Thank you to this week’s sponsor of our Advocacy Update:
January 6, 2023
Welcome to a new legislative biennium. LCC’s advocacy team each week pulls together disparate notes from the State House’s many committee meetings and hallway conversations to cut through the static and give you a holistic picture of what is happening under the Golden Dome.
For this first update, we want to set the stage. These are some statistics to remember as you read legislative updates for the next four to five months.
As we look ahead in 2023, four fractions will come to define legislative outcomes;
- One-third of the legislators are new to their position – the largest new cohort in history. The loss of institutional memory and a need to learn the ins and outs of state government cannot be understated. In the first week, the message was “things will start slow,” and there is a lot of training planned and many opportunities in the coming weeks for new members to learn.
- Two-thirds of the Chairs in the House are new. As if things haven’t been shaken up enough, even the leadership is new in committees. While there are some familiar faces and talented folks in the chairs, they’ll need to prove their mettle in the circumstances less ideal than their predecessors.
- More than two-thirds of the Legislature is comprised of members from one party, giving that party the ability not to accommodate the desires of the Executive Branch if they so choose. The veto not having such a prominent role means that intra-party differences matter more; think back to when one party had control of the Legislature and the Executive Branch. Finally, caucuses will be particularly important this biennium, so keep an eye out for the long-established “climate caucus” and the newly well-organized “rural caucus” to try to make their mark.
- Upwards of three-quarters of a billion dollars in spending has been promised or promoted by that party with complete control of the Legislative Branch, while storm clouds appear in budget forecasts for future years. Not all that has been proposed can happen, making difficult decisions.
This update is a short one, as the week was short and filled with a great deal of pomp and circumstance. In this week’s update:
Governor Scott Delivers His Inaugural Address
Governor Scott used his inaugural address to push for civility, highlight his view of contrasting Vermont experiences, and continue his messaging from the previous session around affordability and his reluctance, for instance, that now is not a time to raise new taxes. His address highlighted the workforce shortage our businesses are facing giving the economic context that there are three job openings for every one Vermonter, the state has a gap of 22,500 fewer workers in our state economy, nearly seven times what it was in 2019 when the worry was that we had 3,300 fewer workers than we did in 2009.
The Governor’s address was somewhat predictable for those who’ve seen the previous three and didn’t provide too much detail about his plans to come. He continually emphasized the need to utilize once-in-a-lifetime federal funding and current revenue surpluses to address systemic issues. More of that detail will be understood today as the money committees begin to unpack the Governor’s proposals for the Budget Adjustment Act, which is the mid-year true-up to the last legislative session’s budget done before the work of the next year’s budget gets fully underway.
Some New Committees, Many New Chairs
In the House:
Some changes were made to Committee purviews. Those of you who were around when formidable Tony Klein chaired House Natural Resources and Energy will find the new House Environment & Energy familiar. Notably, the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs lost its work on Military Affairs and alcohol-related issues to the House Committee on Government Operations, which now has “and Military Affairs” added to the end of its name. The new Committee will also oversee part of the “tech” portion of the former House Energy and Technology Committee and oversee the Agency of Digital Services.
As we said in the introduction, there are many new chairs; however, they’re familiar faces. A list of new committees, as well as their chairs and members on each, can be found here.
In the Senate:
The Senate had fewer surprises as there were fewer chairs retiring, and they didn’t see the committee restructuring the House did. One particular item to note for the target demographic of this update is the increased symbiosis between the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs (a morning committee) and the Senate Committee on Finance (an afternoon committee). The two committees share three members, and of those three, two are the Chairs of each Committee, and one is a senior-ranking Republican. With three high-power members in common between the morning and afternoon committees and work in one that often goes straight to the other, things might be streamlined seamlessly in this biennium. This could be good or bad if you’re an advocate.
A list of new committees, as well as their chairs and members on each, can be found here.
Register for LCC’s Legislative Breakfast Series
We’re back in person! LCC is pleased to announce that we’ll resume our long-standing Legislative Breakfast series, sponsored by New England Federal Credit Union.
- February 6th – 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. at Hula
- March 13th – 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. at The Flynn
Special thanks to the sponsor of our Legislative Breakfast Series:
The Laundry List
There are many moving pieces, and we do our best to add the ones that don’t get a section in the newsletter, yet should be on your radar here. On any given day in the State House, there are about 175 hours of committee time outside of floor time, and then the hallway, cafeteria, or other time spent legislating.
- Governor Phil Scott recently announced the Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Plan (VT-FMLI), the state’s first voluntary paid leave program that will give all working Vermonters access to affordable paid family and medical leave insurance by 2025. The program is voluntary, privately administered counter to a previously proposed, and soon to be reproposed , mandatory, state-run, payroll tax (~0.93%) funded version. The Department of Economic Development is collecting feedback from employers about the business community’s interest in participating via this short survey.
- On January 15th, the public will get to see the final version of a report about the total costs and the best ways to raise revenue to address Vermont’s childcare shortage and cost issues. The building is atwitter with speculation and expectation setting, however, the general consensus talking to folks around the building is that it’s going to be at least a couple-few hundred million, and there really aren’t many tax instruments that can raise that type of money other than a payroll tax. We’ll see on the 15th….
- We’re still looking for some feedback on the policy we expect this legislative session! If you want to provide your perspective on what will be happening in the State House this session, email us for a link to a short survey at [email protected].
- Congressworman-Elect Balint has still (as of this being written) yet to be sworn into the U.S. House as that requires a Speaker to be elected. (sigh) If only they could be as functional as Vermont. Despite not being official yet, she has gotten staffed up with some familiar folks.
- A reminder, the VEDA Short-Term Forgivable Loan program is still available to employers in need of financial assistance due to continued current and ongoing economic harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find more information here.
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