William Shouldice and Associates Lobbying Report
Sunday, February 11, 2024
Section: Advocacy News





Week 6 of the Vermont Legislative Session - February 9, 2024

Everybody gather ‘round, we have got some great and exciting news to share. The Committee on Joint Rules met Wednesday morning to vote on the upcoming crossover deadlines. A bill must pass one chamber of the Legislature by the deadline, or it’s effectively done for the year. The dates are set for March 15th for policy bills and March 22nd for money bills, or bills that have an appropriation in them. That took a hot 45 seconds and just like that, the meeting was nearing adjournment. But not before the infamous Senator Clarkson asked if any other issues were relevant to bring up. They landed on something that has been a bit fickle in the recent past, that being decorum or lack thereof. It appears decorum has faltered somewhat with over 30% turnover of the previously seasoned legislature. She asked that House & Senate leaders of their packs offer reminders to their respective chambers on how to behave while under their beloved Golden Dome, particularly in joint assemblies. Herding 180 Legislators into one room can be challenging to maintain calmness. House Speaker Jill Krowinski acknowledged this and admitted the House is constantly doing decorum reminders. Senator Clarkson quipped “that is why you are all so well behaved” which may have garnered a snicker or two and circled back with ‘of course you do that on such a regular basis, no one gets to see the bull whip behind her back”. On that note, the meeting ended. Hmmm….

Another conflict in the halls of the Statehouse is the annual Budget Adjustment Act (BAA). Often not a big deal and certainly not a typical ‘get in the ring with your boxing gloves’ bill, but this year the House punted it over to the Senate and the upper chamber was not overflowing with giddiness about it. Lots more to come on that tussle but in a nutshell, Senator Kitchel presented the BAA to her members starting off with saying the House version spends the $29M from the previously announced revenue upgrade as did the Governor’s 2025 budget but said “you can’t spend the twenty-five million twice”. Well by golly, isn’t that the truth! The Senate completed their work on the bill Friday and passed it out on a vote of 25-3 and heads back to the House for further consideration.

And guess who is at it again with the ‘tsk-tsk shaking of his head… Yep, it’s Papa Scott and he is NOT very happy with the progress, or lack of progress he is seeing so far coming out of Montpelier’s ‘Capitol Hill’. During his weekly press conference, he let loose.

“On January 10, I stood here with a tripartisan group of lawmakers and stakeholders to outline good, solid proposals that had wide support, and I felt good about the odds of passing something meaningful. But one month into the session. I’m not as confident as I was that day,” said Governor Scott. “It appears, in some committees, they’re moving in the opposite direction. Instead of prioritizing how to produce more homes, which would address all kinds of issues like workforce, healthcare, property taxes, education and more, some are looking to add to the regulatory burden and put us further behind.”

Referring to the housing crisis we have on our hands and on the top of many minds he stated, “Leaving rural Vermont out of our housing strategy is far from strategic, fair, or acceptable. And to be clear, I’m not proposing we build on our mountaintops, develop forest land, or create sprawl.”


DB 240167 - T-Bill - An act relating to the fiscal year 2025 Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation Draft Language -  In House Transportation Committee This bill proposes to adopt the State’s annual Transportation Program and make miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation.


S 309 - An Act Relating To Miscellaneous Changes To Laws Related To The Department Of Motor Vehicles, Motor Vehicles, And Vessels NEW STATUS: Referred to Committee on Finance per Senate Rule 31 Favorable report with recommendation of amendment by Committee on Transportation Committee Bill for Second Reading Entered on Notice Calendar (02/09/24) This bill proposes to make miscellaneous changes to laws related to motor vehicles and vessels.


S 46 - An Act Relating To The Vermont Fair Repair Act NEW STATUS: Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs relieved; bill committed to Committee on Agriculture on motion of Senator Ram Hinsdale (02/07/24) This bill proposes to make available from original manufacturers to consumers and independent repair providers the information, schematics, diagnostics, and repair manuals necessary to repair certain equipment.


