Skip to main content

2023 Weekly Legislative Report #8

This week we cover a variety of topics including EMS services, crime reduction and firearms, biodiversity, and housing. The Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs committee is poised to consider Act 250 exemptions in designated downtowns. This is a priority housing policy adopted by the VLCT membership at the annual meeting last October. We discuss a variety of other topics in the Elsewhere in the Statehouse article, and we extend a huge congratulations to Stuart Hurd, Town Manager in Bennington, who this week celebrated 50 years of service in the town. 

The Vermont House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Appropriations will jointly hold two public hearings (Feb 21 @ 3PM; Feb 28 @ 5:30 PM) to take testimony on the Governor’s FY24 Executive Budget Recommendation. Learn more and Register to Testify. 

The Speaker of the House is seeking applicants for the seat on the Climate Council that will represent municipal governments. Learn about the opportunity in this week’s Elsewhere in the State House. 

On Monday, even as they continued to take testimony, the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee reviewed a new draft of their omnibus housing bill. On Thursday evening, in a joint hearing with the House General and Housing Committee, legislators heard from housing advocates, providers, and individuals about how the catastrophic housing shortage in Vermont has impacted them and their clients. Those stories will inform the Senate committee’s work as it finishes its work on the bill. 

As the latest draft is written, the bill would prohibit a municipality from requiring more than one parking space per dwelling unit or accessory dwelling unit. There are ongoing discussions about how this one-size-fits-all prohibition might be amended to acknowledge the needs in different communities for parking, given scarcity of parking options particularly in more urban areas. 

The bill would establish that duplexes are allowed in any district allowing “year-round” residential development. If a zoning district allowing residential development is served by sewer and water, multi units with at least four units must be allowed, bylaw requirements for building and lot dimensions would be required to allow five or more unit per acre, and mixed use and affordable housing developments could exceed density limits for residential units by 20 percent as long as the structure complies with the Vermont Fire and Safety Building Code. “Served by water and sewer” is defined in the bill. It would specify that a decision rendered by the appropriate municipal panel for a housing development may not require a larger lot size or more parking spaces than the minimum allowed in the bylaws; nor limit building size or density to less than that allowed in the bylaws. An appropriate municipal program could require adjustments if they state their reasons in writing. 

The bill would allow emergency shelters to be located anywhere in town, and regulating the daily or seasonal hours of operation would constitute interfering with their intended functional use. Your advocacy staff suggested that “emergency shelters” so allowed would need to be defined as only those regulated by the Agency of Human Services, which incorporate wrap around support services and staffing to meet the needs of those who rely on emergency shelters.  

The municipal plan would now need to be consistent with the goals of the municipal and regional planning statute, Title 24 Chapter 117. The municipal plan would need to include a recommended program for public and private actions to address housing needs as identified by the regional commission, include specific actions to address low and moderate income persons’ housing needs, and account not only for permitted accessory dwelling units but also any material impact of short-term rentals. 

New language would require regional plans to include in their housing elements the regional and community-level needs for housing that will result in an adequate supply of building code and energy code compliant homes where most households spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing and no more than 15 percent on transportation. The Department of Housing and Community Development would need to publish those targets as part of the Statewide Housing Needs Assessment. 

The committee would dedicate $750,000 in FY24 from the General Fund to the Municipal and Regional Planning Fund and $300,000 to the Vermont Association of Planning and Development Agencies to hire housing navigators to work with municipalities and interested parties to identify opportunities, match communities with funding resources, and provide project management support. 

As of today, the draft would make a few changes to Act 250. Development would be defined to include the construction of housing with 25 or more units, constructed or maintained on a tract or tracts of land, owned or controlled by a person, within five miles and five years. Priority housing projects in designated centers would not be subject to Act 250. Priority housing projects could be located in a designated village center that has permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws in place, in addition to the currently allowed designated downtowns, growth center or neighborhood development area, or new town center. Subdivisions on tracts of land owned or controlled by a person divided for resale into 15 or more lots in a designated downtown, village center, or designated neighborhood would be subject to Act 250. 

