It’s said everything starts and ends with the Budget. Even many policy choices involve an appropriation. That’s where we’ll strat this report.


A Balanced Budget

On May 12th the House and Senate gave final approval to a balanced $8.4 billion budget that funds our state government for the 2024 fiscal year. H.494 is a fiscally responsible, values-based budget that invests in top constituent priorities, including housing, childcare, workforce development, climate and conservation, and vital human services that help Vermonters across the state.


By investing in Vermont, we support our economy, our communities, and our families. We build the budget in a way that steps up to solve problems, rather than kicking the can down the road. This is a responsible approach to good governance — one that carefully weighs costs and benefits, makes tough choices, and then delivers sufficient dollars to meet the needs of today while moving toward a stronger future. Key investments include:

Housing ($211 million)

The budget includes $109 million to expand affordable housing and $102 million for emergency shelter and support services for unhoused Vermonters, recovery housing, transitional housing for Vermonters exiting prison, and housing for young people exiting the foster care system. 


Raising Provider Rates ($99.7 million)

The budget also contains a major update to rates that support our medical and human services programs. These rates have been underfunded for years, causing a substantial shortfall for providers. We’re boosting the rates for primary and specialty care, dental care, home health, nursing homes and residential care, adult day care, substance use and mental health, ambulance services and more. Increasing these rates will help us attract and retain workforce, meet demand for services, and free up hospital emergency rooms.

Childcare ($76 million)

This investment — the first in a multi-year system transformation — will make childcare more affordable for families, raise rates to provide financial stability for childcare providers, and boost pay for our valued early childhood workforce. 


Workforce and Higher Education ($74 million)

The budget contains a $47 million package to attract and retain workers in fields with severe shortages, including nursing, dental hygiene, teachers, psychiatric care and the skilled trades. It also funds UVM and Vermont State University, successful scholarship programs like 802 Opportunity and Critical Occupations, adult education, small farms and organic dairy producers, and allocates funds to help small business, rural industry, and working lands enterprises. 


Human Services, Prevention, and Recovery 

H.494 starts a $20 million two-year pilot to expand the “hub and spoke” treatment system for opioid use disorder; funds a statewide expansion of mobile crisis units (to relieve pressure on hospital emergency rooms); and invests in recovery centers, recovery housing and after school, youth mentoring and substance misuse prevention programs. It also funds the Vermont Food Bank, Reach Ahead and Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.


Housing ($211 million)

The budget includes $109 million to expand affordable housing and $102 million for emergency shelter and support services for unhoused Vermonters, recovery housing, transitional housing for Vermonters exiting prison, and housing for young people exiting the foster care system.

Workforce and Higher Education ($74 million)

The budget contains a $47 million package to attract and retain workers in fields with severe shortages, including nursing, dental hygiene, teachers, psychiatric care and the skilled trades. It also funds UVM and Vermont State University, successful scholarship programs like 802 Opportunity and Critical Occupations, adult education, small farms and organic dairy producers, and allocates funds to help small business, rural industry, and working lands enterprises.

Human Services, Prevention, and Recovery

H.494 starts a $20 million two-year pilot to expand the “hub and spoke” treatment system for opioid use disorder; funds a statewide expansion of mobile crisis units (to relieve pressure on hospital emergency rooms); and invests in recovery centers, recovery housing and after school, youth mentoring and substance misuse prevention programs. It also funds the Vermont Food Bank, Reach Ahead and Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.


Agriculture, Food Resiliency, and Forestry

Universal School Meals

During the pandemic, the federal government provided free school meals to all K-12 students. Last session, the legislature provided funding to continue offering universal school meals in Vermont for the 2022–2023 school year. H.165, which passed the House and Senate in May with strong support, will make this popular program permanent. 


Universal school meals offer many benefits, including more predictability for schools in meal planning and purchasing, less stigma in the cafeteria, access to more federal funding, and increased partnerships with local farms. Across the state, schools report that providing free, healthy meals has boosted students’ overall nutrition, health, and behavior. The bill includes new strategies to access federal dollars to help pay for the program—both through increased student participation and a new Medicaid eligibility criterion that automatically qualifies schools. 


Right to Repair

H.81, the right to repair bill, provides consumers and independent repair shops with the tools, parts, and information necessary to repair their own agriculture and forestry equipment. Currently, when a piece of equipment stops working, the farmer or logger has no other choice than to use a manufacturer-approved dealer to make repairs. The time it takes to acquire service from a dealer can be costly to the farmer, particularly in such a time-and weather-sensitive industry. In addition, repair services come without reasonable price constraints given the lack of competition in the industry. H.81 would allow customers to make their own repairs, use an independent repair service, or continue to use the dealer. This bill also aims to increase farmer safety by preventing maintenance delays. Similar legislation has been proposed in at least 11 states with strong bipartisan support. H.81 passed the House in May and is pending in the Senate.


