Legislative Update 7/31/2020

Vermont State House in springYour legislative team is preparing for the return of legislators after the primary elections in August. AGC/VT in association with 20+ other trade groups are preparing for what could be a quick and possibly controversial 3-4 weeks. The short session will be after the primary elections which will likely lead to a few “lame ducks” who were voted out during the primary elections or people who have previously announced retirement in leadership positions. This means that the fear of losing re election by those politicians is absent which isn’t necessarily ideal. This will be a unique circumstance. When you add to that the use of Zoom remote meetings which limits public’s involvement in the process, it means our team has to be laser focused protecting AGC/VT member interests.

The primary goal the legislature will have is crafting a budget for the remaining 3 quarters of the fiscal year. So far there have already been budget adjustments related to Buildings and General Services as well as 70% of the VTRANS budget has already been released. One of the reasons for the late session was that legislators did not yet know what tax revenues would be from the state because of an extension due to COVID-19. This week the tax department released information showing that tax revenues exceeded expectations nearly cutting the expected deficit of $219 million in half. Despite those unexpected returns legislators will still be challenged to create a budget.

The other primary goal will be to assess and deal with challenges created by COVID-19. There may be the opportunity of more Federal funds including business packages, amending the UI payments, and there are efforts to get money to states and cities who’ve experienced budget shortfalls due to COVID-19. The legislature has already made great strides for businesses, unemployed individuals, agriculture, retail, hospitality and food services. But, all of those efforts were aimed at shortfalls for the past four months, and discussions will revolve around what our new normal may be and budgeting for future support if the virus stays with us without a cure.

Other bills in the “hopper” include sweeping changes to Act 250, the Global Warming Solutions Act, employer regulations and more. Many of these proposals can wait the 4 months until the legislature returns in January for the next biennium. We do anticipate that some of these bills particularly ones attractive to politicians re elections may get priority. It will be the effort of your association and other advocates across the state to support the legislature with the “must pass” issues like the budget but to urge pause on sweeping regulatory reforms until the next session to allow for the proper debate and public input in the process. You legislative team is here for you and please reach out any time to matt@agcvt.org.