PO Box 233, Colchester, VT 05446
LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE BLOG
Updated Draft of Act 250 Bill
House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife continues to lumber along in their testimony of their Act 250 Bill. This week the committee spent a lot of time on changes to the regulation of slate quarries. There was also testimony on the racial equity aspects of Act 250 that will continue next week. It is clear to most that this bill won’t be out for a vote this year.
Paid Family Leave
H.107was voted out of House Ways and Means late Friday afternoon on a vote of 7-4 and will move to the House Floor next week.
This articledoes a good job at explaining the many changes that were made in the last two days. Of particular note, the payroll tax has been decreased from a proposed .93% to .55% and the employer would decide how that cost would be split between the employee and employer. This bill will move on to Senate Health & Welfare and we will make sure HBRA testifies to the challenge of finding temporary skilled workers to replace those who take this leave.
Residential Building Energy Standards
HBRA was on a call on Friday with the group of associations who support increased efforts to ensure RBES standards are being properly implemented. This is the group who signed on to an RBES Compliance Letter that Jim Bradley delivered to House Natural Resources when he testified to that committee. There are a number of bills being considered that call for expanding efficiency requirements on new and existing home structures. It was decided on this call that we would focus efforts on getting a work group established in legislation that would call for recommendations on enforcement of RBES. The intention would be that the recommendations that would be created after adjournment would then be drafted by key legislators to be passed into law next session.
Jim Bradley will be testifying in House Energy and Technology and Senate Natuarl Resources about the need for oversight of RBES before expanding more requirements on home builders next week.
S.171 is a new bill in Senate Natural Resources that proposed to address climate change by increasing weatherization and by establishing a statewide system for rating and labelling the energy performance of buildings.
Jim Bradley will testifying in this committee about the need for the aforementioned workgroup and the fact that we have standards in place that are not enforced at this point.
Association Health Plans (AHP)
There is language in H.524that will effectively eliminate AHPs. Currently about 5,000 employees in VT will be affected and will have to go back to the health exchange to purchase their insurance. The committees took a lot of testimony in support of association plans but failed to convince the House of the benefit to these plans. This bill will move on to the Senate next week.
Workforce Development Bill
H.533 is now in House Appropriations. This bill will move on to the Senate and there will be opportunities for HBRA members to testify to the need for this training in our industry.
The Toxins Bill
S.37 - This strict liability and medical monitory bill passed the Senate and is now in House Judiciary
If you have people who would like to testify please let us know.
Contractor Registry Bill
S.163 – Was voted out of Senate Finance and will be on the Senate floor for a vote of the entire Senate next Wednesday and Thursday and then move on to the House. We will continue to monitor this bill to ensure this language remains as HBRA has agreed to.
The Tax Bill – aka:
The House Revenue Bill
This bill will be on the House floor for a vote next week. An easy to read chart with specific details can be found here. This bill proposes to reduce the capital gains exclusion, increase the estate tax exclusion, increase funding for the first-time homebuyers program and downtown and village center tax credit, clarify who pays the property transfer tax, and makes changes to the land gains and fuel tax.
S.108 - proposes to permit the Attorney General to enforce complaints of employee misclassification under the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance laws.
This has passed the Senate and is now in House Commerce and Economic Development.
Act 250 Bill
Jim Bradley, President of HBRA and Kemener Whalen, Blackrock Construction testified before House Natural Resources Committee on the Act 250 bill under consideration. Jim kicked off their presentation highlighting the need to enforce Residential Building Energy Standards before the committee considers expanding more requirements that won’t have proper oversight. The committee was supportive of his testimony, particularly when he detailed the importance of building energy efficient homes and the missed opportunities due to lack of proper enforcement of RBES. Kemener followed with a detailed explanation of how added permitting and requirements increase the cost of housing which is a real problem in Vermont.
Paid Family Leave Bill - H.107
House Ways and Means continues to take testimony on H.107 which, if passes as currently written would:
The employee’s job is protected while they are out unless:
This bill is expected to be up for a vote in the House later next week.
This proposal will provide for additional funding for apprenticeships and job training has been voted out of House Commerce. This bill will move on to the Senate and there will be opportunities for HBRA members to testify to the need for this training in our industry.
Toxins Bill – S.37
This strict liability and medical monitory bill passed the Senate and is on to House Judiciary on a vote of 22-8. The Governor would need 11 votes to sustain a veto. This bill has serious ramifications and would be the only legislation of its kind in the country.
Companies affected would be those with 10 or more employees and has a Standard Industrial Classification of 20-39. This bill, should it pass would potentially affect suppliers who would no longer want to do business in Vermont. We plan to schedule testimony in the House about the impacts of this bill should it pass.
Contract Registry Bill
This passed out of Senate Economic Development Committee in a larger bill. The Registry language can be found beginning on Page 10, Line 9 in the link provided.
This will be up for a vote of the entire Senate next week. We were able to get the additions in that Jim Bradley had requested.
