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Phone: 802.876.6200



  • 04/14/2023 3:46 PM | Denis Bourbeau

    Week 15 of the 2023 Legislative Session

    As we headed into week 15 of the legislative session, the House Ways and Means committee was continuing its work on determining alternative funding mechanisms for the Senate passed child care proposal. The Senate has proposed eliminating last year’s child tax credit to help fund their expansion of child care subsidies and the implementation of a new parental leave program. Without acknowledging this proposed elimination of the tax, but seemingly rejecting it, the House Ways and Means committee reviewed a proposal that would keep the tax credit in place and add advanced quarterly pre-payments of 50 percent of the tax.

    As a substitute to the child tax credit repeal, Ways and Means Chair Emily Kornheiser asked her committee to “pivot” to looking at taxation on services. One possibility that the committee considered is an amendment to S.93 that would remove the current sales tax exemption for all types of software accessed on the cloud, aka a Cloud Tax: Software as a Service (Saas), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Patrick Titterton, Joint Fiscal Office, testified that removal of the exemption would raise an estimated $18.4 million for the Education Fund, about half of what the child tax credit repeal would raise.

    The committee is spending time to further review child care financing options, including consumption taxes.

    The House General and Housing Committee took up the S.100, the housing bill as it passed out of the Senate. The committee has been told by Democratic leadership that they are to focus on housing-specific programs and will not be reviewing any provisions related to municipal zoning and Act 250.  Any review of changes to state and municipal bylaws will be done in the House Energy and Environment Committee, a committee not known for being friendly to addressing Act 250 barriers. 

    S.100, the HOME Act, as it passed the Senate can be found here, a section summary can be found here

    The House Committee on General and Housing heard some initial testimony on and discussed H.132, a bill creating a “homeless bill of rights.” The bill adds “perceived housing status” to the list of immutable characteristics protected by law and sets forth that no law or ordinance should “penalize the individual engaging in harmless activities that are associated with homelessness.”  Concerns in the past have centered on that the legislation making it more difficult to handle poor behavior in Vermont’s downtown areas, especially when that behavior might be attributed to a “perceived” status. It's anticipated that this legislation will be added to the HOME Act.


    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
  • 03/30/2023 2:42 PM | Denis Bourbeau

    Closing out Week 12 of the 2023 Legislative Session

    Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance spent two afternoons working on S.56, the childcare bill, that was sent to them by the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare. After months of anticipation, the committee finally proposed a funding mechanism for the expansion of the Child Care Financial Assistance Program and a new parental leave program. The committee amended the bill by:

    • adding a 0.42% payroll tax,
    • repealing the current child care tax credit and repurposing $32 million to the childcare subsidy, and 
    • added $50 million from the Governor’s budget for early childcare.

    The payroll tax would be split 75% on the employer and 25% on the employee, and would increase in the second year to an estimated 1%. FY24 cost estimates are $90 million for the program, growing to $190 million in FY25. The House is considering alternative taxes including a corporate tax and consumption taxes, leaving the bill’s funding sources still in flux.

    The childcare bill also contains an amendment that establishes a new parental leave program, intended to be an alternative and compromise to the paid family and medical leave bill favored by the House. The program would offer 12 weeks of paid leave, up to $600 a week, for one parent. It would cost $2 million to implement and administer, and $5.6 million a year in benefits - far less expensive than the House bill. 

    As mentioned above, the House passed its version of a paid family and medical leave bill, H.66, which has remained largely unchanged since it was first introduced with its 103 sponsors. The bill seeks to create the most generous paid family and medical leave program in the country, with an initial cost of $111.5 million to start - including 65 new employees - and ongoing annual costs of $94 million. A showdown is expected between this bill and the Senate's preferred parental leave program. 

    The House Committee on Ways and Means took up H.10, a bill regarding the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive Program (VEGI). The bill extends a sunset on the program by two years, increases transparency in how grants are determined and awarded to businesses, and creates a study committee on what an effective business incentive program would look like. However, as the week went on, time constraints seemed to prevent the committee from getting to the bill, and it is likely to miss any extensions for crossover deadline.  

