Legislative Update- February 26, 2024
Sunday, February 25, 2024
by: Matt Musgrave

Section: Legislative Update

Presidents Day weeks legislative schedule appeared at first to be light with most committees showing "TBA" on their Thursday and Friday agendas besides floor time. After a closer review of their calenders it became clear there was a looming deadline last Friday. The Appropriations committee responsible for creating the state budget which matches money available, money to be raised and where it goes. Friday was committees deadlines to submit their budget requests for bills in their committees. Some of the asks from committees will be modest in the hundreds of thousands and other like education funding ask for more than two billion.

The good news is that for now the transportation budget proposed by Governor Phil Scott which includes a three percent increase to last years almost $900 million funding. With the budget the transportation big bill is moving through the House Committee on Transportation. The bill which has not yet been introduced on the floor includes some technical changes to programs or language in laws, many efforts to increase electric vehicle charging stations across the state, Vermonts complete streets initiatives, rail and air programs. The bill will likely pass without challenges before moving to the Senate. 

The Senate Committee on Transportation is fairly non controversial this year unless you like dark tinted windows on your car. The bill seeks to tie Vermonts window tint law to the Federal standards which may disappoint some car enthusiasts as it will become part of the vehicle inspection process in the future. The bill also changes language related to blue lights on vehicles. Currently the law prohibits non law enforcement from using flashing blue lights on their vehicles. The bill didn't consider the introduction of cosmetic blue led lights that people use on different parts of their vehicles but don't flash. The bill eliminates all blue light use for non law enforcement. There are other policies and technical changes in the bill that do not have an impact on construction.

After passing out the BeHome housing bill the Senate Economic Development and Housing Committee has taken up PR.3 which is a proposition to enshrine the right to organize a labor union in the Vermont constitution. This brought all of the labor union representatives and delegates to the state house for testimony in support of the bill. Among the buzz, business organizations were not sure whether to be spectators or participate in the crafting of the proposition or outright oppose it. One chamber of commerce was scheduled to testify on the proposal which will likely be a neutral stance but most have stayed out. Most have chosen to stay out because the prop wont change the rules around labor organizing that 99.9% of the private sector already recognize as laid out by the National Labor Relations Board. The prop if it passes two separate legislatures votes and then a vote of the people on a November ballot simply would prohibit laws being created in Vermont by the state or local governments banning union organizing. This would take no less than 3 years if it passes this and will be less of a step towards any systematic changes but more of a nod of support to the organizations asking for it.