***(Reports are posted most recent first. Scroll down for earlier reports.)***



Veto Overrides of Renewable Energy and Act 250 Bills

July 1, 2024


In my previous report, I covered the “Yield Bill” regarding school property taxes. In this report I discuss the two bills that the Environment & Energy Committee that I served on did a great deal of the work on.

The Renewable Energy Standard bill, H.829, began in our committee after a group of representatives of every Vermont electric utility, environmental organizations, housing agencies, legislators and others spent the summer and fall working on a proposal that will get Vermont’s electricity supply to 100% renewable by 2035, sooner and with greater emphasis on local sources than previous legislation passed in 2015. A great deal of compromise occurred both before our committee took the bill up in January, and throughout the session, as both the House and Senate made changes in response to suggestions and testimony. The bill recognizes that three Vermont utilities are already at 100% and that others are in differing stages , and it deals with all those issues fairly in getting to the end goals. Governor Scott’s administration presented flawed and incomplete estimates of what this would cost over time and did not note what cost benefits there might also be. It is a good bill and a great deal of effort went into passing a bill that was so broadly supported in the State House and outside.

H.687, “An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use”, is a complex bill dealing with many aspects of land use planning in Act 250 and other statute. Among other things, it recognizes that as we are confronted with increased flooding and other effects of climate change, we must find ways to lessen such damage and make recovery easier, for example, by allowing our landscapes to divert and hold excess water during flood times in ways that lessen the impact on populated and built areas. It also allows for denser housing development in appropriate areas in our communities. Among the Governor’s reasons for vetoing H.687 was his statement that it did not go far enough to create new housing. It’s a bill about state and local environmental regulation, and from that perspective, it does make it easier for new and affordable housing to be built. But the biggest reason limiting new housing development is cost:  materials, labor and other. That has been addressed to some degrees in the work of other committees and will continue to be, but it was not a valid reason for vetoing H.687.

This may be my last Report From the State House as a Representative for the Lamoille-Washington District. My term in office will continue until the new Legislature convenes in early January, and I will continue to report if specific legislative matters come up before then.  And I am happy to discuss questions and concerns that individual constituents may have.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us. To track any bills, agendas and testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/





The Veto Session and School Property Taxes

June 23, 2024


I will be wrapping up my last term with two reports about the historically unprecedented number of bills vetoed by Governor Scott, in this session as well as in his entire time in office.  The Governor vetoed eight bills just this year. Six of those vetoes were overridden by two-thirds votes of the House and Senate. Descriptions of all these bills can be found in numerous press reports available online.  In my next report, I will discuss two bills that the committee I’ve served on did much of the work on.

The bill that got the most attention, caused the most concern, and unfortunately was the subject of much misinformation, was the “Yield Bill,” H.887. This is an annual and detailed process by which the Legislature determines how much revenue, in total, is needed to support our schools from that portion of our property taxes collected for this purpose. Since the school portion of our property tax bills is by far the largest, this has a big impact on all of us, legislators included. It is part of a complex process involving state agencies and the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, and information provided by Vermont’s school districts themselves.

The primary purpose of the State’s involvement, including the Legislature’s, is to assure fairness and equity across the state in the quality of education our students get, regardless of the income levels of residents and property values in their communities.  Getting this right is difficult and as things change, has been subject to reworking. That will certainly be happening again going forward. It is important to understand that the Legislature’s process begins with a report issued, by law, each year at the beginning  of December, including information provided by the school districts themselves about their preliminary projected costs for the coming fiscal year. That report, which was a top news story last December, predicted the need for increased revenue for schools statewide for FY 2025 of 18.5% on average, with the guess that it could go higher.

The Yield Bill as passed by the House and Senate brought that down to 13.8% statewide, with actual numbers varying locally. Some relatively small new tax sources were added to lessen the demand on property taxes. And school boards made difficult cuts and there were multiple local budget revotes. This year’s Yield Bill addressed measures that could be accomplished responsibly in the very limited time available.

Governor Scott in the end resorted to harsh, unprecedented language in attacking the great majority who both voted for the bill and then to override his veto. He and his administration failed to offer responsible alternatives, only to propose, at the eleventh hour with no time for responsible review and consideration, a “plan” whose provisions included elimination of entire programs, relying on one-time funding sources with no alternatives beyond that, and draining reserve funds, which, as the State Treasurer pointed out, would threaten the State’s credit rating for bonding.



Announcement: I’m Not Running for Re-election

May 13, 2024


I am writing to let everyone in the Lamoille-Washington House district and others know that I will not be seeking re-election as one of the district’s two State Representatives for the next term which begins in 2025. This decision was not any easy one. I have thought and rethought this through a number of times to make sure.   Although serving in the Legislature is of course challenging, it is truly and deeply rewarding and inspiring. It can of course be frustrating sometimes too. Having spent time at the Statehouse in previous jobs, I knew that before I first ran for office in 2015. My decision is not about that, but because I’ll likely be making some changes in my living situation sometime in the foreseeable future.

As many know, my wife Amy Darley passed away unexpectedly in April 2021. At around that time, some eyesight issues I’ve had also worsened a bit and caused me to give up night driving. So, living up a hill on a back road in Worcester with my dog Hobie became a bit more challenging at times. Starting in 2022, I was fortunate to find a place in Montpelier where Hobie and I could stay weekdays during the session, but it still limited my attending meetings and events at other times, both in Montpelier as well as in the towns in our House district.  (And although my eyesight has improved some thanks to modern medicine, I will still have some driving limitations.)

I’ve had lots of advice over the past couple of years about my options. In the end, I knew that I’d want to move locally to where things are closer, sometimes within walking distance. While I don’t know when all the pieces will fall into place, there’s a good chance that I won’t be living in the Lamoille-Washington District at some point.

My current term as State Representative will continue until the new Legislature begins in January. I will participate in any formal House activities until then, including an expected session to consider whether to override the Governor’s vetoes of certain bills. I will be publishing a wrap-up Report from the State House soon and will continue communicating with constituents in Morristiown, Elmore, Woodbury, Worcester and part of Stowe on legislative matters.  And I welcome any questions and comments constituents may have as well. Going forward, I expect to continue to be involved in some ways on issues I care about.

Serving our communities in the Legislature has taught me a lot. In my four terms as Representative for our two-member district, I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving together with Shap Smith, Dave Yacovone and Saudia LaMont. I am very  pleased that Dave Yacovone’s name will be on the August Democratic Primary ballot for one of our district’s two seats, to be elected in November.

(Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us .To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/  )




End of Session Work, Property Taxes and More

April 21, 2024


With only a few more weeks remaining in this year’s session, activity is focused on resolving differences between the House and Senate versions of numerous bills, major and minor. And there will be legislation taken up in the House this week dealing with education property taxes.

The House Ways & Means and Education Committees have worked very hard to produce the annual “Yield Bill,” H. 887., which will be voted on by the full House this week. In addition to simply setting the tax rates to raise the amount of revenue needed by school districts throughout the state, the bill also begins to address the serious problems with the funding system that have arisen in the past two years. The Ways & Means Committee is proposing some additional revenue sources that may lesson the demand on property taxes somewhat in the near term. At the same time, decisions need to be made in the coming years about more fundamental changes to how we fund our schools, but this will take some time. The problems that have arisen are not due to any one reason. The present system was intended to lessen significant inequities affecting property taxpayers in different towns, and to spread that burden more equitably statewide. Because of the unusual and unpredicted circumstances of the last few years, it hasn’t worked as it was supposed to. And as I’ve written before, an underlying factor is that actual costs of pretty much everything have gone up significantly, for schools as well as business and individuals.

The Environment & Energy Committee has been working on a few bills passed by the Senate.

S.213, a flood safety bill, deals with numerous measures to lessen flooding impact in vulnerable areas, including better use of wetlands to absorb excess water, and directing new development to the most suitable places. The bill also gives the Department of Environmental Conservation additional authority regarding the safety of the 1000+ dams in Vermont.

S.305 is the miscellaneous Public Utilities Commission (PUC)  bill that includes housekeeping items  about notice for hearings, makes the definition for energy storage facilities consistent across different statutes and adjusts how the “Energy Efficiency Modernization Act” proceeds. The bill also makes a few minor changes to the Clean Heat Standard regarding  the dates by which certain tasks must happen. Our committee added a number of amendments covering thermal energy networks, Ryegate Power Station operations, the “Energy Savings Account Partnership Pilot Program” and more.

Our committee has begun taking testimony on S.258, a wildlife bill that committee members have received huge volumes of email on, with very strong opinions opposed to or in favor of the bill. This bill addresses Fish and Wildlife Board governance and bans coyote hunting with dogs.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Work on Taxes, and on Senate Bills

April 7, 2024


Taxes. The House Ways & Means and Education Committees are working on a number of bills dealing with property tax and education funding issues that have been front and center this session, as they have been in the Senate as well. These include the annual “Yield Bill,” the chief bill affecting school property taxes. There will likely be additional legislation to make short term adjustments going forward to limit the kinds of impacts we have seen this year. There will also likely be provisions setting op full scale reviews of how we fund education in Vermont, as well as the inequities in how we tax Vermonters generally. I have previously noted that underlying what has happened to school property taxes is also the fact that costs have actually risen dramatically for school districts, as they have for businesses, local and state governments and individuals.  It is my hope that one outcome will eventually be dealing with income inequality and taxation, which is growing nationwide, including in Vermont. A few facts:  If the average income of the bottom 99% of Vermonters had grown at the same rate as the top 1% between 1974 and 2020, it would be $100,000 more than it currently is. The highest-earning 1% of Vermonters now average 20 times more annual income than the remaining 99%. If we are to fulfill our obligation to provide high quality education to all Vermont children, we need to raise the needed funds more equitably.

Environment and Energy Committee. All House Committees have now had bills that passed the Senate referred to them, as well as a few House bills that the Senate sent back to us with changes. We need to review these to see if we agree with them, or whether conference committees will need to work out differences. In our committee, a few Senate bills have received preliminary review and testimony, including proposals for some changes or additions. S.205 deals with changes to statute governing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Many of these are housekeeping and wording changes  and others are adjustments  such as changes to the timeline for review and implementation of the Clean Heat Standard passed previously. There are also amendments being considered for this bill ,such as studying the possible development of a statewide program to help lower income ratepayers with their electric bills and other matters.  S. 213 deals with regulation of wetlands, river corridors,  development and dam safety.  S.199 deals with changes to the governance of Vermont’s Communication Union Districts, including the possibility of mergers where that would have benefit.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/





March 24, 2024


Both the House and Senate have been busy acting on bills that must make the several different crossover deadlines for different types of bills, in order to get them to the other body.  Much of the rest of the session will be spent on back and forth activity, either agreeing with the other body or working out the differences. A few bills of note were actively debated during the week of March 18th and  then passed the House by wide margins.


H.706, a bill banning the use of certain dangerous pesticides, neonicotinoids (also known as “neonics”) passed after much discussion as well as information offered by the Committee on Agriculture, Food Resiliency, and Forestry.  These pesticides are especially harmful to pollinators, which play such a critical role in our natural environment as well as agriculture. The pesticides are used by dairy farmers on corn planted as a feed crop. However, evidence shows that they have little or no affect in managing pest insects that they are intended for,  but instead cause far greater harm with respect to pollinators.


Crime. Both the House and Senate have been working on bills to address issues related to crime, theft, bail and related issues that have been a major source of concern in communities throughout the state. H.534, An Act Related to Retail Theft, passed by the House on March 14, would among other provisions, allow someone to be charged with a felony if they have committed a number of smaller thefts that would be considered misdemeanors separately. A number of other provisions addressing crime issues were also included. The Senate has been working on proposals on this subject which the House will now consider.


  1. 289, which makes changes to the Renewable Energy Standard affecting our electric utilities, passed the House by a wide margin on March 21. It accelerates the timeline by which utilities’ energy sources must be 100% renewable, as well as encouraging development of in-state resources. It recognizes that Vermont’s utilities, Green Mountain Power, two co-ops, and fourteen municipals, are in different stages of progress in reaching this goal, including three that are already at 100%. As someone who managed a utility for many years, I was troubled by the wildly inaccurate cost projections put out by the Department of Public Service, and then also by a much more modest cost estimate by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office. Neither of the estimates acknowledged that there would be cost benefits to utilities and ratepayers as well, some possibly significant. Estimating long term energy costs for infrastructure or generation can be b a guessing game, but to omit mention of expected cost savings, even if they can’t yet be quantified, is a significant omission.


Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/






Town Meeting Break Coming Up, Property Taxes and More

February 25, 2024


The pace continues to pick up as we head for the Legislature’s Town Meeting week break. As has happened across the state, there have been changes in how and when towns and school districts vote and meet, including in our House district.

School Property Taxes. H.850, the bill that is a limited first step in fixing the problems in raising funds equitably for schools via property taxes, passed the House on February 14th, then passed the Senate on February 21st and was signed by Governor Scott the next day. This unusually fast action is in recognition of the urgent need for school districts to budget for the coming fiscal year, and it does not fix the fundamental problems with how we pay for education long term, and does not help all districts in the short term. There will be other legislation considered this year, including funding from sources other than property taxes, I think there is a broad understanding that Vermont needs to lessen its dependence on property taxes for this purpose. And, as noted in my previous report, underlying all this is the fact that the actual costs in school budgets have risen by about 15% on average, for much the same reasons that costs to businesses have risen and to their customers as well.

House Environment & Energy Committee. We’ve been busy working on H. 687, an act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use, a major bill which we will vote on soon. I will discuss that in future reports. We have also taken testimony and discussed the Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation’s proposed management plan for the Worcester Range, which has caused considerable concern in some affected communities. The roughly 19,000-acre area includes several hugely popular areas for hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling and hunting. It spans the towns of Elmore, Worcester, Middlesex, Waterbury and Stowe, and includes Elmore, Worcester and Hunger mountains. A concern I have raised has to do with proposed logging in certain areas. This would be done in accordance with established and soundecological practices and I do not disagree with this in principle. My concern is the locations, which would be mostly on the eastern side of the range and could potentially affect high water levels in the North Branch tributary of the Winooski River, which starts in Elmore and flows through Worcester, Middlesex and then into the Wrightsville Reservoir. The dam is on the Montpelier city line and came very close to overflowing through its spillway in July for the first time since it was built in the 1930s. The Department has received many hundreds of comments including from the Middlesex and Worcester Planning Commissions, and will be responding to all those.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




School Property Taxes and More

February 11, 2024


School Property Taxes are the Major Focus Right Now.  The subject getting the greatest attention at the State House, in news reports and commentaries and in school board meetings and Front Porch Forum posts, is school property taxes. Early on this session, I had received emails from constituents with the simple message: “Repeal Act 127!” However, that would not fix the problem we have. Act 127 represents years of work and active stakeholder engagement to ensure that all Vermont students have equitable access to education, and the underlying funding necessary to support that equity. But the “5% cap” mechanism that is one part of Act 127 has not behaved as expected, preventing the legislature  from taking necessary steps to reduce projected property tax rates for Vermonters, across towns. Last week, the House Ways & Means Committee unanimously voted on a new bill. H.850, which removes the 5% cap from Act 127. That bill will likely be voted on by the full eHouse by the time many are reading this report and will be a major subject in the news. Removing the cap alone will not solve the problem and will not help every school district. There will be other steps proposed and considered this session, including possibly additional revenue sources to fund education to lessen the burden on property taxes. With all these efforts, different school districts will be affected differently and there is no easy fix. Much of this session’s work will focus on fixing the immediate problem, and as has been reported, schools will have the option of delaying budget votes if they need to rework what they have developed to date.

With all that said, it will be a difficult and complicated year to try to address this in the Legislature and in many communities. And we need to remember one more thing: Regardless of how we pay for education now and going forward, we should  understand that the actual costs have gone up a lot, as they have for businesses, individuals and families, town and state governments and others. The cost of pretty much everything has risen significantly in Vermont and elsewhere, whether it is food, energy, health care, maintenance, insurance, payroll, contracts and more.  Separate from the tax issues, school districts were seeing an increase of about 15% statewide to maintain what they do. These increases must be dealt with one way or another, regardless of how we raise the revenue for them. It is my hope that Vermont will continue to look for revenue sources other than our very heavy reliance on property taxes to fund our schools.
(UPDATE::  The House passed H.850 on February 14th on a near-unanimous voice vote on February 14 and sent it to the Senate.)

