The 2019 Vermont legislature did good work, passing 114 bills that were carefully crafted to improve the lives of Vermonters. The $6.1 billion budget for FY2020 is fiscally responsible, just 2.6% higher than the current year, funding the reserves in anticipation of an economic slowdown, while adding funds to make childcare more affordable and fund clean water projects. The statewide education property tax stayed level, despite a 4% increase in overall spending by school districts.
Great strides were made in criminal justice reform, workforce and economic development, expanding broadband to underserved areas as well as improving forestry and agricultural practices. Many statutes were revised to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government in banking, professional regulation and health care. Vermont committed to testing drinking water in education facilities and public systems through increased testing and remediation.
The marquis issues had mixed success in the legislature: protecting a women’s reproductive rights received overwhelming support, establishing a tax and regulate system for recreational marijuana is delayed until next year, an increase in the minimum wage and the establishment of a paid family medical leave insurance plan stalled in the waning days of the session, and Act 250 reform never got traction. A 24 hour waiting period for the purchase of hand guns was passed but vetoed by the governor.
The report below is a short summary of each of the bills passed by both houses of the legislature. Please contact me should you want to discuss these bills and what is up for consideration in the 2020 legislative session.
Vermont State Representative
Woodstock, Reading, Plymouth
H.542 (Act 72) An act relating to making appropriations for the support of government. The 2020 Budget of $6.1 billion is a 2.6% increase over the current budget. It includes significant investments in the environment, workforce development, meeting needs of vulnerable Vermonters and shoring up critical provider systems. The budget pays for long-term liabilities and makes the State’s full annual contributions for the State pensions and retiree health care and medical benefits funds. It fully funds the state’s General Fund Reserve of $200 million.
Here are some of the highlights of the budget:
· $17 million in weatherization funding;
· $2.9 million for electric vehicles and charging stations;
· $500,000 for acquisition and conservation of legacy forestlands;
· $2.7 million for nine Park and Ride projects and $14.7 million for fifty-four Bike and Pedestrian Facilities projects.
· $450K for economic development marketing and $1.2 million for worker relocation incentives.
· $1.54 million for broadband investments.
· $1.6 million for small business support in agriculture, forestry, and other working lands enterprises;
· $1.3 million for regional development corporations.
· $3 million increase in funding for Vermont State Colleges.
· $200K for the creation of an associates degree pilot project at Career Technical Education Centers.
· $1.2 million in matching funds to businesses for training incumbent workers to gain skills resulting in higher salaries at those same businesses.
· $500K increase in Advancement Grants.
· $7.4 million, added to a $5.8 million base, plus $1.6 million in one-time funds for child care, supporting families and providers, as well as workforce incentive pilots and system investments. Adjusts market rates and benefit levels for the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP).
· $1.3 million added to master grant funding for Parent Child Centers in support of services to young families;
· $1 million to expand Medicaid dental coverage for adults for two annual cleaning visits.
· $1.5 million for appropriate community placements for persons with complex mental health challenges;
· $2.5 million added to provide a benefit increase in the Reach-Up Program.
· An additional $5.2 million to designated agencies across the entire system of mental health and developmental services.
· An additional $2.1 million for a 2% increase for home and community service providers in Choices for Care;
· An additional $445,000 for court diversion; and $243,000 for a rate increase to local EMS service providers; and $375,000 for emergency room security in small hospitals; plus a 5% increase for court security services.
· $200 million contribution to the State Teacher’s Retirement System and the Vermont State Employees Retirement System. The State Treasurer receives 2 independent studies of the earnings of the funds to calculate the contribution necessary to retire the liability by 2038.
There are three State retirement systems: the Vermont State Teachers’ Retirement System (TEACHERS), the Vermont State Employees Retirement System (STATE EMPLOYEES), and the Vermont Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MUNICIPAL). They cover a substantial number of Vermonters: TEACHERS at 9,269 retirees and beneficiaries, with 9,892 in the “pipeline”; STATE EMPLOYEES at 6,974, with 8,530 in the “pipeline”; and MUNCIPAL at 3,189, with 7,452 in the pipeline.
Currently, TEACHERS is funded at 55.2% of what it should be, STATE EMPLOYEES at 70.7%, and MUNCIPAL at 82.2%. The large deficit for TEACHERS is due mostly to shorting the fund in tight budget years in the past. In 2007 the State put in place a 30-year catch-up plan to eliminate the deficit. That means that the annual contribution is $150 million for the next 20 years.
The State has considered the benefits and costs of switching to a defined contribution plan (like a 401k) instead of a defined benefit plan (a pension). The Legislature, State Treasurer and Governor are in agreement to honor the commitment made to the employees by fully funding the pension plan. Those employees are making contributions to their retirements currently, some more than 6% of their pay, and they have agreed to increasing the retirement age and other changes as well. If managed properly, the defined benefit plan can yield a better return for both the State and the employees than making a switch to a defined contribution plan.
H. 543 (Act 42) The Capital Bill.
This act sets out the State’s fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021 capital budget and authorizes the State to issue general obligation bonds in the amount of $123 Million and to reallocate $1.4 Million from prior capital appropriations. The act:
· Appropriates $124.5 Million over two years for capital construction projects.