In light of the recommendations the committee heard throughout its consideration of the bill and at the hearing last evening, the committee is poised to consider Act 250 exemptions in designated downtowns. This is a priority housing policy adopted by the VLCT membership at the annual meeting last October. 

Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee members are Senators Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Chair (, Alison Clarkson (, Randy Brock (, Ann Cummings (, and Wendy Harrison ( Please send them a message of strong support! You may also leave a message with the Seargent at Arms, (802)-828-2228. 

The bill also includes numerous appropriations for programs designed to fund and spur the development of housing. Those proposed appropriations would eventually be incorporated in the appropriations for FY24. Once the committee has completed its work and voted, the omnibus housing bill (with a bill number) will be sent to the Senate Natural Resources Committee and then to Senate Appropriations. Stay tuned! 


Resource for this article: 

The Senate Appropriations Committee finished its work on the budget adjustment bill, H.145, this week. The bill was on the Senate calendar for second reading today where it was approved on a 30-0 vote, and will be passed by the Senate on Tuesday. The next stop would be a conference committee — unless the House agrees to all the amendments proposed by the Senate. 

Rural Infrastructure Assistance 

The Senate draft bill includes $3 million to the Secretary of Administration to provide funding for municipal technical assistance and related services. This is the “Rural Infrastructure Assistance Program” that the Agency of Administration is charged with designing and implementing to provide expanded technical and administrative assistance to municipalities with high need so they can obtain community needs assessments related to water and wastewater infrastructure, housing, community recovery, workforce development, business support, climate change mitigation and resilience, and other community economic development projects.  


The bill also includes $30 million to the Public Service Department for the Vermont Community Broadband Board to leverage federal dollars and programs including middle mile broadband grants to reduce the overall cost of universal broadband access. 


The Department for Children and Families (DCF) would receive $18,778,778 to provide funding for the General Assistance Emergency Housing Program (including the program that provides hotel housing to homeless households). Of that amount, $13, 778,775 would pay for temporary housing for vulnerable populations through June 30, regardless of maximum nights received or weather conditions. Eligible vulnerable populations include households 

  • that lost housing due a natural disaster 
  • with an individual who has experience related to violence occurring in the home 
  • with children under 18 years of age, or 18 or 19 and attending full time secondary or vocational, technical training 
  • with an individual age 60 or older 
  • with an individual receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance ( SSDI) 
  • with a pregnant person 
  • that are pursuing legal resolution to violations of the Rental Housing Health Code 
  • who have been physically barred entry into their residence by intentional act of the landlord. 

The remaining $5 million for DCF would provide temporary housing through May 31 to those who do not fit the above categories but would be eligible under the most recent Adverse Weather Conditions policy. Senator Kitchel, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the Senate that the state has spent $200 million on hotel rooms since the pandemic, that there have never been enough hotel rooms, and while federal dollars were involved, the system for providing rooms had to be first come first served. Now the state has the option of establishing priorities for hotel rooms and directing some funding to moving vulnerable populations into permanent homes. She acknowledged that there have been lots of issues with the emergency housing hotel program. 

The Vermont Housing Conservation Board would receive $27 million for shelter and permanent homes for those experiencing homelessness, affordable mixed-income rental, and owned housing. 

Senate language would specify that all future funding and policy development for addressing the housing shortage and ending homelessness be aligned with strategies presented in the 2016 Agency of Human Services Roadmap to end Homelessness report.  

The bill would appropriate funds to the Department of Housing and Community Development to establish the Missing Middle-Income Homeownership Development Pilot Program. The program would be funded with $5 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in FY 2022, $10 million from ARPA in FY2023, and $9 million from the General Fund in FY 2023. 

PFAS Remediation 

The bill would allocate $3 million to the Department of Environmental Conservation from the Environmental Contingency Fund for PFAS remediation. 

