Rep. Mulvaney-Stanak's Lead Sponsor Bills
An amendment offered by Rep. Mulvaney-Stanak to H.360 (2021) - an act relating to accelerated community broadband deployment. The amendment would propose labor standards and wage minimums for workers funded by these state dollars to develop broadband access.
An act to promote economic development, workforce revitalization and access to higher education. This act included a first-time investment in BIPOC business development. The final act was included in the Budget Bill (H.439, Act 74). This bill is a Committee bill.
An amendment offered by Rep. Mulvaney-Stanak to H.738 (2022) - an act for miscellaneous tax policy. This amendment proposed repeating state policy enacted in 2021 to exempt the first $10,200 of unemployment compensation from state income tax for the 2021 tax year. Prior policy exempted this amount of unemployment compensation from 2020 state income tax.
BURLINGTON CITY CHARTERS
The City of Burlington voters passed five charter changes over the last three years which required legislative approval to advance. All five of the charter items passed the legislature. However, Governor Scott vetoed the just cause eviction charter. Here is a brief summary of each item:
H.448 Thermal Energy. This charter change item will allow the City to develop ordinances to govern thermal energy systems in residential and commercial buildings within the city. This includes creating an assessment for buildings to offset their carbon impact and encourage heating systems from renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuel based sources. H.448 passed and became law in April 2022.
H.454 Airport Commission. This charter change item added two seats to the commission charged with oversight of the Burlington airport. It added a seat for a Winooski resident and an additional seat for a Burlington resident. Adding representation allows more communities who surround the airport and are impacted by airport operations and policy decisions to have a formal seat at the table. H.454 passed and became law in February 2022.
H.708 Just Cause Eviction. Vermont law allows landlords to terminate tenancy for no cause. H.708 would have allowed the city to develop a city ordinance to define parameters around evictions. Just cause eviction policy helps to stabilize housing for tenants, especially in a low vacancy and expensive housing market like Burlington. It also helps to protect people of color and people living with disabilities who face significant burdens to prove housing discrimination in communities where no cause evictions are allowable. The legislature was unable to override Governor Scott’s veto in May 2022 (by just one vote!), so the bill failed to become law. I hope to work with my Burlington colleagues to reintroduce this bill next session and work to make sure this charter change is allowed to advance.
H.744 Ranked Choice Voting for City Council Elections. This charter item allows the city to use ranked choice voting for city council elections if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote. Ranked choice voting allows more democratic elections by encouraging more candidates and more diverse candidates to run for office who may be dissuaded by the existing winner-take-all system that favors well resourced candidates. The Governor allowed this charter to become law without his signature in May 2022.
H.746 Removing Harmful Language regarding Sex Workers. This charger item removes out-dated, sexist language in the charter that defines the city’s authority to regulate sex workers. The bill became law in June 2022.
CLIMATE CRISIS & ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
H.715, or the Clean Heat Standard bill, was the only major piece of legislation the legislature advanced to begin to meet our pollution-reduction commitments with the state’s Climate Action Plan. Fossil fuels used for heating account for over one third of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would require fossil fuel suppliers to reduce carbon pollution and support Vermonters transition to cleaner heating sources. The bill created a standard for fossil fuel suppliers to reduce pollution by 40% by 2030 (in line with Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act) by engaging in helping consumers access new heating systems (ex: heat pumps), weatherizing homes, or moving to new fuel sources. The bill also included mechanisms to protect consumers from a cost shift by suppliers and also ultimately lower heating costs overall by creating a more stable heating market that is less reactive to the price changes for fuel oil and propane. The bill could have benefited from more defined policy to examine cost equity and a potential over reliance on biofuels as an alternative source. I speak more to the imperfections but reasons on why I supported this bill in this joint statement by the House Progressive Caucus. While the bill initially passed, the Governor vetoed the bill and the legislature was unable to override the veto in May 2022.
