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End of Session Report June 2023

Updated: Jul 10, 2023


2023 Legislative Update_Holcombe and Masland
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Key investments include:


Housing

($211 million)

The budget includes $109 million to expand affordable housing and $102 million for emergency shelter and support services for unhoused Vermonters, recovery housing, transitional housing for Vermonters exiting prison, and housing for young people exiting the foster care system. The HOME bill or S.100, lays the groundwork for more affordable housing stock for Vermont’s working families. It updates our land-use policies to encourage housing development where we want it — in vibrant, livable and walkable downtowns — while discouraging sprawl.


These land-use updates include zoning changes to enable more housing density, like allowing duplexes wherever single-family homes are allowed and at least five housing units per acre in areas served by water and sewer. We also made time-limited changes to Act 250 in growth centers, designated downtowns, village centers, and neighborhood development areas (NDAs) by changing the so-called “10-5-5 rule” (in which building or developing 10+ units within 5 miles in a 5-year period triggers Act 250 review) to a “25-5-5 threshold” (25 units, within 5 miles, in a 5-year period) In designated downtowns, growth centers, and 10 NDAs, we also eliminated the cap on the number of housing units in priority housing projects. Importantly, we also made it harder to appeal much-needed housing projects.



● $49 million to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to increase the supply of affordable housing (plus $27.5 million in the mid-year FY23 budget adjustment)


● $10 million to the Vermont Housing Improvement Program (VHIP) to rehab apartments that are offline or in violation of building codes, or to build or renovate accessory dwelling units (plus $5 million in the mid-year FY23 budget adjustment)


● $60 million for emergency shelters, temporary housing and supportive housing services ● $7 million to fund recovery housing and housing for youth exiting foster care or Vermonters leaving prison ● $1.2 million to the Vermont Land Access and Opportunity Board, created last year to create opportunities and improve access to woodlands, farmland, and land and home ownership for Vermonters from historically marginalized or disadvantaged communities


● $30.4 million to stabilize and expand capacity in long-term care facilities and $4 million for manufactured housing repairs


Fixing Safety Nets by Raising Provider Reimbursement Rates ($99.7 million)


The budget contains a major update to rates that support our medical and human services programs. These rates have been underfunded for years, causing a substantial shortfall for providers. We’re boosting the rates for primary and specialty care, dental care, home health, nursing homes and residential care, adult day care, substance use and mental health, ambulance services and more. Increasing these rates will help us attract and retain workforce, meet demand for services, open up new beds in assisted living and nursing homes, and free up hospital emergency rooms.


Childcare ($76 million)


We overrode the Governor’s veto to pass a child care bill. This investment — part of a proposed multi-year process — will extend eligibility for child care subsidies to more families, raise reimbursement rates to increase payments to childcare providers, and provide payments to support improvements in quality. It provides professional development for programs that are willing to serve children with disabilities. Protecting our Health Care Providers When the U.S. Supreme Court eroded reproductive rights with the Dobbs decision, professionals who provide reproductive care have been threatened with criminal, civil, and regulatory penalties in many other states. In addition, our nation’s transgender citizens are seeing their right to exist questioned in states that are passing laws to restrict or even prohibit gender-affirming care. Vermont is now leading the nation by protecting the health care professionals who continue to follow our state’s laws and standards of care.


H.89 is a “shield” bill that protects providers from criminal and civil penalties for providing these essential health services. S.37 is the companion bill meant to guarantee that our health care providers will not lose their licenses and certifications due to injurious laws in other states. S.37 also ends the deceptive practices of some limited-service pregnancy centers, ensures the supply of medications used in reproductive care, and increases access to contraceptives on Vermont’s college campuses. Both bills were signed by the Governor in May.