· $41.6 million for the construction and maintenance of state-owned buildings, including:
o $10.5 Million to the State Parking Garage on Cherry Street in Burlington
· $13.9 million for Agency of Human Services facilities, including:
o $4.5 Million to replace the temporary Middlesex Secure Residential Recovery Facility
o $8.6 Million to the Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment program in the Department of Vermont Health Access.
· $1.5 Million to the Judiciary for a judicial case management IT system
· $787,000 to Commerce and Community Development for maintenance of historic sites.
· $3.2 Million to the Building Communities Grants Program
· $2.3 Million for projects at the University of Vermont
· $4.1 Million for projects at the Vermont State Colleges
· $16.4 million for the Agency of Natural Resources for drinking water supply funding, state park projects, fish and wildlife projects.
· $26 million for clean water initiatives
· $1.5 million School Safety and Security Grants
· $5.4 million for construction of the Williston Public Field Safety Field Station
· $3.6 million to VHCB for housing projects
· Increases the term for loans from the EPA Drink Water State Revolving Fund to municipalities from the current maximum of 20 years to up to a maximum of 30 years
· Allows for municipalities that meet the Vermont statutory definition of “disadvantaged municipality” to extend a loan term from 30 to 40 years.
· Authorizes BGS to sell the “Jay Peak properties” that were acquired by the State through the EB-5 enforcement actions, transferring the net proceeds from the sale of these properties to the Newport Economic Development Settlement Fund.
· transfer a parcel of land located on the Monacacy National Park Battlefield in Maryland to the U.S. National Park Service
· Requires that BGS include the estimated cost of deferred infrastructure maintenance in State buildings and facilities in the State capital needs and projections for the 10-year capital plan that is submitted with the Governor’s annual capital budget request
· Requires the Commissioner of BGS and the Sergeant at Arms to conduct an assessment of space needs in the State House for legislative staff and the capital police and report back by January 15, 2020, with options for space reconfiguration Human Services
H.541 (Act 71) An act relating to changes that affect the revenue of the State. Generates an additional $4.83 million in total state revenues in FY 2020.
· Increases the estate tax exclusion over 2 years from $2.75 million to $5 million over 2 years.
· Limits capital gains exclusion to $350,000. The current limit is set at 40% of the net capital gain. This affects individuals with capital gains greater than $875,000.
· Creates a new deduction for medical expenses within the personal income tax.
· Expands the Affordable Housing Tax Credit and First Time Home Buyer tax credit by $125,000 each, to increase the annual allocation to $425,000 per year.
· Increases the cap on the Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit from $2.4 million to $2.6 million.
· Subjects to taxation online travel agencies (OTAs) and their associated fees and commissions.
· Expands the tax base for Property Transfer Tax purposes the transfer of a controlling interest in real estate.
· Makes significant changes to the Land Gains Tax, reducing the number of properties subject to the tax. Only land subdivided by the transferor within six years prior to the sale or exchange would be subject to the tax. Exempts land transferred in a downtown, village center or new town center.
· Extends the sunset on the Fuel Tax for 5 years and removes exemption for nonprofit agencies and government entities.
H. 536 (Act 46) An act relating to Education Finance. The FY Education Fund expenditure is $1.7 Billion, an increase of 4.3% over the current year that is a result of a 4% increase in school spending across the state.
· The tax rates are based on the property and income yields of $10,648 and $13,081, resulting in an increase in the following:
o $0.013 increase on the Average Homestead Tax Rate to $1.512
o -0.01% decrease on Average Tax Rate on Household Income to 2.47%
o $0.014 increase on the Uniform Nonhomestead Tax Rate to $1.594
· Clarifies that sales by a third party platform or marketplace facilitator (like Amazon and eBay) are subject to sales tax instead of setting a minimum sales threshold for individual vendors using that platform ($100,000 in sales or 200 transactions). Estimated revenue of $13.4 million.
· Exempts from sales tax all veterinary prescription medications and durable medical equipment for veterinarians. Keeps in place the exemption for all veterinary supplies for agricultural purposes.
H.514 (Act 51) An act relating to miscellaneous tax provisions. This act makes numerous substantive, administrative and technical changes to Vermont’s tax laws. The primary substantive changes are:
· Changes the calculation of Vermont’s corporate income tax sales factor from cost of performance to market-based sourcing;
· Extends the already established income tax withholding exemption for publicly traded partnerships to lower-tier pass-through affiliates of the partnerships.
· Permits fire departments to qualify for the nonprofit exclusion from “taxable meals” even when they serve meals off their premises at up to two events per year;
· Changes Vermont’s law on 529 plans to adjust to federal changes by:
o Shifting “postsecondary education” definitions to reference Vermont law rather than federal law and other conforming changes;
o Requiring repayment of tax credit when participant uses 529 funds for purposes other than postsecondary education;
o Requiring VSAC to report the amount of 529 funds withdrawn for purposes other than postsecondary education each year;
· Permits the creation of merged property assessment districts to match merged school districts;
· Moves the collection and administration of the fire safety insurance tax, the direct placement insurance tax, and the surplus lines tax from the Department of Financial Regulation to the Department of Taxes; and
· Makes numerous other administrative and technical changes.
