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LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE BLOG
End of session wrap up
Many said that Friday’s "adjournment" was the most unusual in at least 40 years. The fighting between the House and Senate was great theater but not sound legislating. The Senate refused to accept the House's joint adjournment resolution and are expecting the House to come back next Wednesday. Meanwhile the House members gave their speeches, said their goodbyes, packed up their files and left for the year. It was a sight to behold.
It took an extra week to adjourn. The legislature is scheduled for eighteen weeks, and last week was number 19. The biggest blockades to wrapping thing up were differences between the House and Senate on their marquee economic development initiatives –paid family leave for the House and minimum wage increases for the Senate. Meanwhile, other widely considered initiatives were left by the wayside –likely to be picked up again next session.
Efforts to establish a system to tax and regulate recreational marijuana ran out of time – and political will. The two bodies agreed on sustainable funding for Lake Champlain clean up. Efforts to levy a “cloud tax”, i.e. impose sales tax on software accessed via the Internet, and another proposal to increase the rooms and meals tax by 1% faced stiff opposition from stakeholder groups. Instead the revenue committees agreed on funding for clean water that did not raise new money. They diverted a percentage of rooms and meals tax to water cleanup and will back fill the General Fund with additional revenues generated somewhat unexpectedly this year.
Contractor Registry Bill – S.163 (Page 2941)
Bill Status – This bill sat on the House action calendar in the last few days and, even if had been up for a vote, time would have run out before it could be approved by the Senate. There were also rumors that the Governor wasn’t supportive and might veto the bill. Work will be done prior to next session to garner his support and the support of others in the House in the hopes that this bill can move quickly in January.
Bill Description - The major changes made in Ways and Means include:
· $50.00 instead of $75.00 for individual fees every two years.
· Trigger for a required contract was changed to $5,000.00 instead of $2,500.00. Trigger for registration stays at $2,500.00.
· OPR can begin taking registrations on December 1, 2019. The registration term will begin April 1, 2020. Pushes back the date for "unauthorized practice" (ie. the date when penalties begin for operating without being registered) by a year to April 1, 2021 which allows more time to get the word out.
· New language that provides more definition to “residential construction work.”
Strict Liability/Medical Monitoring Bill – S.37 (Page 3046)
Bill Status – The Senate concurred with the House’s changes and voted the bill on a vote of 29-11. There are enough votes to sustain a veto should the Governor decide this bill goes too far. We were successful in mitigating contractors’ risk, but manufacturers are still affected which could impact procurement of materials.
Bill Description - The bill proposes to establish a private right of action for medical monitoring damages incurred due to exposure to a toxic substance. It would affect companies with 10 or more employees. There is also language added by the Governor’s administration that narrows the scope of the strict liability section that was passed by the Senate.
Paid Family Leave – H.107
Bill Status – This bill failed to pass this year as it fell victim to the epic conflict between the House and Senate. It will no doubt be taken up early next session.
Bill Description - As the bill stands now (there will be changes made prior to passage):
· 0.2% payroll tax split evenly employer / employee
· 12 weeks for a new child
· 6 weeks to care for a family member
Salary Example: $1000 / week salary
· Portion of salary at or below 55% of VT avg weekly salary = $477.38
· Portion of salary above 55% of VT avg weekly salary = $258.27
· Total benefit = $735.65
Note in timing / rollout:
· if the Commissioner is able to identify an insurance carrier that can provide the required benefits in a more cost-effective manner than would be possible if benefits were provided by the State, the Commissioner shall enter into a contract with that insurance carrier to administer the Program and provide the benefits required by this act beginning in October of 2020; and
· if the Commissioner is unable to identify a suitable insurance carrier, the Program shall be administered by the Department of Labor in coordination with the Departments of Financial Regulation and of Taxes, and benefits shall become available beginning in July of 2021.
Employee Misclassification – S.108
Bill Status – S.108 was still in a Committee of Conference when the House adjourned on Friday. At their last meeting it was clear that the Senate didn’t like the House changes that we had supported. This committee will reconvene in January.
Bill Description - This bill would permit the Attorney General to enforce complaints of employee misclassification under the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance laws. The Department of Labor currently does this work, and this would allow a dual process which is a concern for employers. The House Commerce Committee worked to address concerns raised by Home Builders and Remodelers Association along with other associations. They made changes to the language clarifying that the Department of Labor would only refer cases to the Attorney General’s Office in specific cases of repeat or large number of misclassifiers.
