The VT Statehouse Insider – Week 9


Vermont lawmakers hustled to finish work on priority legislation this week as the 2023 legislative session barreled toward the Town Meeting Week break. Legislative traffic control became increasingly tricky as policy committees worked to simultaneously pass legislation in time for crossover and approve their recommendations for the FY2024 budget. The House and Senate Appropriations committees held a public hearing on the FY2024 budget, with the House committee three weeks away from approving its version of the annual spending bill. There was also a noticeable uptick in illness in the statehouse – from bad colds to the flu to COVID-19 – which saw an increase in mask usage and the absence of a number of lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists and journalists.

In addition to the urgency around Town Meeting Week break, the crossover deadlines for policy bills (March 17) and money bills (March 24) are fast approaching. As a result, the House and Senate calendars are starting to fill up, and the prospect of increased time on the floor (which is time not spent in committee) could signal a hectic few upcoming weeks as lawmakers push to get their priorities passed.

At this point in the year a number of bills have emerged that are likely to define the 2023 legislative session. The conference committee for the annual Budget Adjustment Act (BAA) has reached an agreement, which means the FY2023 BAA will soon be on its way to Governor Phil Scott’s desk. The governor has raised concern with the spending priorities the legislature added to BAA and it remains to be seen if it will be the first major bill vetoed – and first to test the supermajorities in the House and Senate. The House continues to work on its paid family and medical leave bill and the Senate is working to pass its childcare bill. Both bills are likely to become increasingly controversial as the debate about funding mechanisms heats up.


Controversy grew in the Senate this week as multiple committees heard concerns from stakeholders and the administration about a bill that would allow the state auditor to look at the finances of private companies and organizations that do business with the state. S.9 passed the Senate Government Operations committee last week but stalled out on the Senate floor amid a flood of concern about the potential impact of the bill. The Senate Institutions and Health and Welfare Committees took testimony on S.9 this week, hearing from a number of stakeholders. Proponents of the bill say it provides the auditor with narrow authority to review how contracts with the state are performing. Other stakeholders and administration officials say the state already has the ability to review contract performance, and S.9 would give the auditor unreasonable authority to monitor private organizations. Despite the controversy S.9 passed the Senate on Friday.


Another controversial bill passed the House this week. H.429, is listed as a miscellaneous election changes bill, but inside the statehouse it is seen by some Republicans, Progressives and Independents as a move by Democrats to make it harder to challenge Democrats in elections. The House Government Operations and Military Affairs committee’s version of H.429 would prevent candidates who lose a primary from running in the general election as an independent and also raise the threshold by which a candidate can win a nomination via write-in to 10 percent of the total vote. The bill would also have restricted “fusion” candidate status, which is when one candidate receives multiple nominations. This provision was struck from the bill on the House floor. The House floor debate was rigorous spanning multiple hours over two days. Ultimately H.429 passed and will be considered in the Senate after crossover.