Tax Credits for Qualified Development Projects 

The Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit Program would receive authorization to increase the amount of tax credits that may be awarded to qualified projects by $2,450,000. Up to $2 million may be awarded to qualified projects in neighborhood development areas. 


Resources for this article: 

This week, H.263 , a bill that would help struggling EMS services and providers across the state, was introduced in the House. . VLCT is excited to see this legislation invest in and financially support these critical services and the Vermonters who work and volunteer in those agencies. The bill would create an Emergency Medical Services Special Fund (Fund) that would be used to defray the costs of: 

  • unreimbursed EMS transport and non-transporting EMS, 
  • training and continued education costs for EMS providers, 
  • the purchase of medical equipment to equip ambulances, and 
  • Emergency Medical Services District administration costs. 

The initial request for funding in the bill from the General Fund is $20,000,000, with the same appropriation each year for FY2025 through FY2028. The bill states that this initial funding is meant to improve EMS services in the short term, while the State “works towards establishing a long-term statewide system of funding to provide this essential public service to all Vermonters.”  

The bill also addresses Vermont Medicaid funding for ambulance services without transportation and transportation to alternative destinations, and it mandates that Vermont Medicaid provide coverage for both. Currently, services rendered for non-transport or transportation to non-hospital settings are ineligible for coverage, and EMS providers are unable to recoup the costs of services rendered.  

The bill goes on to mandate that in its 2024 budget proposal the Department of Vermont Health Access either provide reimbursement rates for Medicaid participating EMS providers for emergency medical services at rate equal to 100 percent of the Medicare rates for 2022, or provide information on the additional amounts that would be necessary to achieve full reimbursement parity for EMS with the Medicare rates. 

The bill creates an EMS Coordination Study Committee to assess the current EMS District structure and the current level and cost of service in each district. The committee, made up of a variety of stakeholders and members of the public, would study ways to decrease costs, improve coordination of EMS services, increase access to EMS services in districts, and optimize the EMS District structure and authority.  

Lastly, the bill would make qualified emergency responders eligible for a refundable income tax credit of $500 a year. A qualified emergency responder includes emergency medical personnel, licensed first responders, and volunteer firefighters who are active members of their local volunteer firefighting company as certified by that company. 

VLCT is very excited and supportive of this legislation and thanks the lead sponsor, Representative Sims (Oreans-4), for her leadership on this issue. EMS providers and communities that support this legislation and funding request are encouraged to attend either the February 21 or February 28 public hearing on this year’s budget. Read the details on both hearings of the Appropriations committees. 


Resources for this article: 

The Senate Judiciary Committee this week continued hearing testimony on S.4, a bill that proposes to make miscellaneous changes to law to reduce crimes of violence associated with juveniles and dangerous weapons. The bill would do the following: 

Juvenile Acts

Adds the following three criminal acts alleged against a person between 14 years and 22 years old that would fall under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Divisions of the Superior Court, rather than the Family Division: 

  • Carrying a firearm while committing a felony, 
  • Trafficking a regulated drug, or 
  • Human trafficking or aggravated human trafficking 

Illegal Drug Sales

Prohibits a person from “recklessly” permitting the illegal dispending or selling of a regulated drug in a dwelling – whereas the current standard is only “knowingly.” Increases the imprisonment penalty from two to five years; increases the fine from not more than $1,000 to not more than $15,000. 

Human Trafficking and Firearm Serial Numbers

Adds as criminal offenses under Title 13 the acts of “knowingly or recklessly permitting human trafficking in a dwelling” and defacing a firearm’s serial number. 

Straw Purchases and Possession of Firearms and Semiautomatic Weapons

Adds to criminal offenses under Title 13 the act of straw purchases of firearms that the purchaser knows or reasonably should know the other person is prohibited from possessing a firearm or intends to carry the firearm while committing a felony. 

Amends state law to mirror federal law enumerating the circumstances that would prohibit a person from possessing a firearm. 

