State House Report, February 26th
Legislative Deadline Looms
Legislators Return Home for Town Meeting Break Next Week
This next week at the Vermont State House will focus on the looming Crossover deadline – the annual legislative line in the sand requiring bills to be out of committee and scheduled for a floor vote if it will make it through the legislative process this year. For many bills and proposals, this next week is do or die time. Here’s an update on some of the bills VBSR is following.
- Paid Family Leave – The House approved a bill establishing a paid family insurance program last year, but the proposal has not yet been taken up by the Senate. The Senate Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee is expected to hold hearings on the proposal later in March. The House proposal is funded through a employee payroll tax. VBSR supports establishing a Paid Family Leave system and will work with Senate leaders to move a bill forward in 2018.
- Health Care – The Senate Health and Welfare Committee continues work on a bill establishing a Universal Primary Care system in Vermont. A draft circulated late last week has various health care stakeholders developing implementation plans and reporting back to the Legislature next year. It also establishes a UPC fund using excess hospital revenue. VBSR supports investing in primary care as the first step toward larger health care reform that would cut the ties between employment and health insurance.
- Child Care – Legislators are considering a $9 million funding boost for the Child Care Financial Assistance Program, which helps working families access high-quality child care services. Unfortunately, funding for this program has not kept pace with increased enrollment costs at child care facilities. VBSR supports the increased funding request because lack of access to affordable and high-quality child care is hurting our business community and forcing parents to leave the workforce early.
- Employment Protections – The House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee last week approved H.711, a bill adding crime victims to the list of protected classes under Vermont’s employment law. The committee is also considering H.412, called the ‘Homeless Bill of Rights,’ which would also add housing status as a protected class.
- Carbon Pricing – The House Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife Committee voted 5-4 in support of H.763, which calls for an independent, non-partisan economic analysis of carbon pricing in Vermont. This is the first time a Vermont legislative committee has voted on and approved a bill relating to carbon pricing. VBSR supports this study, which is also the recommendation of Gov. Scott’s Climate Action Commission, the Climate Solutions Caucus, and the Vermont Mayors Coalition.
- Clean Water – A proposal to establish a Clean Water Authority and appropriate new funding for water clean-up efforts has hit roadblocks in the Senate. The Senate Agriculture Committee is not expected to move on those proposals this year. Meanwhile, the EPA has warned Vermont that if it does not enforce new farm regulations that it may impose requirements that municipalities spend millions on wastewater system upgrades. VBSR believes that Vermont cannot continue to delay action on identifying a stable and long-term funding source for water clean-up.
- Independent Contractors – The House Commerce and Economic Development gave unanimous approval last week to an amended version of H.731, a bill that prohibits employers from coercing employees to become independent contractors. The bill is partly in response to a decision last year from the Vermont Supreme Court. VBSR thanks the House Commerce Committee members for their work on this bill.
- Minimum Wage – The Senate approved a bill moving Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 earlier in February. The proposal is expected to be taken up in the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee after the town meeting break. VBSR supports the Senate version of the bill because it brings Vermont closer to a living wage than current law and does so on a six-year timeline, allowing for businesses to adjust.
- Economic Development – Several workforce and economic development proposals are being considered in the House Commerce Committee, including Gov. Scott’s proposals to attract new workers to the state and updates to the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive Program. Members of the Commerce Committee sent a memo last week to the House Appropriations Committee with their economic development funding suggestions.
Interested in VBSR Policy? Get involved today
The voice of socially responsible businesses in public policy debates is now more important than ever.
Part of VBSR’s mission is to support socially responsible businesses and help them succeed. One way we can do that is energize the voice of SR businesses in Vermont and bring that perspective to policy debates at the Vermont State House.
Contact VBSR Public Policy Manager Daniel Barlow for more details on how to get involved with VBSR policy.