Busy week for Vt. lawmakers with votes on housing, climate change initiatives

Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 6:26 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers have a busy week ahead with high-profile votes on housing and climate change initiatives as they prepare for the Town Meeting Day break.

This is the last week before the Town Meeting Day break when lawmakers head back to their communities to hear from constituents.

A conference committee of house and senate lawmakers this week will advance the budget adjustment, a mid-year tweak to the budget which this year tops $320 million. It earmarks cash for infrastructure in rural towns and funnels more money for agriculture and housing.

However, some Republicans have concerns about the size of the package.

A sweeping omnibus housing bill that makes big changes to local zoning is also moving forward this week. It allows for more dense development and prioritizing housing in areas with water and sewer hookups. And a new addition as of last week-- it makes changes to Act 250, though some environmental advocates have concerns.

Last week, Gov. Phil Scott praised the bill and said it’s moving in the right direction.

“At this point in time, it’s a strong bill moving in the right direction. There are a number of initiatives that I view as positive, but they have a long way to go. And there’s some storm clouds on the horizon,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

Scott was referring to the Affordable Heat Act which he strongly opposes. That’s the major thermal energy bill that incentivizes Vermonters to switch to cleaner forms of home heating.

The Affordable Heat Act-- the new version of last year’s Clean Heat Standard-- passed through a key Senate committee unanimously last week, setting it up for a vote in the Senate Appropriations committee as soon as this week.

This is the key recommendation of Vermont’s Climate Action Plan and meeting our greenhouse gas reduction requirements under the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Supporters say switching away from price-volatile fossil fuels will save millions in the long run.

But some, including the governor, worry about the timeline and the upfront cost to Vermonters.

This is the last week before the Town Meeting Day break which comes before crossover week-- the midpoint of the session where chambers swap bills, and it’s more widely understood which ones will move forward through the legislative session.