Organic Dairy Crisis

These are challenging times for organic dairy farms, with more than thirty organic farms closing in the last two years. Production costs are skyrocketing, including rising fuel prices and expensive feed due to the Ukraine conflict, inflation, and last summer’s severe drought. Organic farmers do not have the safety net that conventional dairy farmers have because the calculations used in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage program — which helps bridge the gap when dairy prices are lower than production costs — do not take into account costs incurred or prices received by organic farmers. Meanwhile, organic milk prices have not kept pace with conventional milk.  


Earlier this session, the House proposed one-time emergency relief for Vermont organic dairy farmers. The aim is to help farmers pay off debts and prevent farm closures. The final FY24 budget includes stipends for the organic dairy farms that are still in business and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets will administer these funds. These farmers are smart, hard-working, and diversifying their farms as much as they can while doing their part to maintain Vermont’s working landscape.


Small Farm Diversification Grant

H.205 sets up a new one-year pilot to provide grants for small farmers to improve financial resilience. By covering upfront costs, the bill aims to help farmers transition and diversify their products — for example to switch from dairy to beef, or to add hemp or winter vegetables.  The bill broadly defines “small” farmers to allow for the greatest participation, and unlike existing programs, farmers would not be expected to provide matching funds. This bill language was folded into the final FY24 budget. Once this program is established, applicants will be selected by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets based on the viability and projected success of the proposed projects. 



Environment and Climate

The FY24 budget contains significant climate and environmental investments. It invests $9.8 million as a state match for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds. $8 million is allocated for assessment, planning, and cleanup of contaminated “brownfield” sites and $6.1 million will be used to address septic, water, and energy needs of older VT housing stock.  The state aquatic invasive species prevention grants program received $500,000 in stabilization funding and a position was also funded to support this program. The budget also provides the Agency of Natural Resources funding to be used as incentives to replace high global warming potential refrigerants and funding to support groundwater remediation due to PFAS contamination (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). There is also funding for the Department of Public Service to help eligible schools to repair, renovate, or replace existing wood chip or pellet heating systems.


Plus: Investments in E-911 and emergency dispatch, updating our state IT networks and critical infrastructure, addressing staffing shortages in our judiciary system to help with court backlogs, funding the important social equity work of Vermont’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Land Access and Opportunity Board, and a long-overdue increase to Department of Motor Vehicle fees that have not been adjusted to keep pace with inflation since 2016.






Commerce & Economic Development


Strengthening and Supporting Vermont’s Workforce

This year the legislature took more steps to strengthen Vermont’s workforce, especially in critical sectors. The FY24 budget provides $40 million to educate, train, and help businesses hire and retain workers. It funds forgivable loan programs, scholarships and certificate programs. We made broad financial commitments to our teacher workforce, adult education and training, climate workforce, graduates of Vermont colleges and universities, the trades, up-skilling certifications, criminal justice, technology, critical occupations, mental health practitioners, EMT, nursing, human services, the arts and rural economic development. We are committed to making Vermont a state that works for everyone. 


Data Privacy for Consumers

H.121 updates Vermont’s privacy laws around “biometric data,” meaning identifying information like a person’s fingerprint or facial image. The bill also allows consumers to be “forgotten”— or not tracked by companies online — and allows consumers the right to sue groups that violate their right to privacy. After hearing much testimony from consumer advocates, businesses, and the Attorney General’s office, the House decided to hold off on passing a bill this year. We’ll engage in a comprehensive review of our data and consumer privacy laws, with a goal of bringing Vermont into line with other states.


Additional information on consumer data privacy can be found here.


S.48 Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converter theft is on the rise in Vermont, and S.48 seeks to address the problem.  According to Carfax, roughly 153,000 catalytic converters were stolen across the country in 2022. Measures adopted in S.48 include requiring catalytic converters to be labeled with VIN numbers (via a marker or engraving) when transported and sold, that scrap metal processors and salvage yards maintain good records of the sale and purchase of these items, and that the state provide model forms for recording, selling, and transferring catalytic converters. Scrap metal processors and salvage yards will be subject to periodic state inspections to ensure that their records are well maintained for the benefit of law enforcement agencies, and that those businesses are following the law. The bill received final legislative approval in May.