S.234 included several key components to modernize the state’s Act 250 program and to make it easier to build housing in Vermont’s designated Downtowns and Neighborhood Development Areas (NDAs). S.234 replaces the Natural Resources Board with a professional five-member Environmental Review Board. This board would hear appeals, rather than the current environmental court system. This new board would build up expertise and, in turn, provide guidance to the entire system. Vermont has a serious housing shortage. S.234 loosens Act 250 jurisdiction in communities that have adopted strong local mechanisms to support the construction of well-located housing, while looking more closely at resources — like unfragmented forest blocks — that are regional or statewide in nature. The bill gives small, rural towns the same access to housing programs and benefits that larger communities have enjoyed for years, while paving the way for more housing and mixed-use development in all NDAs. The bill passed the legislature in May 2022, but the Governor vetoed the bill in June 2022.
The legislature also made significant investments in addressing our climate crisis through the FY2023 budget by using $566.7 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund climate policy. Of that amount, $129.8 million is allocated for weatherization and other climate change mitigation investments. These allocations are informed by the knowledge that, in Vermont, transportation and thermal (building heating) are the sectors that pose the greatest challenges in reducing greenhouse emissions.
$45 million to the Home Weatherization Assistance Program to aid lower-income households
$35 million to the Electric Efficiency Fund for weatherization incentives to Vermonters of moderate income
$2 million to support continued build-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure along highway networks
$20 million to provide low- and moderate-income households with financial and technical assistance to upgrade home electrical systems to enable installation of energy saving technologies, plus $5 million to install, at low or no cost, heat-pump water heaters
$2 million to help low- and moderate-income households to purchase electric equipment for heating, cooling and vehicle charging, plus support for municipal back-up electricity storage installations
$15 million to improve landscape resilience and mitigate flood hazards
$4.8 million to provide farms with assistance in implementing soil-based practices which improve soil quality and nutrient retention, increase crop production, minimize erosion potential, and reduce waste discharges
$1 million for the Urban and Community Forestry Program to plant up to 5,000 trees to improve air quality and reduce heat island effects
Additionally, the FY2023 budget includes climate investments from both General Funds and Transportation Funds: $32.2 million and $600,000 respectively. These allocations support electric vehicle charging infrastructure, electrification incentives, and investments in public transportation.
One last investment is an additional $8 million in General Funds to provide up to 70% reimbursement to municipal and cooperative electrical distribution utilities for implementation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure. This infrastructure provides the necessary information to help improve energy efficiency, while also helping utilities manage costs and improve customer service.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS - PROPOSITION 5 & 2
In early February, the Vermont General Assembly passed Proposition 5, which is a constitutional amendment granting constitutional rights to reproductive liberty for all Vermonters regardless of gender identity. This amendment allows Vermonters to have the right to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term, choose or refuse contraception, or choose or refuse an abortion. Proposition 5 now moves to the voters and will appear on the 2022 general election ballot in November as the final step of this constitutional amendment process. If Proposition 5 is voted into law, it would be a landmark event in U.S. history as Vermont will be the first state to place reproductive liberty in its state constitution.
The General Assembly also passed Proposition 2, a constitutional amendment to strengthen language to clearly prohibit slavery and indentured servitude in any form or at any age. While this is modifying archaic language, it is an important step to make sure our foundational governing document names and prohibits the enslavement of people. Proposition 2 will also be on the 2022 General Election ballot.
ECONOMIC JUSTICE & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
H. 464 is a bill that modernizes the state’s Reach Up Program by removing work requirements and replacing them with employment preparation, readiness and participation. It also increases the income limits allowed before Reach Up benefits begin to be reduced, allows both parents in a two-parent family to participate in postsecondary education programs without penalty, and allows the work requirement to be modified when a recipient is ill or disabled. The bill became law in May 2022.