    The Senate Economic Development and Natural Resources committees  spent the week going back and forth with amendments to the housing bill, S.100, also known as the HOME Act. By Thursday, they had arrived at a version that they felt was a suitable compromise to bring to the Senate floor.

    However, advocates are frustrated with how Act 250 sections have been scaled back from the original bill to an almost inconsequential scale. The bill as introduced increased the jurisdictional trigger from 10 units to 25 for the entire state. The Senate Natural Resources Committee restricted that trigger to only in “designated areas,” which represent about 0.3% of the state.

    There is an amendment that will be considered to meet halfway with an Act 250 exemption for towns that have permanent planning/zoning and subdivision bylaws.

    A new Green Mountain State Poll, (a States of Opinion Project, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center) shows that Vermonters consider housing to be the state's most serious problem - by a wide margin. 

    The news comes in a week in which there is contention around how best to create more housing while legislators discuss what could conservatively be estimated as more than $400 million in new taxes.

    We need your help! Please reach out to your Senators and ask them to support housing in Vermont by moving the 10/5/5 trigger for Act 250 to 25/5/5 in more areas than the bill currently allows. You can find your Senators here.

  • 03/30/2023 2:41 PM | Denis Bourbeau

    Closing out Week 11 of the 2023 Legislative Session

    It’s the end of crossover week in Montpelier, meaning legislation needed to be voted out of committees by the end of today, or the legislation is done for the session. There are some ways around it; a committee can seek a waiver from the rules committee, legislators or a committee can add a piece of legislation that didn’t make crossover as an amendment to a piece of legislation that did make the deadline. Finally, money committees - Ways & Means, Appropriations, Finance - have another week before crossover deadline. Bills in those committees have until next Friday. 

    Crucial Housing Bill Gets Watered Down

    The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy proceeded with an amendment that watered down, S.100, also known as the HOME Act, removing essential components of the bill for broad support.

    The amendment downgrades the positive changes to the Act 250 "10/5/5 rule" that were made by the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. The rule means that if a developer builds ten units of housing within five miles of each other within five years, they trigger Act 250. Senate Economic moved that threshold to 25 units. To counter this, the Senate Natural committee agreed to the 25 unit increase, but only within areas of enhanced designation which comprise only about 0.03% of the state’s land. This is a temporary provision that sunsets on July 1, 2026.

    The Senate Natural Resources Amendment also does the following;

    •         Raised the required density in areas zoned for residential and served by sewer and water infrastructure from at least four units per acre to five units per acre.
    •         The Senate Economic version would have removed the ability under the current law of any combination of 10 voters and property owners to appeal. The Senate Natural amendment restores that language, though restricts it to 10 individuals who have a “common injury to a particularized interest." 
    •         They also removed the cap on the number of priority housing units that are exempt if located in a downtown, growth center, or neighborhood development area. This also is a temporary provision that sunsets on July 1, 2026.
    •         Senate Natural deleted the sections that would have eliminated duplicative local/ANR wastewater permit connection sections that they had previously passed.

    Here’s what was added in the Senate Natural amendment;

    •         The Committee added the concept of Master Plan Districts in designated areas so that a town could pre-approve an Act 250 permit for a development area. Then, each new project in that area would be a permit amendment rather than a full permit.
    •         They added an "enhanced village center designation." A town can receive the enhanced designation for a village center if they have permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws, municipal sewer and water infrastructure, and adequate staff. Priority housing projects located in Enhanced Village Centers require 50 or more units to trigger Act 250. This is a temporary provision that sunsets on July 1, 2026.
    •      Energy Code. First it was out, but then back in - the amendment now includes a provision that says a town may adopt building energy code more restrictive than state RBES code, but only if it gets a charter change which requires legislative approval. 