S.73 Firefighter Workers’ Comp 

S.73 expands the types of cancer for which volunteer and professional firefighters can make workers compensation insurance claims, adding breast, lung, reproductive system and thyroid cancer to the list. The bill also asks the Division of Fire Safety to write a report detailing the projected costs for the state to fund regular cancer screenings for all career and volunteer firefighters. The report will include recommendations for legislative action pertaining to the early identification of cancer in firefighters and the elimination of PFAS and other carcinogens in firefighting equipment. 


Corrections & Institutions


Capital Investments in our Communities


The General Assembly passed the Capital Construction bill for FY24 and FY25. H.493 makes capital expenditures for public infrastructure projects.

Every two years, the State identifies a bonding capacity for capital investments that will be fiscally sound over the long term. This year, the recommendation was for a $108 million bonded capital bill spent over two years.

The legislation that we passed used General Fund surpluses instead of bonding for those projects. This will help to reduce the state's debt burden and ensure that funds are available for future capital needs.


Many of the state capital dollar investments will go directly back to communities. It will also be used to meet our state match for federal dollars. This includes investments in municipal water systems such as wastewater treatment plants and municipal drinking water systems. The capital bill also funds a series of Building Communities grants which directly benefit our cities and towns.  These include: cultural facilities grants, historic barns and agriculture grants (a program that has preserved over 100 historic agricultural buildings), historic preservation grants (in partnership with the Preservation Trust of Vermont), recreational facilities grants program, and regional economic development grants.


Overall, the Vermont Capital Bill for FY24 and FY25 reflects the legislature’s commitment to investing in public infrastructure and supporting local communities, while also addressing critical needs related to human services and property management.


A More Effective Public Safety and Correctional System 


The Capital Bill addresses pressing issues related to the state's correctional facilities. Specifically, it begins looking at the replacement of the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, which currently houses the female population. The state is exploring a range of options, including a reentry facility where women residents could leave the facility on a daily basis to attend off-site rehabilitative programs or employment. Harsh, punitive living environments in correctional facilities are counter-productive to rehabilitation and create difficult working environments. That’s a major problem right now: an ongoing officer shortage has left remaining Corrections employees, both in facilities and probation and parole officers in the field, overburdened. As we replace correctional facilities going forward, our policies must focus on evidence-based, trauma-informed practices.


Another project of interest is an expansion of booking capacity at North West State Correctional Facility. The booking area was built for 650 people in and out per year, but it is now handling booking and short-term detention for the entire region, with up to 10,000 individuals moving through per year. The project will provide better working conditions for state employees and provide safer and more humane conditions for those moving through the system.



Teacher Workforce

Teacher workforce shortages continue to impact our school communities across Vermont as they strive to move forward in the wake of several challenging years.  Responding to impactful testimony and a strong desire to support Vermont’s hardworking and dedicated teacher workforce, the Education committee proposed several teacher workforce initiatives that were ultimately folded into H.494, the FY24 budget. The FY24 budget funds educator workforce development through several initiatives, including grants to expand support, mentoring, and professional development for prospective educators; suspending provisional teacher licensure fees; and studying possible participation in licensure reciprocity agreements and licensure compacts.  Another significant provision is the creation of a $2.5 million Vermont Teacher Forgivable Loan Incentive Program. To be eligible for a forgivable loan, an individual agrees to work as a teacher in a public school located in Vermont for a minimum of one year following licensure for each year of forgivable loan awarded.  Recognizing the need to support educator workforce diversity, the budget also funds the Historically Underrepresented Educator Affinity Groups Grants program. The program will provide grant support to both new and existing educator affinity groups for historically underrepresented communities.   


Addressing School Construction Needs

Many of Vermont’s aging school facilities are coping with years of delayed maintenance and growing needs for significant repair and investment.  Healthy and modern learning environments promote student learning and better support our school professionals.  H.486 creates a Construction Aid Task Force to report on issues relating to school construction aid. The intent is to thoroughly catalog school facilities needs, and then stand up a state-level funding program to take some of the burden off local communities when they undertake large school construction projects. Vermont had such a program in place until about fifteen years ago; it is the only state in New England without one currently. The construction aid task force provisions were added to the FY24 state budget and this important work will move forward.


The House also suggested that the state pause the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) testing program and make it part of the larger conversation about school construction in Vermont. The Senate did not agree; the testing program will continue but the deadline for completion of testing is extended until 2027. To learn more, go to the Agency of Education webpage on PCB testing.

Environment & Energy 


Conservation and Clean Heat for a Resilient Vermont

To respond to a fast-changing climate, the twin imperatives of protecting biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions require our most innovative and strategic policymaking. Two key bills were passed to address critical steps called for in Vermont's Climate Action Plan. 


