Legislative Digest: Affordable Housing, Border Patrol, Medicare

The Vermont Legislature has been busy responding to many of Governor Phil Scott’s proposals, ranging from education funding to new approaches to economic development. Last Friday, Gov. Phil Scott held a press conference in his ceremonial Statehouse office today surrounded by historic preservationists, downtown advocates, environmentalists and mayors to announce a package of proposals to encourage development in Vermont’s downtowns. They include a $35 million housing bond, new historic tax credits, expansion of so-called TIF (tax increment financing) districts and new exemptions from the state’s Act 250 development law for certain downtown housing projects.

Housing, Eco Development & Health Care

Executive Director Gus Selig of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board revealed some of the details this week behind the $35 million bond fund for affordable housing projects announced by Gov. Phil Scott in his January budget address. The plans were outlined in a presentation for the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

Funding would come from a bond issued against revenue VHCB receives from its share of the 0.7 percent property transfer tax. The first $2.5 million would be dedicated to debt service for the bond. VHCB is comfortable with this, Selig said, as well as with a request from Scott that it shift its annual funding commitments from 55 percent for housing and 45 percent for conservation to 60-40. The proposal was well received, but Committee Chair Rep. Janet Ancel, D-Calais, questioned the proposed structure of retiring the bond with an otherwise non-dedicated tax. The committee will likely approve the proposal in some form. (DRM/Hollar)

Vermont lawmakers are eyeing a $2-per-night fee on hotel stays to raise the $10 million a year they say is needed to solve the state’s affordable housing crunch. Vermont has a well-documented shortage of affordable housing in parts of the state, and even middle-income residents often struggle to find decent homes or apartments. (VPR/Hirschfeld)

The Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee on Tuesday opened consideration of a wide-ranging economic development bill. Committee Attorney David Hall walked the committee through a bill that includes minor changes in the Vermont Economic Growth Initiative, a ten percent increase in the research and development tax credit, reauthorization of the Enterprise Fund and establishment of  Enterprise Zones targeted at millennials. The bill would also repeal the sales tax on airplane parts, restoring an exemption that was eliminated by a recent legislature. Surrounding states all exempt airplane parts from sales tax in order to attract the high-end aircraft repair business. The first draft of the bill contained language dealing with Act 250 criterion 9(L), which has been blamed for stopping a number of development projects in the state since it was revised two years ago. But the committee deleted any ideas that require heavy lifting and hopes to get a bill over to the House by the “crossover” date, March 17.  Committee Chair Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, hopes to move a bill out of committee by the end of next week. (DRM/Hollar)

The House Health Care Committee on Wednesday heard from the Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Cory Gustafson and Deputy Commissioner Michael Costa on the Vermont Medicaid Next Generation Accountable Care Organization Pilot Project – the Medicaid portion of the ACO all payer model. The all payer ACO model enables the three main payers of health care in Vermont – Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial insurance – to pay a group of providers differently than through a fee-for-service reimbursement system. (DRM/Hollar)

Border Patrol

Also last week, Gov. Phil Scott said if Vermont was on the list he would “resist” the idea of using the Vermont National Guard for roundups of undocumented immigrants, if so ordered by President Donald Trump. (VTDigger/ Galloway)

Nevertheless, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has broad authority to operate anywhere within 100 miles of an international boundary or coastal body of water. That includes virtually all of Vermont except for the southwestern corner. (7Days/ Walters)

Rep. Barbara Rachelson introduces a bill to prohibit the State from assisting or participating in the collection of electronic data or metadata by the federal government or from using any of the data collected unless the data are obtained pursuant to a warrant issued by a court, and to require a warning label on products capable of digitally recording data. (H.364)

The City of Burlington announced it will team up with local and state entities to improve its response to the opiate crisis. Mayor Miro Weinberger presented 11 “opioid principles” at Burlington City Arts to describe and guide the city’s approach to the ongoing crisis. The principles include basic statements that establish the danger of prescription opioids, label addiction as a public health crisis, and assert the importance of “data collection, data sharing, analysis and transparency.” (7Days/Jickling)

This Week in the Vermont House

  • Appropriations continues to review the Governor’s Proposed FY18 Budget with a focus on Economic Development.
  • Corrections & Institutions continues to review the FY18 and 19 Capital bill, including the Arts Council Cultural Facilities Grants
  • Education Committee looks at the FY18 Agency of Education budget, and looks at various aspects of education including career technical education, sexual exploitation of students, dual enrollment program, proposed changes to Act 166 to clarify the jurisdication of pre-kindergarten education.
  • General, Housing and Military Affairs looks at various bills to increase the minimum wate (H. 93/302/313), to promote workforce housing and to accomodate pregnant employees (H. 136).
  • Health Care takes up the FY18 budget and acts related to mental health crisis response (H. 145), mental helth parity for workers’ compensation (H.197), and various health care funding plans.
  • Human Services works on the Governor’s proposed FY18 Budget, hears Building Bright Futures report, and discusses issues related to Home Visting.
  • Judiciary delves into H. 170, relating to possession and cultivation of marijuana as well as a number of parentage legislation issues, bail reform, statewide access to drug and DUI treatment courts (H.213) and establishing drug possession thresholds to distinguish misdemeanor and felony crimes (H. 167).
  • Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife looks at workforce housing, Act 250 jurisdiction, stormwater permit thresholds, dam registration and cleanwater funding.
  • Transportation looks at changes to transportation related law and the Transportation Program.
  • Ways and Means takes up the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission Report, remote sales tax and the computer modernization fund.


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