May 6, 2022
As the May 6 target adjournment date arrives, it is clear that it won’t be met mostly due to several priority bills still in need of final reconciliation and passage. New target date rumors are abundant with some suggesting mid-week, but history proves if legislators return to Montpelier, they tend to stay for a full week. Major bills, including those containing economic and workforce development, housing investments, Act 250 reform, and tax relief, are now being negotiated between the House and the Senate. While there is a lot still up in the air and subject to change in the final days, the Vermont Chamber advocacy team will fight for business priorities until the final fall of the gavel.
The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the economic and workforce development bill. A conference committee must now reconcile differences as well as account for the Governor’s priorities that have been excluded. The Governor has indicated that if the Legislature passes this bill without appropriate support for workforce expansion, which he has repeatedly identified as one of his top priorities, he could veto the bill, sending it back for revision.
S.234, a proposal to change Act 250 to allow for more housing, was amended by the House with a significant change in governance which the Governor opposes, jeopardizing its passage. While many of the permitting provisions in S.234 promote smart growth development, they do not go far enough to create the transformational impact on Vermont’s housing crisis that is needed right now. With the addition of the governance language, barriers to development may increase rather than be alleviated through this legislation. The Governor is all but certain to veto the bill if that language is included in the final bill.
H.489 is on track to pass both the House and the Senate allowing $17.7 million in health insurance cost savings to be extended to small businesses and their workers for another year.
Bill Updates
  • S.226 Housing: The House passed this major housing legislation, which will likely head to a conference committee next to work through the differences between the House and Senate versions. After removing the permitting provisions that were moved to S.234, the House has made minor changes to the substance of the bill but added amendments related to fair housing practices, a community partnership of neighborhood development program, and the creation of a land access opportunity board that the Senate will need to review.
  • H.715 Clean Heat Standard: The House passed the Senate version of the Clean Heat Standard, and Governor Scott vetoed it, as expected. The Legislature will now need to muster enough votes to override the veto or make changes to the legislation to make it more acceptable to the Governor. Learn more from VFDA.
  • H.730 Liquor Law Modernization: After the beer industry lobbied hard against the inclusion of low-ABV ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs) in the bill, the Senate Finance Committee advanced the bill late in the afternoon with RTDs included. Moving RTDs out of the into the wholesale/retail space will help to create a more equitable landscape amongst alcoholic beverages with similar ABVs and provide a platform for economic development and growth. To learn more, contact Amy Spear.
  • Manufacturing Tax Exemption: While the Senate Finance Committee is poised to pass the expansion of the manufacturing tax exemption, its fate is uncertain in the House Ways and Means Committee. The expansion would exempt machinery and equipment used in integrated production operations and all ancillary processes between raw materials and finished goods, as well as some secondary packaging processes. The Vermont Chamber supported this change, which will modernize Vermont’s tax law, enhance workforce recruitment, retention, modernize facilities, and make Vermont competitive with the 33 other states that have similar exemptions in place.
  • Project-Based TIF Districts: The House Ways and Means Committee amended and passed this bill out of committee, sending it to the House floor for approval. The differences between the House and Senate versions are major, and center mainly around brownfield remediation and whether municipalities can fund debt service payments through TIF, so this may prove a roadblock to the chambers reconciling differences.
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