S 304 - An Act Relating To Vermont’s Career And Technical Education Programs Committed to Committee on Education on motion of Senator Campion Committee bill read first time & placed on Notice Calendar per Senate Rule 48 (01/30/24) This bill proposes to make changes to Vermont's career and technical education (CTE) system, including: (1) basing the tuition charged to a school district on the district's prior year full-time equivalent student enrollment in a CTE center; (2) requiring school districts to provide students in grades six through eight with career enrichment and exposure, including at least one annual visit to the school district's regional career and technical education center; (3) requiring school districts to provide students enrolled in grades nine and 10 a genuine opportunity to participate fully in pre-tech and exploratory career and technical courses; (4) requiring the Agency of Education to create and supervisory unions to adopt a model comprehensive career development policy; (5) changing oversight of CTE from the State Board of Education to the Secretary of Education; (6) requiring the Vermont State Colleges Corporation to maintain program and course articulation agreements with all secondary CTE centers in certain programs; (7) articulating the intent to include CTEs in updates to State aid for school construction; and (8) requiring the Agency of Education to develop a statewide school calendar.


H 586 - An Act Relating To Flood Protection And Climate Resilience Infrastructure And Financing Rep. Sheldon of Middlebury moved that the Committee on Environment and Energy be relieved of the bill and that the same be committed to the Committee on Ways and Means, which was agreed to (01/24/24) This bill proposes to amend or enact multiple provisions related to improved flood protection and climate resilience in the State. The bill would also establish or authorize additional activities for the financing of climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience projects.


S 275 - An Act Relating To Municipal Ordinances Governing Unoccupied Commercial Buildings Read 1st time & referred to Committee on Government Operations (01/17/24) This bill proposes to authorize municipalities to assess a civil penalty to the owner of a commercial property that remains unoccupied and vacant for any 180-day period.


S 288 - An Act Relating To Unemployment Insurance Fraud Read 1st time & referred to Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs (01/17/24) This bill proposes to require an individual who fraudulently obtains unemployment insurance benefits to repay the amount of overpaid benefits and pay a penalty equal to 15 percent of the amount of overpaid benefits plus an additional administrative penalty of up to $5,000.00 and to make the individual ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits for period of five years.


H 792 - An Act Relating To The Residential And Commercial Building Energy Standards Read first time and referred to the Committee on Environment and Energy (01/16/24) This bill proposes to change the name of the Division of Fire Safety to the Division of Fire and Building Safety, to require the Division of Fire and Building Safety to adopt a statewide residential building code, to transfer jurisdiction over the Residential and Commercial Building Energy Standards from the Department of Public Service to the Division of Fire and Building Safety, to require the Office of Professional Regulation to make certain changes to the building contractor registry, to require the Division of Fire Safety to make certain energy code- related changes to its new database system, and to require the Department of Public Service to design an online application and certification tool for small residential projects.


H 793 - An Act Relating To Studying The Adoption Of A Residential Building Code Read first time and referred to the Committee on General and Housing (01/16/24) This bill proposes to create a study committee to examine and recommend strategies and methods for Vermont to adopt a statewide residential building code.


S 253 - An Act Relating To Building Energy Codes Read 1st time & referred to Committee on Natural Resources and Energy (01/11/24) This bill proposes to establish the Building Energy Code Working Group. It would also allow the residential building energy codes and the commercial building energy codes to be updated at the discretion of the Commissioner of Public Service. The Senate introduced a bill to address building energy standards and how single family residence construction is regulated. A summer study committee that AGC/VT was a member of had released a report that led to the bill S.253 "An act related to building energy codes". The study group report included suggestions that legislators move enforcement of single family energy standards to the Department of Fire and Safety (DFS), consider a statewide residential building code and require contractors to become licensed and complete required certifications. AGC/VT objected to the report and suggested instead of continuing to study the issue going forwards because DFS currently does not have the capacity to take on the additional burden and that proponents of the new "regime" had previously urged the state to adopt the residential contractor registration to solve the issues they aim to cure with the new proposals. The new study committee in S.253 will both allow the existing contractor registration system to do its job and promote/require use of the energy standards but will help create a thoughtful path to improving the marketplace. There are two bills introduced to the House with similar goals. One of the bills is similar to S.253 and the other bill incorporates all of the suggestions from the report and will be opposed by AGC/VT until a proper study of the issue is complete.