Hydrofluorocarbon Ban – S.30 (Page 2, 4(A) and (B))
Bill Status – S.30 passed the Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. We were able to keep the language the House put in for us which pushed back the effective date for selling product in VT to 1/21. There was an effort by some special interest groups to encourage Senate Natural Resources to ignore our request but we prevailed with the help of AGC.
Bill Description - This bill originally proposed to regulate the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and includes a section that proposes to ban rigid polyurethane applications and spray foam, flexible polyurethane, integral skin polyurethane, flexible polyurethane foam, polystyrene extruded sheet, polyolefin, phenolic insulation board and bunstock.
Association Health Plans – H.524
Bill Status - Language passed on Wednesday that is expected to be signed by Governor, that will enable these plans to continue for existing members as long as federal law allows.
Bill Description - Relevant Section of larger bill:
Sec. 7. 8 V.S.A. § 4079a is amended to read:
§ 4079a. ASSOCIATION HEALTH PLANS * * *
(d)(1) An association health plan that provided coverage for the 2019 plan year may be renewed for coverage of existing association employer members for subsequent plan years, to the extent permitted under federal law. An association health plan that provided coverage for the 2019 plan year shall not enroll any new employer members for coverage after the 2019 plan year; provided, however, that new employees of existing association employer members may enroll in the plan in a subsequent plan year pursuant to an offer of coverage from their employer.
(2) No new association health plans shall be offered or issued for coverage in this State for plan years 2020 and after.
Note: All of the details regarding these bills are subject to change. Nothing is final until the legislature adjourns, which should be next week.
Bill Status – This bill just passed out of Ways and Means with their proposed amendment on a vote of 6-5 and should be on the House floor for a vote early next week. Given that the legislative session is most likely down to a couple more days it doesn’t look like this bill will pass this year. If there are any snags in other bills, extending adjournment by a few extra days, we could still get this over the finish line. If not, it will be up for action when the next session convenes in January.
· New language that provides more definition to “residential construction work.”.
Bill Status - The bill is on the Senate Calendar and we will be monitoring this closely. The Senate could vote to concur with the changes the House made, or they could call for a Committee of Conference. Calling for this committee would take more time so again, facing the last week of the session, it would appear that their wisest move would be to concur with the House.
The House Judiciary Committee took our concerns seriously and added language to this bill that would mitigate contractor liability.
Bill Status – The House and Senate are working behind the scenes to try to come to consensus. Influential Senate leaders voted are opposed to this bill. Jane Kitchel (Democrat- Caledonia, Chair of Senate Appropriations) has publicly stated that she believes we need to make sure there is enough money for needed existing programs and would rather put any extra resources into minimum wage increases. There are also enough votes against this new program to successfully sustain the Governor’s veto should he take that step.
Bill Status – S.108 is in a Committee of Conference and the House and Senate conferees will be meeting on Tuesday.
Bill Status – Jim Bradley and Byron Gokey testified as to the positive attributes of the replacement products but the problem in the timeframe for banning sale of HFC insulation products (1/1/20). Through a number of machinations, we were able to get the date pushed back to 1/1/21. We garnered support from the advocates pushing for the original dates and feel that, should there be a problem in procuring the needed material next year we can revisit this effective date again.
Note: All of the details regarding these bills are subject to change. Nothing is final until the bang of the gavel at adjournment, which should be within the next 10 days – or so...
Contractor Registry Bill - S.163
This bill requires contractors to register with the Office of Professional Regulation prior to contracting with a homeowner to perform construction, remodeling, or home improvement work on a dwelling used primarily for residential purposes, in exchange for consideration of more than $2,500.00, including labor and materials.
Requirements to Register:
Registration Cost (every two years):
Bill Status –S.163 passed the Senate and is in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee. It has two more stops, Ways and Means and Appropriations, and then requires approval by the full House before it moves back to the Senate to review the changes made by House Committees. The legislative session is drawing to a close so passage this year is uncertain.
Strict Liability/Medical Monitoring Bill – S.37
This bill, as passed the Senate, proposes to hold any person who releases a toxic substance strictly, jointly, and severally liable for any harm resulting from the release. The bill also proposes to establish a private right of action for medical monitoring damages incurred due to exposure to a toxic substance. It would affect companies with 10 or more employees.