S.11 is a large omnibus workforce and economic development bill. S.11 includes:
Historic first-time investments in BIPOC businesses and professional network development ($250,000)
$420,000 to support justice involved individuals within correctional facilities by improving education and workforce training program and starting a pilot community reentry workforce program
Significant investments education and training programs and student debt forgiveness in several sectors including health care, mental health, childcare and the trades
$15 million to create a state COVID Worker Relief Grant program for employers to cover the wages of employees who are sick with COVID or cannot work due to a COVID related issue
$19 million in new forgivable loans for businesses still negatively impacted by COVID
$9 million in new creative economy grants to support COVID recovery
$1.3 million to continue the state’s Everyone Eats program
Read a summary of the health care and mental health loan forgiveness and training program information at the end of this document.
S.11 included at one point an increase to the state minimum wage and a small effort to advance paid family leave by studying new policy developments in our region. I advocated to include the minimum wage increase ($15/hr by 2025), but was unsuccessful. I did not support the paid family leave study because the time is now to create a strong paid family leave law and stop studying the issue. We know what we need to do.
I introduced several other economic justice bills that were not taken up by committees of jurisdiction this biennium. They included:
H.239 a labor rights omnibus bill that included requiring employers to provide reliable work schedules (significantly benefits service and retail workers), just cause termination rights for all workers, and reimbursement requirements for remote workers for employment expenses.
H.356 a bill to modernize and update the workers compensation system.
H.359 to modernize the unemployment insurance system, increase unemployment claim eligibility, language access and eligibility for self-employed people.
H.616 a bill to create an office of the Unemployment Advocate to support Vermonters navigating the complexities of the unemployment system, provide education and policy improvements to make the system more transparent and user friendly for claimants and employers.,
H.615 a bill to require employers to provide wage transparency in all job postings and ad protection categories for racial and gender identity under current equal pay state laws.
In late January, I joined dozens of other legislators to cosign a letter naming concerns about the proposed news approach on how to calculate education funding for English Language Learners (ELL). The initial proposal initially included updating weighting formulas for rurality and poverty, but replaced a weighting system for ELL with a grant structure. ELL funding needs encompass a diversity of things beyond instruction. In districts like Burlington and Winooski, home school liaisons and other wraparound support for students. This reflects the complexities and realities of larger ELL populations in Chittenden County compared to small rural communities. The use of a grant formula assumes every dollar spent on ELL would get the same results in each Vermont district and oversimplifies the complexities of larger ELL populations. In April, I joined the Burlington and Winooski state delegation with another letter to make sure the final bill did not treat ELL students differently than other categories of students who need additional financial resources.
Eventually, S.287 advanced which included an updated weighting system for rurality, poverty and ELL students. This allows districts with more students who qualify for these weights to increase their taxing capacity without increasing local tax rates. The bill also creates a path of tax-rate protection for districts that will experience reduced taxing capacity because they do not have as many students who qualify for these types of weights and will see a reduction in state funding with these changes. The new weights will be implemented in FY25, giving districts time to plan and prepare. S.287 became law in May 2022.
S.100 is a bill that extends universal free meals to all public school students for one more year by using $29 million from the Education Fund surplus. The federal government funded free breakfast and lunch for all public school students during the last two school years, but the federal funding ends in June 2022. S.100 reduces hunger and erases stigma in our schools by ensuring that breakfast and a hot, nutritious lunch is available to all students. Under the old pre-pandemic program, not all food-insecure students qualified for free or reduced-price school lunch: the income limit was set very low, at $32,227 for a single parent with one child. During the upcoming school year, we’ll collect solid data around the cost of universal school meals and study the potential long-term funding opportunities for this program. This bill became law in May 2022.
H. 266 is a bill related to hearing aids and health insurance coverage. Untreated hearing loss causes a variety of negative health outcomes such as cognitive decline, dementia, falls, social isolation, and depression. Hearing aids and related services should be available to all Vermonters, but many health plans do not cover them. H.266 will require Medicaid, the State Employees Health Plan, and large group health insurance plans to provide coverage for hearing aids beginning in plan year 2024. The bill became law in May 2022.