Health Insurance Market Stabilization Bill – H.524
As it affects you Association Healthcare Plans
The House Health Care Committee passed H.524, a bill that imposes measures to stabilize the health insurance market. This bill proposes to implement Vermont’s individual mandate to maintain health insurance coverage. It would also codify in State law certain health insurance consumer protections included in the ACA such as, a ban on preexisting condition exclusions and a requirement to provide coverage for dependents up to 26 years of age. The bill would require looking through the structure of an association to provide health insurance plans based on the size of each underlying employer. It would prohibit licensed brokers from accepting payment for enrolling Vermont residents in certain health expense-sharing arrangements and would require the Green Mountain Care Board to quantify the impact of the Medicaid and Medicare cost shifts and uncompensated care on health insurance premiums. The bill would also direct the Agency of Human Services to develop strategies for increasing the affordability of health insurance and to evaluate options for the future of Vermont’s health insurance markets.
The so-called “look through doctrine” disallows small businesses and individuals to be treated as larger groups in the insurance marketplace thus eliminating an important regulatory and financial benefit of association health plans (AHP). Business groups that participate in association plans have protested the look-through proposal.
Advocates for AHPs said that they allow small businesses greater choice in plan
design and price. The potential ramifications of eliminating existing AHPs is “rate
shock” for these businesses and their employees as premiums would increase
significantly for the 2020 enrollment year.
The bill is now in Ways and Means where that committee is focused on the individual mandate penalty structure and it may propose changes.
Town Meeting Break
The Legislature is not in session this week so that legislators can attend their Town Meetings. They will return to the Statehouse the week of March 11th and then have a very busy next couple of weeks meeting their crossover deadlines. All remaining non‑money bills must be passed out of committee by the 15th. The “money” bills, including the tax bill, the fee bill and the budget bill are due by March 22nd.
The House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife continues to take testimony on Act 250. Their focus laned to climate change sections of the Act 250 committee bill, hearing from severast week pertail witnesses on energy, efficiency building standards, and weatherization.
The committee continues to debate the level of increased building code requirements, including RBES, weatherization, Passive Home standards, on-site v. off-site mitigation costs, carbon offsets and stretch codes.
Richard Faesy of the Energy Futures Group urged the committee to make sure Act 250 prioritizes renewable energy sources over fossil fuels, and to “set the bar high” for energy efficiency in his presentation.
Enrique Bueno of Vermont Passive House gave a presentation on implementing Passive House Building Standards to minimize the energy intensity and CO2 emissions in buildings. With seemingly obvious (according to his presentation) energy efficiency benefits without significant building costs, the committee asked why these standards were not more uniformly followed? Enrique cited a lack of codes requiring adoption of passive house building standards and necessary certifications and acknowledged a general resistance to change.
When the legislature returns from town meeting break the committee will continue discussing climate change and begin discussion of administration and appeals processes of Act 250. The Chair of House Natural, Rep. Amy Sheldon, (D)-Middlebury has expressed a desire to hear from builders on energy and efficiency standards. We’re working to schedule Home Builders for testimony.
House Ways and Means heard from the Governor’s Administration on their alternative Family Leave proposal. The committee took interest as there are some concerns with the proposal that is moving through the House. Jim Bradley followed that testimony from the perspective of the Home Builders and Remodelers members. He talked about the challenges that businesses would face should skilled employees avail themselves of this benefit. This was the only time the committee formally heard of potential problems for some labor sectors. Jim talked about the cumulative effect of various bills in the building affecting this industry. H.107 will be taken up in the committee again after the legislative town meeting break.
Other Bills of Interest
The registration bill is still in one of two omnibus housing bills in Senate Economic Development. This topic hasn’t received recent attention. We will keep you updated.
The House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife spent the week focused on land use planning, hearing testimony from state agencies, environmental advocacy organizations and working lands groups.
Kate McCarthy of the Vermont Natural Resources Council spoke to the committee at length on the importance of planning at the local and regional levels. Currently, there are not sufficient resources for planning on a state level but identifying critical resource areas ahead of Act 250 permit applications procedure would greatly streamline the process on local and regional scale.
Ed Stanak gave a review of the Act 250 process from his perspective as a past District Coordinator. He strongly defended the process and outcomes over the years, citing statistics that 95% of applications are approved and only 25% are ‘major’ applications that require hearings. He warned of the trend toward more administrative amendments and approvals, where no hearings take place. Stanak suggestion that in 21st century, instead of the original criteria of ‘10 acre towns and 1 acre towns,’ Act 250 should be triggered by ‘compelling state interests’ - protecting the state's most critical finite natural resources.
Rep. Charlie Kimbell, (D)-Woodstock, addressed the committee to explain why he introduced H.197 (known as the Administration bill). Kimball said he believes the changes to Act 250 in the bill strike the right balance in encouraging development while protecting Vermont’s critical environmental resources. He pointed out the key parts of H.197 that would accomplish modernization of Act 250;
· Removing jurisdiction in enhanced designation areas.