Bill Status – S.37 was just voted out of House Judiciary on Friday. They removed the strict liability section that was of great concern but the Governor’s Administration proposed a new amendment pertaining to strict liability that would affect product manufacturers which was accepted. The committee considered concerns raised by Home Builders and added protective language for us. Large facilities would be affected in this new bill so the committee included a further definition of “Large Facility” where an activity within a Standard Industrial Classification code of 10 through 14, 20 through 39, 40 through 42, 44 through 46, or 49 is conducted or was conducted. This bill still has to go back to the Senate so there is no assurance this new definition will go into law. There is a lot more work to be done.
As the bill stands now (there will be changes made prior to passage):
Bill Status – H.107 will most assuredly be headed for a conference committee between the House (passed their version with more liberal benefits and a 0.55% payroll tax) and this Senate version.
This bill would permit the Attorney General to enforce complaints of employee misclassification under the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance laws. The Department of Labor currently does this work, and this would allow a dual process which is a concern for employers.
Bill Status – S.108 passed the Senate and has also been approved by House Commerce. The Commerce Committee worked to address concerns raised by Home Builders and Remodelers Association along with other associations. They made changes to the language clarifying that the Department of Labor would only refer cases to the Attorney General’s Office in specific cases of repeat misclassifiers. This bill still needs to go back to the Senate and may have to go to a conference committee.
Residential Building Energy Labeling Working Group – H.63
In a last-minute move, language was added to an unrelated bill which would establish a Residential Building Energy Labeling Working Group. This group would meet and determine the best way to establish a statewide voluntary program for rating and labeling the energy performance of buildings to make energy use and costs visible for buyers, sellers, owners, lenders, appraisers, and real estate professionals.
Bill Status – H.63 has to be voted on by the entire Senate early next week, then will go to a House committee. We will try to get language in there for RBES enforcement to be added and will work to get Home Builders and Remodelers Association representation appointed to this group.
Hydrofluorocarbon Ban – S.30
This bill originally proposed to regulate the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). This bill now includes a section that proposes to ban rigid polyurethane applications and spray foam, flexible polyurethane, integral skin polyurethane, flexible polyurethane foam, polystyrene extruded sheet, polyolefin, phenolic insulation board and bunstock.
The Legislature is in the home stretch. It is anticipated that the legislative session should be ending around May 18th and Senate Committees are beginning to shut down as they focus on conference committees and finishing up their work for the year. There are still bills in play that affect Home Builders and we are following these closely as things can move quickly during these last few weeks.
Contractor Registry Bill
S.163 – The House General and Military Affairs Committee has been taking a lot of testimony on this bill. Jim Bradley testified in support on Thursday morning. The committee is still considering a few changes to the Senate version, particularly around the dollar level that would determine when a contractor needs to register. Most of the testimony is supportive of the contractor registry and it is anticipated the bill should pass out of committee later next week..
The Toxins Bill – aka – Strict Liability/Medical Monitoring Bill
The committee stripped strict liability from the bill and it now focuses on medical monitoring. Updated language can be found here S.37. This language is still a concern as it leaves contractors vulnerable to lawsuits and increased insurance costs. We are still trying to get an exemption for construction materials but haven’t received a lot of support in the committee. A number of insurance industry people have testified with their concerns to the committee but haven’t been able to sway the members either. We’ll continue our work next week with key legislators.
Paid Family Leave
The Senate Economic Development Committee is continuing to take testimony on this bill. The latest version can be found here S.107. The committee is trying to pare down the benefits to lower the payroll tax to a 0.2%, split between the employee and employer. More details will be hammered out next week.
The Senate Economic Development Committee is continuing to take testimony on this bill. The latest version can be found here H.107. The committee is trying to pare down the benefits to lower the payroll tax to 0.2% (down from the House version which is 0.55%) split between the employee and employer. More details will be hammered out next week.
Testimony continued last week regarding S.108 which proposes a new process for enabling the AG’s office to investigate cases of alleged employee misclassification. The amended language can be found here. The committee received strong testimony from Diane Bothfeld, Director of Administrative Services, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. She plainly laid out for the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development how misclassification claims work, defending the current process for the Department of Labor. When asked, “shouldn’t the AG’s office have a role in investigating and prosecuting claims,” her answer was, “absolutely not”. We hope the committee has taken this week’s testimony seriously and realizes there isn’t a need for additional oversight. We’ll be meeting with legislative committee members next week to get their latest feedback.