    Housing advocates and VBRA recognize the Senate Economic Development committee version of S.100 as the bill that could truly result in a reduction in barriers to building affordable housing for Vermonters. Your help could be crucial in this effort. Click here to find your state Senators and Representatives and ask them to support the version of S100 "as it came out of the Senate Economic Development Committee."

    Childcare Bill Voted Out

    The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare concluded their work on S.56, the childcare bill. The fiscal picture and footprint of the bill are still unclear at this time, however, it is expected that the Committee will seek a payroll tax for about $100 million in spending under the bill for this year and then about $200 in the next fiscal year. 

    The bill provides full reimbursement for those making up to 185% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and then reimburses on a sliding scale up to 600% FPL or about $180,000 for a family of four. The bill also includes $7.3 million in grants distributed by the Department of Children and Families to retain childcare workers.

    As a potential alternative to the separate Paid Family Leave bill, Senator Jane Kitchel brought to the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, as well as the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs, a proposal to include parental leave only in the childcare bill. The proposal would cost about $15 million and would provide 12 weeks of leave to one parent. The plan would fully replace wages up to 200% of federal poverty guidelines, with a decrease in benefits up to a cap of 600% FPL.

    Meanwhile.. Paid Family Leave Passes Out of the House Committee on Ways and Means

    The House Committee on Ways and Means passed H.66, advancing what will likely be the most generous paid family and medical leave program in the country. Estimates are that the program altogether would cost $117 million per year, a number higher than previous calculations.

    The bill proposes 90% wage replacement for 12 weeks for an expanded list of eligible recipients. It would be paid for by a .55% payroll tax split between employee and employer. 

    As noted above, the Senate has already made movements to preempt the bill by adding parental leave only to their priority, the childcare bill. A House/Senate battle is sure to ensue. 

    Labor Bills Advance Out of Committee

    The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs passed S.102 and S.103 this week, bills that have numerous consequences if they proceed to final passage.

    S.102 had language that would have ended at-will employment in the state and created a "good cause standard for termination," and would have  created new severance pay requirements. That language has now been removed, and the bill now does the following;

    • “Captive Audience” provision – prevents an employer from penalizing an employee who does not participate in discussion on issues perceived as political. The provision is aimed at preventing employers from discussing the impacts of unionization with employees, however, it can have far-reaching consequences as well.
    • Card Check Provisions – means that only 51% of employers would need to indicate interest in unionizing to move forward without an official election.

    S.103. Initial language that would have barred noncompete agreements has been removed. The bill now contains the following:

    • It redefines harassment as one event rather than what exists under case law now; one severe event OR a series of pervasive events. The bill changes that definition to say that harassment need not be "severe or pervasive." A single incident could trigger litigation. As the bill stands, language attempting to define a "petty slight" and "trivial inconvenience" is too vague and leaves employers further exposed to lawsuits.  
    • The bill also prohibits "no-rehire" provisions in settlements of litigation between employee and employer. Testimony from from attorneys representing employees and employers that provisions designed to prevent the rehiring of an employee after the settlement of a lawsuit should not be banned as they serve an important purpose for each side.  

    We encourage you to reach out to your legislators and vocalize your concerns on these bills.

    Liquor Legislation 

    The House Committee on Government Operation and Military Affairs passed the miscellaneous alcohol bill, which does the following;

    Increases the annual limit on fourth-class licenses allowing the Board of Liquor and Lottery to grant up to a combined total of 20, instead of the current 10, to a manufacturer or rectifier. 

    Repeals the sunset on the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption or, as it’s commonly called, alcohol to-go.

    Replaces the term “cider” with “hard cider” in the Vermont statute when referring to alcoholic beverages. 

    The House Committee on Judiciary continued their discussion around dram shop legislation this week and passed legislation that seeks to assist in the high cost of liquor liability insurance. The legislation also requires all proprietors of businesses with a liquor license to acquire liquor liability insurance. The bill passed out of Committee unanimously and represented changes beneficial to Vermont businesses. It is estimated that this could lower VT’s ISO rating from it’s current 10 (the highest it can be) to something closer to a 6.

