A Two-Part 2022 Session Summary: Many Good Polices, Too Many Vetoes
June 17, 2022 Hello friends,
Happy summer! I am happy to offer you my legislative session summary in two parts! along with some useful updates/resources. A more detailed legislative summary can be found here.
Gun Policy Panel Discussion - July 21st 7:30pm via Zoom. Join me for a panel and discussion on Vermont’s state gun policy and what aspects must be strengthened to keep our communities safe. Guest panelists will be announced soon. Register here.
Green Mountain Care Board Rate Review Hearings. Blue Cross and MVP have asked to raise health insurance premium prices in Vermont by 12.3% and 17.4% respectively. The Green Mountain Care Board must approve the premium price increases before they can take effect. It is important that your voice is heard. Complete this short form to tell the Green Mountain Care Board what you think about the premium price increases. Comment here: bit.ly/GMCBComment.
Green Mountain Transit Fares Update. In case you missed it, the Green Mountain Transit Board of Commissioners voted in May to maintain FREE service for almost every route until June 2023. They also restored two Chittenden County routes and some of the Link Bus routes (Burlington to Montpelier) thanks to $1.2 million added to the transportation budget passed by the legislature in May. This is good for riders and our environment. I hope this becomes a permanent state investment. Read more.
BIPOC Business Engagement. Vermont Professionals of Color and Main Street Alliance are working to further understand what is working well for small businesses and what gaps exist. They are seeking input from BIPOC businesses to help legislators and state government create more equitable economic development policy. Complete their survey here or register for one of their listening sessions here.
2022 SESSION SUMMARY - PART ONE
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. The five charter changes included: H.448 Thermal Energy Assessment, H.454 Expansion of the Airport Commission, H.708 Just Cause Eviction Rights for Tenants, (vetoed), H.744 Ranked Choice Voting for City Council Elections, and H.746 Removing Harmful Language regarding Sex Workers. 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. 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). The Governor also vetoed the bill in June 2022.
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.
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, and $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.
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.
EDUCATION 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 (Burlington is one of these communities). 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. S.287 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. This bill became law in May 2022.
H. 266 is a bill related to hearing aids and health insurance coverage. 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.
Read my full legislative summary here.
Thank you for your engagement this last biennium. I appreciate the privilege of serving as your state legislature. Please continue to reach out with questions, ideas and feedback.
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, State Representative
Chittenden 6-2 (Old North End/New North End)
House Commerce Committee Member
(she/her/hers - here's a resource on personal pronouns)
Social Media @staterepemma
Picture: Emma speaking with a constituent.