H.596 is a bill I introduced in 2022 to require all Vermont pharmacies to offer free disposal of unused prescription drugs and increase education/outreach efforts by the Vermont Department of Health to educate the public on the importance of proper disposal. H.596 did not move, but the policy concept was included in H.462 and passed and became law in May 2022. You can view a discussion I held here with the Burlington Partnership on this important policy in April 2022.
We advanced three major housing bills this session - S.79, S.210 and S.226. S.79 would have created a rental housing registry and also transferred primary authority for rental housing health and safety to the state of Vermont for all rental properties in the state. Currently, individual towns must create a registry and code enforcement program if they wish to create a system that includes regular inspection and enforcement of code violations. S.79 would have also created a Rental Housing Investment Program for landlords to bring non-code-compliant rental units back onto the rental market and a revolving loan fund for homebuyers. S.79 was vetoed by the Governor in July 2021.
S.210 and S.226 were passed in 2022 and included historic investments in housing development, housing rehabilitation, and grants for first time homeowners. These bills became law in June 2022. These investments include:
$55M to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to build more homes. Another $22M will subsidize starter homes for middle-income families and manufactured housing. And $20M more will support the Vermont Housing Improvement Program, which offers grants to landlords for fixing code-violating rental properties.
$20 million toward forgivable loans to property owners to bring rental properties not up to code back online, plus incentivize the construction of new Accessory Dwelling Units to expand Vermont’s rental housing stock.
$22 million to subsidize new construction to lower costs for middle-income homebuyers, plus $1 million to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) for down payment grants for first-generation homebuyers (including specific outreach to BIPOC first-time homebuyers). Repair and improvement grants will also be available for manufactured homes.
Reform zoning laws, expand tax credits, and create pilot projects to encourage denser development and more vibrant town centers.
Create an Advisory Land Access Board, composed of representatives of groups that have faced historic discrimination in land and home ownership. The new board will work with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and its partners to reduce current disparities as a result of that discrimination.
Extend additional protections from discrimination and harassment for renters and homebuyers.
Create a statewide contractor registry to protect against consumer fraud in residential construction projects with a value of over $10,000.
Use federal relief money to increase the capacity of the Department of Fire Safety to conduct rental inspections.
For more information about the programs funded above, go to the organization websites linked. Funding begins July 1, 2022 so program and application information will likely be posted within the next 30 days.
JUSTICE REFORM AND COMMUNITY SAFETY
H.534 is a bill to expand the eligibility for expungement and sealing of criminal history records for nonviolent offenses. It would also automatically expunge most municipal violations after a three year period. 5% of Vermonters have a felony record (compared to 2-3% of the population in NH and nY) and many more have a criminal record involving misdemeanors. Criminal records have a lasting economic impact on Vermonters by negatively impacting employment and housing opportunities. Formerly imprisoned individuals see an even larger impact on career earnings than those with a record but were not imprisoned. BIPOC individuals with criminal records see an even greater disparity in negative impact on their economic well being. Expungement and sealing of criminal records for non-violent offenses is an important way to support Vermonters who are returning to the workforce and advancing within their careers. The bill passed the legislature in May of 2022 but the Governor vetoed the bill.
S.30, a bill to prohibit guns in hospitals and also closing the so-called “Charleston Loophole” (waiting period for background checks before gun purchase), was vetoed by Governor Scott in March after passing the House and Senate. The Senate went on to reach a compromise with Gov. Scott to pass S.4 a bill similar to S.30. S.4 still prevents people, other than law enforcement persons, from possessing guns in hospitals. It also prohibits defendants from having guns in ongoing legal cases of domestic violence. The compromise applies to changes in the waiting period timeline for a background check to be completed. Rather than 30 days within S.30, the legislature compromised with 7 days. Vermonters deserve to have strong, well-structured gun control policies. S.4 is a step in the right direction, but we must do more.
H.628 passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor in early April. H.628 is a bill that allows individuals to more easily amend their birth certificate or get a new birth certificate, to reflect their gender identities. This bill aims to mitigate future harm, violence, and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community by removing unnecessary cost and extended process for individuals looking to accurately reflect their identity with vital records. This is a significant policy as identity validation of one’s true identity by institutions such as the state, begins to remedy harms experienced by marginalized people.