In other news:
State Still Making Clean Water a Priority
Water Testing for PFAS
S.163 –House General and Military Affairs will take up the Contractor Registry sections of S.163 on Wednesday and Thursday.
Wednesday the committee will hear from:
Chris Curtis, Attorney General’s office
Gabe Gilman and Lauren Hibbert, Office of Professional Regulation
Matt Musgrave, Associated General Contractors
Dennis Wygmans, Addison County State’s Attorney
On Thursday morning:
Jim Bradley, HBRA
Ward Smyth, Turtle Creek Builders
Sandra Vitzthum, Architect
Brad Cook, Building Performance Services.
Dan Clar of Clar Construction has also been invited but not confirmed.
S.37 – We coordinated a meeting with Paul Zabriskie, Program Director for the Weatherization Program at Capstone and his associate, Cory Boisvert along with Trey Martin, former Secretary of ANR to discuss contractor concerns as they relate to .37. Paul would be the best person to bring this concern before the House Judiciary Committee. He agreed to talk with committee members after our meeting. We also met with key committee members about language that would address our main areas of concern regarding the release of toxins by a “large facility”. We want to ensure that a “large facility” is actually the manufacturer, not the contractor who uses the product.
Association Health Plans
The Chamber of Commerce has worked diligently by bringing people in to testify in Senate Health and Welfare supporting these plans and highlighting the benefits for employees. The committee is interested in allowing AHPs now in place to continue. If the majority in this committee votes to support the existing plans there will most assuredly be a conference committee where the House and Senate members will have to come to a compromise. There is also a current federal court case which has challenged the viability of Association Health Plans. Here is a U.S. Department of Labor Q&A regarding this court ruling.
H.107 The Senate Economic Development Committee is continuing to take testimony on this bill. Business groups are asking the members to consider a payroll tax opt out for employees who don’t want to avail themselves of this benefit. The committee’s concern is that this will raise the cost of the program for those who want the coverage. The counter point to this; people will be forced to pay into a program that they won’t use which doesn’t seem appropriate. The deliberations will continue next week.
S.108 – Supporters of this bill continue to push for the Attorney General’s office to share the responsibility for investigating complaints of employee misclassification with the Department of Labor (where these cases are currently reviewed). Solid testimony was presented to House Commerce from the Department of Labor highlighting the work they do with regard to complaints made. They strongly made their case that having the Attorney General’s office share the lead is unlike any other arrangements made with other state departments. If there was a difference of opinion between the two there is no way it could be resolved. We followed up with the most ardent committee members who support the bill and believe they are coming to understand the challenges here and are open to some changes that will be supported by HBRA.
Minimum wage voted out of committee:
Act 250 Legislation Stalled:
S.163 – This coming week House General and Military Affairs will take up portions of S.163 that don’t pertain to the Contractor Registry. We anticipate the committee will consider this section the week after next. We met with Chris Curtis from the Attorney General’s office to check in. They would like a builder to consider submitting an Op-ed regarding why there is a need for this registry.
The Toxins Bill
S.37 – The committee was prepared to put aside the strict liability language and focus on medical monitoring. Medical monitoring is still a concern, but it was not as far reaching. On Friday we learned that the Governor’s Administration wants to add their own strict liability language. We met with the Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources to discuss the Administration’s perspective. He has met with others who share the Home Builders’ concerns and we will regroup this week. We continue talking with relevant legislators and allied groups regarding unintended consequences of S.37. This work will continue next week. We anticipate needing someone in to testify to this bill the week of 4/29.
Workforce Development Bill
We have prepared draft language to add a comprehensive workgroup for workforce training in the construction trades. This draft has been shared with HBRA board and when it is finalized, we will attempt to find a legislative sponsor and have this added to a bill. There are only about 18 more legislative workdays left so this may not be possible this year. It will be good to have it prepared and added to a bill that will be ready to go when the legislature convenes in January.
The committee regrouped and tried to find some aspect of this bill where they could find common agreement in order to gain traction to move forward. That attempt failed and it is all but certain, no bill will be coming from House Natural Resources on Act 250 reform this year.
