May 13, 2022
The Vermont Chamber succeeded on most of our initial agenda items, including retaining Vermont workers, helping businesses emerge from the pandemic, increasing workforce housing supply, and recruiting new workers to Vermont. While Vermont businesses will continue to battle the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, including a constrained labor force, higher wages, reduced hours, 8.3% inflation, and endless supply chain problems, progress was made on many fronts due to the increased support of our members and our dedicated five-person Vermont Chamber advocacy team.
With a high approval rating and little concern for the campaign season ahead, Governor Phil Scott exercised his veto authority on six bills already in 2022, for a record 29 in his six year tenure. Governor Scott continues to clearly state which of his priorities are non-negotiable. He has signaled that if bills come to his desk with provisions he opposes, or lacking sufficient funding for his priorities, more vetoes will follow.
The House and Senate passed a $99.5 million economic and workforce development bill, sending it to the Governor’s desk. While many of our priorities were addressed, the bill contains absolutely no plan to recruit workers to Vermont, a glaring omission amid the severe labor shortage. Due to this exclusion, the Governor’s veto threat lingers as legislators adjourn.
In the fading hours of the legislative session the omnibus housing bill was passed, a priority for the Vermont Chamber, legislators, and the Governor. Included in the final omnibus housing bill is $15 million for the Missing Middle Homeownership Development program which addresses workforce needs by increasing the supply of housing for middle income earners. There are also funds for manufactured homes, bylaw modernization grants, and an expansion of the priority housing project program.
The final bill to pass this session was the $8.3 billion budget, which provides the funding for general government spending and the major policy bills this session. For more budget details, listen to this VPR report.
Expanding the manufacturing tax exemption has passed the House and Senate in the H.738 Miscellaneous Tax bill and is now headed to the Governor’s desk. If signed into law, 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.
Tax relief for Vermonters was a top priority for Governor Scott this year, but the measures passed in H.510 did not meet the minimum requirements he outlined, suggesting an uncertain outcome.
Bill Updates
  • H.715 Clean Heat Standard: This centerpiece of the Climate Action Plan would have provided incentives to move the state away from fossil fuels heating sources. The Clean Heat Standard will not become law after the Legislature failed to muster enough votes to override the Governor’s veto. Learn more from VFDA.  
  • S.269 Energy Savings Account Pilot Partnership Program: This bill passed, containing language authorizing the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive, and has been sent to the Governor’s desk. He is expected to sign it into law in the coming days.
  • H.320 Discrimination Settlement Agreements: This bill, which would have prohibited employment discrimination settlements from containing no rehire clauses, failed to receive a vote in the Senate before adjournment and will not become law.
  • H.175 Bottle Bill: The proposed expansion of the Bottle Bill to include more beverage containers will not pass into law this session after passing in the Senate but failing to get the votes needed to move the bill to the House prior to adjournment. 
  • H.730 Liquor Law Modernization: After clearing the House and the Senate, the bill is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. There are several provisions in the bill that will be beneficial for Vermont’s tourism and hospitality industry, including moving ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs) into the wholesale/retail space, permitting first-class licensees to sell RTDs, staggered vs. annual license renewals, and clarification for licensees to participate in the rare and unusual product raffles.
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