neglected neighborhoods.
 H.719 is just the beginning and we have a long way to go. So, whether you are a representative, a senator, a stakeholder or a community member come grab your seat at the table - The time to act is now; housing can no longer be a goal but must be made a reality for all Vermonters.

I’ve also sponsored H.686, an act relating to measuring progress toward statewide and regional housing targets. This bill has also garnered tri-partisan support.

Protections for First Responders

This legislative session you will see that many bills will be introduced with the goal of protecting and supporting our First Responders. I am excited to have cosponsored several of these bills including co-sponsoring H.635, an act relating to employment protections for volunteer fire fighters and emergency medical personnel and tax credits for employers. This bill proposes to prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who are absent from work while performing duties as volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel. This bill also proposes to create a tax credit for employers who employ volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel. First responders are critical to our communities and I'm happy to see there are voices who want to do more to protect them.

This bill is currently in my committee, the House Committee on General & Housing. 

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