· Identify, through planning, unique value resource areas.
· Updating criteria so they are consistent with agency programs and rules.
· Flexibility in forest industry hours of operation.
· Exempting recreation trails from jurisdiction.
Rep. Kimball reminded the committee of the trusted experts who work in the Agencies of Natural Resources and Commerce and Community Development, saying they are diligently working within this framework of balance.
Ed Larson from the VT Forest Products Association gave a presentation that strongly defended the importance of the industry in Vermont, and warned of potential dangers to industry if the exemption for farming, logging, and forestry below 2,500 feet is repealed. Larson encouraged the committee to ask themselves - “what problem are we trying to solve?”
Mark-up of the Act 250 Committee Bill continued Friday afternoon. The committee completed a first read through of habitat and forest block definitions, though several members were clear that they would like to return to review the definitions in the near future. The committee will begin testimony on climate change next week.
Other documents of interest-
Summary Comparison of Act 47 Commission Draft (Committee Bill) Legislation and Executive Branch Draft Legislation H.197
House Ways and Means will be taking testimony from Home Builders on the Paid Family Leave Bill, H.107, on Wednesday, February 27th. Six of the eleven members of this committee have co-sponsored this bill but we hope to raise issues of concern that are compelling to the group as a whole.
A helpful PowerPoint prepared by the Joint Fiscal Office on the tax treatment of paid family leave benefits can be found here.
A state by state comparison of paid family leave benefits was also reviewed in Ways and Means.
Further testimony revealed that the payroll tax will have to be collected for two years before any benefits can begin to be paid out since the state will need to build up a reserve fund. Also, by year five the fund faces a projected shortfall so the payroll tax will have to be increased.
New Bill Up for Consideration
H.351 proposes to clarify the purposes for which the Workers’ Compensation Administration Fund may be used, to repeal the Short-Time Compensation Program, and to permit the Passenger Tramway Board to expend funds for ski lift mechanic training, education, and apprenticeships.
House Commerce and Economic Development is asking Home Builders to testify on this bill on Friday, March 1st at 10:00 am.
And in other news:
Home Builders Contracting Registration Update
Jim Bradley and Byron Gokey, owner of Wallboard Supply Company testified to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs on Friday. They addressed the committee’s omnibus housing bill as it relates to mandatory contractor registration. The language can be found beginning on the bottom of page 11.
Jim and Byron were well-received, and their suggestions will be addressed. Jim also highlighted concerns about the lack of state enforcement for Residential Building Energy Standards. The committee is interested in learning more about this issue.
Following this testimony, we all met with Chris Curtis, Chief for the Public Protection Division in the Attorney General's Office and Lauren Hibbert who is the Director of Office of Professional Regulations. They will request that the committee add language that would require another Sunrise Report before additional mandates are added to the new proposed registration.
We will continue to track this bill to make sure the committee doesn’t add more the registration requirements as was discussed a few weeks ago. There is no doubt that Jim and Byron did a great job of establishing HBRANV as partners and not adversaries in this work.
Work continues in House Natural Resources but the committee hit a snag on Friday as the members shared their confusion regarding the proposed changes to Act 250 they have been discussing over the last few weeks. It is clear there is a lot more consideration of this bill before it is ready to be voted out of committee.
Their committee bill is a work in progress. Pages 1-3 encompasses the bill’s proposed intentions. Enhanced Designation language begins on page 54. We strongly recommend having some of your members, who have a strong passion for Act 250, review this bill and get back to us with their questions and comments. We think there will be opportunities next week to weigh in with concerns.
The Paid Family Leave bill H.107 was voted out of House General Housing and Military Affairs Committee with only one dissenting vote. This bill now is in House Ways and Means where we anticipate there will be a deeper dive into the costs to run this proposed program.
We told the Committee Chair that we would like Home Builders to testify to this bill.
Other bills that may be a interest to HBRANV:
A Workforce Development Bill will be coming out next week from House Commerce and Economic Development. The committee wants to move money into specific adult skills development courses and would like testimony to support their bill. You will receive that language as soon as it’s available. If HBRANV is supportive we can schedule members to speak to the committee.
Proposes to prohibit agreements that prohibit individuals from competing with their former employers following the conclusion of their employment. This bill is being considered in House Commerce.
This bill proposes to increase the minimum wage so that it reaches $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2024 and was voted out of Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs on a vote of 4-1 and will move on to Senate Finance.
Association Health Plans discussed in House Health Care
The House Health Care Committee considered the impact of association health plans (AHP) on the health insurance market. AHPs are designed to allow small employers
and self-employed individuals to access health insurance plans. Changes to federal
law last year allowed the creation of AHPs in Vermont.