H.107 The Senate Economic Development Committee is continuing to take testimony on this bill. There continues to be enough Democrats opposed to this bill to support a veto should the Governor decide to make that move. Here is a good article from Rep. Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington) explaining her concerns.
Residential Building Energy Standards
Rep. Scott Campbell has finalized his draft for a working group and is now passing that around to fellow legislators and stakeholders to get support for placing this into a bill that will be passed this year.
S.108 – We met with the Legislative Policy Director for the Department of Labor (DOL) to confirm all that we were told regarding this bill. Right now, the DOL follows up on complaints of misclassification. If there are egregious employers who have repeatedly defied the law, DOL passes the investigation on to the Attorney General. The AG received two cases last year and no one anticipates this will dramatically increase but some felt the referral work done now needs to be codified, hence the consideration of this bill. There is also discussion about requiring a Memorandum of Understand between DOL, the Attorney General and also the Department of Financial Regulation to better parse out the chain of follow-up involved. It was confirmed that there has been no discussion about changing the independent contractor definition.
S.163 – This bill is now in the House General Housing and Military Affairs Committee. We spoke with the Chair of the committee and they may be taking it up for hearings this week but they haven’t posted a schedule yet. We will have Jim Bradley in to speak to the bill when it is up for action.
S.37 - This strict liability and medical monitoring bill passed the Senate and is now in the House Judiciary Committee. The key concern for members of HBRA are for those businesses with 10 or more employees. In its current form, S.37 may put these businesses at risk for liability for personal injury and medical monitoring costs due to the release of chemicals, even if the work was performed following federal and state guidelines. Manufacturers are at greater risk and they have testified stating their concerns. We have met with a number of people representing the weatherization groups to alert them as the products they use would also be included in S.37.
We spoke to key committee members regarding HBRA’s concerns. At this point it looks like the committee is ready to split the bill, putting the strict liability sections aside and focusing their work on medical monitoring. With this change, the bill will only impact those who were negligent in the use of a chemical. We will continue to monitor the committee’s work as we still have serious concerns.
This Summary outlines the areas in this bill that are of interest to HBRA as there are proposed increases in funding and training for workforce development. Jon Guiffre, after testifying to Senate Economic Development, has drafted some input for a Construction/Trades Workforce Training working group that can be added to H.533. His key issues for this group would include:
Here is a good Seven Days article that highlights the challenges in the committee of jurisdiction working on Act 250.
H.107 The Senate Economic Development Committee is reviewing this bill now and everyone is aware that the Governor continues to have enough votes to prevail should he decide to veto H.107. The .55% payroll tax with no opt-out for employees who aren’t eligible or who don’t want the benefit are key areas of objection for many legislators.
Jim Bradley met with Rep. Scott Campbell on Friday to put together the first draft of a working group proposal to consider the best way to enforce RBES. While it is very late in the session to try to get this done we felt it is necessary to begin this work given the conversations in many committees. There is a lot of time being taken on weatherization considerations this year and many proposals include increasing residential building requirements and labeling. This work group is a responsible way to gather this energy into a place where ideas can be vetted and effective recommendations can be made.
S.108 – This bill focuses on who will oversee review and enforcement of employee misclassification, Department of Labor, Department of Financial Regulation or the Attorney General’s Office. There is a lot of discussion about who is doing what right now and this will continue next week. There has been no discussion about changing the independent contractor definition.
S.163 – Passed the Senate on a close vote. There was one change made and as the bill left the Senate, registration will be required if a job entails more than $2,000 in labor and materials. This bill now moves on to the House. It missed the “crossover” deadline to be considered in the relevant House committees so it isn’t certain it will pass this year.
S.37 - This strict liability and medical monitoring bill passed the Senate and is now in House Judiciary. This bill will be the focus of work for the upcoming week. We will be working closely with House Judiciary members before this bill moves on to the House Commerce for further consideration.
This Summary outlines the areas in this bill that are of interest to HBRA as there are proposed increases in funding and training for workforce development. On Friday, Jon Guiffre testified on behalf of HBRA and was well-received in the Senate Economic Development committee. Chair Michael Sirotkin announced that his presentation was compelling. The committee wants HBRA to bring forth language that would be included in H.533 for a workgroup that would meet post-session to outline a proposal for legislation that would set up a long-term training effort for needed trade skills.