30 by 30: Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection

H.126, the “30x30” bill, charts an inclusive path to achieve the permanent conservation of 30% of Vermont’s landscape by 2030 and 50% by 2050. It also funds an updated inventory of the approximately 26% of lands currently conserved, including working lands and old forest. 


Affordable Heat: Exploring a Future Solution

S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, targets how we heat and cool our buildings. The goal is to help Vermonters save money and reduce pollution by transitioning away from fossil fuels to cleaner, more sustainable heat. We’d accomplish this not by taxes or mandates, but by requiring fossil-fuel dealers to earn credits. Dealers would earn these credits by helping interested Vermonters — and especially those with fixed, low or moderate incomes — do things like weatherize, install heat pumps, or switch to cleaner fuels at a lower price. 


In May, the legislature gave final approval to S.5 by overriding Governor Scott’s veto. The Public Utilities Commission will now spend the next two years researching and designing the proposed Clean Heat Standard. This public process will include reports that analyze the cost of the program (including any impact on fuel prices), the estimated savings for Vermonters and much more. In 2025, this information will be presented to the legislature in the form of a new bill — for testimony, any necessary revision, and votes in both the House and Senate. If it passes the legislature in 2025, the Clean Heat Standard would begin its gradual rollout in 2026.


Protecting Our Health, Soil, and Water
The legislature passed several bills this year that protect public health — and our ecosystems — from the threat of toxic chemicals and plastic pollution. H.67 requires the manufacturers of household products that contain hazardous substances to belong to a program that would pay for collection and disposal, as well as public outreach and education. And the bottle bill (H.158) invests in the much-needed modernization and expansion of the decades-old deposit system. It will keep more bottles and cans out of the landfill and reduce the energy and emissions associated with plastic, aluminum, and glass bottle production. It requires that beverage manufacturers and distributors collaborate in a stewardship program, overseen by the Agency of Natural Resources, that will offer more convenient redemption locations and equipment, and extend deposit coverage to most beverages, including plastic water bottles and glass wine bottles. To address the difficult problem of treating aquatic invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil, which threatens the health of our lakes and adversely impacts recreation, H.31 establishes a study committee tasked with producing a report on safe management practices.


Housing for All in the Right Places

Our comprehensive housing bill, known as the HOME bill or S.100, lays the groundwork for more affordable housing stock for Vermont’s working families. It updates our land-use policies to encourage housing development where we want it — in vibrant, livable and walkable downtowns — while discouraging sprawl.


These land-use updates include zoning changes to enable more housing density, like allowing duplexes wherever single-family homes are allowed and at least five housing units per acre in areas served by water and sewer. We also made time-limited changes to Act 250 in growth centers, designated downtowns, village centers, and neighborhood development areas (NDAs) by changing the so-called “10-5-5 rule” (in which building or developing 10+ units within 5 miles in a 5-year period triggers Act 250 review) to a “25-5-5 threshold” (25 units, within 5 miles, in a 5-year period). In designated downtowns, growth centers, and NDAs, we also eliminated the cap on the number of housing units in priority housing projects. Importantly, we also made it harder to appeal much-needed housing projects. Key investments include:

  • $49 million to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to increase the supply of affordable housing (plus $27.5 million in the mid-year FY23 budget adjustment)
  • $10 million to the Vermont Housing Improvement Program (VHIP) to rehab apartments that are offline or in violation of building codes, or to build or renovate accessory dwelling units (plus $5 million in the mid-year FY23 budget adjustment)
  • $60 million for emergency shelters, temporary housing and supportive housing services 
  • $7 million to fund recovery housing and housing for youth exiting foster care or Vermonters leaving prison 
  • $1.2 million to the Vermont Land Access and Opportunity Board, created last year to create opportunities and improve access to woodlands, farmland, and land and home ownership for Vermonters from historically marginalized or disadvantaged communities
  • $30.4 million to stabilize and expand capacity in long-term care facilities
  • $4 million for manufactured housing repairs 


General & Housing Committee


Supporting Our Mobile Home Communities

In 2021, there were an estimated 20,651 mobile homes in Vermont. About 6,700 are located in mobile home parks. While some data is collected annually, there’s much more we need to know about the condition and infrastructure of our mobile home communities. How many parks provide a resource for affordable housing for Vermonters? How many need updates to sewer and water access? How many have gone co-op, and how many are owned and rented? The legislature set up a study committee for the summer of 2023. With clear data in hand, we can follow up during the 2024 legislative session to strengthen and benefit this important housing sector. 


Paid Family and Medical Leave: Stay Tuned …

In March, the House passed H.66, a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance bill, with strong support. Although the bill did not advance through the Senate, the House remains committed to this priority. 