MVP does not currently offer AHPs and, along with the Health Care Advocate has
raised concerns. Blue Cross Blue Shield is offering AHPs through both the Vermont
Chamber of Commerce and Business Resource Services. There are already several
thousand people signed up for association health plans in the state. Chief Health
Care Advocate Mike Fisher said AHPs threaten Vermont’s health insurance
marketplace by splitting a larger risk pool into smaller pools and could drive up
prices on the Health Exchange. The health care advocate and MVP testified that
states have the authority to regulate AHPs, and they are suggesting Vermont
consider a look-through doctrine”. That would take away a major financial and
regulatory advantage of association health plans by not allowing small businesses
and individuals to be treated as larger groups in the insurance marketplace.
The health care committee signaled that they would like to address the issue of
association health plans but as of yet there is not a bill related to this specific
And some good news:
Workers’ Comp Rates decrease
We met with Chris Curtis from the Attorney Generals’ office who again told us that they were standing by the very limited registration bill. We found out on Friday afternoon that this new registration requirement will be added to an Omnibus Housing Bill being discussed this Wednesday, February 13th at 12:45. The committee may want some people from HBRANV in to testify at this time. We’ll confirm that and report back.
We spoke with Lauren Hibbert of the Office of Professional Regulation who told us there is interest in putting more requirements around certifications but they don’t want to do this and they barely have capacity to implement this basic new registration so we remain hopeful that the AG and OPR won’t support increasing oversight on the homebuilding industry beyond what we have all agreed to.
The House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife had a long second week of testimony on the Act 250 Committee Bill. The Administration testified several times advocating for Gov. Scott’s vision of Act 250 reform - “breathing new life” into our communities, without reducing planning and environmental protection, by eliminating criteria that are addressed in other State and Federal permits. They are also asking legislators to simplify the construction approval process for rural industrial parks, as well as downtowns and village centers as long as there were stricter community flood control and habitat protection regulations in place.
The Committee, led by Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Addison, trended towards a somewhat different vision this week. The focus is on environmental protection and a need to confront the cumulative impacts of small-scale development, as well as addressing forest fragmentation and climate change. Prevalent were the themes of ‘jurisdiction’ and the desire to get away from viewing Act 250 on a project by project basis. Early in the week the phrase “tyranny of small decisions” was coined and oft repeated, alluding to the cumulative effect of decisions on critical natural resources.
There does seem to be some interest in how to incentivize greater regional and municipal planning by exempting projects located in designated centers. We will continue to closely monitor Act 250 proceedings in the coming weeks.
The Paid Family Leave bill is being considered in the House General Housing and Military Affairs Committee. They are taking testimony, but by all accounts, they will be passing out their mandatory version of paid family leave and not supporting the Governor’s opt-in approach. At this point it appears this bill will provide for up to 12 weeks of 100% wage coverage every year for all employees. This will be supported with a .93% payroll tax split between employees and employers and there is currently a $150,000 salary cap.
Once this bill leaves this committee it will move on to Ways and Means and then Appropriations. We’ll be talking with those committees and you may want to testify.
Other bills that may be a concern to HBRANV:
This bill proposes to increase the minimum wage so that it reaches $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2024.
Please let us know if you want to testify on any of these bills.
Testimony on Home Improvement Contracting Registration
The Senate Economic Development Committee took testimony on Wednesday hearing from Gabe Gilman, General Counsel, Secretary of State's Office and Charity Clark from the AG’s Office.
Gabe Gilman opened by reviewing the Sunrise Report. He stated that before this report opinions were merely ahead of the data. Now they have valid information to act upon. Big projects are taken to court. The majority of smaller offenses are between the $1,000 and $10,000 range. This is the problem the registry bill is looking to address. The committee asked about registration compliance and Gabe reported that OPR believes those contractors who are compliant with the law, “annoyed competitors”, will report those who are not. From OPR’s perspective, this registration is meant to combat repeat fraud. Gabe stressed that we are a small state with limited capacity, and this was as far as they wanted to take the registration.
Conversation moved on to certification which Gabe stressed was voluntary and he went on to explain that taking certifications away from businesses isn’t possible. There was conversation about “hitching” certifications to government certification by Senator Clarkson. Gabe discouraged this proposal. He spoke highly of the professionalism of the Home Builders and the committee concurred. They want you to testify soon.
Fee bill testimony will begin next week in the Ways and Means committee. Attached is a spreadsheet with proposed Administration fees. So far the contractor registry fees are not on it but the Secretary of State will likely submit those proposed fees later when there is more clarity on the contractor registry proposal.
The House Committee on Housing, General and Military Affairs heard testimony about the paid family leave bill H.107 throughout the week. This bill proposes to create a Paid Family Leave Insurance Program within the Departments of Labor and Taxes that will be funded by contributions from employers and employees. The bill also proposes to amend Vermont’s existing Parental and Family Leave Act to make it applicable to additional employers and to clarify certain provisions. The committee heard from many stakeholders (testimony) and will continue taking testimony, but this bill is a stated priority for House leadership.
