Shouldice and Associates Lobbying Report
Week 15 of the Vermont Legislative Session – April 22, 2022
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Section: Advocacy News

This week started with the Governor releasing 3 back-to-back statements regarding the Senate passed Budget, the Legislature’s pension bill, and a new report highlighting economic benefits of tax increment financing. Regarding the pension bill, the Governor was less than impressed with what he termed as the “closed room deal” that led to this current bill. He stated, “I know it’s easy to just claim victory and go home. As I’ve said, the easiest thing for me to do politically would be to sign the bill, sing ‘kumbaya,’ and sleep easy knowing that it won’t be me or many of the current legislators who have to deal with this again in five to 10 years.”

The Budget Dance continues between the House, the Senate, and the Governor. The Senate passed the budget, the earliest in recent history, and although “it made steps in the right direction” for the Governor, it may not be enough to keep him from pulling out his veto pen. The bill will go into a Committee of Conference where the differences will be hashed out between members of the House & Senate.

Regarding the budget… the Governor expressed some rather strong thoughts during his weekly presser. He had this to say to sum it up. “While the Senate version has moved in the right direction, it still doesn’t make the most of the unprecedented opportunity we have before us. But fortunately, there’s still time to come together to make sure we are prioritizing long-term growth over short-term fixes.”

There are key differences between the Governor’s proposed budget and the Senate’s, such as funds for workforce training, recruitment, and retention; rural economy investments; tax cuts for seniors and making Vermont more affordable for young workers.

Seems quite clear the notion of “kumbaya” won’t be applied with this bill until the legislature gives in to what the Governor has recommended and stands firmly behind his beliefs of how to use the influx of federal funds in order to strengthen Vermont’s economy as well as making it more affordable.

Governor Scott’s veto pen appears locked and loaded for when some of the highly political bills land on his desk if significant language changes are not incorporated. On a happier note, the Governor signed several bills into law this week, including a couple of charter changes, one of which created a new cityThe Governor stated, “I know this issue has been the subject of debate for decades, and I’m happy to see a resolution. Congratulations to the people of Essex Junction on the establishment of Vermont’s newest city.”

The ink continued to flow from the executive pen on Thursday as several more bills were signed into law including S.113, Medical Monitoring. Governor Scott issued this statement:

“I appreciate the Legislature for working towards a solution on this legislation, in particular Senator Sears and the Bennington County delegation. I know we’ve had differences on this issue in the past, but this result is a good example of how we can work to address each other’s concerns and get to ‘yes.’ That’s what good government is about.”

Those watching the legislative proceedings over zoom may have noticed additional boxes on their screen from more legislators being impacted by Covid and having to participate remotely. Friday’s Covid infection numbers were still climbing including 57 hospitalizations. By the end of the week the Statehouse was requiring masks again in committee rooms due to the rising numbers. In addition to the need to switch gears from legislating to campaigning, this is likely another incentive for leadership to speed up the pace and get to the end of the session.

A little gambling activity is occurring under the Golden Dome, as is common practice toward the end of the session. Bets are being made for when adjournment will occur. Some are staying strong on Senate Leadership’s May 6th projection while other more senior legislators have bets extending adjournment into the last week in May. Some have even commented that they are preparing to postpone their summer vacation plans with the impending and probable veto session that may be scheduled.

Several committees, feeling the crunch, will be meeting on Monday to help move critical legislation along.

H.740 FY 2023 Budget “Big Bill”

The Senate passed an $8 billion dollar budget which Governor Scott has said is better than the House, but not good enough. The Senate boasts that it supports working families prioritizes investments in housing, mental health and disability services, workforce and economic development, and higher education. The bill passed 28-2.

