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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.