Environment and Climate


The FY24 budget contains significant climate and environmental investments. It invests $9.8 million as a state match for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds. $8 million is allocated for assessment, planning, and cleanup of contaminated “brownfield” sites and $6.1 million will be used to address septic, water, and energy needs of older VT housing stock. The state aquatic invasive species prevention grants program received $500,000 in stabilization funding and a position was also funded to support this program. The budget also provides the Agency of Natural Resources funding to be used as incentives to replace high global warming potential refrigerants and funding to support groundwater remediation due to PFAS contamination (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). There is also funding for the Department of Public Service to help eligible schools to repair, renovate, or replace existing wood chip or pellet heating systems.


Right To Repair


H.81, the right to repair bill, provides consumers and independent repair shops with the tools, parts, and information necessary to repair their own agriculture and forestry equipment. Currently, when a piece of equipment stops working, the farmer or logger has no other choice than to use a manufacturer-approved dealer to make repairs. H.81 would allow customers to make their own repairs, use an independent repair service, or continue to use the dealer. This bill also aims to increase farmer safety by preventing maintenance delays. H.81 passed the House in May and is pending in the Senate.


VT Saves: Supporting Retirement Savings


Most Americans, including Vermonters, have inadequate personal retirement savings. This is particularly true for those who are self-employed or who work for small employers that lack access to convenient, automatic retirement savings. S.135 creates a Public Retirement Initiative, VTSaves, to provide employees not currently covered by a workplace retirement plan access to one at no cost to their employers. VTSaves will be transformational for Vermonters’ long-term financial well-being, allowing them the dignity and security they envisioned for retirement.


Human Services, Prevention, and Recovery ($20 million)


H.494 starts a $20 million two-year pilot to expand the “hub and spoke” treatment system for opioid use disorder; funds a statewide expansion of mobile crisis units (to relieve pressure on hospital emergency rooms); and invests in recovery centers, recovery housing and after school, youth mentoring and substance misuse prevention programs. It invests in preventing hunger and prevention of child abuse. Suicide prevention Vermont’s suicide rate is 50% higher than the national average.


H.230 addresses Vermont’s high rate of suicide as a public health crisis by implementing several critical, evidence-based measures to prevent suicide by reducing access to lethal means, including a 72-hour waiting period to purchase a gun and requirement of safe storage of firearms in homes with children.


Affordable Heat:


Exploring a Future Solution S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, targets how we heat and cool our buildings. The goal is to help Vermonters save money and reduce pollution by transitioning away from fossil fuels to cleaner, local, more renewable and more sustainable heat. We’d accomplish this not by taxes or mandates, but by requiring fossil-fuel dealers to earn renewable credits. Dealers would earn these credits by helping interested Vermonters — and especially those with fixed, low or moderate incomes — do things like weatherize, install heat pumps, or switch to cleaner fuels at a lower price. In May, the legislature gave final approval to S.5 by overriding Governor Scott’s veto.


The Public Utilities Commission will now spend the next two years researching and designing the proposed Clean Heat Standard. This public process will include reports that analyze the cost of the program (including any impact on fuel prices), the estimated savings for Vermonters and much more.


Universal School Meals


During the pandemic, the federal government provided free school meals to all K-12 students. Last session, the legislature provided funding to continue offering universal school meals in Vermont for the 2022–2023 school year.

H.165 makes this popular program permanent so all kids can be fed at school regardless of circumstance. The program will also increase purchases of local foods. Workforce and Higher Education ($74 million)


The budget contains a $47 million package to educate, attract and retain workers in fields with severe shortages, including nursing, dental hygiene, teachers, psychiatric care and the skilled trades. It also funds UVM and Vermont State University, successful scholarship programs like 802 Opportunity and Critical Occupations, adult education, small farms and organic dairy producers. It also allocates funds to help small business, rural industry, and working lands enterprises.


Bottle Bill


Vermont’s existing beverage container redemption program hasn’t been updated since it passed over 50 years ago. H.158 expands the redeemable list to include plastic water bottles, sports drinks, and wine and hard cider bottles and cans. It also creates a producer responsibility organization to create additional, conveniently located redemption centers across the state.


Paid for by Representative Rebecca Holcombe and Representative Jim Masland

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