Updated Act 250 Draft
Little activity this week in House Natural as the committee failed to carve out the appeals section of the bill and send that on to House Judiciary as expected. The committee bill proposes to revert back to a board model for appeals as opposed to the current Superior Court model. The committee did make some progress on the discussion of eliminating the current Act 250 exemption for slate quarries, almost all of which are in Rutland County. The Natural Resources Board will establish a working group comprised of slate quarry owners, residential neighbors and local government to address any Act 250 concerns and bring proposals back to the committee on how the industry will come into compliance.
H.107 passed the House on a vote of 92-52. This gives the Governor the margin he needs to support a veto, should he decide to take that step. Governor Scott has been advocating for a voluntary Paid Family Leave initiative in collaboration with New Hampshire. In pushback to the House Paid Family Leave Bill (H.107) we have joined like-minded groups who have expressed concern for the payroll tax as well as the challenge to find staff to cover the work of employees who would take unexpected extended family leave. This bill will now move to the Senate. Details regarding the status of this bill can be found in this article.
We are building support to have an RBES enforcement working group put into a bill so HBRA can help guide constructive work in enforcing current requirements before creating new burdens on the building industry.
Association Health Plans (AHP)
H.524 Hasn’t been considered yet in the Senate. On March 28th a court rulingchallenging the future viability of AHP’s was issued in DC. This may weaken our efforts to defend these plans in Vermont but we are working with others to see how this decision affects our active AHPs.
S.108 - While the changes proposed here may result in more complaints being acted upon against employers who are inappropriately misclassifying employees, there is nothing in this bill that opens the door to changing the definition of independent contractor.
S.163 – Will be up for a vote on the Senate Floor on Tuesday. A last-minute improvement was made on Friday. Registration will now be required if a job entails more than $1,000 in labor costs, rather than a combined $1,000 for materials and labor.
S.37 - This strict liability and medical monitoring bill passed the Senate and is now in House Judiciary. We are meeting with a number of weatherization advocates to alert them about the risks this bill would place on their ability to weatherize homes. We have also met with members of House Judiciary and House Commerce to alert them of our concerns. We are preparing to have some HBRA members testify regarding the potential unintended consequences of this bill.
H.533 will soon be considered in Senate Economic Development. This Summary outlines the areas in this bill that are of interest to HBRA as there are proposed increases in funding and training for workforce development. We will schedule members to testify in support of this work.
Current draft Act 250 committee bill
Due to lengthy House floor debates, very little of the schedule in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife was taken up this week. They did manage to continue discussion on permit appeals. Committee Chair Amy Sheldon - (D) Middlebury, stated her desire to carve out the appeals sections and send to House Judiciary as a stand-alone bill. Currently, appeals to district commission decisions are heard in Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division. Citing the cost(s) of hiring experts and attorneys’ fees, the committee bill proposes to create a new board model to hear appeals. VERB - Vermont Environmental Review Board - will mimic the original 1974 model of appeals. There is concern about non-professionals being responsible for making complicated legal decisions. The draft bill includes language for a 5-member board of paid professionals to address this concern.
The committee also managed some markup of the bill on Friday, and there is a change in language that caught our attention - P.42, in the section on Capability and Development Plan - addition highlighted;
“(F) Energy conservation and efficiency. A permit will be granted when it has been demonstrated by the applicant that, in addition to all other applicable criteria, the planning and design of the subdivision or development reflect the principles of energy conservation and energy efficiency, including reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of energy, and incorporate the best available technology for efficient use or recovery of energy. An applicant seeking an affirmative finding under this criterion shall provide evidence, by certification, established through inspection, that the subdivision or development complies with the applicable building energy standards and stretch codes under 30 V.S.A. § 51 or 53. The Board shall adopt rules establishing an inspection process.”
We will clarify the inclusion of ‘inspection process’ language.
The committee also heard testimony from SP Land Co. in Killington on the effects of lowering jurisdiction from 2500ft. to 2000ft. SP has been planning for decades and has permits to build a resort village at Killington, almost all of which is cited between 2000ft and 2500ft. SP President, Steve Selbo, implored the committee to not make any changes to the elevation jurisdiction.
House Natural committee will begin next week with testimony on Undue Adverse Effect vs. Avoid / Minimize / Mitigate Standard, and appeals.