The Environment & Energy Committee that I serve on has been hard at work on H.687, “An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use,” focusing on how our developed and open land use and infrastructure can better protect us from future flooding and other weather events such as we have been experiencing. I expect that we’ll vote this bill out soon.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Budget Adjustments, Renewable Energy, Climate Change Resilience and More

January 28, 2024


The pace has picked up at the Statehouse as we take testimony in committees and bring bills, major and minor ones, to the House floor for debate and votes.

This past week, we debated and voted on the annual Budget Adjustment Act for the current fiscal year. In “normal” years, the bill makes relatively minor adjustments to the current budget adopted last session. This year is different. We are still dealing with the effects of Covid, and then the enormous damage caused by this year’s flooding. And we have pressing emergency issues such as homelessness, made worse in part by these events. There has also been a great deal of federal emergency funds coming into Vermont, with those amounts rising and falling. After considerable discussion and debate, the bill passed on a 112-24 vote and was sent to the Senate, which will likely make some changes that we will need to consider before final passage.

In the House Environment & Energy Committee we have heard introductory testimony on a number of new bills introduced this session that were referred to our committee, and we have thus far dug much deeper into two bills. H.267 deals with community resilience and biodiversity through land use, an issue of great importance as we learn from recent flooding and storms and seek to prevent or lessen the effects on our communities of climate change going forward. H.289 makes significant changes to the current Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to accelerate and increase the amount of renewable energy supplied by Vermont’s electric utilities. It is a complex bill, as different utilities’ current power supply varies, with three utilities presently 100% renewable and others moving in that direction. There are other unique circumstances for different utilities which the bill must recognize, while assuring that all utilities meet the standards and expectations set forth in the bill. We will be voting the bill out of committee soon and sending it on its way through the rest of the legislative process.

The Bottle Bill, H.158, which was vetoed by the Governor last session, will not become law. As I reported in my previous report, the House voted to override the veto in the first week of this session. While a majority of the Senate did then also vote to override, they did not have the two-thirds majority necessary, so the Governor’s veto was sustained.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




The Session Begins

January 14, 2023


The 2024 session of the Legislature began on July 3rd. It being the second half of a two-year biennium session, we will be dealing with a lot of new issues and bills, but we will also be dealing with bills introduced in 2023 that did not see action, or which did see action but did not reach final passage. Two significant bills were voted on by the House in the first two weeks.

H.158 relating to the beverage container redemption system (known as “the bottle bill”) passed both the House and Senate last year but was vetoed by Governor Scott. In the first week of the session, the House voted to override the veto by a large margin, and the Senate will now be considering whether or not to also vote to override. The bill would expand the types of beverage containers covered by the redemption system.

The House also approved  a bill that allows safe injection sites to operate in the state. Such sites do not provide people with addictive drugs. Safe injection sites are spaces where individuals can use drugs under medical supervision  and where overdose reducing medication is available. The overwhelming majority of overdose deaths happen when users are alone, and such sites not only prevent such deaths, but are an environment where the user is able to access help to get treatment and hopefully overcome their addiction. The Senate will now take up the bill.

Although I am not on the committees dealing directly with these matters, I will be paying close attention to bills proposals around spending and revenue dealing with affordable housing and homelessness, and with education property taxes. I have heard from a number of constituents on both these subjects. Schools and municipal governments are expiring significant cost increases and financial pressures, but we need to do what we can to limit the effect on property taxes. In the long run, I believe we need to move away from our over-dependence on property taxes for education.

In the Environment & Energy Committee. Our committee will be dealing with a number of bills dealing with both environmental and energy issues, as well as some dealing with information services. We spent two afternoons in joint hearings with the House Transportation Committee getting extensive reports on efforts to build resiliency in our environment to the growing effects of climate change, including flooding and high wins. We also heard reports and testimony about the results of a summer study committee which considered  changes to Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard for electric utilities, that would accelerate the increase in renewable resources, as well as encouraging development of local sources.

 Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Priorities as the 2024 Session Begins

December 17, 2023


When the 2024 session begins on January 3rd, there will be lots of work ahead of us. Here are a few priorities of mine, some that I will be working on in the House Environment & Energy Committee and others that I will be following closely as they make their way through committees and to the House floor.

Housing and Homelesness. This is a crisis issue with no simple answers. We need to continue supporting new affordable housing, including working on changes to permitting to allow increased density in locations that are suited for it. We need to address the short-term rental issue which affects some communities more dramatically than others. And we need to deal with homelessness, not with stopgap measures, but with facilities, services and access to permanent housing.  Most of this costs money, but we need to address this because it costs more in the end not to address this crisis.

Climate Change. The Legislature will be considering legislation to accelerate moving to 100% renewable for electricity, although most of Vermont’s utilities are well on their way or making progress in getting there. Our biggest sources of greenhouse gases remain transportation and thermal uses, and we must help residents, businesses, communities, as well as those in the energy business make the changes that must be made. And we must help our communities strengthen resiliency to damage from increasingly severe weather. Not doing what must be done will cost more.

School Property Taxes.The Legislature will be working hard to minimize increases in school property taxes, but there has been misinformation circulated leading some to think that the Legislature has proposed a big increase. A very preliminary analysis required by statute was presented on December 1, which was based entirely on numbers provided by the local school districts. There will be a lot of work and debate this session to address the significant cost pressures facing our schools in a way that minimizes the impact on property taxes as much as possible.

Cooperation and Respect. A personal priority for me is to foster a spirit of cooperation, understanding and respect, both in the State House as we do our work, as well as among all Vermonters. Global events in Israel and Palestine and elsewhere, and violence and threats directed at people in Vermont and across the country make for a dangerous environment. Within the State House, we can take some action to help reverse this, and we must continue to set an example in how we do our own work, of respect for all and finding common ground. Although the controversial bills make the headlines, most bills that see action, both major and minor ones, pass with broad non-partisan support. Vermont should continue to set an example in these troubling times.

To follow all Legislative activity, visit:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/To read my previous reports, visit:  https://avrampatt.com/state-house-reports/

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us 




Veto Session Report: Most Vetoes Overriden, A Couple Not

July 1, 2023


The Legislature adjourned its 2023 regular session on May 12th, as I wrote about in my last report shortly after.  On June 20th, both the House and Senate reconvened to consider bills that Governor Scott had vetoed. It takes a two-thirds vote in both bodies to override a veto. Not knowing how long it would take to consider these, we had reserved three days, but we were able to complete our business on the 20th.

This year, Governor Scott vetoed nine bills, a record for a Governor in one year. The Governor has also now vetoed more bills in his time in office than any other Vermont Governor The first veto this year, of the Affordable Heat Act (S.6), was overridden while we were in regular session. I’ve written about that bill in my previous reports.

During the veto session, the Legislature voted to override five of the seven bills before us. Those bills are now law. We did not override two of the bills, thus sustaining the vetoes.  All of the bills vetoed by the Governor can be accessed at this link:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/vetoed/2024 

All of the vetoed bills are important. Some affect only a smaller number of Vermonters, while some, most notably the budget for the fiscal year which just started (H.494), affects everyone in Vermont. The impact of not having a budget enacted would be catastrophic in many ways. Others, such as the bill providing long overdue and critical support for our struggling child care sector (H.217) have enormous impact on working parents, child care providers and all of Vermont’s employers facing workforce shortages.

While in session, we also passed a couple of bills that had not received final action in May. One of these (H.171) was amended to include detailed provisions for dealing with the ending of the homeless motel room program, to provide some more transition time and greater assistance to help those affected find alternative housing. These matters had not been adequately addressed by the administration, and the lack of a plan had threatened passage of a budget that needed to be in place by July 1. Fortunately, after a lot of discussion as well as compromise, that was averted. The other bill related to updating and expanding the bottle redemption system, (H.158) was then vetoed on June 29th.

All of the vetoed bills and the outcomes of Legislative action to override or sustain the vetoes received extensive press coverage in print, online and broadcast media, so I won’t repeat that information. I will say that the number of vetoed bills is troubling, given how much effort gets put into including provisions to specifically address the Governor’s concerns.

We will be returning in January for the second half of the 2023-24 biennium. Bills introduced this year that did not see action can still be taken up, as well as new bills (including the budget for the next fiscal year).

To follow all Legislative activity, visit:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/

To read my previous reports, visit:  https://avrampatt.com/state-house-reports/

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us




Adjournment. Important Bills Pass, But Vetoes and More to Come

May 15, 2023


The Vermont Legislature adjourned on May 12, with the House of Representatives finishing up at around 11:30 PM. The final two weeks were hectic, with bills passing back and forth between the House and Senate, concurring on changes, and with the budget for the coming fiscal year being the last item voted on in the House.  Governor Scott vetoed one bill (S.5, the Affordable Heat Standard) but the House and Senate overrode the veto and it is now law. The Governor has indicated that more vetoes are likely including the budget, so we expect to convene again briefly in June to consider any vetoes.


Two areas where we made great progress are child care and housing. H.217, the child care bill which saw final passage last Friday night, is a huge step forward in finally supporting this ailing sector, which has been in continually worsening shape for years. The bill substantially increases support to child care centers and their employees, home care providers, and to families who need help paying for care. The lack of child care is not only a major obstacle to parents needing to work, but also to employers of all types, as it contributes greatly to the difficulty they are having in hiring. Governor Scott is likely to veto H.217, but given the very strong bipartisan votes in favor, I am hopeful that it will become law despite that.

In the area of housing, we have continued to direct support in many aspects of housing, for renters, homebuyers, in promoting new housing development, and support services for individuals. The one area of great concern is the fast-approaching ending of the motel program for the homeless. Although this has been a federally funded program established during the pandemic and cannot continue indefinitely,  there has been very little planning and coordination within state government to help and support so many often vulnerable Vermonters, and to find more permanent housing situations for them.

And finally, The Affordable Heat Standard, S.5, passed despite being vetoed. Although legislators received many messages opposed to the bill and what its effect might be, I am still troubled by how much misinformation was circulated that misled so many. First, the program must be fully designed and its cost evaluated before the Legislature will vote again, in two years, on a new bill to either go forward, make changes, or to not implement it. No one will be forced to change heating systems or replace working systems. Heat pumps are not the only alternative that people would get help with. Advanced wood heat (pellets) and other options are included, as is weatherization regardless of the heat source. I would be happy to answer questions from constituents so people can better understand what the bill does and doesn’t do.

To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/  Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228.




Two Bills of Note in Energy & Environment Committee as Adjournment Approches

April 23, 2023


As we head towards adjournment, much time and effort will now be spent on resolving differences, major and minor, between the House and Senate versions of bills. The House Environment & Energy Committee that I serve on has worked on two major Senate bills recently.

AFFORDABLE HEAT ACT, S.5. Our committee heard testimony and we proposed changes and improvements to this bill. It was approved by the House by a large majority last week and sent back to the Senate.  As I’ve noted previously, there has been a lot of serious and troubling  misinformation circulated about what this bill does and doesn’t do. The goal of the AHA is to help Vermonters transition away from fossil fuels — and save money on heating bills — by making options like weatherization, heat pumps and advanced wood heat (pellets) much more affordable for many more people. The bill prioritizes Vermonters at risk of being left behind in the global transition to clean energy, including rural Vermonters, older Vermonters on fixed incomes, Vermonters living in mobile homes, and low and moderate income Vermonters. These Vermonters  are the most affected by rising and volatile fuel prices now — $2 a gallon in the last year alone.  It does not force anyone to change their heating systems. It does offer options when they want to, or may need to.

Importantly, the bill lays out a careful two-year process for research and public input. This includes reports on estimated impact on fuel prices, potential savings to Vermonters across the state, and the nuts and bolts of how the program will be implemented over time. In 2025, the proposed rules will return to the legislature with this information in hand. The House and Senate will then need to vote to approve, revise or even stop the program. It can’t take effect in 2026 without further full legislative review and approval. I can provide more detail about S.5 to anyone interested.

AN ACT RELATING TO HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES MADE FOR EVERYONE, S.100. This bill was first referred to the House Committee on General and Housing and then to the Environment & Energy Committee. We have been taking testimony and it will go to the full House for a vote soon. S.100 is one significant way to increase the amount of housing available to moderate and lower-income Vermonters. The parts of the bill our committee has jurisdiction over would allow for more flexibility for locating new housing in Vermont’s towns, villages and cities by allowing and encouraging greater density in defined areas. Specific changes to some environmental regulations and local zoning would allow for additional single family and multifamily housing, subdivision of existing homes into more than one unit and other changes that encourage housing development in places that are able to support them, and offer residents closer access to stores, services, transportation and employment. Many interested parties have offered suggestions for improvements and changes to the bill which we are considering,  and support for the bill overall has been strong.


Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Money Bills Pass the House and Are Sent to the Senate

April 2, 2023 


FY24 State of Vermont Budget

Last week, the House approved H.494, the FY24 budget for all of state government totaling $8.53 billion, on a vote of 111-38. This is a balanced budget that reflects careful stewardship of our state’s financial resources, while investing in programs important to Vermonters and our communities. H.494 represents months of intensive work by the House Appropriations Committee, with input and testimony from state agencies and community partners, fiscal experts, all House policy committees, and many Vermonters who attended public forums, testified and submitted letters.

Highlights include:

  • $134.5 million in housing investments, including opportunities for greater access to workforce housing, permanent housing for those currently in the hotel/motel program, and funding for the rehabilitation of apartments to bring more rental units online
  • $70+ million to support the child care and early education bill, which seeks to provide quality, affordable child care to Vermonters across the state
  • $37 million for universal paid and family leave insurance, providing Vermonters with up to 12 weeks of paid leave
  • $43+ million in workforce development initiatives
  • $46 million in Medicaid rate increases to support EMS, primary care, home health, mental health and substance use disorder, and foster care providers
  • Investing $1.15 million into the Department of Mental Health, allowing for a mental health mobile crisis unit to provide rapid responses
  • Provides $1 million for refugee resettlement assistance, ensuring that new Vermonters are provided with opportunities to find work that best suits them
  • Providing $1 million to support Older Vermonters through Meals on Wheels.
  • $1 million for the Vermont Foodbank to support Vermonters facing food insecurity

From here, the “Big Bill” moves to the Senate, which will likely make some changes before sending it back to the House. After differences are resolved, it will need to be approved by the full legislature in time for the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.



Last Friday, the House approved the state’s two-year Capital Bill, H.493, which funds long-term major maintenance and construction to state-owned and -leased buildings and infrastructure totaling $16.5 million. Such investments provide a boost to the economy and improve services for Vermonters. The Capital Bill directs money to our communities across Vermont and employs contractors, trades workers, architects, roofers, and other building trades professionals. This bill will now be considered in the Senate. Some of the projects in the works:

– $ 18 million: state office buildings, courthouses & facilities

– $ 29.5 million: clean water issues

– $ 15.5 million: mental health and correctional facilities

– $ 8.4 million: Vermont State Parks

– $ 12 million: UVM & Vermont State Colleges

– $ 2.3 million: clean drinking water supply

– $ 4.2 million: Building Communities Grant Program

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/





“Crossover” Time.

Affordable Heat Act, What It Does and Does Not Do

March 20, 2023


We are about halfway through the first year of the 2023-2024 biennium. The pace has picked up at “crossover” time, when bills must have been voted out of their committees, approved by the House or the Senate, and sent to the other body for consideration in order to pass this year. A total of 417 bills have been introduced in the House and 136 in the Senate. Most will not see action this year, and many won’t next year either. Parts of some bills may be attached as amendments to bills that did meet the crossover deadline, but for the most part, bills not taken up yet either won’t be, or may be acted on next year. Of course, new bills will also be introduced in 2024.  We are now spending more time on the House floor in full session, hearing reports and voting on bills recommended by the committees that have worked on them.

