Legislative Update 2/28/2020

February 28, 2020

As we approach the end of February it is clear the General Assembly is in high gear. Legislators will have the week of March 2 off to return to their towns for town meeting day on Tuesday then some time to relax before diving back in. When they return on Tuesday the 10th they’ll have only one short week to get policy bills out of committee to allow for the financial committees to vet proposals before crossover. Crossover is the deadline for bills to cross from the House to Senate or vice versa. The intention is to allow the other body time to vet and vote out bills in time for end of session.

The House of Representatives has had an extremely busy month. After negotiation and passage of both chambers Governor Phil Scott vetoed the mandatory paid family leave bill due to high costs and existence of a voluntary system that the administration developed. The lead up to the override vote was filled with hallway conversations, lobbying and party pressure. Ultimately the House failed to override the veto by one vote. Governor Scott also vetoed an increase to the minimum wage bill citing the benefits cliff and burden to small businesses. The House and Senate voted successfully to override the veto which will bring the minimum wage up to $11.75/hour by January 1, 2021.

The rewrite of Act 250, Vermont’s primary development law has been “the big show” since the beginning of the biennium last year. The House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife committee began drafting the bill in 2019 based on recommendations made by a commission that met through 2018 listening to the public and advocates on how to update the 50 year old bill. Last year the bill was mired in the committee due to disagreeing policies and educating brand new members of the legislature. The brand new chair of the committee attempted to keep the process moving forward but such a complex bill was expected to take time. One of the main sticking points of the bill was the creation of a state wide board proposed by the Governors administration and environmental group Vermont Natural Resources Council. The proposal was ultimately passed up but after 2 months in the committee, they successfully introduced the bill to the House floor for a vote. After several contentious floor sessions, several amendments and late nights in the chamber the bill has finally passed out of the House en route to the Senate.

AGC/VT and members have been diligently pushing for new work zone safety laws. Working with both the Senate and House transportation committees we are happy to see some great proposals. The DMV bill which originates in the Senate included several increases in fines for work zones, additional penalties for handheld phone use in work zones, improving the tools we use in the work zones, expansion of the “move over” law to include work zones, and debating either the addition of uniformed officer enforcement in contracts or a pilot program using license plate reading variable speed signs to enforce speeding in work zones.

There are also a number of personnel and business policies AGC/VT has been tracking or testifying on. One bill would improve the background check system for companies taking BGS contracts at sensitive sites like prisons or judiciary buildings. We are tracking several bills related to Davis Bacon and/or Vermonts Prevailing wage. Another bill would increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities. There are several bills attempting to improve the notorious “3 acre” stormwater law and many more involving environmental initiatives.

Your association remains committed to pursuing positive legislation for our members and opposing bills that would negatively impact members. Your government affairs team is always available. Please email matt@agcvt.org with any questions or suggestions.