Legislative Update 3/1/24

As we approach the midway point of the session, lawmakers and advocates alike are working under pressure to wrap up loose ends and advance their bills. Next week the Legislature will be on Town Meeting Break. When they return, committees will have just one week until the crossover deadline to vote any bills they wish to move forward this session out of committee (except “money bills” which have an extra week, until 3/22). 

Read on for:

Need to catch up on what’s happened so far?

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

On Tuesday 2/27, the House Government Operations Committee walked through a new draft of H. 140, the grant and contracting bill. A strike-all amendment, largely in response to concerns expressed by the administration, Draft 2.3 includes significant changes from previous the Draft 1.4.

While the changes do weaken the bill significantly, the working group language remains largely in tact. With limited time left before crossover and many competing priorities, we appreciate the committee’s work on this issue and, at this time, are primarily concerned with the bill getting voted out on time.

Specific changes include:

  • Removed – Standardized Forms: Section 1 of the previous draft was largely struck. It would have required the Agency of Administration to create standardized forms and statewide processes for grant applications, agreements and reporting.
    • Included – Uniform Indirect Formula: Section 1 of Draft 2.3 does include language instructing the Secretary of Administration to update Bulletin 5 to include “a uniform formula and approval process for use in all State-funded grants for nonprofit corporations that request to use an indirect rate higher than the standard de minimis rate, pursuant to 2 C.F.R. § 200.332(a)(4).”
  • Removed – Statewide Database: Section 2 of the previous draft that would have created a statewide grant database was removed entirely, along with the $35,000 appropriation for its implementation.
  • Revised – Prompt Agreements & Payments: Section 3 of the previous draft only addressed prompt payment of grant funds, but would have required the granting agency to pay 9% interest on late payments (starting on the 31st day after valid written request for payment). The new draft:
    • Adds language to address delayed grant agreements, as well as delayed payments.
    • Removes the interest penalty.
    • Weakens directive language from “A State agency shall…” to “A State agency shall, to the greatest extent possible…”
    • For both delayed agreements and payments, requires the granting agency to submit in writing an explanation to the Agency of Administration as to why it was unable to meet its obligation.
  • Revised – Working Group: This section remained largely unchanged, however, the reporting section no longer requires the Working Group to include draft legislative language.
  • Added – Report on Prompt Execution and Payment: Section 4 requires the Agency of Administration to submit a written report to the House and Senate Government Operations Committees analyzing and summarizing the fiscal impact of a 9% interest rate on late payments and when payments or grant agreements were delayed more than 30 days.

Sarah Clark, Deputy Secretary of Administration, testified again on the new draft. She noted that she wasn’t sure if 30 days was the right amount of time for a grant to be executed in and that she would prefer the agency do a study on delayed agreements and payments rather than the reporting process outlined in the new draft of the bill. With regard to the working group, the Deputy Secretary advocated for additional members of the administration to be included, such as someone from the Department of Finance and Management and representatives from key agencies. She also suggested adding Vermont League of Cities and Towns. Chair McCarthy was receptive to the additions to the working group but pushed back on her concerns around prompt payments and agreements, noting that they need to strike a balance between the fiscal impact on state with the fiscal impact on nonprofits.

The Committee is planning to work on another draft and will need to vote the bill out by 3/15. Stay tuned for updates!

Flood Relief Funding

VBSR, Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA), Montpelier Alive are leading the call to “Back the FRAP” – the Financial Recovery Assistance Program for nonprofits and businesses in the omnibus flood relief bill, H. 723 (which is still on the shelf in House Environment and Energy). A sign-on letter with the first round of signers was delivered at a press conference last Friday.

The ask for Vermont’s lawmakers is to:

  • Prioritize passing the Flood Recovery Assistance Program (FRAP) in the flood omnibus bill.
  • Integrate structural changes to support our communities better.
  • Help businesses (and nonprofits) innovate and invest to withstand future impacts better.

The FRAP would expand eligibility for flood relief beyond physical damages – specifics can be found in our previous update HERE.

ACTION ALERT: Join Common Good Vermont and 200+ nonprofits and businesses in calling on lawmakers to pass H. 723 and fund the FRAP – read the letter and sign on.

H. 121, An act relating to enhancing consumer privacy

A new draft of H. 121 was released this week. As a quick reminder, the bill as previously drafted:

  • Gives consumers certain rights regarding data privacy, including:
    • The right to know what data is being tracked,
    • The right to correct inaccuracies in the data
    • The right to delete the data being collected
    • The right to obtain a copy of the data collected by a business
    • The right to opt out of data tracking, targeted advertising, and sale of data.
  • Would require nonprofits to disclose what data they are collecting in a privacy notice, and only use the data as they disclose.
  • Require nonprofits to take steps to protect consumer data, with even higher standards for “sensitive data” which includes: data that reveals a consumer’s racial or ethnic background, national origin, religious beliefs, mental or physical condition or diagnosis, sexual orientation, status as transgender or nonbinary, status as a victim of crime, or citizenship or immigration status, as well as consumer health data, genetic or biometric data that is processed for the purpose of uniquely identifying an individual, a child’s personal data; and precise geolocation data.
  • Exempts certain types of data already covered by other Acts (HIPPA, CLBA, FERPA) and certain noncommercial activities. It does not include a sector wide exemption for nonprofits.

For more background and Common Good Vermont’s recommended changes, read our previous update here.

The new Draft 7.2 does not incorporate most of our recommendations, other than extending the effective date out to January 1, 2025 (just six months instead of the 1-2 years Common Good VT recommended). Some notable changes in the new draft include:

  • Language that aims to protect minors using online services or products from a heightened risk of harm.
  • The definition of “consumer” is changed from “resident of the state” to “an individual who is in the state who is in the State at the time a controller or processor collects or processes the individual’s data.”
    • This would make it even easier for nonprofits to reach the applicability threshold (and be required to comply).
    • It would also be difficult for nonprofits to track what data is collected from non-residents while they are in the state vs. when they are out of state.
  • Applicability threshold is removed for sections on minor and consumer health data protections.
  • One new exemption, only for “federal, State, tribal, or local government entity in the ordinary course of its operation.”
  • Consumers also have right to “obtain from a controller a list of third parties, other than individuals to which the controller has transferred, at the controller’s election, either the consumer’s personal data or any personal data.”

Why it matters: Most impacted nonprofits will have to make significant updates to their existing data policies, data management practices, and technology, work which often comes with added consultant and technology costs. It also opens up nonprofits to potential lawsuits and fines.

ACTION ALERT: If you have concerns about this bill, examples of how it will impact your organization, or changes to propose, please email [email protected].

H. 704, An act relating to disclosure of compensation in job advertisements

The House Committee on General and Housing took testimony from VBSR and the VT Chamber last week on H. 704. This bill would require employers to disclose compensation in job advertisements. As this is already common practice within the nonprofit sector, Common Good Vermont submitted comments in support of this bill. While it doesn’t seem likely that the bill will move, we wanted to share our submitted comments as we will soon require this for our Nonprofit Job Board (you may notice we have added a new field already!).

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