202 Commerce StreetWilliston, VT 05495
DRM | Downs Rachlin Martin, PLLC
November 21, 2019
Strict Liability/Medical Monitoring Bill – S.37
Bill Status: Delivered to the Governor’s desk on 6/11 and he vetoed the bill. People anticipate the Legislature will attempt to override this veto when they return in January.
HBRA Legislative Activity: Without the work of members of Home Builders and Remodelers working with HBRA’s lobbying team this bill would not have protections that clearly exempt our industry from liability for medical monitoring damages due to toxic substance exposure. House Judiciary Committee members made it clear that they took our concerns into consideration when redrafting this Senate bill. Our lobbyists worked with members of the Senate to ensure their acceptance of these changes and HBRA was able to prevail through all stages of this bill’s passage in the House and Senate.
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.
Contractor Registry Bill – S.163
Bill Status: Passed the Senate and is on the House calendar for action in January.
HBRA Legislative Activity: Our lobbying team worked collaboratively with people from the Attorney General’s Office and from the Office of Professional Regulation as they participated in drafting the Contractor Registry bill and then worked together as this bill moved through the legislative process. HBRA was committed in making sure the requirements included in this Registry bill were limited and didn’t expand in scope through legislative amendments. We were very successful in this effort and, given the fact the bill didn’t pass in the last days of the session, we will be back to this work in January.
Paid Family Leave – H.107
Bill Status: House and Senate failed to come to an agreement and move this bill. It will be reconsidered in January.
HBRA Legislative Activity: HBRA board members testified regarding the problems an expansive paid family leave bill would impose on the contracting industry. Workforce shortages remain one of our biggest challenges and this bill would exacerbate that struggle. The original bill, with expansive benefits, was pared down in the last few weeks of the session. This is a top priority for the democrats so will most assuredly pass in some form next year. The challenge for the legislative majority is bringing a bill that the Governor will sign or getting enough of their members to override a veto.
· 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: This bill is in a Committee of Conference where the House and Senate each appoint three members and they negotiate a compromise. Failing that the bill dies. They did not come to an agreement by adjournment but should reconvene the committee in January.
HBRA Legislative Activity: Our lobbying team successfully worked with legislators to provide compromise language limiting the scope of this bill. Our team will pick up where they left off and continue to work with our allies to limit the burdens this bill could add to our employers.
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
Bill Status: The Governor signed this bill and it became law on July 1, 2019.
HBRA Legislative Activity: The President of HBRA provided compelling testimony to House Natural Resources as to the problems an early enactment date, limiting the sale in Vermont of many insulation products, would cause for contractors. While the committee thought his testimony was impressive, they dismissed HBRA’s concerns. Our lobbying team worked with the committee members individually to drive home the points made by Jim Bradley. In a last-minute push, we were able to get the bill returned to committee in order for them to delay the implementation date. Our team then had to work with Senators to make sure they finally agreed with this change. We were able to claim success and the effective date for selling product in Vermont has been moved to January, 2021 so we can be assured that manufacturers will be able to ramp up production to meet demand.
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.
Building Enforcement Working Groups and Weatherization - H.63
Bill Status: The Governor signed this bill and it became law in July 1, 2019.
HBRA Legislative Activity: Jim Bradley testified to the Senate Natural Resources Committee on an earlier version of the bill (S.171). HBRA testimony focused on RBES and the fact that the current law of the land is not enforced thus creating disparities in building energy efficiency. He encouraged the committee to consider enforcement of RBES as part of the work of two proposed building energy labeling groups – a residential group and a commercial group. Homebuilders and our lobbyists also worked with House and Senate members to propose an RBES enforcement group, or for RBES enforcement to be part of the charge of the building energy labelling groups. Our lobbyists will now work with the Public Service Department’s Commissioner to ensure that Homebuilders is named to the membership of both of those working groups.
Bill Description: What began as a small change to the bottle bill (H.63) grew into an expansive effort that included a long-time initiative of Sen Chris Bray’s to move forward on building energy labeling and benchmarking.
The bill channels several funding sources towards increased weatherization. It allows for the use of Efficiency VT carryforward balances to be used for moderate income (defined as 80% to 120% of area median income) weatherization efforts to the tune of $4M for 2019 and 2020. $350K additional came from the General Fund towards Efficiency VT. Additional funding may also come from VLITE dividends.
The bill orders the PUC to open a docket exploring the creation of an all‑fuels energy efficiency program with a preliminary report due in January 2020. Finally the bill authorizes the Treasurer to use up to $5M of credit facility for accelerated weatherization program - loans to nonprofit groups, not individuals – until 2021.
The legislature established a formal committee to spend two years traveling the state, hearing from stakeholders and recommending updates to Act 250. This past January the House Natural Committee took up the work of the Act 250 Commission: The Next 50 Years. Our lobbying team joined a packed room every day for the first few months of the session as interested parties anticipated a lot of action. As it turned out the issues were so vast that the committee members struggled to make headway. In the end no action was taken with regard to Act 250. Given the time spent on this topic we anticipate the committee opening this subject up again in January. Prior to the start of the session our lobbyists will be working with people from the Governor’s administration and key committee members to see if we can get some changes made that can positively impact the home building industry.