Weekly Legislative Update: March 28, 2023
The past week was a busy one in the Vermont House of Representatives as we took up bills that have been making headlines since the start of the Legislative Session. There were contentious debates that lasted late into the evening; on Thursday, ending at 11:00 PM.
Of the bills that passed this week, some were easier to decide than others. However, in general, votes on the larger bills were decided along party lines.
H.66, Paid Family and Medical Leave, this is a bill allowing up to 12 weeks of a paid leave each year to care for a new baby, elderly parent, the worker’s own health , bereavement and several other reasons. The costs will be split between the employer and the employee. When the bill left the House Committee on General & Housing, there was a placeholder -- $20 million -- in start up costs. The Ways and Means Committee outlined the actual cost is closer to $120 million. Republicans offered many amendments to the bill, all were rejected.
H.127 Sports Wagering. This bill allows electronic sports betting .
H.165 School Food Programs and Universal School Meals. This is a program which will allow all children ages pre-K through grade 12 to get free breakfast and free lunch.
H.230 Act relating to suicide prevention. This bill was, as many of you pointed out, a disguised effort to get more control of private firearms. We both voted “no” on this bill. There was ample testimony given that questioned the constitutionality of the bill and we agree with that assessment. There is no argument that we must invest more in combating the decline of Vermonter’s mental health, but as this bill was taken up in the House, the debate was centered around guns and not suicide prevention.
H.102 The Art in State Buildings . This is a bill that starts a fund to purchase art for the statehouse. The fund starts with $50,000.
H.125 Boards and Commissions In this bill we eliminate several boards and commissions that no longer function.
H.313 Creating a study committee on mobile homes and mobile home parks. This bill will count the number of mobile home parks and mobile homes.
Last week, the University of New Hampshire released a poll covering the areas of most concern for Vermonters. Number 1 issue, no surprise, was Housing at 32%. Cost of living and taxes were tied for the 2nd and 3rd spot at 9%. Yet, despite this, The Senate has proposed a draft budget that is $400 million above Governor Scott’s recommendation. The House proposal is going to be around $350 million above.
Based on this, and quoting the Lake Champlain Chamber: “The education fund will also likely need a 3.6% increase in property taxes, and depending on how legislators choose to use surplus funds, it could be higher at 8.3%.”
After H.66 Paid Family Leave had been voted out of the General & Housing Committee, a bulk of our time has been spent on a Rental Registry -- which requires landlords to register each of their units and, of course, pay a fee to register. While the bill revolves around data collection, Republicans fear how the data will be utilized by the supermajority in the future. We know that additional expenses incurred by those landlords renting properties will be passed back to the renter. This may not be a large deal but landlords owning multiple rental units will have a much larger annual fee incurred. If Housing is the number one concern, adding more expenses to those renting their property is not the answer.
This bill has been in the works for many years and is a great example of Montpelier’s disregard of what is truly impacting Vermonters. Does this piece of legislation address taxes? Cost of living? Child care?