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Legislative Update 5/7/2021
It’s the time of year when the legislature plays chess. Sometimes it even plays speed chess, with programs, initiatives, and tax code changes flying in and out of bills as they move back and forth between chambers. Each chamber attempts to position its priorities to its best advantage, sometimes by holding the other chamber’s priorities as hostage.
A House committee may remove a section of a bill that its Senate counterpart spent months discussing. And vice versa. A committee may also attach one of these pieces to a different bill, using it as a “vehicle” to shore up its chances of survival. In non-COVID times, legislators play a version of three-dimensional chess, with players sitting on different floors in the Statehouse working their own individual chess boards.
When a bill goes to conference committee, the opponents finally sit across from each other and the gamesmanship gives way to final decisions.
Bill provisions that are of existential importance to an association or company can be deleted at the blink of an eye. What may seem like a callous disregard for the work that went into those bills – the days of testimony and hours of committee deliberation, the effect it has on individual lives and businesses – it is not personal. It’s likely just positioning in the game of legislative chess.
Unemployment insurance – The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee passed an unemployment insurance bill, S.10, on a vote of 8-2-1. The committee removed 2020 from the UI Trust Fund calculation and removed the Senate’s proposed $50 dependency benefit. There is no rate freeze, so employers will pay UI taxes using Schedule 3 next year and Schedule 4 for two years…
Revenue bill – The Senate Finance Committee continued consideration this week of H.437, the revenue bill, but pulled up short of voting the bill out on Friday. As passed by the House, the bill includes three changes: a 1.75% property transfer tax surcharge on properties worth more than $1 million, clarifications for the sales tax exemption on manufacturing machinery, and an affordable housing credit for manufactured homes…
Miscellaneous tax bill – The Senate Finance Committee is ready to vote out H.436, the Miscellaneous Tax bill, tomorrow afternoon. With a straw poll, the committee agreed unanimously to repeal language that makes Paycheck Protection Loans taxable…
Read about other general government updates
Energy & Technology
Broadband deployment – The Senate Finance Committee unanimously supported a strike-all amendment to H.360, a bill to expand broadband deployment, on Wednesday evening. The committee amendment proposes to reorganize the House bill’s Vermont Community Broadband Authority as a three-member Board and expand grant program eligibility to include small communications carriers in addition to communications union districts. The Senate Appropriations Committee moved to strike the bill’s appropriations section—after confirming that the $100 million ARPA appropriation is included in Sec. G of H.439, the “Big Bill”—and voted unanimously in favor of the bill as amended. Read more
Water infrastructure – Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Peter Walke presented an overview of the state’s $1.9 billion “universe of need for water infrastructure” to the Senate Natural Resources Committee this week. Walke distinguished two of the largest areas of need – wastewater repairs and upgrades ($490 million) and drinking water repairs and upgrades ($374 million) – as already having some existing funding sources and aligning with the anticipated guidelines for the pending American Jobs Act…
Read more about this development
Public tuition for religious schools – The thorny and complex issue of public tuition for religious schools returned to the Senate Education Committee this week. Legislative counsel Jim DesMarais walked legislators through legal principles and analysis of tuition for private religious schools, laying out the sometimes-conflicting case law and constitutional issues…
Radon testing in schools – The Senate has approved H.426, a bill to address public school facilities and construction issues across the state. The bill appropriates $4 million to conduct an assessment of school facility needs and costs…
Read on for more education legislation updates
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For more information about this Legislative Update, please contact Kathleen Donnelly.