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Closing out Week 15 of the 2023 Legislative Session

04/18/2023 11:15 AM | Denis Bourbeau

The front door of the state house was opened wide at the end of last week, signaling the advent of warm weather and the quickly approaching end of the legislative session. With likely less than five weeks left in this first session of the biennium, legislators are attempting to finish work on proposals, or are tacking them back up on the wall until January of 2024.

In a week defined by process over policy, observers saw tensions rise over S.100, the housing bill, as members of the House Committee on General and Housing were informed they were being prevented from working on Act 250 sections that impact housing development. Those sections, they were told, would be handled by the House Committee on Environment and Energy. A tri-partisan effort to introduce an amendment restoring Act 250 reform measures (that were stripped out in the Senate) was crushed when the chair of the Housing Committee said he would not allow a vote on the amendment. 

Originating in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, S.100 made  significant changes to municipal zoning regulations designed to incentivize infill development in places already served by water and sewer. But it was Act 250 reforms in the bill that housing advocates had set their sights on to help solve the state’s housing crisis. By the time time the bill left the Senate, a change to raise the jurisdictional trigger from 10 to 25 units had been scrapped.

S.100 section summary

The bill passed out of the House General and Housing Committee without discussion of zoning or Act 250 sections. The Act 250 sections still currently in the bill increase the number of planned units that would trigger the need for a permit, but those provisions are temporary with a 3-year sunset, and are confined to the state’s designated areas – areas that, all told, equal .03 percent of the state’s lands.  

Housing advocates say it’s just not enough to meet housing goals, and fear that even these Act 250 sections could be stripped from the bill, leaving legislators in the unsuccessful position of making no meaningful headway on what has been identified as the most important issue to Vermonters - and by candidates during campaign season.

    Recent VTDigger article - Legislature’s housing bill advances, and hopes for   Act 250 reform wane further

The House Environment and Energy Committee approved S.5, also known as the Clean Heat Act or the Affordable Heat Act. This extremely ambitious bill seeks to create a market of credits that would incentivize greenhouse gas reducing activities such as weatherization and electrification of home heating, whilst penalizing the sale of fossil fuels. This market would be the first of its kind in the nation. The bill moves to the Appropriations Committee next.

Going up on the wall in the House Committee on Human Services is a bill that passed the Senate with momentum – S.18, a bill that would ban flavored tobacco products and e-liquids. The committee has assured supporters of the proposal that they will work on the bill next session, but has its plate full with their continued work on the child care bill and has aspirations to work on a safe-injection site proposal.

In the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, members have decided to use their deliberations on the Attorney General Office’s (AGO) proposed data privacy bill as a valuable educational exercise and will be working (when time permits) during the rest of the session and over the summer on a new comprehensive consumer data privacy proposal. Chair Mike Marcotte has stated that he’d like his committee to be ready with a new proposal, crafted with input from stakeholders and the AGO, that’s ready for introduction at the beginning of the next session.

Legislation that continues to be on the move for this session include H.127, the bill authorizing the Department of Liquor and Lottery to design and operate an online sports wagering system in the state. The Commissioner of DLL will be authorized to select a minimum of two but not more than six operators to operate a “sportsbook” through a competitive bidding process, with a  revenue share to the state not less than 20 percent of adjusted gross sports wagering revenue.

The House continues to debate S.56, the early childcare bill. How to fund this costly program remains undecided as the Ways and Means committee considers payroll taxes, sales taxes, taxes on services and taxes on software accessed remotely (cloud tax) or some combination of them. 

What to expect in Week 16 – April 17 – April 21, 2023

Note: 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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