Firearms and Juveniles

Prohibits the sale of firearms to persons under 21 years of age, except for law enforcement officers, active military personnel, and persons who have completed a hunter safety course. Prohibits the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons to persons under 21 years of age, except for law enforcement officers and active miliary personnel.  

Community Safety Grants for Local Governments

S.4 would also create a new state grant program to help communities that have seen an increase in violence associated with illegal drug use, gang activity, or human trafficking. The Community Safety Grant Program would be run and administered through the Department of Health, in consultation with the Department of Public Safety, the Director of Violence Prevention and the Executive Director of Racial Equity. Municipalities would be eligible for grants to help them with community outreach and intervention, violence prevention, and reducing the demand for illegal drugs. The bill currently includes a $10,000,000 appropriation from the General Fund to create and fund the new program.  

The chair of the committee referred to the current strike-all versions of the bill as a very rough draft, and the committee will likely make several substantive changes to the bill over the coming weeks with hopes of moving the bill to the Senate floor before crossover. 

Resources for this article: 

  • Senate Judiciary Committee’s current draft of S.4 
  • The S.4 Bill Status page 

The House Environment and Energy Committee continued to take testimony on H.126, the legislation that would establish goals of “conserving” (see definition below) 30 percent of the land area and waters of the state by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.  

Terms Defined 

The bill would define the terms: 

“ecological reserve area” — having permanent protection from conversion of natural land cover and managed to maintain a natural state within which natural ecological processes and disturbance events are allowed to proceed with minimal interference 

“biodiversity conservation area” — having permanent protection from conversion of natural land cover for the majority of the area and that is managed for the primary goal of sustaining species or habitats.  

“natural resource management area” — having permanent protection from conversion of natural land cover for the majority of the area but that is subject to long-term sustainable forest management) 

“sustainable forest management”  — stewardship and use of forests and forestlands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic, and social functions at local, State, and regional levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems; and 

“conserved” — protected and meeting the definition of ecological reserve area, biodiversity conservation area, or natural resource management area (as defined above). 

While the term sustainable forest management is defined in the bill, it is not used in the 

The Bill’s Objectives 

The Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources would be charged with assisting the state in achieving the 30 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050 conservation goals, using the conservation targets included in the H.126 and Vermont Conservation Design presentation. A report would be due by December 31, 2024 that included an initial inventory of the amount of permanently conserved land within each category, how the state should achieve the conservation goals, and recommendations for funding and staffing needs for acquisition, and long-term stewardship. 

Considerations and Context Not Included 

The bill, focused on the three kinds of areas defined in the bill, does not acknowledge land and waters that are set aside due to rules and regulations, which derive their authority from statute. The most immediately apparent of those rules relates to wetlands: new wetlands rules took effect on February 10. The rules redefine what constitutes wetlands and wetland buffers and regulate the activities that might affect wetland functions. Additional constraints on potential land development in rules and regulations that are not referenced address steep slopes, lands above 2,500’ elevation, shoreland protection areas, waters of the state, certain floodplains, deer yards, local trails, and areas conserved pursuant to agreements with the state or Act 250 permits. Those protected areas need to be accounted for in any inventory of lands that are unavailable for development. 

The bill as introduced also fails to acknowledge the context in which this conversation is taking place – namely, that Vermonters across the state are feeling the effects of an acute and long-term housing shortage that will take years to resolve. The Trust for Public Land in August 2021 estimated that 1.7 million acres have been conserved in Vermont and the estimated goal is more than 1.8 million acres. State designated areas (downtowns, growth centers, village centers, neighborhood development areas, new town centers) where housing is encouraged to be located comprise 41 square miles or 26,240 acres. The biodiversity conservation legislation needs to acknowledge the housing crisis and the need for space for housing. 


Resources for this article: 

This week Stuart Hurd, Town Manager in Bennington, celebrated 50 years of service in the town. He was hired as the zoning administrator in 1973 and as the town manager in September 1992, and is still going strong. Stu served on the board of the VLCT Property and Casualty Intermunicipal Fund (PACIF) twice, and retired from the board in December 2022. In 2008 VLCT named him the Municipal Person of the Year.  Congratulations to Stu! 

