The legislature kicked off on January 7th with the continuation of the 2019/2020 biennium. With over 800 bills introduced in 2019 still in play and another several hundred already introduced the legislators have a lot of work ahead of them. There are the must pass bills like the state budget, transportation bill, office of professional regulation bill and other agency bills but there are a few that still remain top priority to leaders of both the house and senate.
Increasing the minimum wage and paid family leave are two of the biggest priorities of the majority party. In 2019, the bills moved through both sides of the state house with many changes made along the way. The minimum wage bill would have originally increased to $15/hour by 2023 but after changes, it seeks to increase the wage by $1/hour over the next couple of years. The paid family/medical leave bill began as a 12 week leave program with a 90% wage replacement paid through a state run insurance program for people with medical issues or the birth of a child but the current version has half the time off and a 60% wage replacement by a private insurance provider and only covers child bonding and family care. As of today the current forms of the bills have not been passed and they have been assigned to committees of conference between the house and senate to negotiate final language. These bills are priority one for legislative leadership.
Governor Phil Scott gave his “State of the State” address on Thursday, January 9th. His message focused on continuing to build on the work that he and the legislature had begun of creating efficiencies and making government work for the people in a meaningful way. Scott also discussed the importance of civility and working together then ironically being shouted down by protesters who had to be removed from the audience by police. Scott brought up the challenging demographic issues facing our state, “Today in Vermont, there are about 55,000 fewer people under the age of 45 and 44,000 more over the age of 65 than there were in the year 2000. For years, we had more deaths than births, and have seen more people move out of Vermont than in. ” He then went on to outline some successful policies that he wanted to continue including a remote worker incentive program to draw new people to Vermont, working with the Secretary of State to make professional licensing more affordable and tax reform so people could keep more of what they earn.
AGC/VT remains committed to advocating for you to improve the business climate, create more opportunities, reform the permitting process, increase the workforce, and keep your people safe in their work place. Please contact me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share a challenge, success or idea we can bring to our state leadership.