Legislative Update – March 24, 2016

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Mar 24, 2016 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Vermont Statehouse in SpringI am pleased to report that my committee bills received strong support on the House floor and are now in the Senate. These include bills pertaining to Fair and Impartial Policing, Stalking, Judicial Branch Operations, DUI, VAST liability and DLS. Also, my bill pertaining to National Guard and Employee benefits passed the House.

I have started work on S.241: Legalization of Marijuana. As of now, my committee will have the bill and I will conduct hearings with other committees of jurisdiction. This week we are starting on issues of legalization and highway and public safety and public health. We have limited committee time this week due to the money bills being up for full House debate.

My committee and House Government Operations will be holding a Public Hearing on S.241 on Thursday March 31st from 5-7 PM in the House Chamber. Each witness will have 2 minutes to speak. I will alternate between those for and against.

I have received many emails from around the state. Please note I am forwarding all emails to Legislative Council staff to post on my committee website under public comment.

Seven Days published the following article, check it out: A Divided House Judiciary Committee Ponders the Pot Bill.

I am also looking at Senate bills that have been sent to my committee. We have started reviews of S.155: Privacy and S.10 Collection of DNA.

Much of this week will be taken up on the House floor debating the money bills. Here is a report from the Ways and Means Committee:

1.  The fee bill. This bill includes fees for Agriculture, Liquor, Fish and Wildlife and some smaller departments. It also includes the mutual fund fee that raises slightly more than $20M. Companies offering mutual fund products in Vermont will pay the mutual fund fee. These are national companies like Fidelity and Vanguard and they pay fees of varying amounts in every state. House Ways and Means (W&M) is recommending an increase to $2,000 for an initial filing and $1,500 for the annual renewal. That would put Vermont at the high end of mutual fund fees, but within the range the committee found throughout the country.

Other fees in the fee bill are being raised as part of the regular cycle and the committee tried to keep those fees at modest increases reflecting the cost of providing the service. W&M worked hard to minimize the impact on small businesses.

The fee bill includes a new fee on e-cigarette manufacturers.

The total raised in the fee bill is approximately $24M. The committee’s vote on this bill was 11-0.

2. The Transportation Funding bill. This bill includes the DMV fees, which are used to fund transportation projects. These haven’t been raised in 4 years. Because the DLS bill resulted in lost revenue in fines, penalties and reinstatement fees, W&M is recommending a slightly higher increase in the car registration fees. W&M worked closely with the Transportation Committee and both committees support this bill.

Although W&M have voted to approve the Transportation Funding bill, it won’t be up for action until the Transportation Spending bill is debated, which I understand will be sometime next week.

This bill raises about $10.5M, of which $1M replaces funds lost with the DLS bill.  New revenue is $9.5M. The committee vote was 9-1-1.

3. The tax bill. The tax bill addresses a number of small technical issues raised by the Tax Department. It also raises the general fund revenue needed to support the budget. W&M is recommending an increase in the bank franchise tax that hasn’t been raised since 1997. Vermont is one of two states that still tax bank deposits. It’s a stable base but that also means that the bank franchise tax has grown more slowly than other sources of revenue. The increase in the bank franchise tax only applies to banks with deposits of more than $750M.

W&M is also recommending an increase in the employer assessment paid by employers with large numbers of “uncovered” employees.

Finally, the committee is recommending an increase in the fuel gross receipts tax to support the weatherization program.

The tax bill raises $8.1M in new ongoing general fund revenue, $1.3M in ongoing special funds for the weatherization program, and $160,000 in bill backs for the Health Care Advocate. The bill also contains $3.7M in one time revenue through a change in filing frequency and $1M in increased compliance with AirBnB.

The committee vote was 7-4.

Since House Ways and Means voted out the bill, the Appropriations Committee has further reduced spending. Thus, W&M hopes to reduce the Tax Bill by another $1.1 – $1.3M.

Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us or 496-7667.