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Advocacy Update: Week 17, 2022

Thank you to this week’s sponsor of our Advocacy Update:

May 6, 2022

It will come as no surprise to readers of this update that the Legislature will not adjourn today, which was their target date. They will meet again on Monday and will continue marching on until they adjourn, which they plan on for next Friday.

As we head towards the finish line, we are seeing a flurry of activity around the coming election cycle. We’ve confirmed that there will be at least nine new senators this coming biennium. There are over 20 confirmed retirements in the House. Dozens of rumors are swirling around the State House, with some claims that many of the senior Representatives and House Chairs (likely almost half of them) in the House may retire. 

Add to this list the open seats for our federal delegation as well as the statewide offices of Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Attorney General; we will have a massive reshuffling of leadership next year. It may seem early to think about, however for many, the final week puts next year in more perspective, as folks notice there will be many new faces as they come down from a sugar rush of excess federal money and seek to fulfill multiple promises that would require hundreds of millions in new taxes. We’ll have more on that in our final update where we include issues likely to reemerge next year. 

All that said, this week’s update will be briefer, as at this point in the session, information changes by the hour in many instances. We focus on just the mechanics, resources, and needed advocacy from you on many of the proposals we cover, as this is all rapidly changing. Look forward to everything covered in the final update and feel free to reach out to us with questions. 

In this week’s update: 

Economic and Workforce Omnibus Bill Goes to Committee of Conference

The House sent their version of the omnibus workforce and economic bill to the Senate. The Senate quickly sent it back with a floor amendment to add back everything the House cut. This quickly triggered a Committee of Conference with Representatives Marcotte, Kimbell, and Jerome from the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development and Senators Sirotkin, Clarkson, and Brock from the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. 

This is an outline of the differences between the two versions

This is a comparison of appropriations between the two versions. 

The bill has $65.5 million from ARPA and $19 million in general fund dollars, down from $84 million from ARPA and $32 million in general fund previously. The Committee has a lot to close the gap on and this might take some time. 

Federal Tax Relief for Business Owners Included in Senate Version of S.11 (Action Requested) 

The Senate added to S.11 language which would create the opportunity for those who have LLCs, LLPs, or S-corporations to work around the cap on state and local taxes (SALT) established as part of the Trump Administration’s tax cut bill. We covered this in detail last week. This week, 21 organizations, and counting, signed on to a letter to the Speaker of the House imploring the House to concur with language sent by the Senate and join the growing list of 20 other states who provide this relief to their businesses.  

You should email your Representatives and let them know you need the House to concur with the Senate’s SALT language in S.11. 

Here are some talking points: 

  • 20 other states have enacted the SALT cap workaround, and so should Vermont! Vermont is sending millions to Washington that 20 other states aren’t. Other states are moving to enact the workaround, putting us at a competitive disadvantage. 
  • We are sending millions to the federal government we do not have to- that money could stay here in Vermont and be put to work. Vermont is always looking to draw down as many federal dollars as possible, so why not now?
  • The federal government will pick up the cost of this tax cut that the state legislators have within their power to create. 
  • As we see growing inflation, this provision can help small business owners across the state keep their prices down by covering some of their margins. 
  • SALT was capped as a punitive measure meant to hurt blue (democratic) states like Vermont, which utilizes it the most because they have high taxes. 
  • In any other area of government, our strategy is to draw down as much federal money as possible and not send money to the federal government. 

You can find your legislators’ contact information here.

Act 250 Bill Passes the House (Action Requested as it Heads to the Senate)

The House passed S.234 and it will now head to the Senate, where at least one large portion of the bill will see significant headwinds. As we covered last week, S.234 got significant pushback from mayors, local governments, as well as non-profit and for-profit developers because it contains H.492. H.492 would bifurcate the consolidated appeals process established back in 2004 and create two tracks for appeals to be heard. 

Email your Senator and tell them to stay with the governance language that they passed in S.234 earlier in the session and not allow H.492 to pass in S.234. 

Here are some talking points; 

  • The governance changes in H.492, now in S.234, will undo common-sense reform and give anti-housing obstructionists more opportunities to weigh down housing projects and eventually stop them. 
  • We are in the middle of a housing crisis that is holding our state back from its full potential and we cannot afford to make housing more difficult to build. 
  • The Senate was right not to take action on Act 250 governance in their version of S.234 and should stand by their position to further study the issue. 
  • I stand by the position of many Mayors as well as non-profit and for-profit developers in the letter you’ve likely received outlining their issues with H.492, which has now been added to S.234. 

Housing Legislation in the Final Days 

A number of pieces of housing legislation we’ve been following the last 17 weeks are coming to a close. 

  • S.226 – the omnibus housing bill – the House passed S.226 on Thursday with manageable differences from the Senate version. With the previous agreements around the contractor registry made in the Senate to avoid a veto, this bill might actually be in better shape than many others. 
  • S.210 – a bill creating a rental registry and the VHIP program in statute – This bill will go to the Senate floor with an amendment. The legislature has tinkered plenty with the mechanics of the rental registry, however, it is unclear if they have done enough to make the legislation avoid a veto, even if the bill includes the Vermont Housing Improvement Program. 
  • S.101 – creating smart growth – A Committee of Conference was opened for this long-stagnant bill after language around duplication of coverage by municipal and state wastewater and sewer permits failed to advance in Act 250 legislation. This legislation also has a 0.5% surcharge transfer tax of property over $1 million and an affordable housing tax credit for manufactured homes. 
  • H.708 – Burlington rental charter change – the Governor vetoed the Burlington Charter Change which would allow tenants to extend their lease beyond their signed contract without a landlord’s consent. House Leadership may choose not to attempt a veto override because there is a high likelihood that they do not have the votes and a negative vote on this could sink progressive members’ hopes of returning to the building next year with a proposal to enact such a policy statewide.

The Laundry List 

  • Here are links to our past advocacy updates from this legislative session: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15, Week 16 
  • Burlington Young Professionals (BYP), a program of the Lake Champlain Chamber, in association with other YP organizations around the state, will host a “YP Congressional Forum” on May 19, 6-8 p.m. at Main Street Landing with the four leading Democratic primary candidates. Learn more here. 
  • The Senate unanimously overturned the Governor’s veto of S.286, the pension reform bill, this week. 
  • S.287 is on its way to the Governor and will make historic changes to Per-pupil weighting. 
  • The Committee of Conference for S.53, the corporate tax bill, met again after multiple delays and agreed to pull items not related to corporate tax from the bill. The House members remained committed that the outcome of all the items in the bill needs to be revenue positive. 
  • The Clean Heat Standard is headed to the Governor and he will likely need to sign H.715 by May 9th. Many think that the legislative checkback added to the legislation will be enough to ensure he allows the legislation to become law. 

Concerned or need to learn more about anything in this newsletter? Email our team at [email protected].

We look forward to working with you.
The Lake Champlain Chamber Advocacy Team

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