H.527 (Act 70) An act relating to Executive Branch and Judicial Branch fees. This act amends various fees throughout state government, including those assessed insurance companies, security services providers, fish & wildlife fees, maintains the Workers’ Compensation Fund rate at 1.4%, all terrain vehicles, certain professions regulated by OPR, and various judicial branch fees.
H.47 (Act 28) An act relating to the taxation of electronic cigarettes. This act subjects tobacco substitutes such as vaping equipment and materials to the 92% wholesale tax imposed on other tobacco products. Exempted are supplies sold by a registered dispensary to registered patients and registered caregivers.
H.533 (Act 80) An act relating to workforce development. This omnibus bill included economic development and workforce development provisions.
· Increases funding within the Vermont Training Program to businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
· Establishes a statewide goal to have 70% of working-age Vermonters possess a credential of value by 2025.
· Authorizes an independent study to propose how best to organize Adult Technical Education utilizing the Career Technical Education Centers and the various Vermont State Colleges.
· Looks to recruit service men and women to come work in Vermont.
· Looks to reduce barriers for people entering the workforce, including new Americans, others with histories of incarceration, minorities and disadvantaged.
· Dedicates $1,150,000 for a New Worker Relocation Program to provide grants of up to $5,000 ($7,500 if in an economically distressed area) for qualified relocation expenses for individuals making at least $15 per hour and filling an open position for an employer domiciled in Vermont.
· Provides $450,000 in economic development marketing to promote Vermont to potential employers and employees.
· Provides $270,000 to the Department of Labor to expand apprenticeships, training and postsecondary career and technical education opportunities.
S.162 (Act 78) An act relating to promoting economic development creates a Master Permit Plan for the 10 state owned airports to facilitate economic development related to the aerospace industry.
S.131 (Act 57) An act relating to insurance and securities. This act makes changes to Vermont law as it pertains to the regulation of insurance companies.
· Authorizes the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to grant innovation waivers to new insurance products and services that otherwise would be prohibited under Vermont law
· Permits “domestic surplus lines insurers” to offer and sell surplus lines insurance to Vermonters;
· Establishes a 3% premium tax on surplus lines insurance policies regardless of where the risk is located;
· Establishes a funding source for restitution awards to victims of securities fraud.
S.154 (Act 20) An act relating to miscellaneous banking provisions. This 150 page bill streamlined the statutes regulating the banking industry, reducing duplication in the law and reducing the pages by 50% with improvements to various provisions in the law.
S.109 (Act 3) An act relating to captive insurance companies and risk retention groups makes various amendments to Vermont law as it pertains to captive insurance companies and risk retention groups.
S.18 (Act 74) An act relating to consumer justice enforcement . This act establishes conditions under which a standard form contract can be determined unenforceable or illegal by a court. Those conditions include; establishing an inconvenient venue in which claims can be brought, the waiver of an individual’s right to a jury trial or to bring a class action, a waiver of the individual’s right to seek punitive damages as provided by law.
H.511 (Act 39) An act relating to criminal statutes of limitations. This act extends the statute of limitations for the following crimes: manslaughter, maiming, sexual exploitation of a minor, sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult, and first degree aggravated domestic assault.
H.512 (Act 40) An act relating to miscellaneous court and Judiciary related amendments.
H.330 (Act 37) An act relating to repealing the statute of limitations for civil actions based on childhood sexual abuse, so that an an action based on childhood sexual abuse may be brought at any time, even if it would have been barred by the existing statute of limitations.
H.518 (Act 41) An act relating to fair and impartial policing. This act provides that the model fair and impartial policing policy establishes a baseline that all law enforcement agencies and constables are required to adopt, and individual agencies and constables may choose to include more robust requirements in their own policies.
H.460 (Act 32) An act relating to sealing and expungement of criminal history records. The act:
· expands the list of crimes a court may vacate if the person committed the criminal conduct as a result of being a victim of human trafficking;
· allows for sealing or expungement of criminal history records of many different types of convictions.
· establishes a special fund for the filing fees collected for petitions filed to seal a DUI record to offset the administrative costs of sealing those records;
· limits the lookback provision for DUI offenses to 20 years.
· removes the required filing fee for petitions to expunge or seal any criminal history record except for petitions to seal a record of a first DUI offense;
· directs the Vermont Sentencing Commission to do a comprehensive assessment of the statutes governing sealing and expungement of criminal history records.
· directs the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee to work with the Council of State Governments to review the expungement and sealing chapter and develop a comprehensive policy approach to helping people with criminal records to overcome barriers to employment and licensing;
· directs the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, the Office of Court Administrator, Vermont Legal Aid, and the Special Investigative Units to study the issue of requiring a person seeking expungement or sealing of a criminal history record to pay all associated surcharges prior to the court granting their petition and requires the group to report to the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee with its findings; and
· directs the Attorney General, the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, and the Vermont Network Against Sexual and Domestic Violence to review the human trafficking statutes and make recommendations on proposed improvements to the General Assembly.
