Legislative Update: Week One

The legislative session kicked off last week, and after resolving to meet remotely for at least the first two weeks, lawmakers dove into addressing the myriad pressing issues that are weighing on our state. Workforce development is a common priority for lawmakers, alongside the interconnected issues of housing, childcare, and climate change.  Governor Scott spoke to these issues in his State of the State address, and Speaker Krowinski articulated in the Democrats’ response that “These issues are all intertwined and I have asked House committees to avoid tackling these issues in silos. Instead we’ll look at how these overarching challenges like workforce interact with policy areas both in and across communities and committees.” Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint concurred, adding “We need real and sizeable investments and much needed policy support in a bunch of areas.”

Here are some highlights relevant to nonprofits from the first week of the session:

  • Governor Scott delivered his 2022 State of the State Address, which focused heavily on workforce issues. “The hardest part of addressing our workforce shortage,” the Governor said, “is that it is so intertwined with other big challenges, from affordability and education to our economy and recovery. Each problem makes the others harder to solve, creating a vicious cycle that’s been difficult to break.” To this end, Scott advocated for substantial investments in housing ($80M in FY22 though the BAA plus $100M in FY23) and said “You can expect proposals on my end to be geared towards workforce. Because whether it is training and recruitment, childcare, tax policy, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, or climate change, we must reverse our workforce trends.” Specific elements of his workforce proposal include:
    • Internship, returnship, and apprenticeship programs;
    • a program for retired Vermonters who want to go back to work; and,
    • a focus on trades training.
  • S. 159, An act relating to unemployment insurance coverage, was introduced by Sen. Sirotkin and referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development. This bill seeks to cover all employees under unemployment insurance law, and would eliminate the UI exemption for nonprofits employing 3 or fewer employees. If your organization would be impacted by this change, or would like to learn more, please email [email protected]. Learn more about UI issues impacting nonprofits here.
  • S.202, An act relating to supporting creative sector businesses and cultural organizations, also referred to as the Vermont Creative Future bill, was introduced this week and referred to the Senate Economic Development Committee. It proposes $17.5M in creative economy grants to be administered by the Vermont Arts Council. A House companion bill is expected to be introduced, as well.
  • Worker protections and wages have also been a topic of discussion. House General heard from Rep. Kornheiser (with Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak) about two bills, H. 239 and H. 257, which were introduced last year and offer two strategies to provide workforce protections. The former would require all employers to provide reliable work schedule and reimburse employees for expenditures, and set a good cause standard for termination. The latter would require any employer that receives state funding to certify compliance with two labor laws, and to have a pay equity ratio in which the highest paid employee makes no more than 10X the lowest paid employee. The Senate Economic Development Committee also discussed a desire for paid sick and family leave during a discussion regarding unemployment insurance.
  • The Senate Economic Development Committee discussed the possibility of an omnibus economic development bill.

Common Good VT will continue to share legislative updates, but read our blog post on How Nonprofits Can Stay Engaged this Legislative Session for more tips and resources to keep up with the session’s proceedings.

Please reach out to [email protected] with any nonprofit advocacy/policy inquiries.