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Vermont's legislative session begins today. Here's what we're looking at.


Today marks the start of the 2023 legislative session, and over the next five months or so, elected officials in Montpellier will decide how to spend around $8 billion in taxpayers’ money.

Their choices could affect access to child care, the availability of affordable housing, and other economic and social issues that affect households and businesses across the state.

Vermont Edition is streaming live from Statehouse today at noon

With 51 newly elected members entering the House of Representatives and 11 freshman senators, House Speaker Jill Krowinski said it will take some time for the new legislature to find its bearings.

“I think we will have and we should have a slower pace at the start to make sure everyone understands their role, gets all the groundwork done, does all of our 101 and 201 training to really get a feel for their committees, their jurisdictions and what that means,” Krowinski told Vermont Public.

These introductory courses will soon give way to complex negotiations related to housing, childcare, mental health, workforce development, tax reform, climate change, leave paid family and medical, gun control and other issues.

Democrats enter the session with 104 members in the House and 23 members in the Senate — more than enough votes in both chambers to override any potential veto by the governor.

“We need more workers here in the state. And so we need housing to do that. We need water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure, we need broadband.”

Governor Phil Scott

Senate Pro Tem Chairman Phil Baruth, however, is already managing the expectations of left-leaning Vermonters who want to see decisive action this year on a long list of progressive policy initiatives.

Baruth said there were plenty of fiscally conservative Democrats who would break ranks with their own party if it strayed too far from the political center.

“People tend to want to call it a supermajority, which is to say it’s super powerful and can do whatever it wants and doesn’t have to listen to voters or the governor or whoever. either else,” Baruth said. “And I really think people need to take that phrase out, ‘supermajority’.”

Governor Phil Scott is entering his fourth term after a landslide re-election victory in which he won 71% of the vote.

Lawmakers and the public will get their first glimpse of the Republican governor’s 2023 legislative agenda when he delivers his inaugural address on Thursday and then his budget proposal later this month.

Scott said both presentations would largely stick to the underlying fundamentals needed for economic development.

“We need more workers here in the state,” Scott said. “And so we need housing to do that. We need water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure, we need broadband. We need all of these things to keep and attract more people to the state.

Housing will once again be at the top of the agenda for lawmakers Scott and Democrats.

A coalition of affordable housing developers is calling for an additional $175 million in spending in next year’s budget, on top of the quarter billion dollars allocated by elected officials in 2021 and 2022.

Scott said he wasn’t opposed to putting more money into housing, “but how much we’ll need, I’m not sure”.

“The other approach could be for the Legislative Assembly to consider how to make it less expensive to build these units,” Scott said.

Scott said the falling cost of housing will force lawmakers to undertake licensing and zoning reform. Several legislators are already preparing bills to this effect.

Child care and early education advocates will mount a serious campaign in the coming months to ensure that no Vermont family spends more than 10% of their annual income on child care costs. .

Chittenden County Senator Ginny Lyons, who has already started drafting a child care bill, said the legislation will in some ways try to make the child care system look more like to the public education system for children from kindergarten to 12 years old.e grade.

“When you look at schools, you know, oh, first grade, second grade, you know where your kid is going,” Lyons said. “When you look at child care, it’s all over the map. And you say, ‘Where’s my crib? How can I have an available space? »

Many lawmakers and advocates will be calling for substantial investments not only in housing and childcare, but also in universal school meals, paid family and medical leave, and health care. However, the deluge of federal money that has supported record budgets over the past two years will soon begin to dry up. And lawmakers and the governor will have to decide if, and how, to respond to the many funding requests they will receive this year.

Do you have questions, comments or advice? Send us a message or contact journalist Peter Hirschfeld:



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