H.66 contains three main provisions of equal importance: job protection while an employee is on leave, benefits that include 90% wage replacement at the state average wage, and ample leave time for a variety of reasons. Like any insurance program, paid leave would need to be verified and approved. It would cover circumstances including an employee or family member’s serious health conditions, miscarriage, residential treatment for substance use disorder, childbirth and child bonding, military exigency (when a servicemember or their family is preparing for active duty) and bereavement.  The bill also covers “safe leave” for medical care, counseling, or social or legal services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  

Government Operations and Military Affairs


Impeachment Investigation Has Begun

For the first time since 1976, the House has initiated an investigation into possible impeachment of two elected officials, both from Franklin County: the sheriff and the state’s attorney. Alleged misconduct by both of these elected officials and their subsequent refusals to resign led to this action.


The investigation is the first step in a multi-step process to remove a sheriff or state’s attorney from office. In particular, since a sheriff’s position is created and protected by the Vermont Constitution, impeachment is a long and meticulous process.


On May 16, the Speaker of the House appointed a bipartisan, seven-member committee to begin investigating the allegations. The Special Committee on Impeachment Inquiry will determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the House to impeach either the Franklin County state’s attorney or sheriff, or both. This committee will meet during this 2023–2024 biennium, including between sessions, to complete its investigation. The committee has subpoena power, and will examine documents, gather evidence, and interview witnesses. 


Sheriff Office Reform

The legislature spent significant time this session addressing problems that have cropped up in recent years in sheriff’s departments across the state. While most sheriffs and their departments are effective and manage their finances appropriately, we need clearer laws that hold sheriffs accountable while providing more guidance and structure. Here are some highlights from S.17, the bill passed by both the House and Senate:

  1. S.17 prohibits survivors of abuse from being charged for standby services by law enforcement agencies. Standby services are offered when a survivor has received a relief from abuse order and needs to go back to their home to retrieve belongings. These moments are often dangerous for survivors, while the services — which can take hours — are expensive.
  2. The bill requires a transition plan when a new sheriff is elected to ensure that their successor has the money and resources needed for a smooth transition. 
  3. S.17 clarifies that sheriffs should avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest and specifies what information should be made public. It also requires sheriffs to participate in Vermont’s Code of Ethics Policy.
  4. The bill also creates a model policy for sheriff departments compensation and benefits. 


Health Care


Preventing Suicide

Vermont’s suicide rate is 50% higher than the national average. This public health crisis drove the legislature’s work on H.230, a bill addressing suicide prevention. The vast majority of suicides in Vermont are completed with a firearm. A child that lives in a home with a gun has a 440% increased chance of suicide. These staggering statistics require action, and H.230 will save lives by reducing access to lethal means.

The bill requires a 72-hour waiting period for gun sales, a reasonable time period that will slow the impulsive actions that often lead to suicide. By creating penalties for negligent storage, children will be less likely to find unsecured guns. Household members will also be empowered to directly petition a judge for an Extreme Risk Protection Order so they may remove guns from a home when someone is in crisis. H.230 passed both the House and the Senate and will be sent to the Governor.


With H.481, Vermont's Director of Suicide Prevention will develop and provide schools with a model for reducing suicides, investigate the role of eating disorders in causing suicide, and create services for members of the community should a tragedy occur.


Protecting our Health Care Providers

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court eroded reproductive rights with last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, the professionals who provide reproductive care have been threatened with criminal, civil, and regulatory penalties in many other states. Increasingly, our nation’s transgender citizens are seeing their right to exist questioned in states that are passing laws to restrict or even prohibit gender-affirming care. 


Vermont is now leading the nation by protecting the health care professionals who continue to follow our state’s laws and standards of care. H.89 is a “shield” bill that protects providers from criminal and civil penalties for providing these essential health services. S.37 is the companion bill meant to guarantee that our health care providers will not lose their licenses and certifications due to injurious laws in other states. S.37 also ends the deceptive practices of some limited-service pregnancy centers, ensures the supply of medications used in reproductive care, and increases access to contraceptives on Vermont’s college campuses. Both bills were signed by the Governor in May.


Boosting our Health Care Workforce with Compacts

One of the biggest problems facing Vermont’s health care system is the severe shortage of essential health care professionals. Too many patients have been left waiting, sometimes for months, before they receive appointments with necessary specialists. This year, the legislature passed four bills that will allow many providers to join interstate licensure compacts. 


These compacts allow a health care provider to use their Vermont license in any other state that is also a compact member. Additionally, professionals in other compact member states will be able to practice here, whether in-person or via telemedicine. H.62 makes Vermont a member state of the compact for mental health counselors. H.77 does the same for Vermont’s physical therapists. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists will benefit from the compact covered by H.86. Psychologists from 35 states will be able to counsel and treat Vermonters thanks to the compact joined with H.282.  These compact bills head to the Governor for signature.