H.706 is a bill I introduced to begin to require insurance companies and health care providers to update data collection policies and systems to be inclusive and affirming of all sexual and gender identities, including family structures that are not heteronormative. This bill did not move this biennium, but it begins an important discussion to move health care providers and insurers away from gender binary and heteronormative medical and application forms.
PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS
S.286, the public employee pension bill, contributes $200 million in one-time surplus revenues to our public pension while teachers and state employees will increase and restructure their contributions and accept a small adjustment to cost-of-living increases. In all, these changes will eliminate $2 billion of unfunded liability and strengthen the health of our pension systems for teachers, state employees and troopers.S.286 is a significant improvement from the first approach offered in 2021 which would have placed a significant burden on public employees to stabilize the pension system. The Governor vetoed this bill in May 2022 but the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously voted to override the Governor's veto days later.
H.96 is a bill that establishes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Development Task Force to investigate and being the process of removing institutional, structural, and systemic discrimination in Vermont, both past and present. The Task Force will include representatives from of historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups that have suffered from institutional, structural, and systemic discrimination in Vermont. The bill became law in May 2022.
H.641 is a bill I introduced with a colleague to ban racist mascots in public schools in Vermont. Several Vermont school districts still have mascots with racist imagery or history. When we rely on local decision making to determine if a mascot is harmful or inappropriate it has often led to painful debates that harm students. The policy concepts in H.641 were picked up in S.139 which directs the Agency of Education to create a state model policy to set a minimum standard for discriminatory school branding (including mascots). The bill became law in May 2022.
The Western Abenaki people are the traditional caretakers of the land known today as Vermont. H.556 is a bill that exempts state-recognized indigenous tribes from state and municipal property taxes. The bill is a small example of reparations policy to acknowledge past and ongoing harm endured by indigenous people due to colonization and racism. While this bill, now signed by the Governor, is an important step in ongoing social justice work, it also creates a structural inequity by not extending tax exemption to tribes in Vermont who are not formally recognized by the state or hold tribal recognition in other states or with the federal government.
H.510 creates a new state child tax credit for families with young children. Families who make under $200,000 (joint filers) or $120,000 (single filer) qualify for $1,000 refundable tax credit for children age 5 and under. It also increases the current Vermont child and dependent care credit to 72% of the federal child and dependent care credit and also increases the Vermont Earned Income Tax Credit to 38% of the federal EITC. While this is a significant win for working families, the legislature could have lowered income eligibility to be more targeted to low to moderate income Vermonters by increasing the age limit of children and allowing these families longer access to this important financial support.
H.510 includes other tax provisions including increasing the social security income exemption threshold by $5,000, exempting $10,000 of income from federal civil service and U.S. military pensions from state income tax, and new deductions for certain student loans. The bill became law in May 2022.
Mulvaney-Stanak Amendment to H.738. H.738 was a miscellaneous tax bill passed by the Vermont House that addresses a wide range of issues, including penalty provisions for estimated tax payments and the application of the property transfer tax to enhanced life estate deeds. I attempted to amend the bill to include an income tax exemption that would exempt first $10,200 of income from unemployment compensation for individuals with an AGI of under $50,000. The legislature unanimously supported this exact policy in 2021 for the 2020 tax year to support thousands of Vermonters who used unemployment to weather the pandemic. Many Vermonters continued to rely on unemployment in the first two quarters of tax year 2021. I attempted to offer the same policy to support these working people. Unfortunately, my amendment was ruled not germane and no other bill was identified to advance this important piece of policy. Several states exempt all unemployment compensation from state income tax and several more temporarily exempted it for the 2020 and 2021 tax years.
