Legislative Update- January 9, 2023
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|The legislature opened its doors and the session began on January 4th following a long vacation break preceded by a historic election season. The statehouse was a buzz with more new faces due to record retirements and members seeking higher office last session. The first week of a new biennium is chalk full of ceremony, organization and member training.
The first order of business during the week was the election of the Speaker of the House and Representative Jill Krowinski from Burlington was easily elected for her second term in the position. Once the speaker was elected, and lunch had, the members returned to the House floor to hear the committee assignments. Prior to hearing the committee assignments the speaker and majority leader introduced a resolution that changed the committees and some of their assignments. Most notably was that the House Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee and the House Energy Committee were combined to form the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. The General & Housing Committee was relinquished of their military oversight which was assigned to Gov Ops. Committee. Assignments ended up overly positive for the committees that are relevant to AGC/VT and businesses. Former Transportation Chair Diane Lanpher is now the chair of the Appropriations committee and was replaced by Representative Sara Coffey.
On Thursday, the appointment of statewide office holders took place. Deputy Secretary of State, Chris Winters announced the first run of statewide offices including the new Attorney General Charity Clark, Treasurer Mike Pieciak, and incoming Secretary of State Sara Copeland Hanzas. Once those appointments were made everyones attention turn to the Senate for the appointment of David Zuckerman as Lieutenant Governor who then returned to the House floor for a joint session to install the reelected Governor Phil Scott who then gave his inaugural address.
After the inaugural address the Senate reconvened to receive their committee assignments. New Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth of Chittenden County, Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman and Senator Dick Mazza assembled as the Committee on Committees to make the assignments. The committee structure remained largely the same unlike the House but there was some movement. The Transportation committee stayed the same as in the past biennium with Senator Mazza at the helm. Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale took over as chair of the Senate Economic Development committee, Senator Russ Ingalls as chair of Institutions and Senator Ruth Hardy as chair of Gov Ops.
By the end of the week only 25 bills had been introduced in the House and zero in the Senate. It is expected that the House will release close to 600 bills by the end of January and the Senate is expected to release 300. The majority party has prioritized housing, child care, climate and consumer protection. Advocates are expecting to see the Clean Energy Standard which was successfully vetoed in the prior biennium reintroduced under a new name with a few changes. The next few weeks will be spent with legislators hearing from agencies and advocate on studies and policy reports as well as budgetary issues which will then lead them to a hustle to get bills out by the March crossover deadline.
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