Legislative Update 8/31/2020

The 2020 special session of the Vermont state legislature opened up this Tuesday, August 24th. Similar to the end of the normal session committees and floor sessions are being held online via Zoom meetings. Vermonts primary election results are in and as suspected there are several leaders who will not be returning in the next session due to either losses in the primary or retirements. Beyond the challenges of remote meetings and election exhausted representatives we are still dealing with the COVID-19 crisis which is front and center.. Beyond that the national stage has been focused on civil unrest, and police which are also on the agenda.

Speaker of the House, Mizti Johnson and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe laid out the schedule and priorities for the special session. They announced that the primary purpose of the session was to complete the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year and once that was done, the legislature would adjourn. They did allow bills to be taken up by committees if time allowed but warned that no matter what the adjournment would happen upon completion of the budget.

The first week was filled with “check in’s” from the various agencies regarding their summer work. AGC/VT paid close attention to many of these reports with the most notable being the Agency of Commerce and Community Developments (ACCDs) efforts with the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Grant program. ACCDs report was as expected that many¬† grants have gone out the door, and over 250 to contractors around the state. The agency made several requests to change rules in the program because there are still millions of undistributed money that is available. Ideas like expanding eligibility to larger businesses, increasing the maximum grant amounts and creative promotions were suggested and discussed.

The revision of Act 250 was immediately taken up by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy committee much to the dismay of parties on all sides of the issues. Both developers and environmentalists argued in committee, via social media and through multiple editorials that the special session is not an appropriate time to address such a complex issue. The major point of contention for many is a proposed exemption from Act 250 for designated downtowns. The objection from environmental advocates was that the designated downtowns in question have been reporting failures and releases of untreated sewage into waterways. Several of the committee members echoed the concern that progress was not being made updating the sewer systems and increasing the population would only exacerbate the situation. The proposal being objected to was developed through a partnership between the environmental group Vermont Natural Resource Council (VNRC) and Governor Scotts administration. It is being presented as a logical compromise to find common ground. With the controvery surrounding passage in the special session and other committees it would have to pass through it is unlikely that the bill will be completed in time.

Your association will be continuing to monitor daily and represent the interests of contractors and the building community. If you have any questions or would like to participate in the Government Affairs Committee please email matt@agcvt.org.