Legislative Update- March 20, 2023
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While the majority of pandemic restrictions have been lifted at the State House, the legislative session will continue to be accessible online:
|Policy crossover took place on Friday, March 17th. Crossover is the time during the legislature is required to advance bills from either the Senate to the House or vise versa. The reason is to give the other side of the building time to vet bills prior to sending them to the Governor after final approval before the end of session. There are two crossovers: one for policy which is this week and another for finances/budget the following week. Year to date the lobbying team is pleased with the results of ours/your efforts and know what we are working with for the second half of the session.
The priority of the majority party in the House was passage of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act and it appears after Appropriations committee reviews the bill with the budget next week it will pass. The bill would provide up to 12 weeks per year 90% of an employees wages due to leave for family, medical and other eligible reasons. The bill goes further than bills passed previously by the legislature that were vetoed by Governor Phil Scott. This bill which likely faces another veto is also being challenged by a Senate bill. Your lobbying team has been in testimony and working with legislators to fine tune the bill to make sure it is transparent to employees and not a burden for employers.
The Senates priority of child care expansion is close to full passage with only a few key steps to take during financial crossover. The bill originally included a provision to allow pre-k education by public schools for children as low as 4 years old which has been removed. The remainder of the bill includes additional funding to our existing childcare supplemental plans and creates an office within government to track and manage the funds/processes. Senator Jane Kitchel amended the bill to include a paid parental leave benefit which has lower benefits and is specific to child birth or adoption. This move is widely seen as an effort to push forward the Senates priority of child care while appeasing members of the House who were seeking paid leave. At this point it’s unknown how this will end by session close and some speculate this will take until 2024’s session to complete.
There were several environmental bills including clean water initiatives that did not take precedence over the popular housing bill which was introduced by the Chair of the Senate Economic Development Housing and General Committee, Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale. The bill takes many steps including popular programs like the ”missing middle” which supplements workforce housing builds, funding popular lending programs and some very interesting exclusions from Act 250. For existing properties, it will become easier to convert single units to multi units which will increase workforce housing which has been promoted by the AGC/VT lobbying team, exemptions for Act 250 for designated/priority downtown areas, and other provisions to help people buy/rent homes at a more affordable rate. The Chair has been communicating with your lobbying team on the parts of this bill and we look forward to pursuing its passage with some more improvements.
There were many employer mandate bills introduced this year but were reintroductions from prior years. Most of the bills had been left on the walls as the chairs of committees recognize from testimony from your lobbying team that employers have been working hard competing for help in this tight market and do not need additional hurdles.
The Senate Economic Development Housing and General has passed out several bills related to employment this week with a focus on union labor. S.102 was a bill introduced to create certain protection, across the board in a “good cause” standard for termination which would make Vermont the second in the nation to move away from “employment at will”. The efforts of your lobbying team and others have had that removed from the bill due to the damage it would cause. The bill continues to promote union protections for Vermont institutional employees such as state or municipal, some agricultural workers and “domestic” Vermont workers. The bill allows those ag workers to form unions, has a free speech clause that allows workers to leave required meetings that include religious, political (includes anti-union discussion but is not dissimilar to existing Federal abolitions), and creates a system of card check for the “domestic” Vermont workers. “Domestic” Vermont workers means employees in companies that fall under the Vermont Labor Relations Act (VLRA). Its important to point this out because 99% plus of Vermont employers are recognized under the Federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This is important because the card check provision of the bill and other union provisions do not apply to most Vermont companies. To fall under the NLRA rather than VLRA a company needs to participate in interstate commerce like bidding on projects out of state, having out of state vendors or subs, or doing business including credit card machines or accounts with out of state entities. If you have any questions call Matt at 802-223-2374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lobbying team has accomplished a lot this year and kept contractors free from many challenging mandates or taxes. It is critical that you come to our legislative reception at the AGC/VT office this Thursday, March 23rd at 4pm to meet with Senators and Representatives to let them know we are a large group of voters, we care and appreciate their work they have done for us.
Also, if you see Heather Shouldice, Emma Shouldice or the Government Affairs Committee members please thank them. They’ve done a wonderful job pushing our priorities this year.