Senate budget proposal includes:

  • $70 million in housing investments for the development of affordable and middle-income Housing.
  • $80 million for weatherization
  • $94 million for clean water
  • 8% rate increase for community mental health providers under tremendous stress
  • Almost $15 million to support the transformation and stabilization of the Vermont State College system, on top of $10million base increases to both the State Colleges and UVM
  • More than $100 million in workforce and economic development funds to support hard-hit sectors of the economy
  • Increased investments in:
    • Treatment facilities and peer-support recovery centers for those experiencing substance use disorder around the state
    • Courthouse security
    • Childcare providers, Children’s Integrated Services, and parent child centers that to provide wraparound services and key prevention for families at risk 
    • Legal aid services related to health care and poverty law

Key investments across House and Senate:

  • More than $200 million to address climate change, including $80 million for weatherization in low- and middle-income households
  • $95 million in broadband connectivity

The bill is now headed to a Committee of Conference where the “wrinkles” will be worked out. But don’t be fooled, the final product will need to be approved by the Governor as this budget is not one that he is afraid to veto. This could hold up the May 6th adjournment.

H.736 An act relating to the Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation (House expected to concur with Senate)

This bill proposes to adopt the State’s annual Transportation Program and make miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation.

The Senate passed the annual Transportation funding bill as recommended by Senate Transportation. The bill allocates $837M in transportation funding, a record transportation bill due to the federal Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act. A record paving budget of $158M includes 590 miles of roads.

The bill includes a statement of policy for the State to use recycled materials and manufacturing byproducts in all maintenance, construction, and improvement projects withing the State’s Transportation Program. For example, recycled glass used as an aggregate to substitute for virgin or manufactured sand; ground and used as a pozzolan (substitute for Portland cement); converted into a building component.

The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 29-0 and returns to the House for concurrence. Early indications are the House and Senate Transportation Committees are close to agreeing on a final transportation program bill and it is not likely they will need to appoint a committee of conference.

Click here to view the summary of bill as recommended by Senate Transportation:

H.739 An act relating to capital construction and State bonding budget adjustment (up for action in the Senate)

The Senate Institutions Committee voted to amend the capital construction budget by reducing expenditures approved by the House passed bill. Senate Appropriations approved changes to the bill.

Click here for the FY23 Capital Budget Adjustment Summary – Senate vs. House and Governor’s recommended.

S.210 An act relating to rental housing health and safety and affordable housing (up for action in the House)

This bill proposes to improve rental housing health and safety and expand opportunities for affordable housing. The bill includes a registry for rental housing.

House General, Housing and Military affairs voted favorably to move the bill as amended by the committee. The bill still includes the Rental Housing Registry and maintained exemptions for the following types of rentals:

  • Housing provided as a benefit of farm employment (exempt for 2 more years)
  • Units rented for fewer than 90 days/year
  • Non-winterized seasonal units

The bill appropriates $400K for the Rental Housing Registry Program and $20M to Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program to fund forgivable loans for weatherization and rehabilitation expenses on rental properties. Estimated revenue from the Rental Housing Registry in FY2023 is $840K and $1M in FY2024.

The creation of a Rental Registry Program has been a controversial issue. The House Ways and Means Committee voted narrowly (6-4-1) to support the bill as amended by House General, Housing & Military Affairs and House Appropriations voted 8-3-0 in support. On Friday, the House discussed the registry at length and voted 88-54 in favor. The bill will be up for additional action next week. It is not clear if the Governor will sign S.210 as he has expressed opposition to creating the registry in the past.

H.159 An act relating to community and economic development and workforce revitalization (passed Senate)

This bill proposes to increase minimum wage, provide a supplemental UI Benefit, create a COVID-19 Related Paid Leave Grant Program to assist employers and other economic investment programs.

Senate Appropriations reduced funding $100.9M passed by Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs to $54.9M.