S.133 (Act 45) An act relating to juvenile jurisdiction. This act makes technical and clarifying amendments to the statutes governing juvenile delinquency and youthful offender proceedings and provides that youthful offender consideration hearings for people 18-21 years of age must be open to the public.
H.278 (Act 24) An act relating to acknowledgment or denial of parentage. This act makes small changes to the Vermont Parentage Act (enacted in 2018), including allowing a person to rescind an acknowledgment of parentage or denial of parentage within certain time frames, and allowing for the sharing of confidential parentage claims with the Department of Children and Families for children in DCF’s care.
H.321 (Act 16) An act relating to aggravated murder for killing a firefighter or an emergency medical provider. This bill establishes that killing a firefighter or EMT is equivalent in seriousness to the killing of a police officer and subject to the same penalties.
H.19 (Act 8) An act relating to sexual exploitation of a person in law enforcement officer custody. This act establishes penalties of up to five years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines for any law enforcement officer who engages in a sexual act with a person being held in custody.
H.7 (Act 7) An act relating to second degree aggravated domestic assault. This act includes prior domestic assault convictions outside of Vermont to be considered when charging a person with the crime of aggravated domestic assault.
H.135 (Act 49) An act relating to the authority of the Agency of Digital Services. This is a technical corrections bill to align the statutes with the creation of the Agency of Digital Services in 2017.
H.513 (Act 79) An act relating to broadband deployment throughout Vermont. This is an omnibus bill addressing telecommunications issues in the state. Here are the highlights:
· Redefines “highspeed broadband” as providing internet connectivity with speeds of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload.
· Creates in the Department of Public Service a Rural Broadband Technical Assistant Specialist to help communities bring highspeed broadband to unserved and underserved areas.
· Establishes the Broadband Innovation Grant Program, providing $700K in grants (maximum of $60K) to communities to conduct feasibility studies.
· Adds $205K to the Connectivity Initiative to be awarded to telecommunications providers to bring broadband to the “last mile.”
· Uses $50K to study the feasibility of using utility infrastructure to extend broadband to the last mile.
· Establishes the Broadband Expansion Loan Program, administered by VEDA, with $10.8 million in loans, requiring a municipal 10% match, for infrastructure costs to provide broadband of 100Mbps symmetrical speeds. Maximum loan amount of $4 million. Sets aside loan loss reserves of $540,000 for VEDA.
· Streamlines the deployment of broadband through advancing “one-touch make ready” policies and pole attachment work.
· Clarifies the requirements and timeframes of the statewide Telecommunications Plan that needs to be updated every three years.
· Addresses issues of the E911 services, particularly because of the adoption of VOIP services that don’t work without power.
· Creates a group to study the funding and support of Public Educational and Government Access (PEG TV) channels – your local community cable television station.
· Authorizes and funds municipalities to access and deploy 2G microcell technology already owned by the state to strengthen the E911 network.
· Adds $.04 to the Vermont Universal Service Fee charged on telephone bills and dedicates the estimated $1 million raised to the Connectivity Initiative.
H.133 (Act 31) An act relating to miscellaneous energy subjects.
• consolidates multiple reports from the Department of Public Service into the Annual Energy Report.
• makes the Secretary of Transportation a voting member on the Connectivity Advisory Board. It also changes the dates for the accounting of the fund and its submission to the Board.
• makes multiple amendments to the Dig Safe chapter.
• allows thermal energy and process fuel efficiency funds to be used for design and engineering of a district heating system, as well as construction.
• amends the formula for the Standard Offer Program contract price for existing hydroelectric power.
• extends the Department of Public Service’s existing Public Records Act exemption for consumer complaint information to the Public Utility Commission.
• makes multiple changes to the Public Utility Commission’s certificate of public good hearing process and rate change hearing process.
• creates the position of Deputy Clerk at the Public Utility Commission.
• requires energy storage facilities greater than 500 kW to receive a certificate of public good.
• makes changes to the Standard Offer Program exemption.
S. 95 (Act 81) An act relating to municipal utility capital investment. Allows town selectboards or commissions to authorize certain levels of capital expenditures for municipal utilities. Grandfathers net metering for schools that were eligible prior to Act 46 and establishes a timeline for the Public Utilities Commission to approve uncontested net metering systems.
S.73 (Act 55) An act relating to licensure of ambulatory surgical centers. This act establishes licensure requirements for ambulatory surgical centers and directs the Commissioner of Health to make available on its website each ambulatory surgical center’s performance results from federal quality reporting programs.
H.524 (Act 63) An act relating to health insurance and the individual mandate. The act contains provisions that mirror the federal Affordable Care Act, ensuring that individuals have minimal essential coverage and prohibiting discrimination on preexisting conditions, the annual limits on cost sharing, a ban on annual and lifetime limits, a prohibition on cost sharing for certain preventive services and a requirement that an insured’s child can be covered up to 26 years of age. The law prohibits any new associated health plans from being offered in the state, and prohibits a licensed insurance broker from enrolling a Vermont resident in a plan that does not qualify as insurance under Vermont Law.