The Affordable Heat Act, S.5, which passed the Senate on March 3rd, has been referred to the House Environment & Energy Committee that I serve on. This week, we will be getting our first testimony on the bill. Although there are differences, this bill would in many ways do what the vetoed ”Clean Heat Standard” bill of 2021 would have done. As I’ve said before, some misinformation about S.5 has unfortunately been circulated. I have been contacted by constituents and other Vermonters who are worried about how the bill would affect them. The scare tactics these Vermonters are responding to trouble me, especially when targeted at energy issues I have experience with in my own work background, and which I have worked on in my time as a legislator. In my responses, I reassure people that while there may be minor impact, the bill will not increase their fossil fuel bills by 70 cents/gallon or more, and that what has caused fuel prices to jump by $1 or $2/gallon in the last two years is due to global market forces, world events and other factors beyond Vermont’s borders. S.5 would help Vermonters shift, over time, to lower and more stably priced ways of heating based on their individual situations, such as heat pumps and wood pellets. It would help Vermonters weatherize and use less energy, whatever their heat source. It would encourage Vermont’s fuel suppliers to diversify their business models, as some already have, and offer cleaner heating options to Vermonters as well. The bill does not force anyone to change how they heat their home but will help them choose cleaner options when the time is right for them (as I did when I had to replace a boiler last year).

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/









March 6, 2023


The Legislature is not in session during Town Meeting week, with many legislators visiting Town Meetings in their districts and catching up on other communication with constituents (as I am). A number of bills have now come out of their respective committees and have been acted on by the House. The Appropriations Committee is at work on the complex and massive work to propose a budget bill for the coming fiscal year. All committees including my own have sent their recommendations to the Appropriations Committee regarding key elements of the Governor’s proposed budget that involve their issue areas, as well as some budget requests not included in the Governor’s recommendations.

In the Environment and Energy Committee, we have now voted out three bills. H.67 deals with the collection and handling of household hazardous wastes to assure that they do not simply end of in the landfill or disposed of in other harmful ways. This bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate. Two other bills our committee has voted out will reach the House floor soon: H.158, “the bottle bill,” is a major update to our bottle redemption system, which hasn’t changed since it was established in 1972.  There are a great many different types of beverages (including water) that were not sold in bottles or cans back then, and H.138 would include many of them. H.126, an Act Related Community Resilience and Biodiversity, would assure that 30% of our land is conserved by 2030, through preservation of old growth forest, sustainable forestry and agriculture practices for our working lands and other means. The bill also establishes a goal of 50% for 2050. Both H.158 and H.126 are being reviewed by other committees before being considered by the full House.

The Affordable Heat Standard, S.5, passed the Senate last week and will be taken up by our committee and probably others. I have heard from constituents both in support and opposition to this bill. As we dig into what the bill does and does not do, I will be covering this in future reports. What I can say at this point is that there has been a fair amount of inaccurate information circulating about what the impact might be on Vermonters, in terms of cost and being required to make changes. The bill as  passed by the Senate does require that further analysis and design be done over the next two years and that the Legislature vote again before it is put into effect.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/





Bills Passed and Coming Up, Affordable Heat Standard, Work in Committee

February 19, 2023


Several bills brought to the House floor by committees have passed in the last two weeks. Among them, H.190, which removes the residency requirement from Vermont’s patient choice at end of life laws, passed the House on February 17. End of life care is the only type of health care that presently requires that the patient be a Vermont resident. A bill coming to the floor this week, H.127, would allow for online sports wagering and provide systems and regulation to assure responsible operators, as well as to protect those who are betting. While I am not a fan of such activity and am not much of a gambler myself, I know that a great many Vermonters are already actively engaged in online sports gambling, either through unmonitored offshore operations, or by crossing the border into states where it is legal. It is better to legalize and regulate it and to protect those who participate, and I expect to vote in favor.

In the House Environment & Energy Committee we have been working on some major environmental bills. On February 16, we unanimously voted out H.67, an Act Related to Household Hazardous Wastes, which makes a number of changes in how these substances are collected and disposed of. The bill will now be reviewed by the Ways & Means Committee before it is brought to the House floor. Our committee continues work on two other significant bills which I expect we will vote on soon: H.126, An Act Related to Community Resilience and Biodiversity, deals with land use, forests and other matters in part as a means of limiting climate change and dealing with its impacts. H.158 would make significant changes to Vermont’s bottle redemption system, which has remained unchanged since it was enacted in 1972.

Holocaust Education. This week, a bill I am sponsoring with a number of other co-sponsors  will be introduced that would assure that Vermont’s public schools, assisted by the Agency of Education, include education in their curriculum about the Holocaust. As time passes, less and less people are aware that the Holocaust even happened or how horrific it was. We must continue to teach our children, not just to remember, but to recognize that genocide still exists in our world today.

Affordable Heat Standard. The Senate is likely to pass S.5, the Affordable Heat Standard and send it to the House soon. There unfortunately continues to be some inaccurate information circulating about what the bill would do and not do, and how it would affect Vermonters. I will have more to say about this once the bill is being considered in the House.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Budget Adjustment, Bills in Committee and More

February 5, 2023


The pace has picked up as some bills have come to the House floor for a vote and have been sent to the Senate, and as committees work on bills that they hope to get to the floor in time to see action this year. On February 3, the House passed the annual Budget Adjustment Act (H.145), which makes changes to the current fiscal year’s budget before we move on to adopting a budget for the next fiscal year which begins in July. The bill contains many adjustments, tweaks and updates based on current information. All House committees are asked to review and comment on adjustments proposed by the Administration and others that fall under their jurisdiction, and my committee supported a significant one for continued broadband expansion. This year, there was a fair amount of floor debate around items related to affordable housing and homelessness. A few amendments were offered to eliminate or limit some of these expenditures, but these amendments were not approved, and the bill passed essentially as proposed by the House Appropriations Committee.

House Environment & Energy Committee. Our committee continues to be briefed about the status of the numerous programs and activities involving environment, energy and telecommunications. We have taken up some bills that we will vote on soon and likely send to the full House for consideration: These include a bill that deals with the collection and proper disposal of household products containing hazardous substances (H.67), a bill relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection, and bills relating to the siting of telecommunications infrastructure (H.110 and H.70). We will also be considering major bills related to climate change introduced in the House as well as being presently worked on in the Senate.

An event of personal importance. For the past several years, I and others have introduced bills supporting education in our schools about the Holocaust. The Holocaust is the largest and worst instance of genocide in human history, but genocide continues to happen in our world to this day. It is important that young Vermonters know about this subject so that the world may someday no longer experience the worst that humanity is capable of. While no bills have yet seen action, the Legislature and the Agency of Education  did take an important first step this year. Both the House and Senate unanimously passed a Resolution (H.C.R.11) recognizing the first ever Holocaust Education Week in Vermont schools,  which took place January 23-27. Having grown up among Holocaust survivors and refugees, families of victims, and families of those who fought in the Resistance, I was able to speak about this briefly when the Resolution was read on the House floor on January 27th.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Our Work Begins

January 22, 2023


With most of the ceremonial and necessary procedural formalities finished, our work is underway. At this early point, most of it is in our respective committees.

Temporary authority for Town Meeting regarding Australian Ballot voting and other matters. Last week, both the House and Senate passed H.42, which as I write this, awaits the Governor’s signature. The bill basically extends through July 2024 the temporary authority granted during the pandemic, to towns who don’t presently do so, to vote on budgets by Australian ballot, and also covers other matters regarding meeting scheduling and attendance. A town’s selectboard must vote to adopt any provisions authorized in the bill.

The House Environment & Energy  Committee has been busy being briefed on issue areas before us, ranging from energy and regulated utilities, broadband, telecommunications, environmental permitting, our forests’ role in climate change mitigation, water quality, solid waste, fish and wildlife, state parks and more. This newly reorganized committee has oversight responsibility on a very wide range of topics, some of which are related to each other and others not. A number of bills introduced thus far have been referred to our committee, including a few that I have sponsored or co-sponsored.

Retired State Employees and Medicare. The issue I’ve heard the most about from constituents by far is the Administration’s proposal to change the standard benefit retired state employees receive supplementing their Medicare. Retirees would be shifted to a so-called “Medicare Advantage” plan controlled by a private insurance corporation using both Medicare and state funds. In addition to legal and contractual issues this raises, I have broader issues with this. Medicare was established in the mid-1960s to provide health care to Americans over 65. Supplemental insurance, such as what most traditional Medicare recipients also have, offers some coverage beyond Medicare. Medicare has been one of the most successful and popular public programs in our nation’s history. In my opinion, “Medicare Advantage” plans, first authorized in the late 1990s, were primarily an attempt to unravel this successful program and turn control and public funding over to the health insurance industry. There are numerous news stories and reports documenting serious problems people encounter with these plans, often involving denial of coverage for necessary services and procedures. Anyone watching TV or the internet this past fall during the open enrollment period for these plans will remember being inundated with ads featuring over-the-hill celebrities hawking them, usually shouting “CALL NOW!” as the toll-free number appeared. In summary, I don’t support this proposal. (Note: I would be affected by this proposed change.)

I will touch on a few items in the Governor’s budget address delivered on January 20th in my next report.

Contact: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




The 2023-2024 Biennium Begins

January 8, 2023


The 2023-2024 session of the Vermont General Assembly officially began on January 4th, with several days filled with necessary official procedural, legal and Constitutionally required actions, as well as introductory and organizing sessions designed to instruct new members and remind returning members about the rules, protocols and processes under which we all work that make it possible to get our jobs done in a relatively orderly as well as respectful manner. In the House of Representatives, we elected Rep. Jill Krowinski as Speaker, and received our committee assignments, which included some changes in the names and responsibilities of certain committees. In Joint Assemblies with the Senate, we witnessed the swearing in ceremony of Governor Scott, as well as the State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Auditor of Accounts and Attorney General.

Committee Assignments. In the House, some committees have new names and functions. In recognition of the fact that more than half our committee chairs did not seek reelection and the enormous number of new House members elected, there has been some restructuring of certain committees, with new names and with shifting of some issue areas and functions among the various committees. This is true in my case. Over the last four years I had been a member of the House Energy & Technology Committee, dealing with many energy and climate change issues, broadband, telecommunications and oversight of state government information systems. Starting this session, I am a member of the new Environment and Energy Committee. This committee will be dealing with some of the areas I’ve worked on, particularly energy, climate change and broadband, and may also have a role in some aspects of telecommunications (such as infrastructure siting). Areas of environmental oversight, water quality, land use and development, wildlife and others, while familiar to me as a legislator, will be new to me as areas of specific committee focus.

As I start my fourth two-year term and with all the new faces in the House this year as well as in the previous term, I am very aware that I am now seen as somewhat of a veteran House member, one who remembers the major issues and controversies of previous sessions, why some things passed and others didn’t. I haven’t actually been in the House that long  but am adjusting to the fact and the need to call on my experience at times when that would be helpful (and to refrain when it wouldn’t be!)

As in the past, I will be preparing these reports and publishing them in print and online usually every two weeks. You can contact me at: apatt@leg.state.vt.us or by leaving a message at the Sergeant at Arms office: 802-828-2228. To track any bills, see agendas and written testimony for all House and Senate committees, or to view all House and Senate sessions or committee hearings either live or recorded, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/





May 16, 2022


The Vermont House of Representatives finished its business on May 12th and adjourned the 2021-2022 biennium session.  As happens each year, there is a lot of “hurry-up-and-wait” activity, as individual House committees and conference committees go off and work on amendment proposals from the Senate and resolve differences. Other House members wait for them to return to the floor. There are frustrations too, when legislation you have put a lot of time and effort into doesn’t make it in the end, for any number of reasons.

But the list of major bills that passed in the final days of the session is impressive and these bills will do a lot for Vermonters. Bills passed include a child tax credit that benefits families with children in a number of ways, a huge and comprehensive workforce development bill, a major affordable housing bill, the “yield bill” which sets property tax rates for education, and of course the budget, which passed the House on the last roll call vote of the year 133-3.

My last report published in the News and Citizen was submitted at the beginning of the week to meet deadline.  In versions posted online later that week I took the unusual step of adding two items that happened after press deadline. The first is about our failure to override the Governor’s veto of the Clean Heat Standard by one vote, and about constituent emails I’ve received that are sometimes misinformed about what was in the bill. The second item is about my having tested positive for Covid early on Tuesday May 10th and having finished the session at home on Zoom again. (I’m doing well.) I encourage interested folks to read my amended May 9th Report on my website by scrolling down to the May 9 Report at this link:  https://avrampatt.com/state-house-reports/

Other bills which the House Energy and Technology Committee worked on this year which did pass include bills relating to:

* the use and oversight of artificial intelligence in State government.

* An act relating to municipal energy resilience initiatives.

* extending the operation of the baseload woodchip renewable power plant at Ryegate if it achieves significant efficiency improvements.

* extending the Energy Savings Account Partnership Pilot Program for major industrial electricity consumers.

* We also actively reviewed and made recommendations to the Appropriation Committee on spending proposals involving energy, broadband and state government information systems.

Representative Yacovone. It has been an honor and a privilege to be Dave Yacovone’s district-mate for our two-member district. As a legislator and in his past work, Dave listens to people. He cares about making sure that those Vermonters who are struggling or who need assistance to live meaningful and happy lives are well-served, and by people who are paid well for their work. As Dave moves on to other pursuits, we owe him a heartfelt thank you for his service.

(As for me, I will be seeking reelection, but will announce that in more detail soon.)




Final Days of the Session, Vetos

May 9, 2022


As I write this at the start of the week, it’s looking like the House of Representatives’ session may adjourn by the end of this week. You never know, but it’s looking possible. There is a lot of work to be done on many bills large and small, to resolve any differences between the House and Senate and for both bodies to approve any recommendations from our committees or from committees of conference.

Governor Scott has recently vetoed two bills and it’s frustrating after putting so much work into crafting legislation, making compromises, and working with officials in the Scott administration. Last week, both the House and Senate unanimously overrode the Governor’s veto of the major pension reform bill. The Governor did that to make a point that he feels there are things missing in the bill that he would have liked to see. It’s not a perfect bill and a bill of this magnitude usually isn’t. It involved compromises and concessions from all concerned including state employees and teachers. I have no doubt that we haven’t permanently fixed everything pertaining to the retirement programs and that it will require further work and adjustments going forward, but I do not think it warranted a veto.

The Governor also vetoed the Clean Heat Standard bill, H.715, which the House Energy and Technology Committee that I serve on originally introduced. The bill as amended by the Senate and agreed to by the House contained a provision specifically intended to address the Governor’s concern that implementation of the standard come back to the Legislature to be further approved in a bill (which would also need the Governor’s approval.) It has been frankly frustrating to have major legislation addressing climate change be vetoed twice in the last three years. His stated reasons, I believe, indicate that he has misinterpreted what these bills do, and don’t do. The Legislature overrode the veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2020, and we will see whether this most recent veto will be overridden or not.

Emails from constituents. Legislators receive lots of emails from constituents on issues they are concerned about and bills that are being considered. I hear from people in the communities in our district about lots of things they want to see passed, or bills they want to see defeated. In the past couple of years,  an increasing number of emails are coming via online “contact your legislator” platforms, where an organization or advocacy group has basically written a message, and the constituent simply uses the online platform to send that message to their legislators. So, on many hot topics, I’ll receive a bunch of identical or very similar emails from constituents. About a third of them end up going to my junk mail folder, which I do check occasionally. But I may not see them until sometime after they were sent.  It’s quick and convenient for the sender, but it doesn’t always get through.