H 716 - An Act Relating To Career And Technical Education Read first time and referred to the Committee on Education (01/10/24) This bill proposes to make changes to Vermont's career and technical education (CTE) system, including: (1) basing the tuition charged to a school district on the district's prior year full-time equivalent student enrollment in a CTE center; (2) requiring school districts to provide students in grades six through eight with career enrichment and exposure, including at least one annual visit to the school district's regional career and technical education center; (3) requiring school districts to provide students enrolled in grades nine and 10 a genuine opportunity to participate fully in pre-tech and exploratory career and technical courses; (4) requiring the Agency of Education to create and supervisory unions to adopt a model comprehensive career development policy; (5) changing oversight of CTE from the State Board of Education to the Secretary of Education; (6) requiring the Vermont State Colleges Corporation to maintain program and course articulation agreements with all secondary CTE centers in certain programs; (7) articulating the intent to include CTEs in updates to State aid for school construction; and (8) requiring the Agency of Education to develop a statewide school calendar.


H 719 - An Act Relating To Housing Development And Unit Rehabilitation Read first time and referred to the Committee on Environment and Energy (01/10/24) This bill proposes to make multiple changes to the State land use law, known as Act 250; municipal zoning laws; tax laws; and housing programs. BeHome Act


H 687 - An Act Relating To Community Resilience And Biodiversity Protection Through Land Use Read first time and referred to the Committee on Environment and Energy (01/09/24) This bill proposes to make multiple changes to the State land use and development law, known as Act 250. It would also make changes to the regional plans and municipal plans. (Bongartz Bill)

As currently drafted, H.687 would render more than 90% of the state subject to automatic Act 250 jurisdiction.

For perspective, currently, less than 15% of the Vermont landscape falls under automatic Act 250 jurisdiction. And 90% of the State would fall under this bill; single-family home, or maybe even a garden shed, you’ll need to go through Act 250 which we know adds costs and time.

Very few Act 250 exemptions are included and have been narrowed, more stringent, and geographically limited, making nearly the entire state subject to Act 250.


H 693 - An Act Relating To 2024 Transportation Initiatives To Improve Infrastructure, Increase Resiliency, And Reduce Carbon Emissions Read first time and referred to the Committee on Transportation (01/09/24) This bill proposes to: (1) increase the annual appropriations to the Agency of Transportation for the Better Roads Program and the Municipal Highway and Stormwater Mitigation Program within the Municipal Mitigation Assistance Program in fiscal year 2025; (2) appropriate $250,000.00 to the Agency of Transportation for a continuation of the eBike Incentive Program in fiscal year 2025; (3) require that the annual report on the State's vehicle incentive programs include information on the State's outreach and marketing efforts and recommendations for improvement of how the State markets and conducts outreach related to the State's vehicle incentive programs; (4) codify the existing State goals for electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) along the State highway network and requirement that the Agency of Transportation annually report on the State's efforts to meet those goals and also require that the Agency report on efforts to increase EVSE in the State and the operational status of EVSE available to the public, which shall be informed, in part, by reports collected through a new EVSE complaint form; (5) require the Agency of Transportation to prepare a written plan for how to fund and maintain the EVSE necessary for Vermont to meet the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) goals in the Comprehensive Energy Plan and the Vermont Climate Action Plan; (6) appropriate $3,000,000.00 to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for a continuation of the EVSE Grant Program in fiscal year 2025; (7) require the Public Utility Commission to make written recommendations on what level of regulation, if any, should be placed on EVSE available to the public that is not owned and operated by an electric distribution utility; (8) establish right-to-charge laws to permit property owners and tenants to install EVSE; (9) allow residential customers to upgrade their electric service to enable participation in substantial domestic electrification, including managed level charging capability for PEVs, without incurring additional customer-specific charges from their electric utility; (10) require the Agency of Transportation to prepare a written plan to determine what programmatic elements need to be in place to allow for the expansion of carsharing in Vermont; (11) appropriate $750,000.00 to the Agency of Transportation for a continuation of the Mobility and Transportation Innovation (MTI) Grant Program with an early application window for applicants that are seeking a grant award for a project in a rural community in fiscal year 2025; (12) require the Agency of Transportation to request of Amtrak and coordinate efforts with Amtrak on the feasibility of adding additional service and increasing bicycle storage on Amtrak trains in Vermont and to report on those efforts; (13) eliminate the statutory requirement of 50 percent of Transportation Alternatives Grant Program awards being for environmental mitigation projects, thereby potentially increasing the number of bicycle and pedestrian facility projects that can be funded through the Program; (14) increase the annual appropriation to the Agency of Transportation to provide grants for bicycle and pedestrian facilities projects in fiscal year 2025; (15) increase the annual transfer from the Transportation Fund to the Downtown Transportation and Related Capital Improvement Fund and the annual appropriation to the Agency of Transportation for the Better Connections Program in fiscal year 2025; (16) require the Agency of Transportation to incorporate complete streets standards in the replacement to the Vermont State Standards, develop a way to target funding for complete streets projects within State-designated centers, develop a pattern book or other design guidelines to provide safer bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, and establish clear standard treatment guidance for providing safer bicycle facilities on State highways; (17) allow all State-designated centers to have posted speed limits of less than 25 miles per hour; and (18) require the State Treasurer to develop a written proposal for new revenue sources for dedicated and ongoing funding related to transportation and the environment. The language from H.693 will likely be added to the T-Bill, currently in draft form.


