Legislative Update- March 1, 2020
Friday, February 26, 2021
by: Matt Musgrave

Section: Legislative Update

Matt with Ceres the Goddess of Agriculture as she is raised on top of the Golden Dome of the State House

The week of February 22nd was the last full week of committee work before the policy crossover deadline which is the deadline to pass bills from one chamber to the other with time to finish before adjournment. It was a busy week with each committee trying to put the finishing touches on multiple policies including a COVID relief bill, must pass budgets, COVID UI/Workers Comp provisions and miscellaneous other policies. What is not known is whether the "miscellaneous" policies will make it to a floor vote prior to crossover including various environmental proposals, a rerun of paid family leave and many others.

AGC/VT Executive Vice President, Richard Wobby, provided testimony to the Senate Natural Resources committee regarding weatherization of homes. The committee's goal is to weatherize over 120,000 homes by 2032 and asked Richard to address the workforce needs. Richard easily described the challenges of the existing workforce needs which still has not recovered from COVID. He testified that under the committees plan they would need to weatherize 12,000 homes per year to meet that goal.That is 230 homes per week. The workforce requirements for such a heavy lift simply does not exist in Vermont at the moment so huge efforts for recruitment are the biggest hurdle weatherization will have besides what is anticipated to be a large financial investment too.

House Government Operations and Judiciary committee took turns reviewing the work zone automated speed enforcement pilot program in the transportation bill. AGC/VTs Matt Musgrave testified before the Government Operations committee. He described the urgent need for more enforcement in our work zones and shared the story of flagger James Algers fatality and flagger rally at the state house. The Government Ops committee unanimously supported the proposal. Over in Judiciary there were concerns over privacy and the ability to ticket or warn the driver and not the owner of the vehicle. Although the committee had not yet given a stamp of approval they did opt to allow the Transportation committee to continue their vetting of the proposal and will take testimony if it reaches the floor of the House.

Matt Musgrave also testified on a residential contractor registration bill. The bill which is the brain child of the Vermont Homebuilders and Remodelers Association to combat fraud within the residential industry and create a system allowing Residential Building Energy Standards and other necessary information to be distributed the home builder contractors. AGC/VT has been working with the Office of Professional Regulation for two years to insure the policy does not pull subcontractors not in the registry such as concrete or asphalt companies from contracting with a General Contractor. The bill also has a provision that triggers registration only if the contractor enters into agreements for materials and labor above $2500. This should allow most "moonlighters" or "weekend warriors" to continue to practice so long as their contracts/projects do not cross the $2500/job threshold. The bill also has the requirement that a registered party must posses liability insurance and for contracts over $1000 they must be written.

The other hot topic this week is bill S.10 which currently resides in the Senate Economic Development Committee is intended to extend some COVID provisions which would extend the exemption to experience points for employers who offer jobs back after COVID layoffs, extend COVID unemployment benefits for people reaching the end of the year, and several other changes. A major topic of discussion is whether or not to freeze premiums from spiking in June due to spending down the UI trust fund and whether to increase benefits. At this point it seems the committee will likely pass out the extension to some programs and wait on considering changes to the formula.

If you are interested in the Government Affairs Committee please contact Matt at matt@agcvt.org