Part Two Session Summary: Historic Housing Bills, Pension Compromise, Ending Racist Mascots
June 17, 2022 Hello friends,
Here is part two of my legislative session summary. You can read a more detailed legislative summary here.
2022 SESSION SUMMARY - PART TWO
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. 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.
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. 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. LGBTQIA+ RIGHTS
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. 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.
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. Unfortunately, my amendment was ruled not germane and no other bill was identified to advance this important piece of policy.
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: Hand painted sign reads "Black Lives Matter #EndRacism" hanging in a tree on a summer day in Chittenden - 17.