  • 03/30/2023 2:40 PM | Denis Bourbeau

    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.

    Housing Bill

    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.

  • 03/30/2023 2:38 PM | Denis Bourbeau

    Closing out Week 7 of the 2023 Legislative Session

    The House Committee on General and Housing passed out H.66 Thursday, which would create the most generous paid family and medical leave program in the United States. Employees who have been employed with the same employer for a period of six months, during which time they averaged 20 hours a week, would be eligible. The bill provides employees with up to 12 weeks leave for their own health, maternity/parental, family care, safety, and bereavement (bereavement would be only two weeks), and provides a wage replacement of 100% up to the state’s average weekly wage of $1,135 per week. The program would be paid for by a 0.55% payroll tax split between the employer and the employee.  The Committee heard from the Office of the Treasurer that administering this program would double the size of their office, and they would need upwards of $100 million to stand up the program.

    The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development continued their conversation this week around H.10, which seeks to make major changes to the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) program that would render it inoperable.  The Committee walked through a counter proposal from the current director of the program with the new name “Think Vermont Investment Program.” which would simplify the program by providing an annual cash award of $5,000 for every qualified job created and an enhancement of $7,500 for each job created in economically disadvantaged areas over a period of three years instead of the current five year period. 

    The Senate passed S.3 banning paramilitary training camps. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden-Central said, “There haven’t been adequate levers for the state to intervene or prevent such a camp from forming. This bill gives the state the authority it needs to protect Vermonters from fringe actors looking to create civil disorder.”

    After weeks of testimony, the Senate Natural Resources Committee advanced S.5 creating a Clean Heat Standard for the thermal heating sector on a 5-0 vote. The bill requires fossil fuel heating companies to acquire “clean heat credits.”  They could do so through incentivizing greenhouse gas emission-reducing actions such as weatherization, electrification through heat pumps, or fuel switching to their customers. The fuel companies could also buy clean heat credits to fulfill the obligation from organizations that deliver such clean heat activities. Many are concerned the program - initially intended to cover “heating” and “thermal” use -  could pull in all fuels, including “process fuels,” which will add cost to sectors such as farming, construction, and manufacturing. 


    Public hearing on the Governor’s Recommended Fiscal Year 2024 Budget on February 21 at 3:00 and February 28 at 5:30 in Room 11 or via zoom.

    For more information regarding pre-registering or watching the hearing see here.

    What to expect in Week 8 – February 20 - February 24, 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.

  • 04/08/2022 5:37 PM | Anonymous

    Contractor Registry -

    The contractor registry continues on a wayward journey. Governor Scott vetoed a stand-alone bill in February, arguing that the dollar amount in time and materials for a job that would trigger registration was too low ($3,500). Too many small-time contractors would be over-burdened with registry requirements.

    But, the registry was revived when the Senate Economic Development Committee took a different tack and attached the same language to the “must pass” Omnibus Housing Bill. 

    The Governor had been sending signals that his line-in-the-sand amount for registration was $10,000. Last week, in a clear sign of compromise, Democratic and Republican Senators offered an amendment to the housing bill on the Senate floor that raised the registration threshold to $10,000. The trigger for requirement of a written contract is also raised to that amount. Other registry language remains the same, including proof of adequate liability insurance. 

    Now the bill moves through the House. The registry is only one section of an important bill loaded with initiatives to address Vermont’s housing crisis (see below). VBRA’s advocacy has been instrumental in keeping the registry moving forward and will stay engaged. 

    Act 250 -

    Having already passed out of the Senate, the House now begins deliberation of S.234, the Act 250 bill. The bill shares language with the Omnibus Housing Bill that attempts to ease restrictions on development in areas of downtown flood hazard zones where there is pre-existing development. It also extends Priority Housing Projects to designated Neighborhood Development Areas and increases the allowable number of units from 25 to 50 in towns under 6000 population. PHPs are development projects that are exempt from Act 250 review if they are located within a Designated Program area and meet affordability requirements. 