Town Highways Class 2 and Structures  

Two weeks ago, VLCT Advocacy staff updated you on the statutory requirements of funding for the Town Highway Class 2 Program and the Town Highway Structures Programs to better explain why more than  $13 million appropriated for both programs did not carry forward for those programs, and instead was moved back into the overall Transportation Fund budget. As statute lays out and as VTrans leadership has explained, VTrans only approves grants and signs contracts with municipalities at the funding levels specified in the annual transportation bill as it was signed into law. More often than not, there are unspent committed funds in these programs because it takes years for projects to be completed and closed out. The programs are reimbursable, so towns are reimbursed for their costs when they submit invoices indicating work accomplished. Therefore, in the meantime, those surplus monies are reappropriated to other portions of the state transportation budget rather than approving more municipal grants and signing more contracts with other towns for projects that await funding.  

VLCT requested the agency provide more information and data on the projects and contracts that were recently awarded and completed, as well as  current open contracts awarded in both programs. This week the Senate and House Transporation Committees heard testimony from VTrans, which submitted details on FY21, FY22, and FY23 grant awards for both programs. VLCT is hopeful that Vtrans will provide a similar level of detail on both programs dating back seven more years to show  a full ten-year perspective on the programs and associated project funding. We also look forward to seeing this level of detail in future years so all communities can track the funding that is awarded and distributed statewide. This is commonly done for most state, regional, and local projects each year, and therefore it seems reasonable that this level of detail also be made available for public review. VTrans leadership has promised to do this moving forward.  

Town Meeting Break 

It is hard to believe, but Town Meeting is only two weeks away. That means the next two weeks will be particularly busy in the State House as legislative committees attempt to finalize first versions of bills ahead of the Town Meeting break. Legislators take March 4-10 off for Town Meeting, and it is often a much needed halftime break, when representatives and senators get to soothe frayed nerves, shift attention from the daily stress of the State House, visit your towns’ annual meetings, and focus on local priorities.  

Take time at Town Meeting to hear from your legislators and to ask them about the progress of legislation that affects your community. Let them know about how your community is using the ARPA direct aid and what funding assistance or matches would help complete your municipality’s priority projects. 

Call for Volunteers to be on the Climate Council  

Act 153 of the 2020 legislative session requires Vermont to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The act also provides for the Speaker of the House to appoint a member of the 23-person Climate Council to represent municipal governments. The council is to consider opportunities for conservation through long-term carbon sequestration and identify actions that Vermont communities can take to better prepare for more extreme weather events. 

More information on the Climate Council and current appointments is on this page of the website. Interested individuals can apply for the seat via this application on the Speaker’s website. The appointment is for a three-year term. 

Custodial Interrogations 

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out S.6, a bill relating to custodial interrogations of persons in police custody in Vermont, with a specific focus on new standards for interrogations of juveniles. S.6 would add new provisions of law that set specific standards for custodial interrogations of persons under 22 years of age (defined as juveniles under this new section of law) relating to the commission of a criminal offense or delinquent act. A law enforcement officer or government agent will be prohibited from employing threats, physical harm, or deception. Any admission, confession, or statement made by a juvenile while made under threats, deception, or physical harm will be presumed involuntary and inadmissible in any proceedings. This presumption may be overcome if the government entity proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that even when such prohibited interrogation tactics were employed the admission, confession, or statement was voluntary and not induced by the violation of the law. The government official must also prove by clear and convincing evidence that the unlawful interrogations tactic did not undermine the reliability of the person’s admission, confession, or statement and did not create a substantial risk that the person might falsely incriminate themselves.  

