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Legislative Update March 13, 2020

03/19/2020 11:11 AM | Denis Bourbeau (Administrator)

DRM | Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC

Statehouse Shuttered Over COVID-19

The Vermont legislative week began like most others, albeit with a heightened appreciation of the need for regular handwashing in a cloistered environment that is a germ factory in the best of circumstances. By Thursday, the Statehouse was like London before the Luftwaffe bombing in 1940; everyone knew that disaster was coming, but no one wanted to leave. As knowledge of the spread of COVID-19 grew and institutions such as Middlebury College and most other Vermont colleges announced that students needed to leave campus, it seemed increasingly imprudent for lawmakers to keep the Statehouse open.
 
The inevitable announcement came on Friday morning as legislative leaders decided to recess for one week. The expectation of a one-week hiatus seems hopelessly optimistic given the virus’ inexorable spread, and at least one committee chair spoke matter-of-factly about the legislature’s return on March 24. The break may well lapse into weeks or months.
 
Lawmakers scrambled on Friday to make contingency plans. Several committee chairs said their committees would meet via telephone, with members of the public able to listen. Others looked for ways to moderate conference calls so as to allow committee chairs to call on witnesses.
 
With no precedent to guide decisions, no one quite knows what the next few weeks or months will bring. Will committees meet without the public? How will the state budget get finalized? Will committees meet by phone and reconvene to vote? When will they reconvene?
 
Of course, the greatest unknown is the future infection and death rate, which by many recent estimates could be enormous.
 
As the state faces its greatest public health threat in generations and an economy in free-fall, the legislative bills that are left behind are likely going to seem inconsequential compared to the challenges that loom ahead.

Health Department creates COVID-19 portal

The Vermont Department of Health has created a portal for information related to COVID-19 and will have updates on the status of the virus from the State, CDC and the White House.

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Senate committee modifies renewable energy bill

The Senate Natural Resources Committee took final testimony from two witnesses this morning on S.267, a renewable energy standards bill, before tentatively deciding to amend it to eliminate a provision that would have raised rates by four to ten percent every year for ten years.

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Economic incentive proposals move to Senate Finance

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Economic Development on Friday passed S.256, a bill that includes a variety of economic development provisions.

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Get all the news about Vermont Health Care legislation

We've included a few of the most important health care articles here, but DRM’s weekly comprehensive Health Care Legislative Update covers all the developments including bills, committee activities, panel discussions, taxes, budgets and more.  Read this week's Health Care Legislative Update here. Additional topics covered this week include:

  • Lawmakers consider COVID-19 measures
  • Senate advances insanity defense legislation
  • Senates passes insulin bill


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