S.7 (Act 52) An act relating to social service integration with Vermont's health care system.
This act requires the Agency of Human Services various agencies to submit reports and plans to the legislature on the following:
· The Coordination of the financing and delivery of Medicaid home- and community-based services with the all-payer financial target services.
· The integration of social services into the accountable care organization (ACO).
· The resources provided to primary care practices of the ACO.
· The alignment of models used by social service providers in meeting the State’s goals for for trauma-informed prevention and resilience.
· The integration of social service models and pediatric primary care.
S.41 (Act 54) An act relating to regulating entitities that administer tax-advantaged accounts for health-related expenses. This act directs the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to adopt rules to license and regulate entities administering or proposing to administer one or more health reimbursement arrangements, health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, or similar tax-advantaged accounts for health-related expenses, or a combination of these, in Vermont. This was in response to the delays in processing medical claims for the Vermont State Teacher’s Union.
H.528 (Act 26) An act relating to the Rural Health Services Task Force. This act creates a 14-member task force to evaluate the current state of rural health care in Vermont and identify ways to sustain the system and to ensure it provides access to affordable, high-quality health care services. The act also directs the Department of Mental Health to evaluate and determine the mental health bed needs for residential programs across the State by geographic area and provider type, and to initiate efforts to increase the number of affordable housing opportunities for individuals with mental health needs.
S.53 (Act 17) An act relating to determining the proportion of health care spending allocated to primary care. This act directs the Green Mountain Care Board and Department of Vermont Health Access to identify which health care providers and services constitute primary care, determine the percentage of health care spending currently allocated to primary care by certain public and private payers and by Vermont’s health care system overall, and report the percentages and related information to the General Assembly.
H.204 (Act 15) An act relating to miscellaneous provisions affecting navigators, Medicaid records, and the Department of Vermont Health Access. This act eliminates the duty of Vermont Health Benefit Exchange navigators to assist employers with establishing certain federally authorized tax-advantaged plans. The act makes clarifying changes regarding the confidentiality of Medicaid applications and records and transfers and requires a report on the impact of chiropractic and physical therapy co-payment limits on utilization of chiropractic and physical therapy services.
S.89 (Act 19) An act relating to allowing reflective health benefit plans at all metal levels.
This act allows health insurers to offer nonqualified reflective health benefit plans to individuals and small groups at all metal levels in the event that federal cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers are suspended or discontinued.
S.14 (Act 5) An act relating to extending the moratorium on home health agency certificates of need. This act extends until January 1, 2025 the existing moratorium on certificates of need for new home health agencies and the offering of home health services.
H.525 (Act 64) An act relating to miscellaneous agricultural subjects. In addition to many technical corrections, this act establishes three new programs intended to recognize the contributions that Vermont farms make towards improving water quality and assist them in their efforts:
· Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP) - technical and financial assistance to implement regenerative farming practices to achieve certification as a Certified Vermont Environmental Steward.
· Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program - State or federal financial assistance for the implementation of alternative nutrient reduction practices that improve soil quality, improve nutrient retention, and reduce agricultural waste discharges.
· Agricultural Environmental Management Program- State financial assistance to alternatively manage farmstead, cropland, and pasture in a manner that will address identified water quality concerns that, traditionally, would have been wholly or partially addressed through federal, State, and landowner investments in BMP infrastructure, in agronomic practices, or both.
S.160 (Act 83) An act relating to agricultural development. This omnibus bill does the following:
· Requires the Sec. of Ag. to make recommendations to the legislature by Jan. 2020 on the stabilization, diversification and revitalization of the agriculture industry in Vermont.
· Charges the agencies of Commerce and Communty Development and Agriculture to hire a consultant by 8/1/2019 to assess the viability of increasing the consumption of Vermont dairy products in the metropolitan areas of the Northeast.
· Establishes the Soil Conservation Practice and Payment for Ecosystem Services Working Group to recommend financial incentives to encourage farmers to employ agricultural practices that improve soil health, enhance crop resilience, increase carbon storage and stormwater storage capacity and reduce agricultural runoff.
· Reauthorizes the State Treasurer to establish a Clean Water Affinity Card, a credit card issued by a financial institution, from which any net proceeds or royalties due the State would be contributed to the Clean Water Fund.
· Requires an evaluation of the efficacy of increasing the use of RFID tags to track livestock, including through slaughter at commercial slaughter businesses.
· Establishes the Vermont Forest Carbon Sequestration Working Group to study how to create a statewide program to facilitate the enrollment of Vermont forestlands in carbon sequestration markets. Recommendations and a pilot proposal due 1/15/2020.
· Directs the Department of Forest Parks and Recreation to develop an accident prevention and safety training curriculum for the logging industry to improve safety, reduce accidents and lower workers’ compensation premiums. Creates a Certificate program to go along with existing Master Logger and LEAP programs.
· Strengthens the value added forest products industry by establishing a pool of funds to be allocated in grants up to $10,000 for applicants.