H 663 - An Act Relating To Requiring Payment Of The Prevailing Wage For State-funded Storm Repair And Climate Change Mitigation Projects Read first time and referred to the Committee on General and Housing (01/05/24) This bill proposes to require that employees be paid the prevailing wage on any project that costs in excess of $100,000.00; is funded in whole or in part by State funds or funding awarded by the State; and is related to cleaning up and repairing damage from a storm, constructing temporary shelter for displaced individuals following a storm, preparing for a future storm or natural disaster, or mitigating future impacts of storms and climate change. This bill also proposes to establish the prevailing wage for such projects as the higher of the prevailing wage rate set pursuant to the federal Davis-Bacon Act or the local prevailing rate of wages and benefits under a collective bargaining agreement and would direct the Commissioner of Labor to adopt rules to implement the new prevailing wage requirements. This bill further proposes to prohibit the Governor from suspending the prevailing wage requirements during a state of emergency.


H 672 - An Act Relating To Work Search Requirements For Individuals Receiving Unemployment Insurance Benefits Read first time and referred to the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development (01/05/24) This bill proposes to require individuals to repay any unemployment insurance benefits received during a week in which the individual failed to conduct an interview for suitable work or provided an employer with false or inaccurate information that prevented the employer from scheduling an interview with the individual.


H 636 - An Act Relating To Miscellaneous Unemployment Insurance Amendments Read first time and referred to the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development (01/04/24) This bill proposes to extend the period of time during which an employer's unemployment insurance experience rating will be relieved of charges for unemployment that results from a disaster and to require the Commissioner of Labor to waive overpayments of unemployment insurance benefits under certain circumstances.


H 648 - An Act Relating To Contractor Licensing Read first time and referred to the Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs (01/04/24) This bill proposes to require contractors in the State to be licensed, based on the state of Washington's contractor licensing requirements, including registration, bonding, insurance, and consumer protections regarding transparent cost estimates.


S 182 - An Act Relating To Contractor Liability Related To Subcontractor Work Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs relieved; bill committed to Committee on Finance on motion of Senator Ram Hinsdale (01/04/24) This bill proposes to require a contractor to be responsible for any harm or injury caused by a subcontractor in the performance of a construction contract that is not covered by the subcontractor's liability insurance.


H 547 - An Act Relating To The Repeal Of The Automated License Plate Recognition (alpr) System Statutes And The Enactment Of Laws Allowing For The Use Of Automated Law Enforcement Read first time and referred to the Committee on Transportation (01/03/24) This bill proposes to allow the current automated license plate recognition (ALPR) systems statutes to sunset on July 1, 2024 and proposes to enact new laws that allow for the use of ALPR systems and automated traffic law enforcement (ATLE) systems to be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, including traffic safety, which could involve the use of ATLE systems incorporating radar and cameras at one or more of the following: work zones, school zones, areas with a high incidence of crashes, areas with a high incidence of speeding, and intersections with traffic control signals.