$ 6M

New Relocating Employee Incentives

General Fund


$ 4.2M

Think VT Regional Recruitment & Relocation Network

General Fund



Covid-19 Related Paid Leave Grant Program (employers)




Paid Family & Medical Leave Task Force and Report



$ 8M

Unemployment Insurance Supplemental Benefits -$25




VEDA Short-term Forgivable Loan Program



$ 5M

Creative Economy Grants



In addition, the bill includes:

  • Raising minimum wage from $12.55 in 2022, to $13.75 in 2023, and $15.00 in 2024
  • $25 Unemployment Insurance Supplemental benefit
  • SALT (State and Local Tax Deduction) – a workaround for pass through businesses due to cap on federal deductions on income taxes

The Senate passed H.159 on Thursday and will head back over to the House next week.

S.226 An act relating to expanding access to safe and affordable housing (action delayed)

This bill proposes to increase the supply of affordable housing in Vermont, promote homeownership, and broaden housing opportunities for Vermonters.

Key provisions:

  • $1M for First-Generation Homebuyer Program
  • $5M for Manufactured Home Improvement and Replacement Program
  • Amendments to Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit Program – add Neighborhood Development Areas and include Qualified Flood Mitigation Projects
  • $5M for Community Partnership for Neighborhood development for matching grants to large employers to provide employees housing, and matching grants for converting commercial property to residential use.
  • $15M Missing Middle-Income Homeownership Pilot Program
  • $400K for Mandatory Residential Construction Contractors registration with the Office of Professional Regulation and a Residential Contractor Consumer Assistance Program
  • Creation of VT Land Access and Opportunity Board to promote social and racial equity in property ownership

The House General, Housing & Military Affairs Committee amended the bill by removing the sections related to Act 250. Several of those sections were added to S.234 by House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife. The bill is pending action by House Appropriations next week.

H.715 An act relating to the Clean Heat Standard (action delayed)

This bill proposes to establish the Clean Heat Standard to reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions from the thermal sector. The Clean Heat Standard shall be administered by the Public Utility Commission with assistance from the Clean Heat Standard Technical Advisory Group and the Equity Advisory Group.

The Senate Appropriations Committee opposed the bill as amended by Senate Natural Resources and Energy and requested an amendment to require the Public Utility Commission to report back to the Legislature prior to implementing a Clean Heat Standard program. Previously in the House, Representatives Harrison (R-Rutland/Windsor), Fagan (R-Rutland) and Murphy (I-Franklin) offered a similar amendment, but it was voted down. Senate Appropriations will return to H.715. Click here to view the bill as amended by Senate Natural Resources and Energy.

S.234 An act relating to changes to Act 250 (up for action in the House)

House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife voted favorably to amend which includes:

  • H.492 An act relating to structure of the Natural Resources Board – all components folded into S.234 (estimated cost is $384K in first year)
  • Raises cap on number of Priority Housing Projects (PHPs) exempt from Act 250 in small towns from twenty-five units to fifty units and simplifies permit or permit amendment for projects that include PHPs.
  • Municipal land use permits expire after 2 years, not one
  • Adds definitions related to forest blocks and connecting habitat to be used in Act 250 criterion.
  • Grants for Municipal Bylaw modernization ($650K in FY2023)

The Committee did not include the Road Rule and removed changes to Wastewater Connection permits. Despite attempts to simplify the Act 250 process the bill still creates a more complicated process for the appeals and adds another criterion for Act 250. The Governor has not expressed support for the proposal to restructure the Natural Resources Board and would like to see no Act 250 necessary for housing development in Designated areas.

Both House Appropriations and House Ways & Means Committees will need to review the bill.

H.606 An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection (up for action)

This bill proposes to establish State goals of conserving 30 percent of the land of the State by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. Senate Natural Resources and Energy voted in favor of the bill as passed by the House.

H.466 An act relating to surface water withdrawals and interbasin transfers

The Senate Agriculture Committee introduced an amendment which increases the reporting threshold to 10K gallons per day and clarifies agriculture exemptions from future permit program. The Committee will likely vote on a final draft on Tuesday. They did not amend any sections that were not related to agriculture.