As we roll in to May things pick up speed at the state house. With committees scaling down their schedules to complete work on prioritized bills we have a better idea what to expect in the final stretch. AGC/VT began the session tracking 33 different bills but as the year pushes on some fail, some are put off until next year, and some won’t ever get attention. We are currently laser focused on 9 bills that have succeeded up to this point.
Paid Family and Medical Leave- H.107 has passed the House in similar form to its introduction. It includes a mandatory state-run paid leave insurance program, a .55% payroll tax, up to 12 weeks of benefits for parental bonding, up to 8 weeks medical leave, and pays approximately 90% of the employees’ wage during the leave. The Senate is now considering this bill and a proposal from Governor Phil Scott which creates an optional paid leave plan and a slightly different benefits package which would be run by a third-party insurer. The Governors “Twin State” plan would provide the paid leave benefit to state employees in Vermont and New Hampshire creating a large pool of insured which would make the plan comparable in price to H.107 but optional for non-state employees.
VOSHA Funding- AGC/VT supports the passage of H.351 which provides funding to VOSHA by clarifying language in the Workers Comp program. The alternative would be losing people in VOSHA, and the program would then be managed by the Federal program based out of state. The bill also removed the “short time” unemployment insurance program because it was not being used.
Winterization- H.439 seeks to double funds to the Home Weatherization Assistance Program by doubling the fuel tax on heating oil, dyed diesel, and propane with increases to the natural gas and coal taxes too. AGC/VT is opposed to this tax increase. The bill currently lies in the Senate whos leaders and the Governor have spoken out against the increase in the fuel taxes. There are several proposals to increase the fund without the tax increases in H.439.
Transportation Bill- H.529 known as the “T Bill” has passed the House and is moving through the Senate. The House version is largely level funded and no major policy shifts. The bill does include a provision the perform a feasibility study on increasing the states rail infrastructure. AGC/VT supports passage of this bill.
Workforce Development- H.533 is a bill designed to increase the skilled labor workforce in Vermont. It would include funding to the Department of Labor, a new American worker program, an employee with barriers to employment program, military base recruitment of skilled labor, and a nursing program. AGC/VT is particularly interested in a section of the bill designed to study and rate programs receiving grants from DOL so that they would be able to focus more monies on successful programs.
$15 Minimum Wage- S.23 aims to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024 via small annual increments until then. The bill sailed through the Senate but has slowed since it passed in to the House. The bill is expected to pass with some potential changes including extending the time period or other similar changes that would lessen the impact on businesses.
Toxics/Medical Monitoring- In a bill very similar to one that passed and was vetoed in 2018, S.37 aims to create strict liability to businesses that cause toxic exposures to the public. The current version would allow the victim of a toxic spill the opportunity to seek life long medical monitoring paid by the company responsible of the spill. The plaintiff would still have to provide proof and get a ruling by a judge for the monitoring to take place. This bill is a response to the Saint Gobain PFOA contamination in Benningtons drinking water.
Misclassification- S.108 is a bill that provides individuals who claim to be misclassified as independent contractors the option to open a case with the attorney general’s office in addition to the Department of Labor for the same complaint. AGC/VT testified against this on the basis that dual enforcement would impede due process and that the market doesn’t need more enforcement, but it needs more clarification of existing laws. It has passed the Senate and is the House Commerce Committee which is likely to make major changes due to the dual enforcement issue.
Home Contractor Licensing- S.163 is a bill that focuses primarily on rental housing but includes a section that would require home building contractors who perform work on residential buildings with contracts above $2000 to register with the Office of Professional Regulation. In addition to the registry they would be required to have written contracts and liability insurance. AGC/VT does not oppose the bill although we recommended some changes to be made. We successfully had a provision limiting the scope to residential buildings with 4 or less units and are continuing to push for the exemption of sub-contractors who work for a registered contractor under the bill.
We will continue to work hard on all these issues. If you have questions or are interested in attending a Government Affairs Committee meeting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.