In the meantime, the governor continues to pursue his voluntary paid family leave proposal and issued a Press Release stating that an RFI would be issued for the Dual Voluntary State Program. The RFI solicits responses and information from insurance carriers and financial professionals regarding rate development, benefit structure and pricing for state employees, employers and individuals. The RFI specifically requests pricing information regarding higher wage replacement for lower wage earners and progressively pricing individual premiums.
We are meeting on Tuesday with allied group leaders concerned about this bill to strategize possible improvements. We’ll be sharing them with you.
Jim Bradley and Patrick O’Brian met with Chris Cochran from the Agency of Commerce on Tuesday to review the Administration’s priorities in the Act 250 Report. They are happy to get the support of Home Builders where you are all aligned. We are following actions as the develop on the House Natural Resource Chair, Amy Sheldon’s, Act 250 Bill.
We met with Diane Snelling, Chair of the Natural Resources Board, and she is very aware of your challenges. She offered to meet with any of you with specific problems. She understands that there can be challenges with the local district commissions.
Other Bills of Potential Concern
Proposes to prohibit agreements that prohibit individuals from competing with their former employers following the conclusion of their employment. This bill is being considered in House Commerce. Please let us know if you have concerns and want to testify.
Articles of Interest
Construction Employment Climbs in January
Statehouse Activities of Interest
The Office of Professional Regulation is still working on their draft. We are going to meet with Chris Curtis this week to remind him of our concerns about more requirements being added to this bill.
This Wednesday, the Senate Economic Development Committee will hear from Lauren Hibbert and Gabe Gilman, of OPR on “Home Improvement Contracting”. We will coordinate with them in advance to see if they are hoping to make the case for a committee bill with broad buy in after making sure they have made the case for light regulation.
Jim Bradley will be meeting with Chris Cochran from the Agency of Commerce on Tuesday to review the Administration’s priorities in the Act 250 Report.
Minimum Wage Bill
S.23 proposes to increase the minimum wage so that it reaches $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2024.
This bill is being considered in Senate Economic, Housing and General Affairs. A similar bill was vetoed by the Governor last year. S.23 will most likely move easily through both Chambers towards passage. The Governor will have to struggle to pick up some Democrats to support another veto.
Paid Family Leave
The legislative leaders’ counter to the Governor’s opt-in proposal that we detailed in last weeks’ update increases the benefits they were looking to offer last year. This proposal is a mandatory .93% payroll tax (to be split between employer and employee) and will offer 100% of wage coverage for up to 12 weeks per year. We anticipate that members of your organization will want to testify on this issue.
Standard Contracts and Waivers
S.18 proposes to create a rebuttable presumption that certain contractual terms are substantively unconscionable when included in certain standard-form contracts.
This bill could affect you if your business requires anyone to sign a waiver of liability. This is of particular concern to the outdoor industry, but we wanted HBRANV to be aware of it.
The Governor delivered his Budget Address on Thursday. The text of the speech can be found here.
Budget Address subjects that are of particular interest to Home Builders and Remodelers:
“Our biggest threat is our declining labor force. As our working-age population continues to decline, we simply need more people helping to pay the bills.
Together, we have an opportunity to change this, with polices that better prepare students for a career, keep more of our kids after graduation, provide training for Vermonters so they can get a good job and attract new workers and new families to join our communities.”
“We can enhance our high environmental standards and breathe new life into our downtowns and village centers. Specifically, let’s give communities the opportunity to raise the bar when it comes to planning and environmental protection. And when they meet these new standards, let’s reward them and encourage growth by exempting them from Act 250.”
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that the 20-year, $2 billion project ahead of us is as much a major infrastructure program as it is essential environmental policy.
That’s why my budget fully funds the Clean Water Board’s recommendation. This includes about $15 million for the State’s Clean Water Fund, over $12 million in capital funds and $1 million in transportation dollars. Combined with over $19 million in federal funds, all told, this budget dedicates nearly $48 million to clean water projects.”
“Eliminate land gains tax to unlock older housing stock to renovation and re-development.
Next, let’s make sure these updated properties are efficient. Eighty percent of our housing stock is at least 40 years old, and nearly half of that is 80 years old. We know the cost to heat these older homes can push them out of reach for some. So, my budget includes $1 million to restore these units if weatherization is part of the project. and increasing the Downtown and Historic tax credit to $2.6 million.”
Gov Paid Family Leave
“First, we can launch more quickly, more affordably and more reliably than if the State had to create the program from scratch. Second, it ensures we aren’t placing the burden of startup costs, or the risk of underfunding and insolvency, on taxpayers. And third, we’re not mandating another cost on our employers and employees for an expense they may not be able to afford.
I understand your concerns that a voluntary approach might not have a big enough pool to sustain a program. That’s why our proposal places all eligible state employees from both states into the plan, creating a large and diverse pool overnight. And my budget includes funding to offer this coverage to our state employees if we move forward.”
