The Vermont legislature is in the throes of “crossover’ – that two-week period when bills being considered by the House or the Senate must pass from one body to the other if they are to be enacted into law this year.
This marks the half-way point in our legislative session. All of us worked hard this past week getting bills voted out of our committees – and on their way to the floor. We voted several bills out of both of my committees – Senate Economic Development and Government Operations.
The Economic Development Committee passed out a consumer protection bill that protects Vermonters in three circumstances.
First, it protects residents from an increasing number of problems with contractors by imposing a number of legal requirements for a “residential home improvement contract” of more than $5,000 between a contractor and an owner for work on a 1 to 4 unit residential property.
Second, for people who escrow their property tax, lenders will have to update and revise their withholding payment requirements to match the borrower’s current tax rate – upon written or verbal notice from the borrower.
And third, the bill creates consumer protections for the 80,000 to 100,000 Vermonters who play fantasy sports games on the internet.
In addition, we voted out our omnibus economic development bill that includes many provisions:
- to increase the number of business advisors at Small Business Development Centers;
- to invest further in Micro Business Development Programs;
- to invest in the next phase of an Economic Development Marketing plan to attract businesses to Vermont;
- to amend aspects of the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive program;
- to adopt and implement the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan, available on a voluntary basis to employers of 50 or fewer who do not offer a retirement plan and to the self-employed;
- it lowers the employers’ contribution to the Worker’s Compensation Fund;
- it encourages coordinated workforce development strategies and supports the funding of workforce education and training beginning in middle school;
- it creates a Minimum Wage Study Committee to review the impacts of raising the minimum wage;
- it asks for a plan to help responsibly develop financial technology approaches in Vermont.
The Senate Government Operations Committee passed out a media shield bill designed to protect journalists from being subpoenaed by the courts for confidential sources or material. It creates a two-tier shield – strict immunity for confidential sources, balanced with another for non-confidential material. Forty other states have laws to protect journalists. This protects whistleblowers and victims and preserves the integrity of a free press, which is essential to our democracy.
I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone at the Statehouse (Tuesday through Friday) at 828-2228 or at home (Saturday through Monday) 457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont Legislature and the bills that have been proposed and passed, visit the legislative website.
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