· Amends existing regulations on waste hauling, reducing the requirement of commercial haulers to provide food residual collection from ALL customer to non-residential customers and apartment buildings of four or more residential units. It also exempts waste haulers from having to provide food residual collection if another commercial waste hauler is doing so in the area and has the capacity to service the entire area.
S.58 (Act 44) An act relating to the State hemp program, creates a tiered fee scale for the industry which will pay for regulation and oversight of growing operations, laboratory and processing facilities and in the resale of hemp products. This act amends existing statutes regulating the growing of hemp to establish the State Hemp Program and to bring State law into conformance with the requirements of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill for the growing and selling of hemp and hemp products.
H.205 (Act 35) An act relating to the regulation of neonicotinoid pesticides. Regulates the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinator populations. Requires the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets to register, as a restricted-use pesticide, any neonicotinoid pesticide labeled as approved for outdoor use that is distributed, sold, or offered for sale in the State. Establishes training programs to address areas of bee health and establishes a Beekeeper Educational Program Certificate.
H.79 (Act 34) An act relating to eligibility for farm-to-school grant assistance. This act clarifies that technical service providers are eligible for assistance from the Farm-to-School grant program. It amends the maximum grant to 20% of the total amount of available grant money with a possible exception for more based on school mergers. The act establishes a new target that by 2022 at least 20% of food purchased for school meals programs will come from foods grown in Vermont.
H.82 (Act 29) An act relating to the taxation of timber harvesting equipment. Extends the purchase and use tax and sales tax exemption on timber harvesting equipment to traction enhancement accessories, tire chains, track systems, and winch cables.
H.275 (Act 23) An act relating to the Farm-to-Plate Investment Program. This act updates the authority, tasks, and duties of the Farm-to-Plate Investment Program. The act would require the Sustainable Jobs Fund to report to the General Assembly on or before January 1, 2031 regarding whether the Farm-to-Plate Investment Program should continue to operate as authorized by statute or whether the Program should be repealed.
H.529 (Act 59) the “T-Bill” - An act relating to the Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation.
· $595 million investment in paving, road maintenance, rail work, bridge construction, aviation and public transit. The main sources of revenue are $258 million in State Transportation funds (state fuel tax and fees) and $320 million in Federal transportation funds.
· Vehicle Inspections. In addition to the existing 1 year waiver for vehicles which need over $200 in repairs to pass an emissions test, the legislature went further to make it easier for struggling Vermonters by exempting from the test vehicles over 16 years old. Instead of the On Board Diagnostic Inspection (OBD test) for those older cars, only a visual emissions test (is the catalytic converter connected and is there a gas cap) and a safety inspection are required. This will take effect on July 1, 2019. Of note is that because Vermont has adopted California’s CAFÉ standards, Vermonters qualify for warranties on emission controls for cars that are up to 15 years old.
· Electric Vehicles. $2,500 (more for low income Vermonters) incentives toward the purchase or lease of a new or used plug-in EV. The Agency of Transportation is striving to locate a Level 3 “fast-charge” station within 30 miles of every Vermonter.
· The bill also includes a voucher program for low income Vermonters to purchase highly efficient vehicles (40 mpg or more) as well as $2,500 vouchers to fix vehicles that have failed the OBD inspection.
S.149 (Act 60) An act relating to miscellaneous changes to laws related to vehicles and the Department of Motor Vehicles. This act covers many subjects, including establishing permits for companies to test cars with a high degree of automation provided the community agrees, and increasing penalties and fines for junior operators found to be texting while driving.
H.132 (Act 48) An act relating to adopting protections against housing discrimination for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Extends to a “protected tenant” the right to terminate a rental agreement, request the landlord to change the locks and install additional security protection and/or do it him/herself, due to fear of imminent harm or recent sexual assault on the premises. The protected tenant has to provide documentation to support the claim. The act also prohibits landlords from discriminating against victims of abuse, sexual assault and stalking.
H.13 An act relating to miscellaneous amendments to alcoholic beverage and tobacco laws. This bill makes technical corrections to existing laws, adjusts fines and penalties for violations and provides greater clarity for the merger of the Liquor and Lottery departments last year.
H.63 (Act 62) An act relating to weatherization, Public Utility Commission proceedings, and unclaimed beverage container deposits. This bill takes a comprehensive look at reducing energy consumption by establishing a residential and a commercial building working group to create a Building Energy Labeling and Benchmarking program, redirecting $2.6 million in electric efficiency funds to weatherization projects and charges the PUC to consider an all fuels energy efficiency program to look beyond just electricity.
S.111 (Act 68) An act relating to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. Charges the Commissioner of Health, in conjunction with the Adjutant General and the US Dept of Veterans Affairs, to develop education materials about health effects that are associated with chemicals identified at open burn pits during overseas military deployments, and to reach out to members of the Vermont National Guard and service members residing in Vermont to ensure that they are aware of their exposure and the possible health effects and to join the registry if they are eligible.
S.68 (Act 18) An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day This act redesignates the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day and makes technical clarifications to the laws on legal holidays and business days.