Human Services


Child Care and Early Childhood Education 

The lack of access to affordable, high-quality early childhood care profoundly impacts Vermont and its economy. H.217 develops a blueprint for a significant investment in our children, families, and communities. 


The bill increases state-funded financial assistance for children in child care; plans for the expansion of part-time pre-K to a full-time program for all 4-year-olds in Vermont; increases the reimbursement rates for community and home-based child care programs by 35%; and elevates and streamlines state-level oversight of early childhood education. This bill also provides a substantial increase to family home care providers, a critical component to solving the child care crisis. 


This bill was supported by legislators across party lines, and it builds on the current system to ensure that all partners, families, schools, and early educators have the resources they need to best care for our youngest Vermonters. The bill increases the number of families who will not have any co-pay from 150% of the federal poverty limit to 175%.  It also expands eligibility for middle-income Vermonters to 575% of the federal poverty limit.  H.217 will infuse over $140 million into the child care sector and, starting next year, will be funded by a payroll tax of 0.44% (employers pay 0.33% and employees pay 0.11%). H.217 passed by a vote of 118-27 and will have a lasting impact on the lives of Vermont families and our economy.  This bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

Reducing Overdoses 

Over the past several years, Vermonters have continued to lose their lives to fatal overdoses.  In the spring of 2023, preliminary data reflected a 10% increase in overdose deaths from 217 deaths in 2021 to 239 in 2022. H.222 and H.72 are overdose response bills with bipartisan support that implement policies that will reverse the trend of fatal overdoses. 


H.222 increases access to recovery housing, removes barriers to treatment for Vermonters on Medicaid, and modernizes Vermont’s laws on Naloxone (Narcan) to increase access to this life-saving medication. This bill also appropriates opiate settlement funds to establish drug-checking systems to detect the presence of deadly substances in different drugs. After passing both the House and the Senate, this bill was sent to the Governor.  


H.72 focuses on safe consumption to reduce overdose deaths in Vermont. This legislation funds pilot overdose prevention sites. Overdose prevention sites are locations where individuals can use drugs under supervision, so they are not alone and at higher risk of overdose death. Studies find that 50% of overdose deaths occur when people use drugs alone. Canada and Australia have succeeded with overdose prevention sites seeing net reductions in overdose deaths. H.72 also provides criminal immunity for overdose prevention sites. This bill was voted out of the House Human Services Committee and will see final action in the House next year.


Both pieces of legislation are significant steps in our ongoing work to strengthen access to life-saving services in Vermont’s communities.


Removing the Residency Requirement for Medical Aid in Dyin


Vermont initially passed legislation to allow medical aid in dying in 2013. The passage of H.190 removed the residency requirements for medical aid in dying in Vermont. The law took effect upon Governor Scott’s signature on May 2, 2023. Before this legislation, end-of-life care was the only health care in Vermont that required that the patient be a resident of Vermont. It is still necessary for the physician to determine that the patient was suffering from a terminal condition based on the physician’s review of the patient’s relevant medical records and a physician’s physical examination of the patient; that the patient is making an informed decision; and that the patient made a voluntary request for medication to hasten the patient’s death. Patients must be at least 18 years old to take advantage of the law.


This law allows families to make difficult healthcare decisions with their trusted healthcare provider regardless of their zip code, as there is no compelling reason to distinguish this care as something other than healthcare. Vermont is the first state to allow terminally ill out-of-state residents to use its end-of-life laws. 




Addressing Sexual and Domestic Violence


The House Judiciary Committee worked to address domestic and sexual violence during this session. H.45 limits a convicted abuser’s ability to use the court system to continue harming a survivor. Called “abusive litigation,” this can be achieved through frequent filing of motions or complaints that the survivor then needs to answer – costing them money, work time, and any sense of actual safety or distance from their abuser. After heart wrenching testimony from victims that just want to move on with their lives, this bill was voted out of committee with multi-party support. Having passed in the House and Senate, the bill heads to the governor’s desk.  H.41 allows community justice centers (CJCs) to receive referrals of DV/SV cases under specific conditions. As many as 80% of victims never report their abuse, sometimes because they fear the typical criminal justice process. Opening the door to a restorative justice approach, which is entirely victim-centered and focused on repairing harm, may lead more victims to seek relief. Act 8 bans child marriage. Vermonters who marry younger than 18 years old (89% of whom are girls) are more likely to be abused by their spouse and are at higher risk for a host of physical and mental health challenges. Under the previous law, young girls could be married against their will with just a single parent’s consent. Such marriages usually involved a man several years their senior. Married teen mothers are statistically less likely to finish high school than unwed mothers and more likely to spend their adult years in poverty.  This important measure to protect girls is now law. 


