State News

Taking shape

By Jim Harrison

At this stage of the session, new members and new committee chairs are settled in and committees are busy taking testimony and amending their priority bills for the session. With deadlines to get bills out of their initial committee soon after the Town Meeting recess, the next few weeks will determine the shape of the 2023 session.

By the end of last week, one of the priorities of House Judiciary Committee, H.89, or medical shield bill, passed the House by a wide margin. The measure is intended to provide protections to health care providers performing procedures that are legal in Vermont, such as abortion, that may not be legal in a state the patient is from.

Issues likely to be considered in the next few weeks:

• Senate Natural Resources continues to push ahead with S.5, the Clean Heat bill, following pushback from the Scott administration and fuel dealers on the expected jump in heating fuel costs and conversions to other heating systems.
• House Environment and Energy is taking up H.158, which expands the 1970s era bottle bill to wine and all non-dairy beverages.
• Ranked choice voting is back under consideration with S.32, which allows voters to rank candidates in the presidential primary.
• House Agriculture is considering H.165, the continuation of universal school meals, although it is not clear what taxes will be raised to pay for the initiative.
• House and Senate committees are digging into major childcare legislation, including an expansion of Pre-K to all public schools for 3- and 4-year-olds. The governor has proposed an increase in assistance to families, while many legislators are looking for a more expansive program that would require new taxes.
• Sports betting, H.127, is under consideration in the House Government Operations Committee.
• House and Senate committees are reviewing bills to build out more housing in Vermont, including statewide changes to zoning restrictions and the permitting process. A public hearing on housing will be held Feb. 16 at 5:00 pm. To testify, visit: The hearing will also be available to watch live on YouTube at the following link:     
• House General & Housing is taking up H.66, the paid family leave bill. The measure provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for each employee and is funded by a new payroll tax on wages. Scott favors a voluntary plan that does not require new taxes. A lobbyist for one of the organizations supporting the bill, has suggested lawmakers ignore the governor’s concerns and override his veto if it comes to that.
• Senate Appropriations is expected to complete its work on the annual Budget Adjustment Act, H.145, this week. It is unknown how they will consider Scott’s objection to the extra $90 million of spending the House added to its version of the bill, including another $21 million to continue the hotel voucher program without restrictions.
• Sen, Ruth Hardy, D-Addison, along with 10 co-sponsors, introduced S.66, which aims to limit school choice to only public schools with a couple of exceptions, like Burr and Burton and St. Johnsbury Academy. Other independent or private schools would no longer be eligible to receive public tuition payments under the proposal.

The 2023 session is scheduled to wrap up by early to mid-May. The ultimate shape of what’s to come may be in the eyes of the beholder. Stay tuned….

Jim Harrison is a state house representative for Chittenden, Killington, Mendon and Pittsfield. He can be reached at: or

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