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Legislative Update: Week 4

This week’s Legislative Update is sponsored by:

January 31, 2020

Talk to anyone in the State House this week and they will tell you that they are waiting for something to drop, that they are just in a holding pattern on at least one issue waiting to see how a crucial few people will move. In the Senate, leadership is still holding S.37, a medical monitoring bill vetoed by the Governor which would be a big political win ahead of an upcoming election cycle, however, now is made unnecessary or redundant by a federal court decision. 

In the House, it’s all about basic math, with the leadership of both parties counting heads to see if the Democrats can reach the 100 votes they need to override a veto of Paid Family Leave and Minimum Wage. This, of course, is against a backdrop of uncertainty as rumors circulate that the Governor may sign the modest minimum wage proposal and due to a shrewd strategic alliance with the state employees’ union is poised to build his own version of Paid Family and Medical Leave. 

In each of these situations, the outcome lies in the hands of just a few legislators with histories of being highly pragmatic rather than dogmatic; something that makes a party whip’s job harder. 

In this week’s update; 

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Thank You for Attending our Legislative Breakfast

We had a fantastic time hosting everyone on Monday to hear from the Governor and connect our business community with the over 20 legislators, and Lieutenant Governor in attendance. Be sure to make the most of the experience by following up with your legislators to continue the conversation. Not sure how to? Reach out to our team for help.

We’ll be sure to see you at the next breakfast on March 16th at Costco!

Thank you to New England Federal Credit Union for sponsoring our Legislative Breakfast Series.

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Interstate 89 Corridor through Chittenden County Public Meetings

The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) are conducting a comprehensive study of Interstate 89 within Chittenden County to create a vision and identify improvements for 2020 to 2050. There are multiple opportunities to engage in the process or watch a live stream video of any of the upcoming meetings directly through their website. Dinner will be provided and all meetings are 6:00-8:00 PM:

  • Williston Town Hall, Thursday, February 13, 2020
  • Winooski City Hall, Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Transportation and childcare are available with sufficient notice. All meetings are accessible. Requests for free interpretive or translation services, assistive devices, or other accommodations should be made to Diane Meyerhoff at [email protected] or 802-865-1794.

Transportation Climate Initiative Public Meeting

Throughout January and February, Vermont state officials and regional planning commission staff are hosting four public information meetings to discuss the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). Each meeting will feature a brief overview of TCI and provide more details about the specific proposals in the draft regional MOU and the associated modeling results. After the initial presentation, they will take questions and hear feedback on the draft MOU

When: February 6, 2020 | 6:00 – 8:00pm

Where: Contois Auditorium, Burlington City Hall, 149 Church Street

Tourism Support Building in the House

The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development has been discussing the Governor and tourism advocates’ call for an additional $500,000 investment in our state’s marketing and branding. This proposal drew strong criticism from the State’s Auditor this week who questioned the efficacy of the Vermont brand. While this bill continues to be discussed in House Commerce it is also a big part of the budgeting process in House Appropriations. LCRCC and our advocacy partners are watching the proposal in both places and engaging to further this essential sector of our economy. 

To that end, Jeff Lawson, LCRCC’s Vice President of Tourism and Marketing met with the Tourism Caucus on Thursday morning to explain the work he is doing with the Vermont Convention Bureau to market the state and bring in over $2.3 million in convention activity to Vermont. He also explained how LCRCC is actively breaking silos to utilize tourism to attract employees and employers to the state.

Workforce Development Report Delivered

The Vermont Department of Labor and the State Workforce Development Board contracted with Regional Development Corporations statewide to create, coordinate and deliver a standardized series of Regional Workforce Summits within the state last October. The Summit outcomes are detailed in a report submitted by the RDC’s to the Department of Labor, which includes actionable strategies, specific to each region, that will be implemented locally by the formal or informal workforce partnerships that have evolved in each region. Read a summary of the report here.

Minimum Wage

The Senate voted Thursday 23-6 to concur with the report of the committee of conference on minimum wage. The bill now heads to the Governor. As we reported last week, the bill will increase the minimum wage by $1.59 over two years, from $11.75 in 2021 to $12.55 in 2022.