Workforce and Moving to VT
“This year, my budget includes a total of $2.5 million to identify those most likely to consider moving to Vermont, tell them our story and make it easier for them to get here. It includes funding for relocation support to really sell Vermont by helping those who want to move here find a great job, housing and a community they’re drawn to, in the regions and job sectors that need them most.”
The Statehouse is beginning to heat up during the second week of the legislative session and bills are being introduced at a breakneck pace. As of Friday, January 18th, there were 56 bills introduced in the House and 47 in the Senate. So far there are multiple bills about Act 46 mergers (and about the undoing of Act 46), and the first three of four proposed amendments to the Vermont constitution have been released. Proposals of amendment can be initiated every four years by the Senate.
Amending the state’s constitution is a lengthy, complicated process that is meant to withstand the vicissitudes of political fortune.
Home Builders and Remodelers Update
The OPR Registration Bill
We have been in contact with the Office of Professional Regulation and they are still working on finding a sponsor for their bill. As soon as they have done that they will share their draft. At that point we will arrange to meet with Chris Cole, Lauren Hibbert and the bill’s sponsors to ensure that they understand that this is meant to be a very limited registration requirement.
We met with people from the Governor’s Administration to review their priorities in the Act 250 report. They believe Home Builders and Remodelers will support their efforts and we’ll have more details in the following weeks.
Here is their Act 250 Handout
Act 250 Modernization
What: The Natural Resources Board along with the Agencies of Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation, and Natural Resources have been working with the Act 47 (“Act 250 at 50”) Commission to evaluate opportunities to improve the Act 250 process and outcomes for Vermont. We look forward to working with the legislature to ensure that over the next 50 years Act 250 supports Vermont’s economic, environmental, and land use planning goals.
Why: The following recommendations, which were provided to the Commission, are of critical importance to protect Vermont’s environment while facilitating economic activity and development in suitable locations. Overall these recommendations are intended to focus Act 250’s attention on the locations and projects where environmental protection is most important and to promote development in other areas.
How: Key policy decisions to focus on during the 2019 session:
• Encouraging development in the State’s existing designated centers through the creation of an enhanced designation process that would remove Act 250 jurisdiction within the designated center provided the municipality can demonstrate that it has adopted municipal flood hazard planning and river corridor protections for the entire municipality, design review standards (including historic preservation), wildlife habitat protections, and coordinated capital investments .
• Creating a process to subject unique natural resource areas, such as contiguous blocks of primary agricultural soils, high-value forest blocks, and high-value connectivity habitat to Act 250 jurisdiction regardless of whether a project in such area would trigger jurisdiction under existing thresholds.
• Including impacts on forest blocks and connecting habitat in the review process under Act 250 Criterion 8 to address the issue of forest fragmentation, while giving due consideration to the positive effect of enterprises that add value to forest-derived commodities.
• Updating Act 250 Criterion 1(D) (floodways protections) for consistency with the State’s Flood Hazard Area and River Corridor Protection standards, eliminating potential confusion and ensuring that Act 250’s standards align with best practices.
• Clarifying the appropriate use and reliance on other state permits as evidence that various Act 250 criteria have been satisfied, to streamline and make the process more predictable.
• Clarifying the circumstances in which an Act 250 permit application fee waiver and/or partial refund are warranted.
• Recommending changes to support rural industrial park development with a simplified master plan process for obtaining construction approval and reduced fess when some impacts have already been reviewed.
• Allowing flexibility, when appropriate, in the hours of operation of value-added forest product businesses to respond to the logistical challenges these operations face due to climate change.
• Clarifying the circumstances in which an Act 250 permit or permit amendment is needed for recreational trails to ensure Vermont’s recreation economy remains compatible with environmentally responsible development.
• Exempting federal aid transportation projects, which require significant federal review and oversight, from Act 250 review.
• Updating Act 250 to recognize that modern Vermont farms increasingly rely on on-site agritourism and direct-to-customer businesses to remain economically viable, and that these activities should not trigger Act 250 jurisdiction.
The governor announced his plan to explore a voluntary paid family leave program that would be a joint venture with the state of New Hampshire. Legislative leadership, Senate President Pro Tem, Tim Ashe, and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson held a press conference coming out against the proposal. They plan to introduce a mandatory paid family leave bill that is funded through a payroll tax.
We met with a group of allies and heard from the Governor’s staff who answered questions about the details of the Governor’s proposal. This is in early planning stages but the highlights are as follows:
This proposal was immediately met with opposition from the Legislature and from the State Employee Association. So there will be a lot more on this issue to follow.
This session brings forty new representatives in the House and five new Senators. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson shook up committee assignments quite a bit to balance the "challenges and opportunities" of having so many new representatives as well as five committee chair slots to fill. To top that off, three moderate Republicans in the House lost seats causing some shifting around to fill necessary seats in important money committees.
