PO Box 490, St. Albans Bay, VT 05481
Closing out Week 8 of the 2023 Legislative Session
With only two weeks left until crossover and town meeting break sandwiched in between, many committees spent last week working on bills that they are hoping to get across the finish line this session.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee took up the omnibus housing bill.
The bill takes square aim at duplicative and onerous regulations that slow development in areas that already have water and sewer infrastructure. The bill is expected to have a rough ride in Natural Resources as the committee will also pay particular attention to several changes to Act 250 - including the 10/5/5 rule. A section by section summary of the entire bill can be found here. A summary of the Act 250 changes can be found here.
Residential Building Energy Standards
The Public Service Department is in the process of finalizing its recommendations to meet the states statutorily required updates to RBES codes. Several VBRA members have been very engaged in the process since last summer. Of paramount concern to Vermont's building community is the total absence of statewide enforcement of RBES. VBRA is advocating for postponement of the updated codes until a plan for outreach, training, inspection and enforcement is in place to unsure compliance.
Rep. Scott Campbell, D-St. Johnsbury has introduced H.332 - The bill proposes to increase compliance with RBES and CBES by establishing a study committee to recommend the designation of a State agency as the authority having jurisdiction to recommend other compliance mechanisms such as incentives and enforcement. Recent estimates are that only 50% of Vermont homes are built to RBES code. This bill is a good first step in improving the states housing stock and leveling the playing field for the states responsible builders.
Also on the RBES front, Richard Faesy, Energy Futures Group, is leading an effort to apply for a U.S. Department of Energy funding opportunity that has the potential to bring >$4 million to Vermont over the next three years. The grant money could help develop an energy code administration system and support our construction industry with training and technical assistance. The DOE has accepted a concept paper on the project and has "encouraged" the submittal of a full application, due March 27th.
Early Child Care Bill
Two committees continued work on the Child Care bill – the Senate Committee on Education working on the pre-kindergarten provisions and the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare focusing on the child care provisions. During testimony to the Health and Welfare committee, administration officials shared concerns stakeholders have expressed about moving away from a mixed delivery system, but said that the governor would support expanding weekly pre-k assistance from ten to thirty hours.
The expansive Paid Family and Medical Leave bill was taken up by the House Committee on Ways and Means after being passed the previous week by the House Committee on General and Housing. The committee heard from the Department of Taxes that administering a new payroll tax to support the program would require an additional fifteen full-time employees and $2–3 million in IT implementation funding. The total estimate for setting up the program would be $100 million.
Climate Change Initiatives
Last year’s “Clean Heat Standard” has been reintroduced as the Affordable Heat Act. The bill - paired with other incentives - would let businesses, fuel dealers, and others earn so-called clean heat credits for helping customers weatherize their homes or switch to eco-friendly heating sources like cold air heat pumps. It would then essentially increase prices for fuel dealers and their customers over time if they continue to heat with fossil fuels including propane, kerosene, and heating oil. The Secretary of Natural Resources projected the program resulting in about 70 cents per gallon of heating fuel. Many observers believe that estimate might be off by a factor of two.
In addition to their policy work, the House committees discussed FY2024 budget priorities ahead of the March 1 deadline to submit their recommendation letters to the Appropriations committee.
What to expect in Week 9 – February 27 – March 3, 2023
Note: The Legislative Committee Agendas are updated frequently throughout each day. The latest committee schedule can be found on this link. A list of weekly hearings for all committees can be found here.
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