The Vermont Senate passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688) this afternoon (6/26/2020) with minor amendments. The legislature adjourned this evening until August 25th after passing $1B in Coronavirus Relief Funding provided by the federal CARES Act to help Vermonters and the Vermont economy respond to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislature will reconvene on August 25th to complete the FY21 budget with updated financial data. I predict that the House will concur with the Senate's amendments and send the bill to the Governor. The GWSA will form the foundation of Vermont's response to the other existential crisis of climate change. Thanks to the many citizens, including students, who kept the pressure on last year by rallying, testifying and persisting at the statehouse to drive the message home that action is necessary. This is a beginning, not the end of the action we must take to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change that we are already experiencing.…/legislative-report-2202020-…

Legislative Report 6/25/2020 -The House Appropriates $1 Billion of Coronavirus Relief Funds

Ever since Vermont received $1.25 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) as a result of the federal CARES Act, Governor Scott and the Legislature have been trying to decide how to allocate those funds to relieve the economic distress caused by the “stay home, stay safe” response to the virus. More than $90M was used almost immediately to help unemployed Vermonters and small Violating the guidelines would put Vermont at risk of having to return the money to the U.S. Treasury next year.  To be eligible for CRF, the spending must: 1) be necessary expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 emergency; 2) not have been accounted for in the budget most recently approved before March 27, 2020; and 3) be incurred between March 1 and December 30, 2020. 
businesses. The Governor subsequently called for $400M more to be released for assistance to businesses, many of which are in danger of closing completely.  While the objective is clear and uncontested, the Legislature, specifically the House where money bills must originate, has had the task of discerning how and where to allocate CRF money within the guidelines of the CARES Act.

Over the three-month period since the emergency went into effect, House committees, with stakeholder input, have been looking for eligible avenues within their areas of jurisdiction that would help all aspects of the Vermont economy, including individuals, businesses, non-profits, and those in need of social services.
With the goal that no Vermonter or Vermont community should be left behind because of COVID-19 impacts, several bills were passed during the last two months of the session that allocated $1.04B of CRF money to help Vermont and its citizens get back on their feet.  The appropriations include:

  • $356M to stabilize our health care system, including $257M for provider stabilization, as well as funding for mental health, childcare, senior services, and suicide prevention;
  • $196M for assistance to businesses, including restart grants, marketing and tourism, public safety, and the Arts;
  • $170M for pandemic frontline workers, including $20M for hazard pay;
  • $91M for housing assistance including eviction and foreclosure prevention and homelessness assistance;
  • $73M for higher education;
  • $50M for Pre-K education;
  • $43M for broadband connectivity assistance both for residential affordability and network expansion, E-911 system expenses, and to cover utility accounts that were 90+ days in arrears due to the pandemic;
  • $35M for agriculture and forestry relief;
  • $16M for the judicial system; and
  • $13M for municipalities.

This is the largest emergency recovery program ever passed by the Vermont legislature and reflects an enormous amount of work by the members of the House and Senate, our legislative staff, the administration, and the Joint Fiscal Office. While there still may be some changes as agreement on the details of the bills by the House and Senate are negotiated, we expect to finish our work by the end of this week and recess for the month of July.  We will be back together in August to complete the final three-quarters of the FY21 budget.

I welcome your emails ( or phone calls (802-233-5238).   

The Word in the House 6/5/2020 - House Passes Major Bills in Prolonged Session

As the lockdown of the Vermont economy continues to ease, the legislature has continued its work remotely via video-conferencing.  Meeting as an All-House Caucus each week on Tuesday, briefings are provided to all members on bills that will be coming up for a vote in the Wednesday and Friday floor sessions.  Members hear the reports of the committees that prepared the bills with an opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Those bills are then debated during the floor sessions, amendments are considered, and votes are taken.  During a normal session, this process is open to anyone who comes to the statehouse or who might tune into VPR’s live stream of the proceedings. Our virtual sessions, however, open up the proceedings to anyone with an internet-capable device at There you can find the links to the House or Senate sessions as well as to scheduled committee meetings that take place during the week. Click on the Announcements link to find the times for the proceedings.

In recent weeks, the House has passed several  major bills to keep the state on an even keel during the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supplemental Budget Adjustment (SBA) bill will take us through the rest of the 2020 fiscal year which ends on June 30th. With the deferral of the income tax filing deadline to July 15th as well as certain other tax payments, revenues expected in this fiscal year will not be received until the first quarter of FY21 and are anticipated to be lower than was expected in January.  The SBA bill adjusts spending but also allows borrowing from funds controlled by the State Treasurer until the deferred revenues are received.  It sets a date certain for repayment of those loans with interest. The SBA bill is now under consideration by the Senate.

At the same time, the House has been working on the “Skinny Budget” bill for the first quarter of FY21. The plan is to map out the first quarter, see where we are with respect to the economy, federal assistance and revenues at the end of August and then reconvene to create a budget for the rest of the fiscal year. The major components of the budget consist of the Capital Bill (H.955), the Transportation Bill (H.942), and the Yield Bill (H.959). These will be folded into the Appropriations Bill that defines the budget.  The Capital Bill addresses the spending needed to administer and maintain state properties and infrastructure including correctional facilities, office buildings, state parks, etc. The Transportation Bill does the same for the Vermont Agency of Transportation and includes roads and bridges, aid to municipalities, rail, mass transit, etc. The Yield Bill sets education tax rates based on the budgets approved by school districts in March.  However, some districts have not yet voted on school budgets, and less money is expected from the sales and use tax, which goes entirely into the Education Fund. Those reasons and the uncertainty of federal education assistance due to the pandemic led the Ways & Means Committee to set the property tax rates at the same level as was expected prior to the pandemic in order to provide municipalities firm numbers to work with for local tax rates.  Legislation later this summer will adjust these expectations as necessary. The bill also allows towns to borrow money for the education tax payments due the state with the interest covered by federal CARES Act money. All these bills will require passage by the Senate.

The legislature will continue to work until the “Skinny Budget” has passed in concurrence with the Senate. As always, I welcome your emails ( or phone calls (802-233-5238).