Updates added May 12:

On May 10th, the House was one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the Governor’s veto of the Clean Heat Standard bill, H.715. I was among the 99 who voted to override. As a member of the House committee which wrote the bill, I am deeply disappointed. This bill was the most significant and beneficial bill dealing with climate change and Vermonter’s ability to adapt to it and gradually change how they heat.  In the past couple of weeks I had received a number of emails from constituents asking me to sustain the Governor’s veto. I was frankly troubled by how much misleading information about the bill had been circulated recently. Equally troubling were the specific reasons stated in the Governor ‘s veto letter, because his primary stated reason was that the bill did not require specific further review and additional future legislation before the Clean Heat Standard can be implemented. He was just flat out wrong. The final version of the bill as passed very specifically included what his Administration had asked for. You can hear the specifics about this in the brief report on the House floor by Rep. Tim Briglin, Chair of the House Energy & Technology Committee at this link, right after the Speaker opens the floor session: https://youtu.be/7u7n4jGuL80

Also early on the morning of May 10th before heading to the State House from my room in Montpelier, I took an antigen rapid test for Covid 19 and tested positive. So I gathered some of my things and my dog Hobie and we headed home to Worcester. I’ve participated in all House sessions and committee meetings via Zoom. I’ve been symptom-free so far and hopefully will be able to get out and about after five days of isolation. I regret not having been able to be under the Golden Dome for the last days of the session.




Heading Towards Adjournment, and an Honored Guest

April 25, 2022


Action in the House on Senate Bills and the Budget. While we don’t know yet exactly when the House will adjourn, it will be soon. As happens every year, the Senate had made changes to the Appropriation bill that the House passed earlier, and a conference committee will now work out the differences so that the bill can see final passage. Some significant Senate bills  that the House will act on include S.210 dealing with rental housing health and safety and affordable housing, S.100 regarding universal school meals, and S.287 adjusting the school funding formula to create more equity in how funds are distributed.

The House Energy and Technology Committee. Our committee has taken action on a few energy-related bills sent to us by the Senate and the full House will be voting on them soon.  Our committee has been working on changes we are proposing to S.161 regarding the continued operation of the biomass baseload electric generating plant in Ryegate, and we should be voting that out this week. We are waiting to see what action the Senate takes on the major bill we worked on and which passed the House earlier this session, the Clean Heat Standard bill, H.715.

Thanking Senator Leahy. Patrick and Marcelle Leahy visited the State House on April 20th and ate lunch in the cafeteria. It’s not common but not that unusual for Senator Leahy to be seen in the State House occasionally, a building just down the street from the house he grew up in. What he didn’t know, and what most of us legislators didn’t know, was that a major event was going to happen. I knew that something was up when I walked into the House Chamber before our scheduled floor session, and all the red chairs at the front had signs on them saying they were reserved for the members of the Vermont Senate. The Leahys were sitting by themselves in two of those chairs and I did get to chat with them briefly. This was a surprise event to honor the Senator on his retirement after announcing a while back that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election. Speakers were Governor Phil Scott, Lt. Governor Molly Gray, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, and Speaker of the House Jill Krowinsky. Leahy is now in his eighth term of office, the most senior member of Congress.  Aside from his seniority, he has been a great Senator, for Vermont, our nation, and beyond. He deserves the numerous standing ovations we gave him that day.

The Vermont Legislature is a place where we work together and find common ground more often than not. Of course there are issues and bills before us where there is strong disagreement too, but we share a desire to do what is best for Vermonters, and the common ground is usually present more than the differences.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Taking up Senate Bills, and Cybersecurity

April 11, 2022


Although we’re not there yet, the end of the 2022 Legislative session is getting closer, and the pace picks up as House committees take up Senate bills and make their recommendations to the full House, as well as considering changes the Senate made to House bills we passed earlier. Among bills that will come to the floor of the House this week are two Senate bills that I support and which I know will provoke a lot of interest. S.100 would allow schools to continue to provide universal breakfast and lunch through the 2022-2023 school year, as they have been doing during the pandemic. S.74 would make changes regarding patient choices at end of life.

In the House Energy & Technology Committee, we have received some energy-related bills from the Senate, including S.161, which would extend the operating authority of the woodchip generating plant in Ryegate, provided that the plant’s owner develops and implements a plan to use a significant part of the waste heat the plant also produces. Our committee visited the plant last week, and we are considering some changes to that bill.

An issue we have taken a lot of testimony on recently is cybersecurity. Although there is no specific legislation pending right now, this is a critical issue which has caused heightened concern recently due to world conflicts, as well as cybersecurity attacks on institutions in Vermont and elsewhere in this country that have the potential for serious damage. While witnesses testifying in committee have understandable limitations about what they can say about their own security precautions and systems, it is important for us to understand where work is being done and where there might be gaps. We have heard from officials overseeing the state’s own information systems as well as those departments regulating utilities and financial institutions. We’ve heard from utilities, bankers, health care institutions, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, national consultants on cybersecurity, and more. This issue affects us all and will continue to change as technology and events around us change.

This year’s  major bill from our committee which passed the House earlier in the session, H.715 establishing a Clean Heat Standard, is being taken up in the Senate. Like most major bills with a variety of provisions, I expect that the Senate will make some changes and that these changes will need to be reviewed and either agreed to, or that differences will need to be resolved.

At the end of my State House Reports, I usually remind readers of all the information they can get about bills, the work of House and Senate committees and more on the General Assembly’s website. This week, I also want to let readers know that a new translation function has been added. By clicking on “translate” at the bottom of any page on the website, you can now choose to have it translated in over 100 languages!  https://legislature.vermont.gov/





Common Ground

March 28, 2022

Last week was a very busy week at the State House. The full House of Representatives was in session for many hours lasting until after 7:00 PM on some nights, taking up numerous bills in order to act on them and send them to the Senate. (Likewise, the Senate was sending us bills which were then being assigned to the appropriate committees.)

In the Energy and Technology Committee, one more bill we had voted out passed the full House. H.410, an Act Related to the Use and Oversight of Artificial Intelligence in State Government. We had first begun taking testimony on this challenging subject last year. Artificial Intelligence, whether used by government agencies, businesses, or other entities, offers many opportunities for improvements to service and efficiency, but at the same time creates serious concerns about the uses of information. This bill is a first step in looking into this subject in Vermont. We will now be taking up bills sent to us by the Senate on subjects such as renewable energy, weatherization, and energy efficiency opportunities for our larger industrial energy users.

In the last two weeks, I was again struck by how much agreement there actually is at the State House. News reports tend to focus on issues and legislation where there is controversy and strong disagreement, and there certainly are different viewpoints on the issues of the day among Vermonters and among the legislators they elect. But most bills on matters great and small come to the House floor with unanimous or near unanimous recommendations by the committees that have worked on them. Some of these are “housekeeping” bills that update existing statutes and state programs, approve charter changes adopted by municipalities and many other matters. But major bills of note saw final passage in the House last week. H.703 is an important and very large bill related to Workforce Development which the House Commerce Committee brought to the floor, with input from a number of other committees. It makes many changes and adopts new strategies to attract, retain and train Vermont’s workforce, in the time of Covid and beyond. It is an important bill for the future of our economy, and it passed the full House on a 139-0 vote. And H.740, the state budget bill presented to us by the Appropriations Committee after a unanimous committee vote and  with input from all other committees, passed the full House 135-4. This kind of agreement is not uncommon in Vermont and it should get more attention. In some other states and in Washington, things don’t work like this very often anymore. We should be aware of and value our ability to work together and find common ground, even as we debate our differences.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/





February 28, 2022


The Legislature is not in session during the week of Town Meeting, but much is happening as bills major and minor come out of committees and head to the House floor for debate and vote. In a non-pandemic year, your Representatives would be visiting the four Town Meetings in our district to report and answer questions, but people do contact me all the time with their concerns, opinions, and questions about what’s happening at the State House.

Last week in the House Energy & Technology Committee we voted out a bill we’ve been working on, H.715, which would establish a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) encouraging a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from heating our buildings, hot water, and other uses of heat. Vermont has set a standard for electric utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy in their mix, and the CHS would similarly encourage fuel sellers to offer a range of clean heat options including weatherization, advanced wood heating, heat pumps and some biofuels. It encourages measures with the lowest cost and highest carbon reduction, as well as choices and incentives for consumers. A 1-page summary and FAQ prepared by the Energy Action Network can be found here: https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/EAN-cleanheat-1pager-winter2022.pdf

Our committee also provided the Appropriations Committee with our recommendations on a number of spending initiatives in the Governor’s proposed budget that deal with energy, weatherization. state information systems and communication systems, as well as several proposals from others not included in the Governor’s proposal. Our recommendations include a reduction to the $51 million proposed for cell tower construction (which I had written about in my previous report.)

When we return the week after Town Meeting, we will be voting on the recommendation of the conference committee that has worked out differences between the House and Senate versions of the Budget Adjustment Act, which makes mid-year adjustments and changes to the current fiscal year’s budget. In addition to the normal adjustments and tweaks, this year’s bill also deals with very significant amounts of federal Covid relief funds coming to Vermont. Areas with major funding allocations include affordable and emergency housing, workforce retention, funding for critical social services, health care and childcare providers, adult care providers, the Vermont State Colleges and more. A lot of work has gone into directing these one-time federal funds where they will do the most good and have an ongoing benefit.

When we first convened at the State House in January, House members and staff were pretty much the only people in the building. Members with specific Covid-related situations continue to participate via Zoom. The Senate will be in the building starting March 8th  Witnesses are now sometimes in committee rooms instead of on Zoom, and there are visitors and other members of the public in increasing numbers. It’s not back to normal, but it’s more normal than it’s been.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Energy Bills and Cell Towers

February 14, 2022


The House of Representatives will continue meeting in “hybrid” format through March 7 and then decide next steps. Most of us are at the State House, in committees and in full session. A smaller number have participated remotely via Zoom, due to circumstances related to Covid, whether that involves their own health concerns, family members or other specific reasons. It is still not the same as before, wearing masks and taking other precautions, but it works.

House Energy and Technology Committee.  Our committee continues to work on producing a bill for introduction to create a Clean Heat Standard for Vermont. This would create incentives to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used for heating and other non-transportation purposes, by weatherization and energy efficiency, and by shifting away from fossil fuels to other sources of energy and technology. We are also working on H.518, a bill that would assist Vermont’s municipalities in making changes and adaptations regarding energy use in municipal buildings, such as energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by switching energy sources and improving resiliency in dealing with climate change.

Cell Towers. The Town of Worcester has found itself confronted by a controversial proposal to erect a very large and visible cell tower. Town officials and affected residents first learned of this in December and have had to respond in a limited timeframe to participate and have a say in the Public Utility Commission’s regulatory process. Many in town understand the need for improved cell coverage in a rural and very underserved community. However, this proposal was dropped on the community by the applicant company without any prior communications. Apart from the specifics of this particular proposal, I have raised concerns with state officials about the approval process itself (section 248a of Title 30 in Vermont statute). It is appropriate for some telecommunication infrastructure proposals that can and should move forward without undue delay, but proposals like this one do need more time, even before the formal process starts, to allow the town and affected individuals (such as those living very close to the proposed site) to participate.

On a related subject, the Scott Administration has proposed using $51 million of federal Covid relief funds to erect up to 100 new cell towers in unserved rural areas. This proposal in Worcester by a private developer is separate from that. Administration officials have stressed that their proposal “will have a robust public engagement process for identifying tower sites. We will partner with communities, their leadership, their regional planning commissions, and public safety organizations. We will seek public input where folks have opportunity to voice concerns and provide real-world information about what they need and want: “ Whether or not the Legislature will support the spending proposal, this is what the developer should have started with in Worcester.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/



Moving Towards Clean Heat

January 31, 2022


After meeting for two weeks in hybrid fashion, the House of Representatives voted on January 28 to take additional steps towards meeting in person. For two weeks, committees had been meeting in person, while sessions of the full House were conducted online via Zoom, even though many of us were in the State House, sitting in various rooms or in the House Chamber itself. Starting February 1, sessions of the full House will be conducted in person in the House Chamber. We will be spread around the room and many of us will not be in our assigned seats, but we will be actually speaking to each other in the room, and not via Zoom and computers.  The exception for both House and committee sessions will continue to be that members who cannot attend in person for reasons directly related to Covid will still be able to participate online.  This is a slow and gradual process, and we need to move carefully. As a reminder, the State House is open to the public, with the same requirements for observing precautions and wearing masks. At the same time, every meeting and hearing can be viewed live or recorded on the YouTube channel links on the General Assembly website.

The House Energy and Technology Committee spent most of last week taking testimony on a proposal for implementing a Clean Heat Standard. This is one of the most significant proposals contained in the Climate Action Plan presented late last year by the Vermont Climate Council as part of the process established by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020. Just as Vermont has set standards which have successfully and dramatically moved our electric energy generation towards renewable sources, we need to move our sources of thermal energy towards clean sources and dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from heating our homes and other buildings This of course includes reducing the amount of energy required, through weatherization and other efficiency measures. It includes transitioning to new technologies like heat pumps, the use of advanced wood heat technologies, and replacing fossil fuels with other cleaner biofuels. Care and study is needed to assure that options such as biofuels are in fact produced in ways that are environmentally sound and actually make a difference. A number of Vermont fuel businesses have already been changing their business models and moving in this direction, becoming providers of heat, rather than just fuel. We heard a lot of testimony on these changes including from Bourne’s Energy. All of the documents and presentations by witnesses for the week of January 24 are available on our committee’s web page at this link. If you are interested in a very detailed description of the Clean Heat Standard proposal, what it is and how it would work, see the white paper from Richard Cowart posted on January 28. https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2022/19

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/s




We Begin Meeting in Person, Sort Of…

January 17, 2022


We are back at the State House, but not quite.  On January 14th, the Vermont House voted to begin meeting at the State House this week, but with some differences that we will evaluate again, and decide at the end of the month about next steps. It’s a hybrid arrangement, whereby if a Representative cannot participate in their committee hearings for reasons specifically related to Covid 19, they can continue to participate by Zoom (as can witnesses testifying in committees). Reasons might include testing positive, having symptoms, being a close contact with some who has, having to care for someone, or children not being able to attend school or childcare due to staffing issues. The House Chamber however, is not set up with technology to allow in-person and online participation at the same time, so during this period, the full House will continue to meet on Zoom (although many members may be doing so from their laptops or iPads from somewhere in the building.

The House Energy & Technology Committee. Our committee voted out H.410, which establishes a process for inventorying and understanding how Artificial Intelligence is presently used by the agencies and departments of our state government. Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. It is now commonplace and used for numerous purposes, in business, government and elsewhere. It can be of great benefit but can also be very dangerous. This bill is limited at this point to understand how it’s being used by those the Legislature has direct oversight over. It’s not an issue the Legislature has grappled with before, but we need to start. With that bill voted out, we this week turn to H. 518, An act relating to the creation of the Municipal Fuel Switching Grant Program. This would provide help to our local governments in moving away from use of fossil fuels in their own facilities and equipment.

The Pandemic. We are of course continuing to deal with Covid-19 and the new issues raised by the omicron strain. Actions taken or being worked on include continuing to allow towns and school districts to meet vote under emergency provisions, workforce issues affecting healthcare, schools, childcare, critical human services, and many types of businesses, as well as assistance to those needing help in these times. I encourage everyone to protect yourselves as much as possible from the virus, knowing that this also protects others, those closest to you as well as in our communities and beyond.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/




The 2022 Session Begins in Unusual Times

December 27, 2021


The House Convenes on January 4th. On December 28th, the House Rules Committee determined that we would meet remotely online for the first two weeks and then make further decisions about meeting in person or not based on continuing review of the extent of the spread of the Omicron strain of Covid. While I do hope we will be able to meet in the State House and be able to interact a bit more normally than just via online meetings, it would still be very different. We will be wearing facemasks. Whether in the House Chamber, in our committee rooms and elsewhere in the building, we would be seated further apart and not necessarily at our assigned seat numbers on the House floor. Some committee rooms, such as the one my committee met in, are too small, and some larger meeting rooms have been converted for use by committees such as mine.  We also know that depending on how things go with the pandemic and the spread of the Omicron strain of the virus, it may be necessary to continue meeting remotely online.  In any event, one change for the better is that anyone can now view any meeting of the full House or Senate or any committee hearing online, live or recorded.

The House Energy and Technology Committee will be continuing our work on the two major and critical issues that we have spent most of our time on in the two previous years: climate change and broadband. Major bills on these subjects that originated in our committee are now in various stages of implementation. We will be reviewing their progress and working on any further legislation needed to carry out the recommendations of the Vermont Climate Council and their Climate Action Plan, and to further continue our efforts, through our Communication Union Districts and other entities, to get all of Vermont access to high-speed broadband.

The Legislature will be approving a new redistricting plan this year. This is a process that occurs every ten years whose purpose is to assure that legislators each represent approximately the same number of people, and that districts make sense to the greatest extent possible in terms of the communities that are included in the same district. It is still very early in the process. As has been described in local news reports, population changes and increases in Lamoille County may result in some changes in the makeup of districts, and this and other factors may also affect what House districts the Washington County towns of Woodbury and Worcester are in. But it is too soon to make predictions because every alternative may have some unintended consequences. In any event, I will stay focused on the issues before the Legislature in 2022, and in serving the residents of the four towns in the Lamoille-Washington District.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/s





Personal Reflections

May 30, 2021


The Legislature adjourned on May 21st after a historic, unusual session. I have written about the difficulties of legislating on Zoom. Communication with others, having one-on-one conversations, and asking and answering questions is limited, whether those conversations are with other legislators, staff, advocates and lobbyists for or against matters before us, interested members of the public, and anyone else. There are some advantages, involving the public’s access to all proceedings of the House, Senate, committee meetings and more. Some of the technology we’ve learned to use may continue to be used after the crisis is history.

As noted in my May 24th report, it is possible that the Legislature will meet again before we convene for the second half of the 2021-2022 biennium in January. In that case, I may publish additional updates, but if not, this may be my last report before 2022.

Although much was accomplished during the session, it became a very difficult one for me personally for the last part of it. In my Report of April 5th, I told readers of the very sudden and unexpected death of my wife, Amy B. Darley a few days earlier. It is a deep loss for me that I will be learning to deal with over time. Thanks to Zoom, I was able to participate in pretty much all sessions of the House, my committee’s hearings and other meetings. Working from home allowed me to participate, vote, and report bills from our committee to the House “floor,” while allowing myself the space I needed. I would not have been able to be at the State House in person, at least for some of that time.

Amy led a remarkable life that inspired and motivated many. She brought out the best in people, her children and all children, her friends , professional colleagues past and present, and people she just had conversations with on the street, in the community. We celebrated her life as a mother, partner, public servant, dancer, and force of nature in an online memorial attended by many.

The one thing I was not able to keep up with after Amy’s passing was answering all the correspondence I and all legislators get from constituents in our communities. I read all the emails, on subjects ranging from vaccines to pensions, emergency benefits for businesses and workers to rental housing, masks and other pandemic-related restrictions, and much more.  Many of the emails were personally written, while others were form letters that constituents sent via web links. While I regret not being able to respond to everyone, I know folks will understand. With the session over, as life for everyone starts to slowly return to normal, and as time passes for me, I do expect to be fully engaged in hearing from and responding to people in the communities I represent.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov




Adjournment of a Historic Session

May 24, 2021


The Vermont General Assembly finished its work on Friday, May 21st and adjourned. It is possible that we will reconvene again this year. The House has scheduled dates in June in the event we meet to consider overriding any bills vetoed by Governor Scott. As of this writing, he has vetoed S.107 dealing with confidential information in the arrest and charging of juveniles  Whether we meet in June is nor determined at this point. We may also meet in the Fall to consider further adjustments to use of federal Covid-19 relief funds (ARPA).

In the final week of the session, we passed numerous bills, major bills covered in news reports as well as many that are important to some Vermonters but don’t make the headlines. In most cases these bills had traveled back and forth between the House and Senate, with each body proposing amendments and ultimately agreeing on a final version.

The broadband bill H.360, which initially came out of the House Energy & Technology Committee, and which I have discussed in previous reports, saw final passage after the Senate and House agreed to the report of the Conference Committee that I served on, which resolved some differences in the two versions of the bill. The House vote on May 19th was unanimous, 148-0.

S.62, which supports workers affected by the pandemic, shores up Vermont’s unemployment insurance fund, provides scholarships for adult students enrolled in workforce development programs and more, passed the House unanimously as well.

H.449 dealing with our troubled teacher and state employee pension programs

passed after a difficult journey. This is a tough issue, and the bill establishes a process for assuring that these programs continue to benefit employees and retirees, both by better monitoring and managing the funds’ investments, and by suggesting structural changes, with full consideration to how those would affect both current employees and retirees. This bill does not solve the problem, but it sets in motion a process involving the right stakeholders that I hope will be successful.

The Budget, H.349. The last bill the House voted on was the budget. We accepted the Conference Committee‘s report resolving differences between the House and Senate. Between spending of state dollars and allocating some of the massive amounts of federal relief funds, this is a historic accomplishment, one that will need close monitoring and adjustments going forward. Much of the spending initially proposed in other bills (like broadband infrastructure for example) is taken out of those bills and included in H.349, so all spending is in one bill. You can find it and related summaries  and fiscal analysis at the General Assembly’s website. The House vote on this was also unanimous. It reflects the hard work and the need to find common ground that your legislators share, and it moves me and makes me proud of Vermont.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov




Heading Towards Adjournment

May 17, 2021


As we head into what will likely be the final week of the session, things are very busy, and House members will be spending a great deal more time on the “floor” (full House sessions even if by Zoom), rather than in committees. Committees, including House-Senate Committees of Conference, will meet as necessary to finish bills, to review and respond to bills the Senate has passed, or House bills the Senate has sent back to us with changes. This is the “hurry up and wait” part of the session, because we often need to recess while a committee or a conference committee is still working on bills.

Among bills on the House Calendar just for the beginning of the week are ones dealing with: use of stem cell products not approved by the FDA, cannabis regulation, “pupil weighting” (fixing inequities in how funds are distributed to schools statewide),  rental housing (including helping landlords deal with delinquencies), and  the financing of our childcare system. These are bills that have received a lot of study and testimony this session. By the time readers are seeing this, some will have seen final passage, and we will be working on others, like the budget and revenue bills, broadband and more.

Broadband, H.360.  The bill that the House Energy and Technology Committee brought to the  House floor early this session and which passed on a 145-1 vote, was taken up and amended by the Senate and sent back to us. I am one of three House members appointed by the Speaker to the Committee of Conference that meets with our Senate counterparts beginning on May 17th. There are a few significant differences between the two versions of the bill and a few minor ones. Our job on the Committee is to work through these and agree on a proposal that both the House and Senate can then pass. Everyone knows how important this issue is, and I am confident that the bill will pass before we adjourn.

The second year of the Biennium starts in January, and we will likely be back at the State  House, but…. Many things will be very different than how the Legislature operated in the past due to COVID-19. The building can be incredibly crowded, the House and Senate Chambers, the hallways, all the tiny committee rooms, larger rooms, and the cafeteria. There are issues with the ventilation systems. But it’s the People’s House and true public access for all Vermonter must be maintained. While there is much more planning to be done and decisions to be made, it is likely that some larger rooms will be divided to make more space for committees, and that some space in adjacent state office building will be converted for use by the Legislature. It will be different, but it will be good to do our work in person again.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/s




Final Weeks: Resolving Issues Between the House and Senate

May 3, 2021


 Heading towards adjournment. The goal is to adjourn by the end of May, hopefully a little earlier. That would be a “return to normal,” even though we are meeting remotely and not at the State House. Things could change, but that is the goal. Last year as the pandemic hit, we had to adjourn in mid-March and then wait while changes were made and tested to allow legislators, staff and others including witnesses in committees to participate via Zoom, and for the public to be able to view all proceedings as well. It was a big learning curve, and we reconvened more than once later in the year to pass emergency relief measures, budgets and other necessary bills. But many bills on all subjects which we had wanted to take up never made it across the finish line. A number of those bills have passed or will see action before we adjourn this year.

This week the Senate is expected to act on the budget bill, H.439 and send it back to the House. Some of the changes they are making are simply because they get the bill later and have more current information and numbers. Other changes are differences that will need to be resolved. While most of the work is done in the Appropriations Committee, all other committees weigh in on those parts of the budget that affect their areas of oversight.  Resolving differences on some other bills has already been underway.

Broadband, H.360.  The Energy & Technology Committee’s major broadband bill which we brought to the full House earlier this session has been in the Senate, and we expect them to make some changes. There will likely be some differences of approach and emphasis between the two versions that will need to be worked out, but everyone understands how important this is to Vermonters, and I am confident that the bill will pass.

A bill I reported sails through.  Many bills pass the House quickly with little or no disagreement. Case in point: Last week I reported a bill to the House for our committee.  S.1 passed the Senate and was sent to our committee. It provides a limited extension of the authority for the biomass electric generating plant in Ryegate to continue operating, while efforts are made to find a thermal use for the large amount of heat the plant generates that is unused or excess. If that effort is successful, it will make a big difference. The bill up just before S.1 had involved lengthy debate and interrogation. But after I finished my report, the Speaker asked if there were any questions, and waited a few seconds. “Seeing none,” she continued, “are you ready for the vote?” It passed on a unanimous voice vote. It did not make the headline news, but that’s true of a lot of what we do.

For more information.  To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or House or Senate sessions visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/s

To contact me on legislative matters: apatt@leg.state.vt.us





April 19, 2021


Last week was a busy one in the House, with a few significant bills taking up a lot of time on the floor, in debate and consideration of amendments and roll call votes.

COVID-19 Recovery Bill, H.315, becomes law. After all differences and changes were agreed to between the House and Senate, this important bill became law last week. There are many parts to this bill that will affect many Vermonters. Unlike the federal relief funds we allocated last year, these funds can be spent over a longer time period, and with a bit more flexibility in some areas. This allows us to not be as pressured to allocate and spend everything in just a few months but lets us make more considered use of funds over a somewhat longer timeframe.

Miscellaneous Tax Bill, S.53  This bill which passed the House last week modernizes and recalibrates certain aspects of our tax system, and goes back to the Senate for their consideration of the changes made by the House.
* S.53 lowers the minimum tax rate for small businesses, while ensuring that companies with more than $300 million in sales receipts pay their fair share.

* It updates the fees that managers of a mutual fund need to pay to the Dept. of Financial Regulation in order to sell their securities in Vermont.

* It repeals the state’s current exemption on the so-called “cloud tax” for vendor-hosted prewritten software or “canned software accessed remotely.” Consumers in 21 states already pay these fees.

* The bill also concurs with the Senate by eliminating the sales tax on all menstrual products, including tampons, pads and cups.

* S.53 creates an exclusion on the first $10,000 of federally taxable U.S. military retirement pay, recognizing the service of 3,900 Vermonters .who derive some of their income from there.

“Bottle Bill,” H.175. This bill which had broad public support, greatly expands the type of beverage containers subject to deposit, in a major update to the law that was first passed in 1972. H.175. The redeemable list is expanded to include plastic water bottles, wine and hard cider bottles, and containers for all carbonated and non-carbonated beverages (except for dairy and dairy substitute vegetable-based beverages ). Right now, the bottle bill covers only 46 percent of beverage containers sold in Vermont. Containers redeemed under the bottle bill are more valuable for recycling and are far more likely to be remade into new containers.

House Energy & Technology Committee.  On April 13th, I reported and S.60 to the House, with our committee’s recommendation that we concur with what the Senate had passed. This bill makes certain modest but important changes in how municipal and co-op electric utilities are regulated, which I described in my previous report. It reduces some regulatory costs and time burdens of the rate review process, and it makes it easier for Vermont’s smaller utilities to test innovations in that will help customers reduce their fossil fuel use. S.60 passed the House unanimously.

For more information: To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or sessions of the full House or Senate, visit the Legislature’s website at: https://legislature.vermont.gov/  

To contact me on legislative matters: apatt@leg.state.vt.us .





Teachers and State Employee Pensions

April 5, 2021


A Change of Plans About Pensions. The problems with the teachers and state employee pension programs have been in the  news and have generated a lot of controversy. Last week,  it was announced that the proposal that had been put on the table in the Government Operations Committee was being withdrawn. That proposal dealt only with increasing employees’ contributions, decreasing benefits at retirement, and one other provision which caused the most anger from many. That provision would have eliminated counting years of service and would have increased the age of retirement. For a great many employees, this simply meant that they would have to work many more years before being eligible for full benefits. I heard from teachers and state employees for whom this meant now needing to work an additional, 7, 10 or more years. I was troubled by this group of proposed changes for two reasons. First, it had serious financial and life planning repercussions for current and prospective employees. Second, while some adjustments may end up needing to happen, I did not feel that that was where to start the discussion. Instead, more time will now first be used to take  a hard look at the governance of these programs and to consider possible revenue sources. I was glad that this change was announced last week. The situation is in fact very serious and must be addressed. There are a number of factors causing the problem, not just  the serious underfunding by past Governors and Legislatures. We have in fact been paying our obligations in more recent years, but we need to do more fix this and assure teachers and state employees about their retirement benefits.

In the House Energy and Technology Committee. Our committee is continuing to work on energy-related and other bills, now that out major broadband bill passed on a 145-1 roll call vote and is being considered in the Senate. The Senate passed a bill, S.60, which gives some regulatory flexibility to Vermont’s smaller municipal and cooperative electric utilities, including Morrisville Water & Light, Hardwick Electric and Washington Electric Co-op, which serve the communities in the Lamoille-Washington District. The bill makes it easier to try out and implement innovative technologies and rate structures to help customers lessen the carbon emissions impact of their energy use. It also lessens the cost and time spent in the formal regulatory process for making minor rate adjustments. Our committee is recommending that the House concur with the Senate on S.60.

Heading Towards the End of This Session.  The Legislature will continue to consider how and when to use the very large amount of federal funds from the American Rescue Program Act funds coming our way. There is more flexibility, and we have a longer timeframe to spend these funds than Vermont had with last year’s federal relief funds.

A Very Personal Note.  As some people know and many others are finding out, the love of my life, my wife, Amy Darley, died suddenly and very unexpectedly on April 3rd. I don’t have words to describe how I feel, but I and the rest of the family are doing our best as this loss sinks in. I appreciate the contact I’ve had from many people from all over, including many from Worcester. One Worcesterite advised me to keep busy, probably from personal experience, and I am continuing to participate in House sessions and committee hearings by Zoom, while stepping back a bit to do what needs to be done at a time like this. A celebration of Amy’s  amazing life will take place at a later time.

For more information: To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or sessions of the full House or Senate, visit the Legislature’s website at: https://legislature.vermont.gov/s

To contact me on legislative matters: apatt@leg.state.vt.us . My personal email is avrampatt@yahoo.com








Federal Relief Bill Keeps the Legislature Busy

Broadband Bill Passes

March 22, 2021


On March 11th, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which is much needed, and I believe will prove to be one of the more significant pieces of federal legislation in our nation’s history. In addition to direct relief to individuals and families who have suffered, financially and in other ways during the pandemic, very significant amounts will come to our state government to be allocated and directed to schools and colleges, municipalities’, homeowner and rental assistance, businesses, transportation and infrastructure including broadband deployment. The Legislature will again be very busy dealing with this, even as federal guidance about how all these funds can be used is still coming in. The House has this past week already passed some bills that make use of some of these funds, and as bills pass between the House and Senate and as we get more federal guidance, I’m sure adjustments will be made. But at the same time, we cannot just wait, and we must begin deciding on how best to use the over $1 billion in ARPA rescue dollars.

House Energy and Technology Committee. Our committee’s major broadband bill, H.360, reaches the House floor on Tuesday, March 23 and hopefully will have passed and been sent to the Senate by the time people are reading this. Some last-minute changes have been made in anticipation of ARPA funds being available for some portions of it. On the energy front, the House  gave preliminary approval on March 19th to H.431, An Act Related to Miscellaneous Energy Subjects, which the committee introduced. Although there are three separate and unrelated parts of the bill, the most significant is an area we began considering in early 2020, energy storage. This is an increasingly important subject, for grid reliability economic load management, and peak reduction, as well for supporting the development of renewable generation sources. Larger storage facilities can have the same impact on the grid when they release stored power as a generating facility. The bill sets out a structure and early guidance to the Public Utilities Commission for determining appropriate levels of regulation for energy storage.


Teachers and State Employee Retirement Programs. I continue to hear from constituents about their concerns and anxiety about the future of these two pension programs. I know legislators are working hard to find solutions that have the least negative impact and assure the continuation of the programs that are of such importance to current and future employees. As I have written before, I support (and am myself a beneficiary of) the pension form of retirement program and do not support efforts to unravel that.

For more information: To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or sessions of the full House or Senate, visit the Legislature’s website at: https://legislature.vermont.gov/  

Contact me with questions, comments or concerns at:  apatt@leg.state.vt.us



The Legislature Returns from Town Meeting Break

 March 8, 2021


The Legislature returned from Town Meeting break on March 9. It’s a very busy time for both the House and Senate as both bodies need to meet the upcoming crossover deadlines to pass bills in time to be considered by the other body. The crossover deadlines are March 12 for most bills, and March 19 for revenue or appropriations bills.

Teachers’ and State Employees’ Pensions

Work is continuing on dealing with the pension fund problems for both teachers and state employees. Although some changes will likely need to be made going forward, we must do so in a way that does not dismantle these pension programs or dramatically affect benefits for future retirees. The House and Senate have had three joint workshops on this critical problem and these videos can be viewed at the streaming link at the Joint Fiscal Office page on the Legislature’s website.

Major Broadband Bills

The House Energy & Technology Committee‘s comprehensive broadband bill, H.360, is being reviewed by the Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees and should reach the full House for a vote very soon. Also see additional broadband news in the section below about federal COVID-19 relief.

Energy Issues

Now that we voted out the Broadband bill, the House Energy and Technology Committee will be considering a number of energy-related matters. Among these are electric utility rate design for carbon reduction technologies such as electric vehicle charging, and other measures dealing with climate change.

Federal Stimulus Legislation

As has been widely reported, Vermont is expected to receive $1.25 billion in additional federal COVID-19 relief, and this will require still more work by the Legislature and its committees in directing these funds. There will be significant amounts for rental and mortgage payment assistance, funding for vaccinations, unemployment, and local governments. It will include a significant amount for rural broadband. Although these and other funds included in the federal bill must still be used for purposes related to pandemic relief, these limitations are not likely to be as onerous as some of the restrictions in funding received last year.

For more information: To track bills, follow testimony, or view any Committee meetings or sessions of the full House or Senate, visit the Legislature’s website at: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Broadband Bill Work Progresses, Covid-19, Thoughts About the Texas Energy Crisis

February 22, 2021


Covid-19. The Legislature continues to spend a considerable amount of time on the Covid-19 emergency. The work involves making temporary adjustments to statute so that government at all levels, institutions, service providers and other organizations can operate and hold meetings. There is also a significant amount of work involved in reallocating or spending federal Coronavirus Relief Funds that were not fully spent by the previous federally imposed December 31 deadline. In the House Energy and Technology Committee, our work has mostly been to provide recommendations to the Appropriations Committee about broadband funding, for expansion as well as for shorter term emergency connectivity measures.

House Energy and Technology Committee.  As of this writing , we are close to completing and voting on a major multi-part bill to continue and expand the buildout of high-speed broadband to underserved and unserved locations in Vermont. Once the bill passes out of our committee, it will still be reviewed by other committees with regards to spending and revenue provisions before it comes before the full House.

The Texas Energy Crisis. The crisis that hit Texas as a result of the (for them) extreme cold caused massive and extended blackouts, where huge numbers of Texans were shut off in order to deal with massive natural gas shortages and to avoid collapse of the grid. The blackouts in turn caused frozen and burst pipes, lack of water treatment and serious property damage. News reports and analysis have pointed to the incredible lack of planning, including the fact that a number of years ago, Texas chose to not be part of a regional power supply and grid management arrangement, and to go it alone. There are  fundamental ways in which Vermont and the New England region are different than Texas.

The New England states are part of the New England Power Pool operated by an Independent System Operator. This arrangement has oversight of the major high voltage transmission lines, as well as providing financial mechanisms for assuring that there is sufficient power supply in anticipation of weather and other factors.

Vermont also differs from Texas and the other New England states in that in the late 1990s our Legislature, after much debate, chose not to change to a “retail competition” model for electricity. Having the utility deliver power but being able to choose which marketer you buy the power from has not helped most residential and other smaller customers, and many stay with buying the power from their poles and wires utility. But in Texas, they’ve gone one step further, by allowing customers to opt for a “variable rate,” where costs change with market fluctuations. Because of the power supply fiasco, those customers are seeing astronomical monthly charges on their credit card bills, especially those who did not lose power for too long.  News reports describe people whose bill is typically in the $100 range seeing charges in multiples of $1000, in one case, $16,752! Vermont’s regulatory system is not perfect, but we’ve certainly done well by comparison.

Contact. Please contact me with comments, questions and concerns at: apatt@leg.state.vt.us  .

To follow bills of interest and the work of all committees and the full House and Senate, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/



Budget Work Begins, Broadband, Executive Orders

February 8, 2021


Budget.  After Governor Scott delivered his budget address on January 26th, House committees got to work. While it is the Appropriations Committee that puts it all together and brings a bill to the full House, all committees are asked to send them comments on those parts of the budget that affect their areas of oversight. I am also my committee’s liaison to the Appropriations Committee, so I sit in on some of their hearings as well.  Spending proposals the Energy and Technology Committee is reviewing include a number related to broadband expansion, increased funding for weatherization in homes and state facilities, electric vehicle initiatives, promotion of “community solar” projects, and a significant amount to upgrade state government’s information systems (IT) in the next few years.

Broadband.  The Energy and Technology Committee continues our work on a major bill expanding broadband to unserved and underserved areas. A primary focus continues to be support of the nine existing Communication Union Districts and others that may form in Vermont. Unfortunately, some federal broadband expansion programs have allowed some providers to bid on small bits and pieces of underserved locations. This “cherry-picking” makes it harder to for CUDs, whose goal is to get service to everyone, to sign up customers in some communities.

I continue to hear from residents of our four towns who are dependent on Consolidated Communications’ landline phone service for their internet. Complaints include poor or no service, unreliability, and lack of response to complaints. As I have written before, federal law prohibits states from regulating internet service regardless of provider or technology. I and other committee members  are communicating these issues to the company, as is the Department of Public Service’s Consumer Affairs Division.

Executive Orders. Governor Scott has issued some Executive Orders which would make very major changes in the organization and operation of large parts of our state government. By law, an Executive Order automatically goes into effect if neither the House or the Senate vote to disapprove of the Order by April 15th. The Legislature cannot make changes to an Executive Order but must take it or leave it.  In the past, Executive Orders have been used mostly to make smaller changes, but these include significant changes that would affect many Vermonters, many state employees, and how some programs operate and are overseen. I do not have a problem with the use of such Orders for smaller changes, or for their use in acting quickly on matters relating to the Covid-19 emergency. One Executive Order issued this year would have created a new Agency of Public Safety handling all law enforcement in state government, including those now housed in other agencies and departments. Many of these changes might be good, but they do need much more review and public input than the Executive Order process  allows. On February 5th, the House voted not to approve this Executive Order, but the proposals will be carefully reviewed this year in the normal and open legislative process.

Contact. Please contact me with comments, questions and concerns at: apatt@leg.state.vt.us  .

To follow bills of interest and the work of all committees and the full House and Senate, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/



Committees Are at Work

January 25, 2021

Heading into the fourth week of the session, things are busy, even if it’s hard to really experience that with all of us working from home instead of interacting at the State House. At this point, very few bills have actually reached the House “floor” for a vote, but all fourteen committees are busy, hearing reports and updates, and working on legislation.

Among the bills getting immediate attention in committees and by the full House and Senate are a number that deal with the Covid-19 emergency. They involve making temporary statutory changes to allow government at the state, local municipal and school district levels to function, to have votes, and continue to do their necessary work. Other bills involve adjustments to various Covid-19 relief programs, including allowing them to extend and to use already appropriated unspent funds. Much of this year’s work will continue to be dominated by Covid-19, especially if hoped-for new federal relief and recovery funds come our way.

The House Appropriations Committee is working on the annual Budget Adjustment Act, which makes changes as needed to the previously passed budget for this fiscal year. Other committees including the one I serve on are asked to review adjustments proposed by the Administration that fall under our jurisdiction and to  make recommendations to the Appropriations Committee, which is expected to bring the Budget Adjustment  to the full House for a vote in the coming days.

House Energy and Technology Committee.  We have spent much of our time thus far hearing detailed updates and reports on broadband, state information technology systems and energy issues, including a refresher course on energy regulation and efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.  This is useful for those of us who’ve been on the committee before, as well as for our three new members.  We are now starting to work on a broadband bill that will likely include a number of different sections and provisions, including further support of our Communication Union Districts such as the two that the towns in our House district are members of. Later in the session, our focus will  likely shift more to energy and climate change issues.

Retirement programs. As has been reported in the news, there are very serious funding gaps for both our state employee and teachers  I believe that it is important to preserve the pension form of retirement programs and have been troubled in the past by efforts across the country to erode these. At this stage, I do not have a solution, and everyone knows how hard it will be to close those gaps at this time, when there are also so many other needs. But I will follow this closely, and oppose measures that unduly lessen the value of these programs for future retirees.

Contact. Feel free to contact me with questions and concerns at apatt@leg.state.vt.us . To follow bills of interest and the work of all committees and the full House and Senate, visit the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/




The 2021-2022 Session Convenes In a Difficult and Troubled Time

January 11, 2021

The Legislature convened on January 6th for the 2021-2022 session, still affected in so many ways by the Covid-19 crisis, as well as by events in Washington. Our first three days were taken up with necessary organizational and procedural actions, including the election of a new Speaker, a new House Clerk, taking our oaths of office and receiving our committee assignments. We adopted emergency rules allowing us to continue meeting remotely due to Covid-19. While there had been hope that we might be able to have a “hybrid” arrangement with some sessions and committee meetings in person and others remote, the logistical difficulties of doing this with 150 House members plus staff, as well as the increasing numbers of Vermonters testing positive led to the realization that this would not be possible so soon. We have learned how to meet remotely. We get things done, but there is so much missing when we cannot meet in person.

I am proud and very moved by our Legislature and all its members. We have differences and disagreements of course, sometimes significant ones. But sitting in the actual House Chamber or participating as one of many little faces on a computer screen, it continually amazes me how much common ground we have, how much more we agree on than disagree on, and how we all work with respect and common concern for Vermont and for Vermonters.

Covid-19 Legislation.

House committees began meeting last week, with some of them working on bills related to Covid 19. The Government Operations Committee voted 11-0 to bring a bill relating to Town Meeting, H.48, to the floor this week for immediate action, so that local officials can have flexibility and options to choose from for how their Town Meetings are conducted this year. The bill makes the following changes to current law for 2021 only:

  •       authorizes municipalities to move the date of their 2021 annual Town Meeting
  •       authorizes municipalities to mail Australian ballots for use in their 2021 annual Town Meeting
  •       specifies that the terms of elected board members will continue until a successor is chosen (only applies to towns with charters)
  •       permits the Secretary of State to issue supplemental elections procedures to protect the health and safety of voters, elections workers, and candidates

Much of the 2021 session will by necessity be dominated by Covid-19. We must continue to provide relief to those affected, individuals, families, businesses, schools, institutions of all kinds. We must allocate new and much needed federal funds coming to Vermont that are intended for many different purposes. With Vermonters hopefully continuing to follow guidance and take precautions, and with vaccines beginning to be available, we hope that the pandemic itself will decline and come to an end in the foreseeable future. But recovering from the effects, rebuilding our economy and a return to normal activity will take time.

House Energy and Technology Committee

This will be my second term as a member of this committee. We deal with a variety of energy issues and are one of the key committees dealing with climate change. That will continue to be a large part of our work. Our committee is also the key committee dealing with broadband expansion, and this is now a major focus and priority for both the House and the Senate.  We will be working on legislation to further expand access to high-speed internet in rural Vermont. The committee also deals with telecommunications matters, including cell service. Matters related to state government’s own information technology (IT) systems are also part of our work. Members representing Lamoille County towns now make up one-third of this committee. Rep. Heidi Scheuermann from Stowe and I are continuing, and we are now joined by Rep. Lucy Rogers, representing Cambridge and Waterville.

Broadband and Our Communication Union Districts.

Besides hearing from people affected by Covid-19 and needing help, there is no other matter I hear from constituents more frequently about than lack of decent internet service.  I hear from people in all four towns I represent. Although the problem has been greatly heightened by the Covid-19 crisis, it was with us before the pandemic. With so many people now working remotely from home, students of all ages needing access, and many others now using telehealth services when possible, it has brought attention to the problem affecting so much of rural Vermont. In our area, the people with poor service, low bandwidth (or in some cases no service at all) are those whose only option is the landline phone company, Consolidated Communications. I do know a lot about why broadband has not been built out to everyone, like electricity was once through the Rural Electrification Program’s electric co-ops, and I’d be happy to discuss all of that further with anyone. My purpose here is to urge folks to be aware of and to support the Communication Union Districts (CUDs) that now include all four towns in the district. They are formed under Vermont law and with support from the Legislature and state government, and I believe are the most effective opportunity for extending high-speed service to those who don’t have it.

Woodbury, Worcester and Elmore are member towns of CVFiber, which was started a few years ago and is now getting close to begin building out fiber and serving some customers. If you live in one of these towns, visit CVFiber’s website to learn more, and take the survey linked at the top of the home page, which CVFber is using to help decide where to start work first.  https://cvfiber.net/

Morristown is a member of Lamoille FiberNet, which was formed last year and has completed a feasibility study for serving underserved areas in its towns. Learn more about Lamoille FiberNet, including how you can help, at: https://lamoillefiber.net/

Contact. Feel free to contact me with questions and concerns at apatt@leg.state.vt.us .The Legislature’s website is a great resource. The agendas and actions of the full House and Senate are available as well as that of all committees. Each committee has its own page, with all testimony, documents and reports available. All bills introduced are posted along with their status. And, one positive change as a result of Covid-1, is that you can now watch every House, Senate or committee proceeding live on a separate channel available on the website, or view a recorded version later. https://legislature.vermont.gov/




Budget, Coronavirus Relief Funding and other bills pass before recess. We return on August 25

July 5, 2020

After a long day on the actual floor of the House chamber back on March 13th, we recessed for a few weeks while setting ourselves up and getting trained to meet online via Zoom. At first, only House committees were meeting, but then we began to have sessions of the full 150-member House, to vote on bills, and to concur with or amend bills the Senate had sent us. Then, on June 26 at 8:41 PM, after a very long week of full sessions and for many members, committee meetings as well, we recessed until August 25th.  It was not easy. It’s not ideal, but under the circumstances, we made it work. It was historic, we have learned from this, but watching an iPad screen for hours on end and remembering to unmute yourself when speaking is not the best way for elected legislators to discuss, debate, find common ground and do our work.

We did the critical things that had to be done. We passed a budget for the first quarter of the new fiscal year which began July 1. And we approved $1 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF). We also passed a number of bills, major and minor, that had seen some action in the House or Senate before March 13, but which had been held up due to the emergency. 

Coronavirus Relief Funds Overview

The Vermont General Assembly finalized $1 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to help Vermonters and to rebuild Vermont’s economy and the institutions and systems vital to our quality of life. The Legislature’s actions, however, came after the Governor proposed a package that did not fully meet the federal requirements for fund distribution and after the Legislature listened to businesses who said they did not want the Governor’s proposed loan programs– they could not bear the burden of more debt—and that they needed grants.

The Legislature took the Governor’s economic recovery package of grants, loans, marketing and technical assistance totaling $250 million and transformed it to meet Vermonters’ needs. The Legislature’s package is loan-free and provides $219 million in Economic Recovery Grants for businesses, farms and nonprofits that have suffered significant COVID-19 losses.

A number of local organizations, regional economic development corporations and state government agencies have been actively providing information about assistance programs for businesses and how to apply. There are numerous programs targeted at specific types and sizes of businesses. I know that most businesses that have suffered as a result of the Covid-19 crisis have been following the passage and rollout of these programs. For anyone needing more information, the Agency of Commerce and Community Developments we page is a good starting point. https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19 .

Millions more will shore up schools, child care, parent child centers, and our health care system. The dollars will provide housing rehabilitation to increase the number of housing units for the homeless and for those in poverty, will help tenants and landlords with eviction and foreclosure protection, provide food for those who are hungry and summer meals for children. Workers will be protected by COVID-19 related workers compensation changes. Essential workers will receive hazard pay. Monies will support our farms and fund broadband build-out, our Vermont State Colleges, the University of Vermont, working lands and conservation.

Strict federal guidelines require the $1 Billion in federal funds be used for Covid-19-related expenses on items not previously budgeted for at the state or local level, and that the funds be spent by December 30, 2020.

Other Bills

Several other bills were passed by both the House and Senate in the last days before we recessed. Two that I’d like to mention specifically:

  • Elmore charter (H.946). At Town Meeting, the voters of Elmore adopted a charter that would allow the town to collect a “local option” rooms tax. Municipal charter adoptions or changes must also be approved by the Legislature, and so Rep. Dave Yacovone and I co-sponsored this bill.  In a normal session, a very short bill like this would make its way through committees and pass both the House and Senate without a lot of notice, as it only affects one small town. But in this unusual session, we needed to make sure that this made it to the full House for a vote before recess, and with enough time for the Senate to act on it as well. That happened and the bill was signed by Governor Scott on July 1st. With this new authority, the selectboard may now propose to the voters that they actually approve such a tax, which would be an additional revenue source for the Town of Elmore.
  • An act relating to addressing racial bias and excessive use of force by law enforcement (S.219). This bill is an important first small step in assuring that law enforcement is free of racial bias, and that when use of force is necessary, that there be clear, consistent and enforceable policies and guidelines for assuring that it is not excessive and only used when absolutely necessary. This bill passed both the Senate and House on unanimous voice votes.

When the General Assembly reconvenes on August 25th, we will have necessary and more current financial information, both about spending and revenue, in order to adopt a budget for the last three quarters of FY 2021. The House and Senate have each acted on bills large and small that have been sent to the other body but not yet acted on there. Among the more significant ones is the Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688), which we worked on in the first part of the session in the House Energy and Technology Committee and which passed the House on February 21 with 105 voting in favor. The Senate passed an amended version of the bil on a 23-5 votel and sent it back to the House on June 26.

Contact me with questions, comments or concerns: apatt@leg.state.vt.us





 June 22, 2020

The Legislature will be busy this week passing a number of bills, most of which are critical for rolling out a wide range of emergency relief programs funded by the federal CARES Act, or which must be passed before the new fiscal year starts on July 1. Among other things, both the House and Senate must concur on final versions of bills, some of which originated in either body, in order for the bills to take effect. We will then recess until sometime after mid-August and then reconvene to deal with additional matters, including state government’s budget for the last three quarters of the fiscal year. We will have much more up to date information then in order to make realistic decisions. Committers may continue to meet during the interim, to prepare for when we are back in full session.



In the past few weeks, the House has approved a number of bills allocating a total of about $1 billion in federal relief funds for a variety of critical purposes. As I’ve noted in previous reports, use of these funds is very restricted and must be directly related to the COVID-19 emergency, and a great deal of work by legislators and legislative staff, by the administration and by affected parties has gone into making sure that we design these packages so that the full amount can be spent on eligible uses before the end of this year.

Here is a high-level summary of what the House has approved. Within each category, there are different programs and funding streams targeted for specific purposes. These numbers are still subject to change pending final passage by both the Senate and House.

  • $356m to stabilize health care and human service systems
  • $196m for business and economic development
  • $170m for frontline relief
  • $91m for housing and homelessness
  • $73m for higher education
  • $50m for Pre-K education
  • $43m for broadband, connectivity and cybersecurity projects
  • $35m for agriculture and forestry relief
  • $16m for our justice system
  • $13m for municipal government

Some information is already becoming available about these programs, but more will be available once these relief bills are passed and the various agencies and organizations involved are ready to receive requests.



Vermont’s Primary Election on August 11th will be conducted under normal election law. Early voting/absentee ballots will not be automatically mailed to every registered Vermont voter for the Primary. Absentee voting for the August 11 Primary begins on June 29. What will be new this year is that on June 24 and June 29, the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office will mail a postcard to each registered voter with a tear-off return postcard with which you can request that a ballot be mailed to you. As many as a third of Vermont voters have taken advantage of early/absentee voting in recent years, and this will encourage voters to make use of that reliable and secure voting method during the Covid-19 emergency.

Primary voters can request a ballot for one of Vermont’s major political parties: Democratic, Republican or Progressive. There are contested races in each party at the top of the ticket, for statewide candidates including Congress, Governor and Lieutenant Governor. There are not as many competitive primary races at the more local level in our area, except that Democratic voters in Woodbury and Worcester have four candidates vying for three slots for Washington County Senator.  A statewide list of all qualified primary candidates can be found at this link: https://sos.vermont.gov/elections/election-info-resources/candidates/


Contact:  I will prepare an additional report next week after we recess. Please contact me with questions, comments or concerns at: apatt@leg.state.vt.us




The New Fiscal Year Approaches, The Pace Picks Up, Emergency Funding Recommendations From My Committee, Racial & Social  Justice

June 8, 2020



As I have noted in previous reports, the Legislature is working hard, despite the obstacles of meeting remotely, to finish as many bills that must pass before the new fiscal year starts in July, as well as urgent bills related specifically to the Covid-19 emergency. Other bills that are ready to come to the floor may see action as well. We will then recess and reconvene later in the summer to deal with other bills. In this unusual and financially unpredictable time, we expect to pass a budget bill in the House this week that covers only the first quarter of the year, and send that to the Senate. Even with all the unknowns, we must have a budget passed in order for state government to function. We will then pass a full budget later on for the rest of the year, with more information about both costs and revenue to work with. In the end, there are some bills that, in a “normal”  year, would have likely made their way through the House and Senate and seen final passage, but which won’t make it this year.



Vermont is receiving significant funding from the federal CARES Act that Congress passed. There are also significant restrictions on the use of funds and federal guidance on this is not always clear. Funds must be used directly to provide relief and help cover increased and unplanned costs caused the the pandemic, and they must be allocated and spent by the end of December. The House Appropriations Committee has asked the other House committees for recommendations in their areas, and the House Energy and Technology Committee has been working on this since last week, with our recommendations due this Wednesday. Since the Committee has not made any final decisions as I write this, I’ll simply list some areas generally that I think are likely to be included:

  • We can’t use these funds to simply bring broadband to unserved or underserved locations (although that is a large part of our focus outside of the current emergency). We will have some recommendations to get connectivity for students, teachers, and employees and others who need to work from home, which may also result in some service area expansion.
  • Access to telehealth services for those who do not have internet access, or devices that connect to the internet, or who need help learning how to use online technology.
  • Support for Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, who incurred unplanned costs as they each stepped up in big ways to be a part of Vermont’s remote learning opportunities for our schools and students, including those without internet access.
  • Cybersecurity assessment around issues of state employees working from home.
  • The biggest item in terms of cost will likely be to cover arrearages for customers of utilities and communications providers that are subject to a moratorium on disconnections  for the duration of the declared emergency. Electric utilities are reporting that 60-day and 90-day delinquencies are up by as much as 250% over the same time last year. If funds are allocated for this, about two-thirds will likely be to avoid disconnection for electric customers, as electric bills are usually higher than phone and internet. Without electricity, there’s no internet, no refrigeration, no cooking in many cases, no running water for many, and much more. If the utilities have to write off these amounts, that cost would then have to be passed on to ratepayers.

Other House committees will be making recommendations in their areas, for purposes just as vital as these. I have heard from several constituents about using funds to alleviate hunger caused by the crisis for example, and I’m sure that will be a recommended use of funds coming to the Appropriations Committee as well.



The recent events that have rocked our nation and sparked protests large and small across the country and across Vermont are a reminder that while we are a nation of strong ideals and principles, we have never fully lived up to them. This is true especially with regards to justice and opportunity for people of color, as well as immigrants and refugees, people who differ from the majority in many ways. It used to feel like we were taking small steps in the right direction, and that progress, however slow, was bending the arc towards justice. More recently, it feels like we are retreating, heading in the wrong direction. Racism, Nazi rhetoric and symbols, bigotry and violence out in the open, and police behavior that sometimes  incites further outrage rather than keeping the peace.

Many law enforcement officials, including the Sheriff and local police chiefs in Lamoille County, have made strong statements condemning the killing of George Floyd, and that is appreciated and necessary. But in many places, law enforcement needs to be examined and reformed. In the 2019-2020 session, a few bills were introduced in the House and Senate dealing with police use of deadly force, transparency of public records when police actions are investigated, and related issues. None of these bills have been taken up by their respective committees, but there is interest among many legislators in dealing with these issues. I do not know whether there will be time, in this unusual session, to take any of these up and have both the House and Senate act on them, but if that doesn’t happen, these issues will likely be on the agenda when the next General Assembly convenes in 2021.

On Sunday, June 7, Amy and I were in one of the hundreds of cars in the Drive Against Racism procession through Morrisville. I did not know what to expect, how many people would be out, both in cars and in small groups on the streets waving their signs back at us. It was cheerful, peaceful, and positive, and there were a lot of us!  For me, it was a sign of some hope in a time of so much despair. Justice and liberty must be for everyone alike.

Contact: Please contact me with questions, comments and concerns at apatt@leg.state.vt.us




Covid-19 emergency bills, Capital budget, Non-emergency bills see action, Broadband

May 25, 2020


The House of Representatives continues to meet remotely via online means, both in committee hearings as well as  full House sessions where bills are discussed, sometimes amended, and acted on. The schedules of all House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings are available on the Legislature’s website (https://legislature.vermont.gov/ ) as are links to watch any of these proceedings live or afterwards.

We are still acting on measures dealing with The Covid-19 emergency and the ability of state and local governments and other entities and individuals to function during this time. At the same time, we are taking up bills related to budget, revenues and capital projects that must pass before the start of the coming fiscal year in July. We are also taking up some bills coming out of committees that are normal business— they are ready to vote on, and so we do.

In a normal year, the Legislature would have adjourned by mid-May. Instead, because we are working at a slower pace, remotely, the plan is to act on any bills that must pass before the upcoming fiscal year starts, as well as some others bills that are ready for action, and then adjourn until later in the summer. At that point we will likely reconvene for a period of time. Before we left the State House building in mid-March, the House had passed a number of bills, major and minor, and sent them to the Senate, and the Senate likewise to the House.  We need to follow through and act on any that are ready to pass this session.

Among bills that passed the House last week were ones making updates and housekeeping language changes regarding regulation of the captive insurance industry in Vermont, and about town tree wardens. Although still making their way through the committee process, bills dealing with municipal charters, which the Legislature must approve, have been voted out of the Government Operations Committee and sent to the Ways and Means Committee, including the Town of Elmore’s charter adopted by the voters at Town Meeting.

Capital Budget (H.955)

This bill, which authorizes spending through bonding on a wide range of construction and capital projects throughout every part of state government, passed second reading in the House last week and and should see final passage this week, after which it is sent over to the Senate.. It covers major building repairs or necessary upgrades in state buildings, relocations, environmental and water quality projects, electric vehicle charging stations, and much more, as well as funding for the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.

House Energy and Technology Committee

In the House Energy and Technology Committee, we have been dealing almost exclusively with broadband and other telecommunications and information systems issues since the Covid1-19 emergency began. The Senate last week passed a bill (S.301) dealing with telecommunications facility siting and with assuring access to the E-911 system statewide. Our committee has taken testimony on these matters as well and I expect will bring that bill to the House soon.

The Department of Public Service has prepared an extensive proposal dealing with broadband access in the immediate term and for the longer term. In the very short term, Vermont may be able to use some federal relief funds to deal with internet access issues directly resulting from the Covid-19 emergency. These include access for students and teachers who cannot participate in remote education due to lack of broadband, as well as telehealth access for people meeting with health care providers. The problem is that any  funds spent must be  spent only for these narrowly defined purposes, and must be spent by the end of December 2020. Our committee and others are grappling with what best to do.

The longer range plan from the Department is about getting broadband access to the last mile, in our rural areas, and even in some more populated suburban communities where there are pockets of unserved or underserved homes. This is something pretty much everyone agrees needs to happen. A major issue raised by the proposal, however, is that the Department suggests that, since getting the highest speed broadband (“100/100”) via fiber to the last mile will take a number of years and will have significant cost, that we might in the shorter term accept the federal FCC definition of broadband  (“25/3”) in some instances. The problem raised by a number of people, including by some of Vermont’s newly formed or operating Communication Union Districts, is that this may very will hinder us from getting truly high-speed broadband to the last mile. I share this concern, while also acknowledging that in some places, some improvement in broadband speed may be better than none at all.  Our committee has been taking testimony and we are wrestling with this tough and critical issue.

Financial Assistance for Individuals

Many Vermonters are feeling the effects of this emergency, whether it is caused by unemployment or other circumstances, and many are struggling to get food and basic necessities. The Economic Services Division of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) offers several assistance programs for individuals and families. These include 3SquaresVT (Food Stamps), Fuel Assistance, Emergency Assistance and Reach Up. If you or someone you know is struggling at this time and could use help, please don’t hesitate to find out if you are eligible. Visit the Economic Services Division’s webpage ( https://dcf.vermont.gov/esd/contact-us ) or call 1-800-479-6151 to find out what help may be available. (I understand that people are not having much trouble getting through to talk to someone).


My Reports from the State House are intended to inform constituents about activity in the Legislature, both generally and about issues I am specifically involved in and are not about elections. I will just report here however, that I filed the necessary papers on May 17th, and that I will be seeking re-election to the Vermont House.

Contact me with questions, comments and concerns: appat@leg.state.vt.us




Activity in the House, Broadband Expansion Proposal, Unemployment Problems, Other Financial Assistance Available

 May 11, 2020


 The Legislature continues to grapple with the enormous impact of the Covid-19 emergency, and our job is made more difficulty by having to work remotely ourselves, but we are doing it. In addition to voting on bills and work in our committees, legislators also continue to hear from constituents and assist them as best we can with problems they are having with continuing issues such as Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims, claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for self-employed people, and other problems.

The House of Representatives.

Last week, the House acted on some bills responding to specific problems caused by the emergency.  H.947 deals with tax provisions for municipalities that were unable to adopt a budget because their scheduled meetings or votes could not happen once the emergency was declared. H.950 allows for remote rather than in-person witnesses to the signing of advance directive documents. Both these bills passed the House and were sent to the Senate. H.948 which deals with quasi-judicial municipal proceedings such as property tax appeals, passed second reading, but may see some changes to one section before we vote on final passage. These bills are called “session law,” meaning that they do not become part of Vermont Statute and are in effect only during this emergency.

On May 6th after our session adjourned, the House then met as a caucus of the whole to openly discuss some major issues, most notably the backlog of unemployment and PUA claims. We heard from Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs Brittney Wilson who is overseeing efforts regarding the backlog for the Governor’s Office. It was a challenging and difficult discussion, and it can be viewed on the live streaming link on the House webpage: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC1w34Iyg1vB_HT6dt_4eMA/videos?view=57


Broadband Expansion

The Department of Public Service has proposed a plan for getting broadband to all unserved locations in Vermont, by using a portion of what will likely be a second round of federal relief assistance for states. As I have discussed in previous reports, the Covid-19 crisis has focused a bright light on this issue as students, teachers, people needing non-emergency health care services and many employees suddenly found themselves having to do this over the internet. For those without access to broadband, either because of location or affordability, this is not possible. The Department’s plan is multi-layered and proposes several different approaches. It will attempt to get broadband to everyone, based on the minimum speeds defined by the federal government. That may be good in the short run but may not be sufficient in the longer run as expectations for higher speed broadband will continue to grow. There will be some tradeoffs, but I will be looking at these proposals’ both from the necessary short-term perspective as well as what it means for the long term. The House Energy and Technology Committee which I serve on will hold a joint hearing with the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, May 12 at 1:30, which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClq5iwB1tbE-9u5TIJHtFEA/videos?view=57

The Department’s report is available here: https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/Emergency%20Broadband%20Action%20Plan%20final%20draft%205-5-20.pdf



Many constituents who have been laid off temporarily or longer term, as well as self-employed people who are unable to work at this time, have sought help from their legislators in getting responses or help from the Department of Labor with their claims.  For the constituents that I have submitted inquiries for, a number have told me that their issues have been resolved, but others are still frustrated by a variety of issues and glitches in the system, as well as the sheer backlog of claims that have to be worked through.  I will continue to monitor the unresolved cases I have submitted. If you have not been in touch with me or another legislator, please contact me and I’ll do my best to help resolve the problem. Progress has been made, but not for everyone yet.