On Thursday Governor Scott gave his Inaugural Address laying out his priorities, while making a plea to the legislature to work collaboratively and set an example for the country. He said that he would be laying out a plan to fund clean water through an existing, sustainable source (meaning he does not want to raise new taxes). There will be a proposal to make health insurance more affordable for young people. Governor Scott proposes to use money from the Volkswagon settlement to subsidize electric vehicle purchases in the state. High speed internet statewide will also be a priority. Details for these efforts will be outlined in the Governor’s budget address.
Act 250 Activity
We will be following this closely as we are being told that the smaller contractors may be more affected than most in upcoming initiatives. No testimony was taken this week that would pertain to HBRANV. We have a meeting next week with the Administration to hear their thoughts. The Governor alluded to their proposal in his speech.
“Act 250 was created nearly 50 years ago to address a rapidly growing state. At that time, there wasn’t the regulatory oversight to deal with the population expansion brought on by the baby boom and the interstate highway system.
But those circumstances no longer exist.
That’s why I’ll propose reforms to modernize Act 250 in a way that expands growth in our struggling downtowns while continuing to protect the environment.
We can and must do both.
This proposal builds on work we did together last term to modernize regulation and support the development of affordable housing in our downtowns and growth centers. This year, we can do even more to build stronger communities by updating Act 250 and encourage more compact development while preserving our working lands and rural character.”
Link to Introduced Bills
Thirty bills have been introduced in the House this week. The senate hasn’t published their list yet.
Senate Standing Committees (New Chairs are highlighted)
Chair, Bobby Starr (D-Orleans)
Vice-Chair Chris Pearson (P/D-Burlington)
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington)
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland)
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison)
Chair, Senator Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonai)
Vice-Chair, Alice Nitka (D-Windsor)
Bobby Starr (D-Orleans)
Dick McCormack (D-Windsor)
Richie Westman (R-Lamoille)
Tim Ashe (D/P – Burlington)
Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs
Chair, Michael Sirotkin (D-Burlington)
Vice-Chair Alison Clarkson, (D-Windsor)
Becca Balint (D-Windham)
Randy Brock (R-Franklin)
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland)
Chair, Phil Baruth (D/P Burlington)
Vice-Chair Deb Ingram, (D-Burlington)
Jim McNeil (R-Rutland)
Corey Parent (R-Franklin)
Andrew Perchilk (D-Washington)
Chair, Anne Cummings, (D-Washington)
Vice-Chair, Mark MacDonald (D-Orange)
Michael Sirotkin (D-Burlington)
Brian Campion (D-Bennington)
Chris Pearson (D/P Burlington)
Health and Welfare
Chair, Ginny Lyons (D-Burlington)
Vice-Chair, Richie Westman (R-Franklin)
Anne Cummings (D-Washington)
Deb Ingram (D-Burlington)
Chair, Joe Benning,
Vice-Chair John Rodgers (D-Orleans),
Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle)
Ginny Lyons (D-Burlington)
Chair, Dick Sears (D-Bennington)
Jeanette White (D-Windham)
Joe Benning (R-Caledonia)
Phil Baruth (D/P- Burlington)
Natural Resources Energy
Chair, Chris Bray (D-Addison)
Vice-Chair, Brian Campion (D-Bennington)
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange)
John Rodgers (D-Orleans)
Chair, Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle)
Vice-Chair, Tim Ashe (D/P-Burlington),
Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia)
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington)
House Standing Committees
Chair, Carolyn Partridge (D-Windham)
Vice-Chair, Rodney Graham (R-Williamstown)
John Bartholomew (D-Hartland)
Tom Bock (D-Chester)
Charen Fegard (D-Enosburg Falls)
Terry Norris (I-Shoreham)
John O’Brien (D-Tunbridge)
Vickie Strong (R-Albany)
Chair, Kitty Toll (D-Danville)
Vice-Chair, Mary Hooper (D-Montpelier)
Peter Fagan (Rutland City)
Chip Conquest (D-Newbury)
Marty Feltus (R-Lyndon)
Bob Helm (R-Fair Haven)
Diane Lanpher (D-Vergennes)
Linda Myers (R-Essex)
