Legislative Update 1/31/24

Last week, nonprofits took to the State House to connect with and inform lawmakers about the vital activities and support needs of our sector! Read our Nonprofit Legislative Day 2024 Recap for a full account of the day.

With the event dust clearing, we can turn our attention back to the bigger picture. Here is a brief update covering the past couple weeks of legislative activity:

Bill Updates

H. 140, An act relating to requirements for State-funded grants

Following testimony provided by nonprofits on 1/11 (read more in our 1/18 update) the House Government Operations Committee took testimony from members of the administration and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) on 1/19:

  • Sarah Clark, Deputy Secretary of Administration, Agency of Administration
  • Jordan Black-Deegan, Statewide Grants Administrator, Department of Finance and Management
  • Denise Reilly-Hughes, Secretary, Agency of Digital Services
  • Ted Brady, Executive Director, Vermont League of Cities and Towns

Their testimony followed a walkthrough of the new Draft 1.4 of the bill which includes two new amendments advocated for by Common Good Vermont and nonprofits:

  • Section 3: Prompt Payment of Grant Funds
  • Section 4: Working Group on State Grant Processes

Representative Nugent, the committee’s lead on the bill, explained the need behind these two sections, and noted that the working group language was brought to her attention by Common Good Vermont. Please thank Representative Nugent for shepherding this bill through committee and advocating for these vital improvement!

While concerns were raised by members of the administration around some components of the bill including implementing standard application and reporting forms, maintaining a list of grants, and the late payment penalty, there was not much pushback around the concept of the working group itself. A promising start. Clark and Black-Deegan also shared this presentation with information about grant process. VLCT was generally supportive of the bill but would prefer the state fund municipalities in ways other than making them apply for grants.

Since taking testimony, we understand the committee has been working through some of these concerns raised by the administration. We appreciate their work but with so many pieces of legislation competing for their time, we need to keep H. 140 front and center so it can make it out of the House in time for crossover (the deadline for all bills to make it out of their chamber of origin to be considered this year).

Please email the committee Chair, Rep. McCarthy, and Vice Chair, Rep. Birong, to thank them for their work on H. 140, express your support for the bill as amended, and share why state grant and contract reform is urgently needed. Talking points and tips for contacting your legislators are attached below:

H. 121, An act relating to enhancing consumer privacy

As we shared in our last update, House Commerce has been working on a bill related to data privacy that could have implications for nonprofits. Not much to report now, but they will spend Thursday and Friday on the new bill draft, so we will know more soon.

Privatization Contract Bills

S. 96 and H. 308 are companion bills relating to privatization contracts, which, as defined in the bill, means “a contract or grant for services valued at $25,000.00 or more per year, which is the same or substantially similar to and in lieu of services previously provided, in whole or in part, by permanent, classified State employees.” This bill expands the current definition in statute and would require cost savings of 20% instead of 10% in order for the State to enter privatization contracts. It would also require contractors to provide similar pay and benefits to State workers to their employees.

Both House and Senate Government Operations Committees had the bills’ respective sponsors in for a walk through within the past week. In the Senate Committee, sponsor Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky explained that it aims to target work being contracted out of state with for-profit companies, specifically calling out unemployment insurance and Department of Motor Vehicles customer service call centers. While this may be the case, it could have implications for nonprofits who contract with the State, so we are monitoring the bills should they be taken up by the committees.


FY24 Budget Adjustment Act (BAA)

The House has voted out the FY24 BAA, which makes mid-year adjustments to the budget. A summary of the House proposal can be found here, and the full text of the bill, here. The Senate is working through their changes to the bill this week.

Summary of Governor’s Budget Address

By Rachel Cunningham, Common Good Vermont Intern

On Tuesday of last week (1/23), Governor Phil Scott presented his budget proposal for the upcoming year. Governor Scott focused on the importance of maintaining the taxes and fees Vermonters are already paying, not raising them. His budget is focused on protecting the “everyday Vermonters” and ”revitalizing communities”. One point that was made was “I don’t think there will be a lot of disagreement about what’s in this budget. The disagreement will lie in what’s not in it. But pretending we can fund everything isn’t realistic.”  As mentioned, although there are many important initiatives that still need to be funded, a lot of key issues have made their way into the budget this year.

 The budget break down includes:

  • $8.6 billion across all funds
  •  $353 million for transportation
  •  $2.4 billion for education
  • $2.3 billion in the General Fund (3.57% increase from last year)

Within his general fund spending, there are major plans for affordable housing, flood relief, mental health resources, and intervention practices for the opioid epidemic. One bill on the horizon includes an affordable housing tax proposal mentioned in the budgeting plan. The bill H.719 aims to turn rundown or even abandoned properties into housing for low- and middle-income working families. About $41.1 million will also be poured into getting new housing units online, investing in mobile home repairs and growing shelters to keep people housed. $1 million is being spent on mental health resources for youth. Part of that budget includes a new youth patient facility in Bennington. $5.9 million is being added to the opioid epidemic fight with a large amount of already existing resources being expanded. Scott’s hope is that with this budget, real change can be made. While the budget is still up for debate, there is a bipartisan push for making communities safer, more vibrant and affordable again.   

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