Legislative Update- March 15, 2021
Sunday, March 14, 2021
by: Matt Musgrave

Section: Legislative Update

The first week of crossover went amazing fast and legislators were working hard to try to understand complex bills and craft policy. There was little time available for testimony and legislators found themselves working long frustrating hours without the ability to interact in person which makes these weeks easier. Speculation has begun amongst advocates and legislators about how the session will be impacted with the newly passed Federal COVID stimulus package this week that includes over $1.25 billion for the state of Vermont. The most likely scenario will be similar to last year. Legislators will likely work through May and take a break to return in August to appropriate the stimulus and other COVID initiatives.

The week started with AGC/VT board member Stefanie Eichler from NFP insurance testifying in the House General, Housing and Military committee on a bill that would require residential building contractors to register with the Office of Professional Regulation. AGC/VT has testified multiple times to make sure that there is a carve out that would not bring sub contractors into the registration system. Stefanie went in to address an insurance requirement that did not make sense. The bill originally required a liability policy with a minimum benefit of $300,000/incident and $1,000,000 in aggregate coverage. Stefanies testimony helped the committee understand that the lowest coverage available was $1,000,00/incident and $2,000,000 in aggregate. She also started the conversation about other insurances such as unemployment, workers comp and auto liability requirements. The committee took her testimony well and eventually passed the bill out which heads to Ways and Means committee this week which rejected the bill in the past.

Matt Musgrave went before the House Transportation committee again to discuss work zone enforcement. Several amendments to the work zone license plate reading pilot program which would have stripped out a provision that would send warning letters to speeders. The testimony rejected the proposals because they became study projects for data we already know: people speed in work zones. Rather that support policy that would not accomplish the goal of changing drivers behavior Matt suggested that we return to the table next year and answer the questions raised about privacy and procedural challenges the committee had. "This isnt a normal session" Matt said, "I would simply ask that you consider this testimony and when non COVID or must pass bill approach the floor for a vote to consider whether or not adequate testimony was taken to craft good policy"

The business community was surprised this week by passage of S.10 an act related to COVID unemployment insurance provisions passed out of the Senate Economic Development committee with little testimony. The bill was intended to address a scheduled rate increase that would triple unemployment insurance rates for some. The committee resolved to add an additional benefit of a 20% increase to payments for one year. The surprise felt across the business community was a last minute amendment to include a $50/week additional increase for families with children that would not expire. The financial experts estimate it will add approximately $35 million per year of payments from employers. The committee refused to allow business advocates who asked to testify. There is an ongoing effort to avoid this $35 million increase in UI rates.