By: Matt Musgrave, Deputy EVP/Government Relations Director
The 2019/2020 Vermont legislative biennium kicked of Wednesday, January 9. In addition to the usual pomp and circumstance was the introduction of 44 new House and Senate members including 7 new House committee chairs and 2 new Senate committee chairs. Following several House committee chair retirements Representative Amy Sheldon (Middlebury) who has chaired the Act 250 Commission has taken over as chairwoman of House Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife, Representative Michael Marcotte (Coventry) for Commerce and Economic Development, Representative Tim Briglin (Thetford) for Energy and Technology, Representative Thomas Stevens (Waterbury) for General Housing and Military, and Representative Kate Webb (Shelburne) for Education. Senator Joe Benning (Caledonia) has taken over as Senate Institutions chair for the retired Senator Peg Flory. Two notable changes to committee chairs are Representative Curt McCormack (Burlington) replacing Representative Patrick Brennan (Colchester) as chair for House Transportation and Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (Bradford) replacing Representative Maida Townsend (South Burlington) as chairwoman of Government Operations.
The House of Representatives has already announced that raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, clean water funding, and toxic liability regulations are among its priorities. In addition, the House will likely introduce updates to Act 250 Vermont’s development regulation, a fee/tax on people who do not carry health insurance, climate change regulations, and ethnic study in schools.
Senator Pro Temp Tim Ashe (Chittenden) has announced his intent to make some amendments to the Vermont Constitution. The changes include extending the governors term from 2 to 4 years, abortion protections, additional protections for minority groups and the removal of any language related to slavery in the constitution. Senator Dick Sears (Bennington) has announced the creation of a marijuana regulation and tax system which will likely pass the Senate but have challenges in the House.
Governor Phil Scott began his second term by addressing the General Assembly on Thursday, January 10. His address called up legislators to work together despite the national political backdrop “that’s brought out the worst in public process.”, find innovative ways to build our workforce, focus on the changing demographics of the state, supporting clean water, and fulfilling our deal with state worker and teacher pensions. The governor also spent time talking about the education system in Vermont with a focus on opportunities, health and the outcomes.
The Associated General Contractors of Vermont will remain focused on the state house and the policies being crafted. Working with our amazing lobbying team at Shouldice Associates we look forward to championing your message and being heard on the hill.