H.394 (Act 9) An act relating to the disposition of the remains of veterans. This act permits a funeral director, crematory operator, or the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to have the unclaimed cremated remains of a deceased veteran interred at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery if at least 180 days have passed since the remains were cremated, there is no claimant for the remains, and the deceased veteran is eligible to be interred at the Cemetery.
S.40 (Act 66) An act relating to testing and remediation of lead in the drinking water of schools and child care facilities. Requires that all schools and child care facilities in Vermont test their drinking water for lead contamination, and then replace the taps if the water tests at or above 4 parts per billion. Provides funding for the testing and part of the remediation work, plus creates positions in the Department of Health to facilitate the testing and remediation process.
H.3 (Act 1) An act relating to ethnic and social equity studies standards for public schools
Establishes a working group that will review Vermont’s education curriculum and standards in its treatment of ethnic and social groups and recommend to the State Board of Education any updated or new standards.
S.113 (Act 69) An act relating to the management of single-use products bans the use of single use, plastic bags at the cash register (point of sale) and places a $.10 charge for large paper bags. The bill also bans plastic straws, plastic stirrers and polystyrene containers for take-out food.
H.292 (Act 50) An act relating to miscellaneous natural resources and energy subjects. Allows banners to be hung within the limits of a state highway right-of-way. Sets the limits for moose hunting permits, allows for cross bows to be used for hunting, and requires the Agency of Natural Resources to establish rules and standards for the operation of wood heating appliances for institutional, commercial and industrial use.
S.49 (Act 21) An act relating to the regulation of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking and surface waters. This act establishes an interim Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for five PFAS and sets deadlines for the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to finalize MCL and surface water standards for these PFAS; and requires PFAS testing of public water systems. The bill also establishes a public process for ANR to evaluate regulation of PFAS compounds in drinking water; complete a statewide evaluation of sources of PFAS contamination; and evaluate treatment options for PFAS in landfill leachate.
S.96 (Act 76) An act relating to the provision of water quality services. This act charges the Secretary of ANR with establishing methodologies and metrics when responding to waters being identified as impaired, and defines the process for identifying clean water service providers at the regional and basin level and awarding them grants to conduct various clean water projects.
Amendments to Town Charters were approved for:
· Town of Bennington (H. 508)
· City of Montpelier (H. 547). Most controversial, giving non-citizen residents the right to vote in municipal elections.
· Rutland Fire District No. 10 (H. 549)
· City of Burlington
· Town of Stowe and Stowe Fire District No. 3 (H. 539)
· Town of Williston (H. 540)
· Rutland County Solid Waste District (H. 59)
· Town of Barre (H. 58)
· City of Barre (H. 73)
H.16 (Act 61) An act relating to boards and commissions. This act eliminates several boards and commissions which have not met recently or their responsibilities have been assumed by another organization.
H.287 (Act 36) An act relating to small probate estates. This act clarifies the procedures for small probate estates and increases the small estate threshold from $10,000.00 to $45,000.00.
H.104 (Act 30) An act relating to professions and occupations regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR). The annual OPR bill provides amendments to laws impacting the professions and occupations regulated by the Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation (OPR).
· increases permitted penalties for unauthorized practice.
· adds a new unprofessional conduct standard that applies to all OPR professions.
· requires OPR to hold one or two public meetings each year for advisor professions, depending on the size of the profession.
· requires OPR and the Agency of Administration to collect information and recommendations regarding apprenticeship pathways to licensure and bridge-to-licensure programs for Canadian credentials.
· requires accountants and firms to have in place a plan for handling client records in case of unexpected incapacity or firm dissolution.
· allows the Board of Dental Examiners to set guidelines for “public-health hygienists,” who are dental hygienists that practice in out-of-office settings under the supervision of a dentist.
· adds glaucoma treatment as part of the standard scope of optometry practice, rather than requiring a special endorsement.
· adds a pharmacy technician to the Board of Pharmacy; adds references within the pharmacy chapter to virtual manufacturing and distribution, wholesale manufacturers, and third-party logistics providers; and requires the Board to adopt rules regarding the inspection of any regulated entity or commercial location where legend drugs are manufactured or kept. Requires OPR, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to evaluate whether pharmacists should have prescribing authority.
· eliminates an initial postlicensure continuing education requirement for real estate salespersons.
· adds a new apprenticeship pathway to licensure as an optician via a national program and reduces the current standard optician apprenticeship requirement from three years to two.
· converts the radiology profession from a board model to an advisor model.
· adds “process disorders” (such as gambling addiction) to alcohol and drug abuse counselors’ scope of practice.
· converts the real estate appraiser profession from a board model to an advisor model.
· updates the definition of the practice of acupuncture;
· eliminates restrictions on the settings where athletic trainers may practice and adds modifies the list of medical professionals who may refer a patient to an athletic trainer.
· confirms that notarial acts are part of the official duties of a town clerk and his or her assistants when they are commissioned as notaries public and specifies that a town clerk may take required oaths without being so commissioned.
· requires OPR to reconsider whether massage therapists should be regulated in order to enhance public safety in regard to sexual misconduct and human trafficking.