H 562 - An Act Relating To The Temporary Use Of Automated Traffic Law Enforcement (atle) Systems Read first time and referred to the Committee on Transportation (01/03/24) This bill proposes to authorize, until July 1, 2027, automated law enforcement in work zones and up to two locations with an increased incidence of crashes or speeding, or both, through the use of automated traffic law enforcement (ATLE) systems that utilize radar and cameras and, in some instances, automated license plate recognition (ALPR) systems for the enforcement of monetary civil penalty only speeding violations against the registered owner of the violating motor vehicle.


H 576 - An Act Relating To Studying Supplemental Funding For The Unemployment Insurance Program Read first time and referred to the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development (01/03/24) This bill proposes to create a study committee to analyze the creation of a fund that could be utilized by the Vermont Department of Labor to provide a reserve for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund during periods of high unemployment as well as to support the Unemployment Insurance Program by providing funding for the acquisition of information technology upgrades, maintenance of existing information technology, improvement of services, fraud prevention, and to address other needs for which the Department lacks sufficient funding. The study committee shall analyze the advantages and drawbacks of various funding mechanisms and determine whether an enterprise fund, special fund, trust fund, or an account in the Unemployment Compensation Administrative Fund would best serve the needs of the Department.


S 184 - An Act Relating To The Use Of Automated Traffic Law Enforcement (atle) Systems Read 1st time & referred to Committee on Transportation (01/03/24) This bill proposes to authorize automated law enforcement in work zones; at locations with an increased incidence of crashes or speeding, or both; and at intersections with traffic control signals through the use of automated traffic law enforcement (ATLE) systems that utilize radar and cameras and, in some instances, automated license plate recognition (ALPR) systems for the enforcement of monetary civil penalty only speeding violations and red-light violations against the registered owner of the violating motor vehicle. VTRANs is looking at putting together a pilot starting with work zones only. The pilot cost is estimated at $1m but some grant funds are available. They will need to figure out how to work with all those involved in the pilot to capture camera data, law enforcement, action by law enforcement, traffic court. They all need to be willing to engage together. Also need to put a process together for the driver to be verbally asked if they are a member of the "armed services". The ticket is written on the vehicle not the driver. Only the rear license plate picture would be captured.

VTRANS will likely come back next year when all the details are worked out.

The House & Senate seemed to only be interested in a pilot.


S 201 - An Act Relating To Requiring Employers To Provide Delivery Vehicles Equipped With Air Conditioning Read 1st time & referred to Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs (01/03/24) This bill proposes to require employers to provide employees with motor vehicles equipped with air conditioning for use in the delivery, pickup, or transport of cargo and goods.


H 143 - An Act Relating To Consumer Protections Related To The Towing And Storage Of Vehicles Rep. Coffey of Guilford moved that the Committee on Transportation be relieved of the bill and that the same be committed to the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, which was agreed to (04/19/23) This bill proposes to establish certain consumer protections related to the towing and storage of vehicles.


S 102 - An Act Relating To Expanding Employment Protections And Collective Bargaining Rights Read first time and referred to the Committee on General and Housing (04/05/23) This bill proposes to establish a good cause standard for termination of employment, require employers to provide severance pay to terminated employees, and permit employees or representative organizations to bring an enforcement action on behalf of the State for violations of the good cause termination requirement. This bill also proposes to prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions against an employee in relation to the employee's exercise of free speech rights. This bill also proposes to permit agricultural and domestic workers to collectively bargain and to permit employees to elect a collective bargaining representative through card check elections. Agricultural workers language was struck in the Senate.


S 96 - An Act Relating To Privatization Contracts Read 1st time & referred to Committee on Government Operations (02/22/23) This bill proposes to amend the requirements for the Executive Branch to enter into privatization contracts.


H 140 - An Act Relating To Requirements For State-funded Grants Read first time and referred to the Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs (01/31/23) This bill proposes to require the Secretary of Administration to make various changes to the State's Policy for Grant Issuance and Monitoring. This bill also requires the Secretary of Digital Services to develop a statewide database that is required to list all State-funded grants available to municipalities.