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The Vermont Statehouse Insider – Week 6

** HEATING UP
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On Tuesday, the Vermont House passed Prop 5, the Reproductive Liberty Amendment. This completes the final legislative step in a four-year long process to enshrine an individual’s right to reproductive liberty in the Vermont Constitution. Prop 5 includes protections of an individual’s right to continue or end a pregnancy and access contraception. The constitutional amendment will now appear on the 2022 General Election Ballot, giving Vermont voters the final say on whether or not to amend the state’s constitution.

On Thursday, the Vermont House gave final approval to S.30, a gun violence prevention bill that would ban guns from hospitals and close a loophole that allows people to circumvent federal background checks. The bill now heads to Governor Phil Scott’s desk. While he hasn’t said outright that he plans to veto it, he has said that he doesn’t see the need for additional gun regulations.

With the 2022 legislative session approaching the unofficial halfway mark on Town Meeting Day, disagreement between the legislature and administration is beginning to surface on certain issues. This was brought sharply into view on Thursday, when Governor Scott vetoed H.157, a bill that would require construction contractors who work on residential projects costing more than $3,500 to register with the Secretary of State’s office and comply with certain contractual and insurance requirements. Because building contractors are unregulated and because there have been notable cases where contractors have defrauded homeowners, the legislature feels strongly that H.157 is necessary. However, the governor believes the bill favors larger contractors and will cause smaller contractors, who are in short supply, to go out of business. In another instance of tension between the two branches of government, the Scott administration fired a shot across the bow at the legislature regarding S.234, which
makes numerous changes to the state’s land use permitting law, Act 250. On Wednesday morning Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources Maggie Gendron told the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee the administration strongly opposes the “road rule” provision and implied that if that provision remains in the bill the governor would veto it.

On Thursday the Vermont House passed H.510, a bill that creates the Vermont Child Tax Credit which will result in $50 million in tax relief by allocating $1,200 per child in tax credits to most families with kids under the age of 6. The bill also expands the Social Security deduction for older Vermonters. This state level tax credit was modeled after the now expired federal child tax credit which was created to help families during the pandemic. H.510 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The Senate Rules Committee met on Thursday and discussed plans for the Senate to return to work in person. While both chambers began the 2022 legislative session working remotely due to high-levels of COVID-19 spread, the House has since returned to working in person (although members have the option of working remotely if they need to) while the Senate conducts their business entirely remotely. The Senate Rules Committee won’t officially vote on the matter until the end of February, but they indicated on Thursday that the Senate will be returning to the statehouse on March 8. The House voted on Thursday to extend their current hybrid model until March 8.

H.679, the FY22 budget adjustment bill, passed the Senate this week. Here is a summary (https://ljfo.vermont.gov/assets/Uploads/c62c4960d6/GENERAL-360113-v1-Highlights_-_H_659_Senate_FY22_BAA.pdf) of the Senate-passed bill. The bill went back over to the House which postponed action on the bill until Tuesday, 2/15, in order to have more time to consider the Senate’s amendments.