Vermont Legislative Updates – Week of February 22nd


Town Meeting Day is around the corner and the Legislature is reviewing a bill that would make vote by mail a permanent provision for future elections. This past year, mail-in and absentee ballots were widely used, resulting in dramatically increased voter participation. We support the efforts to push for this change. The Senate Government Operations Committee is set to review and potentially vote out a bill this week (a renaming of S.159 that includes proposals on how to achieve this into the future). Follow Senate Government Operations here.

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Priorities of the Week

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Energy in the workforce – The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee is in discussions this week on jobs, training and employment opportunities for the energy sector. A jobs guarantee and pathways into the green workforce are crucial for meeting the goals of the Vermont Renews platform. Green jobs must also provide a $15 minimum wage or prevailing wages, and support for unionized labor. The list of stakeholders invited to testify is a powerhouse group, so we will want to keep our eyes on developments to ensure the proposals are aligned with our mandate for a just transition. Follow the Senate committee hearings here.

Climate Council Appointments – The Climate Council, created through the Global Warming Solutions Act, is preparing to appoint members of the public to their subcommittees. They have the goal of announcing appointees by the end of the week. Nearly 400 individuals were nominated across Vermont to provide subject matter and technical expertise to the Council’s work. There are no interview processes involved and the Council has an extremely aggressive timeline to complete its work. Our concerns are that the appointments are not an open process to allow for equal review of the nominated individuals, and that the deliberative processes and the work involved are not designed for accessibility for non-professional participants and those most impacted, including individuals from the disability community. You can learn more about the Climate Council here. 

Universal School Meals (Support) – The Senate Agriculture Committee is taking testimony this week regarding a proposal to provide school meals for all students at public schools across the state. As many families have struggled with hunger during COVID, this bill will help children and youth have their needs met during the school day. Currently, some schools are able to provide prepared meal pick ups for students in remote learning, which is an important lifeline. Follow Hunger Free Vermont for more information. 

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Our Bills

RAD is a member of the Renew New England Alliance, a coalition with a shared vision for jobs and climate action in our region. As many of you may recall, last year we launched the regionwide policy platform and announced our endorsed candidates for the 2020 races who joined us in this vision. Now, as our 2021 legislative session gets underway, we are ready to make things happen at the state level with Vermont Renews. Our areas of focus for 2021 are Housing Justice (Green Housing Retrofits), Food Justice and Green Justice Zones. Our state coalition is supported by both a Renews BIPOC Council and our regional Coalition. RAD is committed to ensuring that the voices of the most impacted are central to any proposals brought forth under Renews. To achieve this, we partnered with RAD champions to introduce short form bills as placeholders, as our coalition partners, council members and organizing teams build out this important legislation over time. Each bill under the Renews platform includes a job guarantee with a minimum $15 minimum wage or prevailing wage (whichever is higher) and support for unionized labor for all jobs created and impacted by this legislation.

Housing Justice: H.221 – Representatives Tanya Vyhovsky, Taylor Small and Elizabeth Burrows introduced our short form bill to support green housing retrofits, including solar installations, weatherization and more.

Food Justice: (No bill number yet) – Representative Heather Surprenant is working with Legislative Counsel on a comprehensive bill to support small, emerging BIPOC and individuals from marginalized groups as farmers and businesses within the agricultural sector. The proposal includes a grant to fund businesses to address gaps in Vermont’s food system, natural products industry and support for small cannabis growers.

Green Justice Zones: (No bill number yet) – Representative Katherine Sims is leading the charge on a bill that seeks to replicate the incredible environmental justice work out of Providence, Rhode Island to address the disparate, negative impacts of environmental harms on BIPOC or people of the global majority. This bill would identify up to three data-driven environmental hotspots and create a BIPOC participatory budgeting process to end the harm and revitalize those communities.

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Bills We’re Watching this Week

  • Revisions to Election Law
  • Reapportionment (Redistricting Efforts)
  • H.171, Financing Vermont’s Child Care System
  • H.196, Expanding Support of the Executive Director of Racial Equity
  • H. 210, Disparities and promoting equity in the health care system
  • H.159, Better Places Program