HEALTH CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL TRAINING AND LOAN FORGIVENESS INFORMATION (FROM S.11)
S.11 included several provisions to support nurses, nurse educators, nurse preceptors, health care professionals and mental health professionals and students looking to enter these professions. Here is a summary of the investments and loan forgiveness programs:
Nurses and healthcare providers:
Fund for nursing education programs over the next 3 years to increase compensation for nurse faculty and staff and if these nurses/staff are represented by a union, the employer must bargain with the union when determining how to apply funding to salaries. $2M over three years.
Fund for nurse preceptor grants to hospitals who have nurses serving as preceptors for nursing students. $400K intended to be about $5/hour in salary increase for nurse preceptors. If these positions are represented by a union, the hospitals must bargain with the union before determining how to apply the funding to salaries.
Create a working group made up of representatives from nursing schools, long term care facilities, health care centers, home health agencies and primary care practices to identify ways to increase clinical placement opportunities for nursing students, name funding models to create sustainable compensation for preceptors and/or hiring more of them.
Establish grants via VSAC to health care employers to establish partnerships with nursing schools to create a nurse pipeline or apprenticeship programs. The goal is to train health care workers - existing and future - who are personal care attendants, LNAs, LPNs to become higher-level nursing professionals. The grants would be used to create scholarships and grants to employers to help folks looking to advance their careers free tuition and assistance in living costs. $2.5M is allocated for this fund.
Create a forgivable loan program through VSAC to apply to tuition, room/board, supplies/books for students enrolled in a Vermont nursing program who commit to work in the state as a nurse for a minimum of one year. There are some ranking priorities criteria for which students gets access to funds first compared to others based on where they are in a program (see page 38 of the bill). VSAC and the Dept of Health will be working out the guidelines more now that the bill is law. Funds will be available until they run out so there is no deadline for applicants. However, this will be a first come first serve program. FYI! I believe the program has about $500K in funding.
Create the Vermont Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program through AHEC which is the Vermont Area Health Education Centers to provide loan repayment for residents of VT who live and work in Vermont as a nurse, physician assistant, medical tech, child psychiatrist or primary care provider. Folks will get one year of loan cancellation and repayment equal to each year of service in a Vermont-based position. Traveling nurses do not qualify. This program has $2.5M in funding.
Create a scholarship program for nurse faculty who are residents of Vermont and teaching in a Vermont program. To be eligible, the nurse faculty must agree to work for a Vermont program for a minimum or one year. There is $500K set aside for this program.
Mental health professionals:
Create a forgivable loan program through VSAC for tuition, room/board and cost of supplies for students enrolled in a master's program who will work as a mental health professional in Vermont for a minimum of one year. Priority will be given to students first who are attending a Vermont State College, then to students attending other eligible Vermont schools. $1.5M was allocated for this program.
Create a forgivable loan program through the Agency of Human Services for full time mental health and substance use disorder treatment professionals who work for one year at a designated or specialized service agency in VT. It can be used to repay loans for graduate or master level degrees.
The summaries below are intended to provide a high level overview of the legislation enacted. Each Act is linked to the bill summary page within the title and relevant study committees or taskforces working on further policy recommendations are also linked within the summary.
Economy & Infrastructure
Unemployment insurance has become law through Act 51, an act that also created an official Vermont worker incentive program and benefited technical education efforts. Under this law, unemployment insurance will increase and be protected from decreases. The legislature also created a research committee on unemployment insurance, which will be conducting its work in the coming months. The committee will not form until September, but meetings and materials related to its work will be posted on the Vermont General Assembly website found here.
This act creates the Vermont Community Broadband Board and eliminates barriers to constructing broadband networks and expansion. It does not, however, include any wage or employment benefit standards for workers involved in the build out work. Representative Mulvaney-Stanak sought to amend the bill to include these labor standard guarantees, including requiring jobs created through this state investment to pay either a livable wage or the prevailing wage (whichever is higher) and requiring employer-provided health insurance, but the amendment did not pass. It can be read here.
This act creates a taskforce to research, examine and create a set of recommendations to address the unfunded liability of the public employee pensions system by December 2, 2021. It also modifies the current pension oversight structure to form the Vermont Pension Investment Commission and modifies certain investment and oversight policy such as mandating an actuarial assessment of the health of the pension system every three years compared to every five years. The summer taskforce work and progress can be followed here.
