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Legislative Report 2/6/2020

Dear Readers, 

This week I wanted to touch briefly on the recent veto of the Paid Family Leave plan by Governor Scott, and the House's unsuccessful attempt to override that veto. Secondly, I will be writing about the Cannabis Tax and Regulate bill, S. 54, since it has started to move quickly in the House over the past week. Since the Education committee continues to focus on a Literacy bill as well as a Pre-K bill, I won't write about those again. Please check out last week's post, though, for some information and context on those Ed. Committee bills. 

Paid Family Leave Veto:

Governor Scott vetoed H. 107, which would have provided paid family leave benefits to working Vermonters. Yesterday the House attempted to override that veto and came very close to getting the 100 votes required, with a vote of 99 to 51. Four Democrats voted to sustain the Governor's veto: three who felt the programs was flawed or unnecessary, and one who believes the bill as passed is insufficient and therefore not worth having.  Personally, I believe the program would benefit many Vermonters and I'm disappointed that we'll all have to wait another year, at least, for this important coverage to take effect. 

Cannabis Tax and Regulate - S. 54

S. 54, which would create a regulated market for the cultivation, distribution and retail sales of cannabis products, is beginning to move quickly towards the House Floor. This bill originated last year in the Senate and was then amended by the House Committee on Government Operations. Following that amendment, the bill went to the House Ways and Means Committee where it languished for the rest of the 2019 session. This year, the bill went back to House Committee on Government Operations for new amendments, and then moved very quickly through the House Ways & Means Committee. In House Ways and Means, the tax structure of the bill changed significantly. Previously, there had been a 14% excise tax as well as a 2% local option tax. In the current version the 2% local option tax has been eliminated and the 6% sales and general use tax has been added in. This is the main change I wanted to see, since I believe the retail market should absolutely be subject to the sales tax. Moreover, since 100% of sales tax revenue now goes to the Education Fund, this is a change which will have a modest but important impact on property tax rates while also supporting Vermont's public schools. 

S. 54 is on the notice calendar today, so that means it will be up for action tomorrow. Stay tuned!

As always, please email me at celder@leg.state.vt us with any questions about these (or other) bills. 

Thanks, Caleb