Maida Townsend (D-South Burlington)
Matt Trieber (D-Rockingham)
Dave Yacovone (D-Morristown)
Commerce and Economic Development
Chair, Mike Marcotte (R-Coventry)
Vice-Chair, Jean O’Sullivan (D-Burlington)
Charlie Kimbell (D-Woodstock)
Bill Bancroft (R-Westford)
Jim Caroll (D-Bennington)
Lynn Dickinson (R-St. Albans Town)
Matt Hill (D-Wolcott)
Stephanie Jerome (D-Brandon)
Emillie Kornheiser (D-Brattleboro)
Zach Ralph (P-Hartland)
Tristan Toleno (D-Brattleboro)
Corrections and Institutions
Chair, Alice Emmons (D-Springfield)
Vice-Chair, Butch Shaw (R-Pittsford(
Terry Macaig (D-Willistno)
Sara Coffey (D- Guilford )
Carl Demrow (D-Corinth)
Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington)
Felichia Leffler (R-Enosburgh)
Marcia Martel (R-Waterford)
Mary Morrissey (R-Bennington)
Linda Joy Sullivan (D-Dorset)
Curt Taylor (D-Colchester)
Chair, Kate Webb (D-Shelburne)
Vice-Chair, Larry Cupoli (R-Rutland City),
Peter Conlon (D-Cornwall)
Sarita Austin (D-Colchester)
Lynn Batchelor (R-Derby)
Caleb Elder (D-Starksboro)
Dylan Giambatista (D-Essex)
Kathleen James (D-Manchester)
Jay Hooper (D-Randolph)
Chris Mattos (R-Milton)
Casey Toof (R- St. Albans)
Energy and Technology
Chair, Tim Briglin (D-Thetford )
Vice-Chair, Laura Sibilia (I-Dover)
Robin Chesnut-Tangerman (P-Middletown Springs)
Scott Campbell (D-St. Johnsbury)
Seth Chase (D-Colchester)
Mark Higley (R-Lowell)
Avram Patt (D-Worcester)
Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe)
Mike Yantachka (D-Charlotte)
General, Housing and Military Affairs
Chair, Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury )
Vice-Chair, Chip Troiano, (D- Stannard)
Diana Gonzalez (P-Winooski)
Matt Birong (D-Vergennes)
Marianna Gamache (R-Swanton)
Mary Howard (D-Rutland City)
John Killacky (D-South Burlington)
Emily Long (D-Newfane)
Randall, Szott (D-Barnard)
Tommy Walz (D-Barre City )
Chair, Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford)
Vice-Chair, John Gannon (D- Wilmington)
Rob LaClair (R-Barre Town)
Nelson Brownell (D-Pownal)
Marcia Gardner (D-Richmond)
Jim Harrison (R- Chittenden)
Bob Hooper (D-Burlington)
Warren Kitzmiller (D-Montpelier)
Mike Mrowicki (D-Poultney)
John Palasik (R-Milton)
Chair, Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg)
Vice-Chair, Anne Donahue (R-Northfield)
Lori Houghton (D-Essex)
Annmarie Christiansen (D-Weathersfield)
Brian Cina (P-Burlington)
Mari Cordes (D-Lincoln)
David Durfee (D-Shaftsbury)
Ben Jickling (I-Randolph)
Woody Page(R-Newport City)
Lucy Rogers (D-Waterville)
Brian Smith (R-Derby)
Chair, Ann Pugh (D South Burlington)
Vice-Chair, Sandy Haas (P-Rochester)
Topper McFaun (R-Barre Town)
Jessica Brumsted (D-Shelburne)
James Gregoire (R-Fairfield)
Logan Nicoll (D-Ludlow)
Dan Noyes (D-Wolcott )
Kelly Pajala (I-Londonderry)
Marybeth Redmond (D- Essex)
Carl Rosenquist (R-Georgia)
Theresa Wood (D- Waterbury)
Chair, Maxine Grad (D-Moretown
Vice-Chair, Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland)
Martin Lalonde (D-South Burlington )
Kevin Christie (D-Hartford )
Selina Colburn (P- Burlington)
Kenneth Goslant (R-Northfield)
Nadir Hashim (D-Dummerston)
Kim Jessup (D-Middlesex)
Will Notte (D-Rutland City)
Barbara Rachelson (D-Burlington)
Patrick Seymour (R- Sutton)
Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife
Chair, Amy Sheldon (D- Middlebury)
Vice-Chair, Paul Lefebvre R-Newark)
Trevor Squirrell (D-Underhill)
Chris Bates (D- Bennington)
Kari Dolan (D-Waitsfield)
Bob Forguites (D-Springfield )
Jim McCullough (D-Williston)
Leland Morgan (R-Milton)
Carol Ode (D- Burlington)
Harvey Smith (R-New Haven)
Tom Terenzini (R- Rutland Town)
Chair, Curt McCormack (D-Burlington)
Vice-Chair, Barbara Murphy (I-Fairfax)
Tim Corcoran (D-Bennington)
Mollie Burke (P-Brattleboro)
Mike McCarthy (D- St. Albans City)
Pattie McCoy (R-Poultney)
Dave Potter (D-Clarendon)
Connie Quimby (R- Concord)
Brian Savage (R-Swanton)
Mary Sullivan (D-Burlington)
Becca White (D-Hartford)
Ways and Means
Chair, Janet Ancel (D-Calais)
Vice-Chair, Bill Canfield (R-Fair Haven)
Joey Donovan (D-Burlington)
Peter Anthony (D-Barre City)
Scott Beck (R-St. Johnsbury)
Pat Brennan (R-Colchester)
Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington)
Jim Masland (D-Thetford)
Robin Scheu (D- Middlebury)
George Till (D-Jericho)
Sam Young (D-Greensboro)
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