Protecting Health Care Providers and Patients


H.89 – also known as the Shield Law – creates the highest possible level of legal protection for Vermont-based providers of reproductive and gender-affirming health care (defined in the bill as “legally protected health care”), as well as patients receiving that care. The bill also provides legal protections for any Vermont-based person or entity (e.g. health insurance company) who assists with or otherwise helps facilitate the provision of legally protected health care.  


Vermont law – and now the Vermont Constitution – already provides protections in very clear cases involving providers and patients residing in Vermont. Protections are not so clear in other scenarios, such as cases of telehealth care or Vermont students who may temporarily reside and receive care outside of the state (e.g. college students). The changing and unpredictable national landscape related to reproductive and gender-affirming health care necessitates the further protections provided in H.89.  


Vermont is a leader when it comes to protecting reproductive health care and gender affirming health care and H.89 was signed by the Governor on May 10, 2023. With other states enacting draconian laws targeting both patients and providers, Vermont’s shield laws block these attempts to create a chilling effect on important health care decisions made here.


S.36 also protects health care workers, though in this case the threat is physical harm. A troubling rise in assaults on hospital workers led the legislature to pass this bill, which allows law enforcement to arrest a person without a warrant when that person assaults or criminally threatens a health care worker in a hospital or someone providing emergency medical treatment (e.g. EMT).  This important bill passed both the House and the Senate and awaits the Governor’s signature.


Criminal Justice Reform and Reinvestment


The House Judiciary committee spent significant time focusing on criminal justice reform and justice reinvestment, discussing means to keep Vermonters safe while also recognizing the present bias in our criminal justice system. S.4 creates the Community Violence Prevention Program, which will award grants to new and existing community programs with a focus on municipalities that have experienced a rise in drug-related violence. The bill will allow communities to explore the best means to protect all of its citizens. It also addresses current law enforcement challenges by prohibiting the removal of a gun’s serial number and the purchase of a gun for a person who is prohibited from owning or purchasing one.  These “straw purchases” often occur when firearms are traded for drugs.


Current state law allows law enforcement to use deception when interrogating suspects. Studies show that youth in these circumstances are more liable to give a false confession when such tactics are used. False confessions hurt public safety and can result in an innocent person behind bars. S.6 prohibits the use of deception when conducting custodial interrogations of juveniles. The bill also directs the Vermont Criminal Justice Council to develop a statewide model interrogation policy that moves away from the use of deception by law enforcement in all circumstances. 


Finally, S.14 directs the Vermont Statistical Analysis Group (SAC) to work in consultation with the commissioners of several state agencies, the Attorney General’s office, the Defender General’s office, State’s Attorneys, and other entities involved with the criminal justice system to develop a report on the impacts of criminal justice-related investments and expenditures. The bill also creates the Coordinated Justice Reform Advisory Council.  All three bills passed both bodies, and now they await the Governor’s signature.



Addressing Climate Change in Our Transportation Sector


Combating climate change and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is a pressing challenge facing Vermont. Over the last several years, the legislature has been working to actively reduce our carbon emissions in the transportation sector to meet our mandated climate goals in the Global Warming Solutions Act. 


In November of 2022, Vermont adopted California’s Advanced Clean Cars II Act, which requires automakers to offer a gradually increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles within the Vermont market. This puts the state on a pathway toward 100 percent electric vehicle sales by 2035 and is in line with the legally mandated requirements of Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020. The transportation sector accounts for about 40% of the state’s total emissions, more than any other sector. To meet our state goals, we need to reduce our transportation emissions by about 40%.  The Advanced Clean Cars II is expected to account for a third of this reduction goal.


The FY24 transportation budget (approx. $870M) includes strong incentive-based programs to help income-qualified Vermonters transition to more efficient transportation options. Funded programs include incentives for higher efficiency vehicles—especially new electric vehicles, increased investments in public transportation, e-bikes, and support for rail infrastructure. Additionally, new and updated roadway infrastructure will incorporate safe bike and pedestrian options.  


This year’s transportation budget also funds the Agency of Transportation’s (AOT’s) work with Cambridge Systematics to develop a detailed climate reduction plan. This plan includes an evaluation of AOT’s capital program and detailed strategies for the implementation of projects that most cost‐effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These investments will reduce our emissions and improve the quality of life in Vermont’s towns and villages. 


Vermont Transportation Facts


Did you know in 2022……

·      Vermont ranked 4th in the nation in EV adoption

·      Vermont has the highest number of chargers per capita in the U.S.