    S.234 also creates new definitions of “forest blocks” and “connecting habitats” intended to address forest fragmentation and sprawl into the states forested regions. Presently, the bill contemplates a new jurisdictional “road rule” that would trigger review in these forest blocks. The road rule says Act 250 is triggered for any road or driveway designed over 800ft., or for any combination of roads or driveways over 2000 ft. In lieu of the road rule, the committee has also discussed an elevation trigger of 1500ft as a possible jurisdictional alternative. 

    The Administration has expressed serious concern over inclusion of the road rule, arguing it may not provide the level of protection proponents desire – developers will still figure out ways around the rule,  and it could even discourage thoughtful, appropriate development. Rather, to encourage development away from forests and into already developed areas, the administration has proposed Act 250 exemptions for downtowns, neighborhood development areas and village centers who have earned Designation Program status. 

    VBRA supports Act 250 exemptions for areas with a high level of local review. Local planning and zoning professionals provide a level of oversight that doesn’t need duplicative Act 250 processes that add cost and time to projects. The Senate and House Natural Resource Committees have been reluctant to adopt exemptions for Vermont’s designated areas. Please consider reaching out to legislators on your district with support for these initiatives. 

    Housing -

    As mentioned above, Omnibus Housing Bill S.226 has also made its way to the House. In addition to the municipal zoning changes related to infill development and PHP language (also seen in S.234) and the contractor registry, the bill has several programs and appropriations designed to spark housing:

    • Changes to the restrictions a municipality may put on the development Accessory Dwelling Units.
    • Programs for first-generation homebuyers, manufactured housing and affordable housing tax credits.
    • Matching grants for large employer housing and commercial property conversion. 
    • Additional grant money for municipal bylaw modernizations. 
    • An extension to NDAs for the successful Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit Program.

    S.226 also exempts a project that receives a water/wastewater connection permit from a local municipality from needing to obtain a duplicative State permit.

    The interplay between the similar language in S.226 and S.234 still needs to be ironed out. 

    Workforce Development -H.703 is the Omnibus Workforce Development bill. It has passed the House with almost $42 million in spending and is now taken up by the Senate Commerce Committee. Specific to contractors, it contains:

    • Work-based Learning and Training Program - $1,500,000
    • Vermont Trades Scholarship Program - $3,000,000
    • Vermont Trades Loan Reimbursement Program $500,000
    • CTE Construction and Rehabilitation Experiential Learning Program; Revolving Loan Fund - $15,000,000.

    More detail can be found in this fiscal note. Many of these programs may be changed or combined as budget pressures become more apparent, and there will be opportunity for VBRA to testify on the current needs in the industry.

    RBES Update -

    The Vermont Department of Public Service will soon begin updating Vermont's Residential Building Energy Standards (RBES) and Commercial Building Energy Standards (CBES), with the target effective date of Fall or Winter 2023. The code update process will include multiple opportunities for stakeholders to provide input and feedback. 

    Vermont's Building Energy Standards set minimum efficiency requirements for new and renovated buildings. The standards are designed to reduce energy use and emissions over the life of a building, saving money in the long term and helping Vermont meet its climate goals. 

    There will be two RBES public stakeholder meetings and two CBES public stakeholder meetings, coordinated with the Energy Futures Group, taking place in April and late May and will be held remotely.  To participate please contact Liz Bourguet at the Energy Futures Group ( with any questions. 


    We have a date for the Annual VBRA Golf Tournament! Friday, September 16th 2022!  This year’s tournament will again take place at the beautiful, family run Cedar Knoll course in Hinesburg, VT. It’s never too early to start practicing your swing! Save the date and stay tuned for more info.

  • 03/31/2022 3:14 PM | Deleted user

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