H.523 (Act 25) An act relating to miscellaneous changes to the State’s retirement systems. This act makes miscellaneous technical changes to the State’s defined contribution retirement plan, the State Teachers’ Retirement System, and the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System.
H.526 (Act 38) An act relating to town clerk recording fees and town restoration and preservation reserve funds. This act increases town clerk fees and revises statutes relating to the recording of instruments.
• Raises the fees for town clerk services and requires each town to dedicate $4 from per page recording fees to the Restoration and Preservation Reserve Fund.
• Requires that a digital copy of a survey plat be filed with the Vermont Center for Geographic Information whenever a survey plat is filed for record.
• Requires that a survey plat be recorded whenever a parcel is subdivided or a parcel boundary is changed.
H.427 (Act 10) An act relating to a uniform process for foreign credential verification in the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR). Allows OPR to evaluate a professional’s credentials earned outside the US and grant a license to an individual if the credentials are equivalent to Vermont and US standards for experience, education and training.
H.436 (Act 11) This act establishes requirements to permit recognition of international wills in Vermont.
H.146 (Act 13) This act increases the number of examiners on the Board of Bar Examiners from nine to 11. The new members must be attorneys.
H.358 (Act 14) An act relating to technical corrections. This act makes technical corrections to several sections of the Vermont Statutes Annotated, including statutes relating to conservation and development, health care, taxation, and transportation.
S.118 (Act 12) An act relating to the time frame for the adoption of administrative rules. This act clarifies the procedure for administrative rulemaking by providing that an Executive Branch agency may adopt a final proposed rule 45 days after filing that final proposal, which conforms that time frame to the amount of time the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules has to review and object to a final proposed rule.
S.11 (Act 2) An act relating to limiting senatorial districts to a maximum of three members. This act provides that for the upcoming legislative reapportionment (during the 2021–2022 biennium) the Senate be reapportioned so that there are no more than three members in each Senate district..
S.134 (Act 58) An act relating to background investigations for State employees with access to federal tax information. This bill became a vehicle for many government employee related bills. The act:
· Brings Vermont into compliance with IRS requirements for employees with access to federal tax information.
· Clarifies definitions of emergency and seasonal employment as they relate to temporary employees. Permits state seasonal employees to work more than 1,280 hours without special authorization.
· Provides whistleblower protections to temporary and seasonal employees.
· Reduces overtime and job turnover in corrections by creating 30 new Corrections 1 Officers.
· Authorizes the Secretary of Administration to approve the creation of new positions to address a specific need, sunsetting the Position Pilot Program and lifting the “position cap,” provided that there is room within the budget.
S.112 (Act 56) An act relating to earned good time - would reinstitute “earned good time,” a policy that incentivizes offenders to meet milestones that prepare them for successful re-entry to the community after serving a sentence.
S.55 (Act 75) An act relating to the regulation of toxic substances and hazardous materials. The act creates the Interagency Committee on Chemical Management to evaluate chemical inventories in the State on an annual basis, identify potential risks to human health and the environment from chemical inventories, and propose measures or mechanisms to address the identified risks. The act also updates existing statutes on chemicals of high concern to children.
H.57 (Act 47) An act relating to preserving the right to abortion. This act establishes as a fundamental right the right to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization and the right to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion. It prohibits law enforcement from prosecuting an individual for inducing, performing, or attempting to induce or
perform the person’s own abortion. The act codifies in statute the existing case law and policies in Vermont.
S.43 (Act 43) An act relating to limiting prior authorization requirements for medication-assisted treatment. This act prohibits health insurance plans from imposing prior authorization requirements for all counseling and behavioral therapies associated with medication-assisted treatment and for prescription drugs for a patient receiving medication-assisted treatment if the dosage prescribed is within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s dosing recommendations. The act requires health insurance plans that provide prescription drug coverage to ensure that at least one medication from each drug class approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of substance use disorder is available on the lowest cost-sharing tier of the plan’s prescription drug formulary.
H.26 (Act 22) An act relating to restricting retail and Internet sales of electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine, and tobacco paraphernalia in Vermont. This act prohibits the sale of “tobacco substitutes” or paraphernalia to Vermonters via mail, by phone, or over the Internet to be shipped to anyone in Vermont other than a licensed wholesale dealer or retailer.
S.86 (Act 27) An act relating to increasing the legal age for buying and using cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age. This act increases the legal age for possessing and purchasing cigarettes, “tobacco substitutes” (e-cigarettes), and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age, effective September 1, 2019.
H.218 (Act 4) An act relating to lead poisoning prevention. This act moves the regulatory authority over lead poisoning prevention practices to the State from a shared jurisdiction with the EPA, subject to the EPA’s approval of Vermont’s regulatory plan.
S.146 (Act 82) An act relating to substance misuse prevention. Creates the Chief Prevention Officer to work closely with the Governor and the Vermont Department of Health to integrate prevention efforts that focus on social and environmental factors leading to substance misuse. Creates a “Substance Misuse Prevention Oversight and Advisory Council” and repeals the Opioid Coordination Council.