H.107is still in House Appropriations while the committee considers the cost to run this mandatory program. The payroll tax remains at .55% and the employer would decide how that would be split between the employee and employer.
This bill will move on to the Senate and we will make sure HBRA testifies to the challenge of finding temporary skilled workers to replace those who take this leave.
Jim Bradley testified on Friday in House Energy and Technology and then in Senate Natural Resources. He shared the RBES Compliance Letter and spoke to the need for a working group that determines the best way to effectively implement RBES before the legislature looks to increase additional unenforceable well intentioned requirements on the building industry.
Jim was also able to highlight how the cost of housing has increased due to increased costs associated with permitting. This information was well received in House Energy. HBRA is establishing our Association as a professional, experienced resource that wants to be a responsible partner in ensuring Vermont’s homes are being built to the highest building and energy efficient standards. This puts us in a strong position as new bills are introduced.
Two of those bills, H.432and H.534will be reviewed in House Energy in the coming weeks. H.534 should receive a lot of attention and we will work with the bill’s sponsors to ensure their intentions align with HBRA’s priorities.
S.171 continues to be considered in Senate Natural Resources. This bill states concern for the fact that Vermont is running behind in its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. S.171 seeks increased funding for home weatherization and includes a provision for a workgroup to consider the best way to create building energy labeling. The details for this workgroup’s charge begin on page 5 of S.171. This is a very specific detailed outline so please make sure you review it carefully and share your feedback.
H.524passed the House. Associations put out action alerts requesting their members contact their legislators asking them to save their AHPs. The Democratic majority fought hard to keep their members together when an amendment was offered to retain these plans. This amendment failed on a vote of 87-50.
This bill is now in Senate Health and Welfare and we will continue to work to preserve members’ access to these plans.
S.108 - proposes to permit the Attorney General to enforce complaints of employee misclassification under the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance laws. This bill will be taken up in House Commerce on Wednesday afternoon. We met with the House Commerce chair, Rep. Mike Marcotte, who explained that in the past the Department of Labor (DOL) alone addressed complaints. This bill proposes to share this work between DOL and the Attorney General’s office. Rep. Marcotte said he is aware of HBRA’s past work with regard to the independent contractor classification issue and said he didn’t believe this bill challenged the work that was done but he is open to hearing concerns HBRA may have.
Other Bills of Interest
Budget and Revenue Bills Pass the House
The House passed, in near unanimity, H.542, the $6.1 billion appropriations bill. Read more about key measures in this Budget Highlights document. This year’s budget bill increases the state’s reserve fund and sets aside $215 million in the reserve fund for next year. The budget committee estimates this would be enough to help the state weather a recession.
Notable budget provisions:
The House also gave final approval to the tax bill, H.541, Details of the revenue bill can be accessed in this H.541 Sec. by Sec. document.
Provisions in the miscellaneous tax bill, include reducing the percentage of the capital gains exclusion from 40% of certain assets to either 30%, or a total gain amount of $450,000, whichever is less; increases the estate tax exclusion from $2,750,000 to $5,000,000; and makes changes to the room tax so that “booking agents” is included in the definition of “operator” and “rent” the result being that online travel companies and short term rental platforms have to collect the rooms tax.
Weatherization and the Fuel Tax
House members debated a two-cent fuel tax increase more than any other measure this week. It is estimated that this tax would generate an additional $4.25 million in FY2020. The bill, H.439, that contains the language for that increase allocates all of the additional revenue to the Home Weatherization Assistance Fund. Karen Lafayette, of the Low Income Advocacy Council testified about the Weatherization Assistance Programs (WAP). They estimate that the two-cent fuel tax would cost the average homeowner who heats with oil about $15 per year.
Throughout the Statehouse, different committees are examining the subject of home weatherization and the most effective ways to spend that additional fuel tax money. In part, these conversations were spurred by a report commissioned by the legislature from the Regulatory Assistance Project last year about Non-pricing carbon reduction strategies. The report says that Vermont has an outsized proportion of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the transportation and residential heating sectors compared to the rest of the country. Not altogether surprising in a rural state with very long, cold winters. And those two sectors are relatively inelastic – that is – people will continue to spend money in those areas - on heating their houses and on driving because they are necessities. One of the key findings of the report is that weatherization of both low-income and non-low‑income homes is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Committees are considering everything from workforce development for weatherization jobs, to the organizational capacity necessary for absorbing more money into various programs, and the concept of “weatherization for all”.
