May 13th starts what is expected to be the last week of the 2018 legislative session. Bills are moving to and from committees landing on the floor of either the House or Senate to vote on. Many of the bills being discussed are amendments to their first or second pass back between the House and Senate. Below are the topics AGC/VT is working on this week:
S.37 Medical Monitoring- This bill intends to require companies who cause toxic spills and exposures to pay for life long medical monitoring for the victims. The original draft of the bill set the threshold for monitoring based on any type of spill whether permitted or not. The most recent version that passed out of House Judiciary committee cleaned up that language to include only “tortious” conduct which is defined as “negligence, trespass, nuisance, product liability, or common law liability for ultra-hazardous or abnormally dangerous activity”. Although the bill has improved significantly AGC/VT has signed a letter of opposition with 34 other industry associations. We also have emailed AGC/VT members to contact their representatives and tell them to vote “no”.
S.163 Rental Housing/Home Builder/Remodeler Registration– AGC/VT has been tracking the home builder registration part of the bill. In its current form it requires contractors who work directly for a homeowner for jobs over $2500 (parts and labor) to become registered with the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR). AGC/VT has worked with the department to ensure only properties with 4 or less residential units fall in to the program and subcontractors working for a registered general contractor would not need to be registered. After several committee presentations and meetings the bill is headed to the House floor.
S.108 Attorney General Misclassification Enforcement- This bill started out and passed quickly out of the Senate. AGC/VT and other business organizations had the opportunity to testify before the House Commerce and Economic Development committee. During this testimony AGC/VT expressed concern that the original bill gave people who complained that they were misclassified as independent contractors could initiate complaints with Department of Labor AND Attorney Generals office who would have been able to conduct separate investigations, potentially different conclusions and two penalties. After 3 times in the witness chair the committee agreed to a number of requirements showing the suspect company to be a repeat offender for the AG to be involved. A separate bill funding VOSHA was added and the whole package is expected to pass.
S.80 Fluorocarbon Prohibition- In line with Federal EPA rules Vermont has begun the process of prohibiting the production and sale of fluorocarbons. While the majority of the bill is focused on refrigeration a section was added prohibiting spray foam and other home insulation that included the chemicals. AGC/VT member Byron Gokey of Wallboard Supply gave testimony to the committee that the chemicals the EPA would allow are not currently available in the market so there would be no replacement if there was a prohibition. He focused on the fact that Vermonts weatherization efforts could be staunched if the prohibition begins before new products became available. The House Natural Resource Fish and Wildlife committee have the bill and are considering an extension.
Minimum Wage and Paid Family Leave- Both of these bills are being negotiated at the moment. House Appropriations has extended the $15 minimum wage out two more years to 2026. The paid leave plan has changed who can benefit, landed on using a third party insurer and that companies offering plans already that meet or exceed the proposal may be exempt from the program. These bills are in heated debate and it is unknown whether they will pass, and/or be subject to a veto.
With no vetoes yet if the session ends this week they will come back next year. If there are vetoes there will likely be a “veto session” during the first weeks of June.