This bill is a general transportation upgrades and improvements bill that makes several changes to public transportation, including establishing zero-fare public transport in FY2022 and fully electrifying all public transport. The bill also includes incentives for buying electric vehicles, including electric bicycles, and various transportation infrastructure updates across the state.
This act ensures health insurance coverage for low-income children and pregnant people, regardless of legal immigration status. This coverage will begin on July 1, 2022.
This act creates the Health Equity Advisory Board, with the goal of eradicating disparities of health care coverage in Vermont, particularly among BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ Vermonters.
This act covers a wide range of different subjects, but the focus of this summary is sections 19-20, which clarifies grace periods for major medical insurance policies and creates new grace periods for the payment of premiums on unsubsidized major medical insurance policies.
This act allows educators the ability to bargain health care premiums and out of pocket expenses based on the employee’s ability to afford those costs. A few years ago, health insurance moved from a local bargaining item to a statewide bargaining item. In the process, all educators were required to bargain as one group of employees regardless of their salary. This left lower waged paraeducators, cafeteria workers and custodians unable to bargain their insurance contribution rates to be in proportion to what they are paid compared to teachers. This Act fixes this inequitable aspect of the original law.
Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement
This act amends previous standards for use of force by law enforcement officers, and details statutes that prohibits certain law enforcement conduct. This is an act building off of Act 147 (2020) which tightened excessive force allowances used by police officers and began to address racial bias within law enforcement. Act 27 further refines the work started in Act 147, including modifying the allowed use of “chokeholds” within Act 147 to allow an officer to use a chokehold to “defend against imminent threat of death of serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person” and an officer must immediately stop once the imminent threat is no longer present.
This act makes some offenses automatically eligible for expungement after two years. It also directs the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee to consider making most or all records eligible for expungement. Record expungement allows individuals to re-enter communities after their convictions without the burden of a criminal record preventing them from getting jobs, federal government aid, or other help getting back on their feet.
This act decriminalizes the possession of up to 224 milligrams of buprenorphine, a substance often used to treat opioid dependence by individuals who can’t afford prescribed treatments, and can prevent fatal overdoses. Legalizing therapeutic amounts of buprenorphine allows those experiencing substance use disorder to safely self-medicate without risk of arrest.
Equity & Safer Communities
This joint resolution acknowledged racism as a public health crisis in the state of Vermont.
This law prevents the use of a victim’s identity when constructing a defense case to argue provocation, diminished capacity, or self-defense.
This joint resolution deeply apologizes for the Vermont legislature’s significant role in the eugenics movement of the 20th century, acknowledging those who are still harmed by these actions today and committing to repair the harm done.
Education & Child Care
This act assesses the need for funds to support school districts through the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to improve health and safety in schools across Vermont. It also offers grants to schools for the construction of renewable and efficient heating systems.
This act creates the Task Force on Equitable and Inclusive School Environments, which will work to limit suspensions and expulsions and compile data on school discipline in Vermont schools.
This act helps community schools create programs to ensure equitable access to education. It also creates the Task Force on Universal School Lunch.
This act works to increase access to early child care for all families through the creation of scholarships, adjustment or removal of copayments, and loan repayment assistance.
This law creates a task force to implement the Pupil Weighting Factors Report. Pupil weighting is a practice used to determine how much funding a school needs by counting some students that might require extra funding as more than one student. The task force created by Act 59 will work on implementing suggestions proposed by the report through a gradual approach in order to make sure that all students receive equitable access to education. This is a policy area where communities like Burlington and Winooski share common cause with rural communities in benefiting from a more equitable weighting system that accounts for the higher costs of educating students in poverty and multilingual students learning English. The work of the task force can be followed here.
This act requires the state to mail out ballots to all registered voters for general elections. It also allows for voters to repair defective ballots in order to ensure their votes will still be counted.