Legislative Update: Kicking Off the 2023-24 Biennium

State lawmakers have returned to Montpelier to convene, in-person, for the 2023 Legislative Session that kicked off last week. Read on to find out what’s in store this session and how to stay engaged.

What are Common Good Vermont’s priorities for the nonprofit sector this session? Read our 2023 Policy Agenda here.

New Leadership

This biennium, with roughly one-third of the members from both chambers are newly elected to their positions, we see both a loss of institutional knowledge and an influx of new energy, perspectives, and ideas. The new governing body is also unprecedentedly left-leaning, giving both the House and Senate Dems/Progs a supermajority. We welcome back those returning and look forward to building new relationships with new members. With this historic turnover, several committees will have new chairs:

Senate Committees with new chairs:

  • Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs: Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden Southeast;
  • Government Operations: Sen. Ruth Hardy, D-Addison;
  • Institutions: Sen. Russ Ingalls, R-Essex.

House Committees with new chairs:

  • Agriculture, Food Resiliency and Forestry: Rep. David Durfee, D-Shaftsbury;
  • Appropriations: Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes;
  • Education: Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall;
  • Government Operations and Military Affairs: Rep. Mike McCarthy, D-St. Albans City;
  • Health Care: Rep. Lori Houghton, D-Essex Junction;
  • Human Services: Rep. Theresa Wood, D-Waterbury;
  • Judiciary: Rep. Martin LaLonde, D-South Burlington;
  • Transportation: Rep. Sara Coffey, D-Guilford;
  • Ways and Means: Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, D/P-Brattleboro.

Leadership: Representative Krowinski has been re-elected as Speaker of the House and Senator Baruth has been elected to take over as Senate President Pro Tempore, replacing our new US Representative Balint.

Key Issues

Governor Scott’s Inaugural Address

In his inaugural address on January 5th, Governor Scott outlined his goals for the upcoming session. Emerging from the pandemic, Scott’s focus has shifted from relief to recovery. In addition to investing one time federal funding in our state’s infrastructure, he emphasized taking a community-based approach to support the unique needs of Vermont towns. Unsurprisingly, standard priorities including mental health, climate change, housing, childcare and his administration’s paid leave program were also highlighted. At the same time, amidst rising inflation, Scott remained firm in his opposition to increasing taxes.

In respect to Vermont’s workforce, Scott referenced that there “are currently about three job openings for every one unemployed Vermonter.” Without getting too specific, he indicated that his budget will continue to invest in the workforce but clarified that training is only part of the solution and that he sees making Vermont more affordable and attractive to new workers as critical.

The FY23 Governor’s Recommended Budget Adjustment Act was released last week. A public hearing on the proposal will be held by the House Committee on Appropriations will be held on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 1 PM.

The Governor will deliver his FY24 Budget Address on January 20th at 1 PM (time subject to change).

What We’re Watching (so far): Bills and Issues Relevant to the Nonprofit Sector

  • Workforce: Addressing the nonprofit workforce shortage is a top priority. In addition to supporting sector-specific workforce initiatives such as training programs and funding, we will be following peripheral issues being spearheaded by allies including healthcare, childcare, paid sick leave, housing and more.
  • Government Grants and Contracting: Common Good Vermont has convened a stakeholder working group to address challenges nonprofits experience related to government grants and contracting. The group will be working collaboratively towards cross-sector solutions that strengthen government-nonprofit partnerships by making government grants and contracts more financially viable, equitable and accessible for Vermont nonprofits to better serve our communities. Stay tuned for updates and calls to action or email Emma at [email protected] if you would like get involved.
  • S.9/H.24 – An act relating to the authority of the State Auditor to examine the books and records of State contractors: Companion bills that would expand the reach of the State Auditor to “examine the records, accounts, books, papers, reports and returns in all formats of any contractor that provides services to the State” have been introduced, after the Auditor’s office record request was denied by OneCare. While transparency and accountability are important when public funds are involved, there is the concern that additional oversight could present an administrative burden for nonprofits with government contracts. We will be monitoring these bills that are waiting to be taken up by Government Operations committees.

As it is still early in the session, we will add to this list as new bills are introduced and taken up in coming weeks. Please email [email protected] with any questions, recommendations, or concerns related to policy or Common Good VT’s advocacy work.

Stay Engaged:

  1. Find out what’s happening, when:
    • Start by visiting the Legislature’s website. On the homepage you can find House and Senate schedules and announcements.
    • Find up to date information about special committees, joint assemblies, public hearings and more on the announcement page.
    • Committee agendas can be found here.
    • NOTE: Schedules are prone to change frequently and without notice – check back periodically (and hit refresh) if you are following a specific bill or issue.
  2. Gather information:
    • You can search and find bills here.
    • Committee meeting schedules can be found here. You can also visit committee pages to view past and current documents, testimony, and agendas. The livestream links are also listed on committee pages.
  3. While the Legislature is back in person this year, committee room occupancy is limited. Most floor time and committee meetings will continue to be livestreamed so you can stay informed without the commute. Watch live on YouTube:
  4. Participate
    • Public hearings will (usually) be posted here.
    • Find legislators’ contact information here.

More ways to stay engaged: