No Act 250 Reform This Year

No Act 250 Reform This Year

Despite executive action and a handful of bills that, if advanced, would make significant adjustments to Act 250, no changes to the land use law advanced in 2021. Late in the 2021 legislative session,  encouraging Act 250 legislation was introduced in identical forms in the House and Senate. The legislation would, among other changes, reform the Natural Resources Board (NRB) and provide certain municipal areas an exemption from Act 250 jurisdiction. In addition to replacing the current five-member Natural Resources Board with a three-member professional full-time board, the two bills would transfer a handful of authorities currently held by District Commissions to the NRB. Exemption from Act 250 jurisdiction for certain Designated Downtowns, Enhanced Village Centers, and Neighborhood Development Areas is a long-standing priority of the Vermont Chamber. If implemented, this change would help facilitate responsible development in municipal areas, which would contribute to the creation of additional affordable housing in Vermont. Similar provisions were unsuccessfully introduced as part of a housing bill last session.

While a consistent priority of both the Scott Administration and the Legislature, Act 250 reform efforts have failed for the past several years. The Vermont Chamber continues to support the modernization of Act 250 to facilitate a more predictable and less costly permit process, while also ensuring Vermont’s natural resources are properly protected. We look forward to supporting these proposals when the Legislature reconvenes. Please contact Vermont Chamber Government Affairs with questions.

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Legislature Modernizes Liquor Laws

Legislature Modernizes Liquor Laws

The Legislature passed the most significant liquor law modernization bill in recent years. H.313 is awaiting Governor Scott’s signature and includes the Vermont Chamber and Vermont Independent Restaurants priority to extend the current pandemic-allowed alcohol to-go provisions until July 2023. While not a cure-all, the off-premises provision as passed will help the industry recoup some lost revenue and provide a service that customers have come to expect. According to a National Restaurant Association survey in 2019, 56% of all adults said they would order drinks with their to-go order from a restaurant, if permitted. Without a doubt, the pandemic has accelerated this trend. By January 2023, a report examining economic and public safety impacts will be submitted to the Legislature.

Other provisions impacting Vermont’s tourism and hospitality industry that made it over the finish line include reduced third-class license fees (from $1,095 to $230) for holders of a manufacturer or rectifier’s license, updates to festival permits which were made in collaboration with the industry, and the elimination of the requirement for 48-hours written notice to be given to the Division of Liquor Control for promotional tastings for licensees and for staff participating in the promotional tasting to be off duty for the rest of the day. Contact Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear with questions.

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Legislature Adjourns After Passing Several Vermont Chamber Priorities

Legislature Adjourns After Passing Several Vermont Chamber Priorities

The Legislature adjourned Friday until October or January after passing bills that address several legislative priorities the Vermont Chamber worked to support over the past five months. A bill with a tranche of economic development proposals, including investments in tourism marketing, foreign trade, technology-based economic development, workforce development, and BIPOC business support was just one result of the session.

Other legislation that made it over the finish line includes additional economic recovery grants, the largest investment in broadband buildout in Vermont history, investments in child care, health care cost savings for businesses, and additional incentives to recruit workers to Vermont. While these actions will benefit the business community, regrettably the Legislature did not meaningfully respond to the reality of overwhelming unmet financial need in the business community as a result of the pandemic. Lawmakers advanced only $30 million in relief grants, despite the Agency of Commerce and Community Development identifying over $500 million in existing known unmet need. The Vermont Chamber’s lobbying team recognizes the challenges the business community has faced over the last 14 months and worked extensively to understand members’ individual policy needs and advocate for legislative outcomes with the goal of ensuring economic recovery and supporting Vermont’s economic future.

The Legislature passed a $7 billion budget that includes many unprecedented investments across state government, including in economic development. Some notable allocations are:

  • $20 million to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) to fund additional economic recovery grants
  • $20 million to Vermont State Colleges for system transformation over the next four years
  • $11 million to ACCD to be used in the same manner as the Brownfield Remediation Fund
  • $800,000 to ACCD for technology-based economic development grants
  • $1.5 million for the Better Places Program
  • $2 million to the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing in additional funds, beyond the agency’s regular budget for marketing and regional stimulus
  • $650,000 for additional funds for new and remote worker programs
  • $100,000 for adult CTE scholarships
  • $300,000 for adult CTE program improvements
  • $150,000 to ACCD for outreach and technical support for BIPOC-owned businesses
  • $300,000 to support foreign trade with Canada
  • $900,000 to ACCD to fund the Entrepreneurs’ Seed Capital Fund

Funds for much of the budget rely heavily on resources provided to Vermont in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). This massive injection of federal money allowed legislative leaders and the Governor to advance bold proposals that may have otherwise not come to volition for many years.  Please contact Vermont Chamber Government Affairs Director Charles Martin with questions.

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