·      VTrans plowed 1,700,000 miles of state highway with 256 plow trucks

·      Vermont had 91,000 train passengers and 3,500,000 public transportation passengers

·      VTrans engineers inspected 1,958 bridges 

·      325 miles of roadway were paved 

·      27 electric buses received funding

·      The Vermont Dept of Motor Vehicles registered 777,000 vehicles and processed over 1,000,000 transportation related transactions (licenses, registrations, etc.)

·      Maintenance crews collected 436 tons of trash, mowed 17,800 acres and repaired 21,700 linear feet of guardrail

·      If all Vermont cars were electric we would save over $800 million in gasoline costs every year


Investments That Reflect Our Values – Linking Housing And Transportation

Local transportation planning connects school, businesses, workplaces, neighborhoods, and parks with how people move within a community. Vermont’s historic village and downtown centers provide “great bones” for walkable compact lifestyles. The legislature has been working to strengthen connections between housing and transportation to help Vermonters find affordable housing within proximity of good jobs in the productive places that drive Vermont’s economy. 

This session the legislature worked to make investments and policy changes to create more affordable housing stock in our downtowns and village centers. Access to transportation and creating more walkable and bike-friendly communities improves the quality of life for residents of all ages, increases health and social equity, and revitalizes local economies. Investing in walkable, bikeable, and transit accessible communities can help Vermont address the critical state housing shortage.  

This year’s transportation budget included funding for public transportation, transportation alternative projects, and Mobility Transportation Initiative grants. Within a community, a local transportation plan can improve life for residents, increase health and social equity, revitalize local economies while reducing reliance on cars, lowering transportation costs and emissions. Two programs managed by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, the Downtown Transportation Fund and the Better Connections Program, are ideal for communities that are ready to develop a broad community vision to help align transportation and smart growth policies.

Electric Vehicle Incentives in Vermont

Did you know that driving an electric vehicle (EV)is like paying $1.50 per gallon for gas at the pump? 


There are many reasons to drive an EV: 

·      save money on fuel and maintenance costs

·      increased convenience by charging at night at home 

·      increase our energy independence and can be powered by renewable energy

·      reduce noise pollution – EVs are incredibly quiet


Several incentives are available to help Vermonters drive electric, including a federal tax credit, electric utility programs, and an incentive from the State of Vermont. These can be combined to reduce the up-front price of an electric vehicle by up to $14,000 in some cases. The Drive Electric Vermont website has a calculator tool to help Vermonters determine their incentive eligibility.


Ways & Means


Modernizing Vermont’s Property Tax System


This year the House Ways & Means Committee analyzed the current property tax system and how it can be improved to become more predictable and understandable for taxpayers. H.480 will ensure consistent standards and practices for property valuation and reappraisals across Vermont and create a more equitable property valuation system suited to the needs of a modern tax system. We’re likely to continue our work on property taxes and property valuation in the next legislative year as well.


Supporting School Budgets with the Yield Bill


The  Yield Bill is an important (if not esoteric) piece of legislation where each year, the legislature sets the property tax rate based on the sum of the school budgets passed across the state. This year we saw budgets pass all over the state with significantly increased spending - due to increased needs in the aftermath of the pandemic. Fortunately, there were also increased revenues to support those budgets. Looking ahead to next year, however, we anticipate that education spending will likely go up again but our non-property tax revenues might not increase. So when the legislature set tax rates this year, we put aside some of the revenue to offset next year’s taxes, without veering from the Commissioner of Taxes’ forecast (often called the December 1st letter).


Supporting Vermont’s Priorities


This legislative session, the Ways & Means Committee worked to support state government priorities to strengthen Vermont in the context of an unstable and unpredictable national and global landscape. In order to do this, the committee examined where resources are available now, and also where they might be developed or shifted in the future. Good tax governance requires regularly and predictably adjusting fees to track with inflation, developing a progressive, equitable tax system, and ensuring we have a solid mix of revenue sources so as times change funds can supplement each other.


The massive boost of federal COVID-era grants created a one-time increase in our budget. While these funds are drying up, they have bolstered the economy so much that Vermont is in a healthier financial state than before the pandemic. While opportunities for one- time spending will be fewer (another reason to be strategic and impactful with these choices), overall the revenue base is expected to be higher.


With the economy doing so well, corporations have also benefited in the last few years. The legislature restructured Vermont’s corporate tax structures so less profits could be hidden (or attributed to other jurisdictions), and corporate revenues are up as a result. Massive infusions of federal and state spending don’t just help once, they continue to flow through the economy.


Legislative Updates


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