A look at new laws going into effect in Vermont in 2022

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 4:47 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The new year brings in a flurry of new laws passed by the Vermont Legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Scott.

2021 was a busy year at the Statehouse, from moving hundreds of millions in federal relief money to crafting new laws.

One of the biggest changes happening this year is permanent mail-out ballots for Vermont general elections.

The pandemic sparked this trend of democracy being delivered to your doorstep. All registered voters in Vermont will be mailed a ballot to be filled out and returned to the town clerk.

The Legislature is still working on whether to allow towns to mail-out ballots for Town Meeting Day in March.

There’s also a hike in the minimum wage in the cards.

Workers who earn minimum wage will see a boost of 80 cents. It will now be $12.55 an hour, up from 11.75. Tipped employees in restaurants will see an increase, too, from $5.88 to $6.28.

But economists I spoke with say the exact effect of the wage hike remains to be seen. Many businesses are already offering well over minimum wage to attract and retain employees.

“The real question here is who is earning minimum wage right now and who is hiring at the minimum wage? Because they would be the ones that have to increase wages,” said Emily Beam, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Vermont.

Vermont is one of a handful of states that adjust the minimum wage in accordance with inflation.

The retail marijuana market is still on track for next fall.

The Cannabis Control Board has spent the last eight months taking public input.

Retail cannabis was given the greenlight in 2020 but building the marketplace and regulatory framework has been ongoing. They’ve now submitted several tax-and-fee proposals to the Legislature who have to give it the greenlight. That will determine who gets to grow and sell, and what the fees will be to participate in the market.

Board Member Kyle Harris says a lot of the work so far has been building the framework of the market.

“Think about it like a house. We’re trying to build the foundation, the structure, frame everything out. But we still have programs that are coming down the pipeline that will fill it with furniture. We’re going to look at social equity substantively over the next couple of months,” Harris said.

Harris also says they’re looking at new programs about environmental sustainability. But he says federal legalization is likely coming in the next few years.

The board’s deadlines have been tight. But they say they are still on track to issue cultivator licenses in the spring and retail licenses in the summer so marijuana can hit the shelves in October.

Vermont will officially enter the nurse licensure compact.

The regulatory agreement allows nurses to practice across state lines without filling out expensive paperwork. It’s aimed at curbing the use of traveling nurses, which some officials say Vermont hospitals spent up to $75 million on this past year.

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