Single Use Plastic Bag Ban
S.113, an act relating to the prohibition of plastic carryout bags, expanded polystyrene, and single-use plastic straws
The Senate gave preliminary approval on Friday to S.113 a bill that would prohibit stores and restaurants from providing single-use plastic bags to customers and require them to charge 10 cents or more for single-use paper bags. Retailers would be banned from providing Styrofoam containers such as coffee cups, and other takeout containers. Certain foam products, like egg cartons and packaging for raw meat and seafood, would still be allowed.
Under the proposal restaurants could only provide plastic straws to customers upon request. The bag ban and other changes would go into effect in July of next year. You can read more about the bag ban bill here.
H.513 An act relating to broadband deployment throughout Vermont.
H.513 establishes measures designed to support broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas in Vermont and it passed the House this week. It allocates $1.54 million to include support a loan reserve at VEDA to administer the Broadband Expansion Loan Program, grants through the Broadband Innovation Grant Program for feasibility studies in underserved areas, Connectivity Initiative grants, and Think Vermont Initiative technical assistance to municipalities planning broadband projects.
Updated Draft of Act 250 Bill
House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife continues to lumber along in their testimony of their Act 250 Bill. This week the committee spent a lot of time on changes to the regulation of slate quarries. There was also testimony on the racial equity aspects of Act 250 that will continue next week. It is clear to most that this bill won’t be out for a vote this year.
H.107was voted out of House Ways and Means late Friday afternoon on a vote of 7-4 and will move to the House Floor next week.
This articledoes a good job at explaining the many changes that were made in the last two days. Of particular note, the payroll tax has been decreased from a proposed .93% to .55% and the employer would decide how that cost would be split between the employee and employer. This bill will move on to Senate Health & Welfare and we will make sure HBRA testifies to the challenge of finding temporary skilled workers to replace those who take this leave.
HBRA was on a call on Friday with the group of associations who support increased efforts to ensure RBES standards are being properly implemented. This is the group who signed on to an RBES Compliance Letter that Jim Bradley delivered to House Natural Resources when he testified to that committee. There are a number of bills being considered that call for expanding efficiency requirements on new and existing home structures. It was decided on this call that we would focus efforts on getting a work group established in legislation that would call for recommendations on enforcement of RBES. The intention would be that the recommendations that would be created after adjournment would then be drafted by key legislators to be passed into law next session.
Jim Bradley will be testifying in House Energy and Technology and Senate Natuarl Resources about the need for oversight of RBES before expanding more requirements on home builders next week.
S.171 is a new bill in Senate Natural Resources that proposed to address climate change by increasing weatherization and by establishing a statewide system for rating and labelling the energy performance of buildings.
Jim Bradley will testifying in this committee about the need for the aforementioned workgroup and the fact that we have standards in place that are not enforced at this point.
There is language in H.524that will effectively eliminate AHPs. Currently about 5,000 employees in VT will be affected and will have to go back to the health exchange to purchase their insurance. The committees took a lot of testimony in support of association plans but failed to convince the House of the benefit to these plans. This bill will move on to the Senate next week.
H.533 is now in House Appropriations. This bill will move on to the Senate and there will be opportunities for HBRA members to testify to the need for this training in our industry.
S.37 - This strict liability and medical monitory bill passed the Senate and is now in House Judiciary
If you have people who would like to testify please let us know.
S.163 – Was voted out of Senate Finance and will be on the Senate floor for a vote of the entire Senate next Wednesday and Thursday and then move on to the House. We will continue to monitor this bill to ensure this language remains as HBRA has agreed to.
The Tax Bill – aka:
The House Revenue Bill
This bill will be on the House floor for a vote next week. An easy to read chart with specific details can be found here. This bill proposes to reduce the capital gains exclusion, increase the estate tax exclusion, increase funding for the first-time homebuyers program and downtown and village center tax credit, clarify who pays the property transfer tax, and makes changes to the land gains and fuel tax.
S.108 - proposes to permit the Attorney General to enforce complaints of employee misclassification under the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance laws.
This has passed the Senate and is now in House Commerce and Economic Development.