The bill mandates that by October 1, 2023, the Vermont Criminal Justice Council (VCJC) in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General must create a model interrogation policy that applies to adults and juveniles subject to custodial interrogations. By January 1, 2024, the VCJC must work with stakeholders, including VLCT, to update the model interrogation policy to establish one cohesive model policy for law enforcement agencies and constables to adopt, follow, and enforce, as part of the agency’s or constable’s own model interrogation policy. Agencies that don’t adopt the model policy by April 1, 2024, are prohibited from receiving financial assistance from the state. The VCJC training at the Vermont Police Academy must incorporate the model policy and underlying law relating to proper interrogation methods of juveniles and adults. Every second year the VCJC must review each agency’s policy to ensure compliance with the statewide policy. 

The bill heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee because it includes a $150,000 appropriation to the VCJC for FY2024 for the purpose of creating a Director of Policy position to give the VCJC additional capacity that currently does not exist. 



Current Location 


Would require the clerk of a municipality to notify the Agency of Digital Services within 24 hours whenever a cybersecurity breach has affected a system used by the municipality to provide municipal services. 

H. Government Operations & Military Affairs 


Would create an animal control program to establish regional offices to support municipalities with control programs and services directed at domestic pets; provide free or low-cost vaccination, spay, and neuter programs; and investigate potential locations, resources, and personnel to establish regional pound and shelter facilities 

H. Government Operations & Military Affairs 


Would remove immunity and subject law enforcement officers and those acting at the request or direction of an officer, to civil or criminal liability if they do not abide by the standards for law enforcement use of force in dispersing or apprehending rioters. This bill also defines “officer” for clarity. 

H. Judiciary 


Would add the issuance of a Brady or Giglio letter as a basis of law enforcement misconduct under the jurisdiction of the Vermont Criminal Justice Council. Would provide the Council the ability to rescind a Brady or Giglio letter if the law enforcement officer is exonerated after an evidentiary hearing. 

H. Government Operations & Military Affairs 


Would amend the Barre City Tax Increment Financing district to extend the time period the city can incur indebtedness for two years, and extend the time the City can retain municipal and education property tax increment for its tax increment financing district until December 31, 2039. 

H. Government Operations & Military Affairs 


Would establish findings about the harmful effects of cannabis on health and safety of Vermonters, the environment and dangers of cannabis use in the context of employment, operation of a motor vehicle, and youth substance misuse; repeals all laws regulating licensed cannabis establishments. 

H. Government Operations & Military Affairs 


Would make an annual appropriation to the Emergency Medical Services Special Fund, expand commercial insurance and Medicaid coverage of emergency medical services, increase emergency medical services provider reimbursement rates, create an emergency medical services study committee, and establish a refundable income tax credit for qualified emergency responders. 

H. Health Care 


Would amend the Springfield Charter pursuant to town vote of November 2022. 

H. Government and Military Affairs 


Would create a rental housing registry to include dwelling and short term rental units. 

H. General & Housing 


Would exempt from property taxes trailer coaches on a trailer site or camp site in a seasonal campground when it is closed for winter. 



Would authorize municipalities to create civilian oversight boards to oversee local law enforcement. A board could manage police departments in the same manner as a legislative body, town manager, or police chief, and have power to receive, investigate, and adjudicate complaints of misconduct against law enforcement officers. 

S. Government Operations 


Would make amendments to various environmental laws including clean water and pollution control state revolving loan funds and stormwater permits related to emergency construction activities. 

S. Natural Resources and Energy 


Would create a study committee to evaluate the impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances leachate on natural resources from landfills in the state. 

S. Natural Resources & Energy 


Would establish a tax increment financing project development program, administered by the Vermont Economic Progress Council, to allow a municipality to apply to use statewide education property tax and municipal property tax increment to pay for infrastructure projects. 

S. Finance 


Would enact the charter of the Town of South Hero to authorize the Town to adopt a local option tax. 

S. Government Operations 

The next Advocacy Chat is Monday, February 27 at 11 AM. 

The Weekly Legislative Report is authored by

Karen Horn, VLCT Public Policy & Advocacy Director
Gwynn Zakov, VLCT Municipal Policy Advocate

Editing and proofreading provided by

Ione L. Minot, Content Specialist