Medical Monitoring

The Senate Committee on Agriculture heard testimony on S.37 in an effort to understand the differences between the bill and a recent medical monitoring decision by a Federal Judge that established medical monitoring as a legal remedy in the state. As mentioned above, the bill was vetoed by the Governor and is waiting for a veto override vote in the Senate.

3-Acre Stormwater Rule 

The House Committee on Corrections and Institutions took testimony on the proposed 3-acre stormwater general permit released this fall. The Department of Buildings and General Services, which manages state-owned properties, is requesting $1.1 million for the necessary work to comply. Additionally, significant funding will be needed for military installations owned by the state and property owned by the Department of Forest, Parks, and Recreation. 

A summary of comments received, including those from our team, can be found here. If you are unsure if you might be covered by the new general permit you can see a map of affected areas.

Employee Misclassification 

S.108, a bill that would have created a duplicative process in which the Attorney General would have authority to investigate and assess penalties for employee misclassification, couldn’t be agreed upon in a Committee of Conference in the final days of the last legislative session. This year, the conference committee finally agreed on a version that would require the Department of Labor and the Attorney General to sign a memorandum of understanding around referral of misclassification cases before September 1st, 2020. Under the finalized bill, if a business has violations on two separate occasions in a 5-year period or 5 violations at once, the cases are automatically referred to the Attorney General.

Energy Efficiency Modernization Act

The Senate Natural Resources Committee has been considering a bill that would create a three-year pilot program that allows Efficiency Vermont to repurpose existing revenue surplus to develop new and expanded programs in the transportation and thermal sectors. This is a major shift as the energy efficiency utility’s charge when it was founded 20-years ago was solely electrical efficiency. The change is aimed at reflecting our current state in which thermal and transportation present the majority of the state’s emissions and the higher marginal emission impact each dollar can have there.

Act 250 

It seems a mutually agreed upon a proposal from the Administration and environmentalists hit a major stumbling point and it’s unclear what that means for work on modernizing Act 250 moving forward. The committee took an informal straw poll on Tuesday on a key part of the proposal involving limiting the purview of the nine district commissions in the state in favor of a more professionalized, three-person board in Montpelier, similar to the Public Utilities Commission. It was quickly clear that the proposal was dead and with it potentially much of the hard-earned consensus.

The Laundry List

  • Two visitors made the rounds in the legislature giving rather negative testimony on Local Subsidies and The State of State Tax Incentives and Subsidies to Local Businesses. The Committee heard that Vermont ranks fifth nationally in transparency and first in accountability. The Chair of that Committee has introduced a bill with the intent of increasing transparency in the state’s VEGI program. 
  • The House Ways and Means Committee is looking at changing the sales weighting for the corporate income tax in the coming weeks. You may recall that last year this committee changed the state from a Cost of Performance Sourcing model to marketed-based sourcing where previously Vermont requires corporations to apportion their income using a three factor double-weighted sales formula. The Committee has also expressed interest in looking at the merits of Joyce-Finnigan changes.
  • Big Broadband News at the Federal Level – the FCC voted yesterday to spend over $20.4 billion over 10 years on rural broadband projects.  Awards will be distributed to the low-cost bidder in a reverse auction in those areas that are currently below certain speed to distribute funds from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. A lot of work still needs to be done to finalize the auction procedures. We’ll provide more information as we can. 
  • A proposal to exempt military retirement income from Vermont income tax presented by the Governor in his budget address came up for consideration briefly in House Ways and Means and was just as quickly dismissed this week. 
  • The House passed H.606 yesterday which makes changes to laws around storage units including notification of renters with overdue rent and clarification that Vermonters cannot live in storage units.

Concerned or need to learn more about anything in this newsletter? Email our team at [email protected]. 

We look forward to working with you this session.
Sincerely, 
The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Team

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Tom Torti, President
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Cathy Davis, Executive Vice President
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Austin Davis, Government Affairs Manager
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