As committees hurried to tie up loose ends before recessing for Town Meeting Day, two major bills dealing with economic and workforce development continue to progress. The Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee devoted less than an hour to the omnibus economic development bill, S.263, focusing instead this week on housing. The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee spent significantly more time working through the omnibus workforce development bill, H.703, which includes several Vermont Chamber priorities, such as investments in the CTE system. Read more.
The Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee took a deeper dive into the Omnibus Housing Bill, S.226, this week. The Vermont Chamber offered testimony in support of proposals that would increase housing stock for middle income Vermonters, with a focus on the Missing Middle Homeownership Development Program. Read more.
The Vermont Chamber continues to advocate for the full balance of the FY2021 appropriation for the economic recovery grants. The current version of the omnibus economic development bill would repurpose the $26 million left over for the Capital Investment Program and brownfield revitalization, and appropriate $20 million of federal relief funds to the VEDA forgivable loan program, leaving struggling businesses $6 million short. Read more.
The House Appropriations Committee took testimony from legislators on various aspects of the FY2023 budget and received recommendations from several committees on programs under their jurisdictions. The Committee will use these recommendations to inform their markup of the bill after the Town Meeting Day recess, and the Vermont Chamber will continue working to ensure that critical workforce, housing, and childcare investments are included. Read more.
The Committee on General, Housing & Military Affairs reviewed a committee bill which contains a number of provisions to modernize Vermont’s liquor laws, many of which were discussed last year but didn’t pass due to time constraints. If passed, both fortified wines and low alcohol spirit-based beverages (also known as ready-to-drink cocktails) would be permitted to be sold via retail outlets and beverage wholesalers. This omnibus bill also includes several technical corrections put forth by the Administration. Conversations are set continue after crossover. Read more.
H.483 CTE Funding: This bill requires the Agency of Education to develop an implementation plan to change the funding and governance models that hamper CTE schools’ ability to attract students to their programs. The final report will be issued in July 2023, essentially delaying any action for two years on this critical proposal. The Vermont Chamber is working to expedite the report so this can be addressed in the next legislative action.
H.492 Natural Resources Board: House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee passed the bill to change the structure of the Natural Resources Board creating a 5-member Environmental Review Board to hear appeals rather than the Environmental Division of the Superior Court. The bill will be voted on by the full House before consideration by the Senate.
S.284 Changes to Act 250: The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee passed S.284 with housing and permit updates to the Neighborhood Development Areas and Priority Housing Projects. This will impact the similar proposals in the current version of S.226 as Priority Housing Projects fall under Act 250, not housing jurisdiction. S.284 also contains language that would create a new Act 250 Road Rule, a provision the Administration has made clear they would not support.
Clean Heat Standard: The House Energy Committee approved a Clean Heat Standard by a vote of 7-2 on Thursday afternoon. Learn more from VFD.
Burlington Charter Change: The House approved a Burlington charter change that would allow Vermont’s largest city to enact a ban on oil and gas heating in new construction and a tax on anyone that refuses switch over to the city owned electric utility. The legislation passed 98-49 and next goes to the Senate. Learn more from VFD.