Financial Assistance for Individuals

Many Vermonters are feeling the effects of this emergency, whether it is caused by unemployment or other circumstances, and many are struggling to get food and basic necessities. The Economic Services Division of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) offers several assistance programs for individuals and families. These include 3SquaresVT (Food Stamps), Fuel Assistance, Emergency Assistance and Reach Up. If you or someone you know is struggling at this time and could use help, please don’t hesitate to find out if you are eligible. Visit the Economic Services Division’s webpage ( https://dcf.vermont.gov/esd/contact-us ) or call 1-800-479-6151 to find out what help may be available. (I understand that people are not having much trouble getting through to talk to someone).


Please contact me with questions, comments and concerns: apatt@leg.state.vt.us




Vermont State Colleges, Unemployment Frustrations, The House of Representatives Meets and Votes

April 26, 2020

It has been a strange and difficult couple of weeks since my  last State House Report, both dealing with and hearing from constituents on some major, difficult matters that have been in the news, and because the Covid-19 crisis hit home personally during this time. My older sister, who lived near where we grew up in New York, was stricken with the Covid-19 virus on April  8th and died on the 17th.  Mourning from a distance via Zoom, at the cemetery and a large “remote” gathering the next day, felt strange and painful, and yet it brought so many people together, family, friends, people who had gotten a bit disconnected over time, people who could not have all been there if it was in person. We made it work. In many ways, I think things will be very different once we are on the other side of this terrible situation.

Vermont State Colleges (VSC). The proposal, now withdrawn, to close three campuses of the Vermont State Colleges came as a sudden and very painful shock to many throughout Vermont, but especially in the areas of the state most directly affected: Lamoille County and the Northeast Kingdom with regards to Northern Vermont University (Johnson and Lyndon) and Vermont Technical College in the Randolph area. In my time as a Representative, I have never heard from more people about an issue in such a short timeframe, residents of our House district and beyond: students, alumni, staff, faculty, community organizations, and people intensely worried about the future of their communities. Representatives and Senators came together to strategize and immediately alerted leadership in both bodies, who took action in communicating to the VSC Board. The outcry both from legislators as well as the outpouring of comments from the public and from those directly affected made a difference in a short amount of time. There is support for using some of the federal relief funds coming to Vermont to assure that these institutions will be open and functioning in the near term. There is also a shared understanding that beyond that, structural changes are needed in this time of declining enrollment and other changes in higher education that have affected other colleges in Vermont and elsewhere as well. My sense is that there is support in the Legislature for increasing the state’s financial support for VSC, but there will be debate about how to pay for that. I sense a real understanding and commitment by many to engage in the hard work for the long term. I am glad that the proposal was withdrawn, but this issue isn’t going away.

Unemployment Backlog. The Department of Labor has put a great deal of effort and additional personnel into trying to get through the enormous backlog of applications and filings for unemployment. As I write this on April 26, progress has been made, many are beginning to be able to get through the system and receive benefits. But many are still not, and legislators are continuing to hear from constituents about glitches and errors, about not being able to get through. For self-employed and independent contractors, a new online system was developed, because benefits have never before been available to these people, and both the federal and state rules, regulations and systems were not designed for that. I say this by way of explanation, but not as an excuse, because for those who have been out of work and have had no income during this crisis, it really doesn’t matter what is causing the problems preventing them from getting the help they need. I hope that progress will continue to be made.

House leadership has recently set up a process for legislators to report constituents’ unemployment claim problems to a troubleshooting team at the Department of Labor. If you have unresolved issues with a claim or are having trouble reaching someone to answer questions, let me know. I’ll let you know what information I need and I will contact them.

In the House of Representatives. The House met formally for the first time on April 23rd using remote technology, and we took votes on three Senate bills dealing with the Covid-19 situation. We expect to take more up as well as to eventually get to the critical bills that must pass, like the state budget. Almost all of the 150 Representatives attended and voted. A variety of online and telephone means are available to assure that every member can vote regardless of location or access to technology. This was historic. As tragic and as difficult as this time is, we have found a way, stumbling through technology trainings and mock practice sessions, because we have a deeply felt responsibility to get things done, to keep things going at this time. It’s a lot easier to use these technologies in smaller groups, in our committee meetings, or in the Senate, than it is for 150 House members, but we are doing it. As a reminder, the Legislature’s website shows the schedules and agenda of all House and Senate committee hearings, full House and Senate sessions, as well as links so you can watch and listen to any of these meetings. https://legislature.vermont.gov/

Please contact me with your questions, comments and concerns at apatt@leg.state.vt.us




Unemployment Insurance Logjam, Internet Access, Further Relief Legislation

April 13, 2020


As we continue to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, we are all struggling to adapt, in state government, in the Legislature, and in our own lives. So many are hurting economically, and the basic functions of our lives often feel like they’ve been turned upside down. We may be affected by the virus itself or someone we know has it. In my own case, a family member in another state is hospitalized with Covid-19, and all I can do is be in touch with other family members through texts and calls.

Unemployment Insurance. The Vermont Department of Labor has been struggling to process the huge volume of claims from people who are out of work either temporarily or long-term, as well as from self-employed people who are eligible as a result of the relief package passed by Congress. There has been a serious logjam frustrating so many Vermonters trying to file initial or weekly claims, or get questions answered. For the week ending April 4th, the Department processed 16,474 initial claims and 21,953 continuing claims. That is an increase of 15,955 initial claims compared to only 519 during the same week last year. As frustrating as it is for people, it’s also clear to see from these numbers why this has happened.

The Department has taken steps to make things better, first by putting more staff to work at claims processing. Last week, the Department announced new steps that are now in effect. A firm experienced in handling Unemployment calls in other states will now be handling some of Vermont’s call volume. People filing weekly continuing claims online are requested to do so on certain days of the week based on the first letter of their last name. While this is not mandatory, if a significant number do this, it should make things move much more quickly.  These most recent changes in phone and online filing as well as other information are available at: https://labor.vermont.gov/ . This will not immediately fix everything, but it should help. But people are asked to be patient and keep trying. Eligible claims will be paid.

Internet Access for School, Work, Health Care. The House Energy and Technology Committee that I serve on has met a few times recently via online platforms that allow the committee, staff and witnesses to function almost normally, and that allow any interested members of the public to watch and listen. We have received reports about the functioning of state government’s major information technology systems, including the ancient IT system that handles Unemployment Insurance.

Most of our testimony has been about availability of broadband and cell service in a time when the state’s students of all ages as well as teachers are at home, those who have jobs that can be performed at home are doing that, and health care providers are using the internet to meet with patients who do not require in-person contact. This points out the gaps in service so much more than ever before. There are two basic reasons why some Vermonters don’t have adequate internet and cell service. The first is the lack of infrastructure to reach much of rural Vermont, including in our area. There are rural towns in Vermont where 40% of the school students are not connected. The second is economic. Even in our larger towns and cities, there are many households that cannot afford service even if it is available. There are a few short-term fixes being deployed, from temporary siting of mobile transmitting equipment, to free or reduced-price connectivity offered by service providers or local non-profits. But these are stop gap measures during this crisis. Education, employment and telehealth have long been arguments for extending broadband to the last mile in rural Vermont, but the Covid-19 crisis has suddenly and dramatically shone a spotlight on this issue. I hope it will serve as a motivator when we get to the other side of this.

The Legislature. Last week, the Vermont Senate passed additional legislation to provide relief during this time, but that must still be taken up and passed by the House. The relevant House committees are meeting. House members have been getting training on an online platform by which we will be able to vote remotely as a body with 150 members. I hope we can act on the new Senate legislation as soon as possible. Beyond that, it remains to be seen what additional bills will pass this year. There are critical bills like the budget and revenue ones, as well as others that need to pass and which should not be controversial. It is possible that we will convene as a full body for periods of time, recess and then reconvene, so we may meet later into the year than usual. It is also likely that some bills, even ones which the House passed and were sent to the Senate (or vice versa) will have to wait for the next session.

Bernie Juskiewicz. Along with so many others, I was saddened by the loss of former Rep. Bernie Juskiewicz due to Covid-19. I got to know Bernie during my previous term in 2015-16, both at the State House and at meetings and events in Lamoille County.  He was interested in people, he wanted to know about you, he always greeted you with a smile. After he chose not to run again, he was still the same when I did run into him occasionally. As a legislator, he was serious, worked hard, had a sense of humor, listened to others and was known and respected for trying to find common ground. I’m saying what so many others have already said, but it’s all true. He is missed.

Please contact me with questions, comments or concerns at apatt@leg.state.vt.us




Covid-19 Updates. New Help, and Scam Alert

April 5, 202o


It is still going to be a while before we can see the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 crisis.  We should soon have some idea about whether the severe but necessary measures we have taken will help avoid the worst-case scenarios. Sitting at home and following instructions, I am  grateful for all the people performing essential services, in health care, schools, food supply, public safety, critical home repair, utility and fuel supply, state and non-profit employees helping the vulnerable and needy and supporting struggling businesses and employers, and more.

For those who need help, there are many government agencies, local and regional organizations and others regularly providing information and updates. I won’t repeat that here in detail, but I have included several weblinks at the end of this report. The big changes in the last week or so are about the federal stimulus package, and information that has become available about new help for struggling businesses and non-profit employers, as well as the  “stimulus checks” that most of us will be receiving in the coming weeks. For businesses not already familiar with the new assistance now available, see the ACCD weblink below.

BEWARE OF SCAMS. Regarding the stimulus checks the federal government will be either direct depositing in bank accounts or mailing, it’s unfortunately not a surprise that there are scammers and thieves already out there trying to take advantage of people. So, I’d like to share some warnings recently put out by the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE), which we should all be mindful of regardless of age.

Fake Stimulus Checks. There are fake checks circulating right now. It will take at least three weeks for direct deposits to land and up to 10 weeks for paper checks to arrive by mail. If you receive any checks now, it is a fraud. Telltale signs are checks written in odd amounts or including cents, or a check that requires you to verify receipt online or by calling a number.

Facebook, text, or social media messages trying to get in touch with you. Scammers are reaching out to people online on social media platforms or by sending text messages with claims they are from the IRS or other government agency and are trying to get in touch with you regarding your stimulus check. The U.S. Government will never reach out to you via any social media platform or by text.

US Emergency Grants Federation is a fake website. Scammers pose as a government agency and will send a link to this website or something similar for you to verify personal information. The government does not do this.

Processing Fee. Scammers pose as the IRS or other government agency claiming you can receive your stimulus check faster if you pay a processing fee. There is no such thing.

Any correspondence with the IRS or U.S. Treasury. The IRS will never call or email you to verify any personal information. This includes your social security number, bank account number, or anything that allows access to your identity. As soon as you receive a call or email saying they are from the IRS or U.S. Treasury, hang up or trash it.

These scammers and fraudsters are professional criminals and will use a variety of methods to steal your personal identification and your money. They use scare tactics and even attempt to befriend vulnerable people into trusting them. To report a scam call or email contact the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424

AT “THE STATE HOUSE.” The Legislature is getting in gear to do our necessary work remotely from home for the time being. House and Senate Committees are meeting regular now, and you can find each committee’s weekly agenda and written testimony at https://legislature.vermont.gov/ . Links for watching and listening are provided as well. in a future report, I’ll discuss what we are doing in the House Energy and Technology Committee, including reports about our utilities and infrastructure, state government’s major information system functions (including Unemployment Insurance) and gaps in internet access, both physical as well as economic, for school children and teachers.


Vermont Department of Health, for information about the illness, prevention and updates:


Unemployment benefits: https://labor.vermont.gov/

Information and assistance for businesses: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19-guidance

or personal economic assistance programs (e.g. SNAP/Food Stamps) and about childcare:


If you need help and are not sure where to go: CALL 2-1-1

Please contact me if you have questions or if I can help in any way.




This is a Hard and Unpredictable Time

March 29, 2020


These are very difficult and unpredictable days for all of us, globally, as Americans, as Vermonters, and as part of our communities and families. Some of us know people who have been stricken by the covid-19 virus, perhaps someone who has died. We all know the fear and apprehension as the numbers grow. We know the numerous severe but necessary restrictions on our own lives that we need to live with now to protect ourselves, our loved ones, friends and co-workers. Many of us have lost income due to temporary or longer-term job loss, the shuttering of businesses and other places of employment. We do not yet know when this will begin to end, when things might start to return to normal.

As an elected Representative, it has also changed almost everything about how the Vermont House and Senate operate. I am very aware of the huge impact this has on all government programs, on the cost of helping Vermonters who need it. No one can predict the long-term effect or put a number on the economic impact on Vermont and on our state and local governments, but we can understand the magnitude.

In the past few weeks, I’ve written a few reports posted on Front Porch Forum, Facebook and in the News and Citizen. Those reports were mostly an attempt to provide the latest information and web links about programs, resources and changes being made to help individuals, families and businesses deal with this crisis. Much of that same information is also being offered by various state agencies, the Governor’s office, regional and local organizations, and by community members who want to help their neighbors. Everyone is working hard, scrambling, to adjust and make changes and adapt assistance programs of one kind or another to meet present needs. I will provide a few web links at the end of this report, but I also know as I write this on Sunday afternoon, that things will change by the time many people read this.

The Legislature has been grappling with how to conduct business since the pandemic first started affecting Vermont.  A fundamental principle, no matter what, is that our meetings, discussions and votes must be done in an open manner accessible to the public. Early on, both the House and Senate struggled with this, if for no other reason than that our rules say that a member must be “present” to vote, on the House or Senate floor, or in our individual committee rooms. So, we have amended rules to temporarily allow remote meetings, where we are participating via audio and video internet platforms from home. (For floor sessions, it is a little easier to do this with 30 Senators than with 150 House members, but it will happen.) Those committees that had to deal with the most urgent priorities of economic relief efforts, access to health care and critical services, changes to local government and election processes during the crisis and more, were the first to begin meeting this way.

Although the House Energy and Technology Committee that I serve on was not one of those first committees, we are meeting for the first time since March 12 on Wednesday, April 1st, from 11:00-12:30 and 2:30-4:00. You can follow any committee meeting by following instructions on that committee’s webpage and checking their agenda link near the top of the page. Here’s the link to our committee’s page for example: https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/19

We all understand that many Vermonters are being asked to go beyond the normal call of duty, sometimes at risk to themselves, during this crisis. Everyone providing health care services of any kind. Social service agency employees helping the vulnerable and needy. State employees at every level, those serving Vermonters on the front lines and those working to adapt our programs to meet today’s urgent needs. First responders and public safety workers.  Teachers. School bus drivers delivering meals. Grocery and food industry workers. Utility employees. So many more. Thank you!

Here are a few key links for information and assistance:

Vermont Department of Health, for information about the illness, prevention and updates:


Unemployment benefits:


Information and assistance for businesses:


or personal economic assistance programs (e.g. SNAP/Food Stamps) and about childcare:


If you need help and are not sure where to go: CALL 2-1-1

Your State Representatives Dave Yacovone and I will do our best to answer questions and provide information during this time. Contact us at apatt@leg.state.vt.us and dyacovone@leg.state.vt.us



Extraordinary Measures as We Work to Get Things Done

March 15, 2020


As Vermonters know, the COVID-19 situation is causing turmoil and concern in all aspects of our lives as we take dramatic steps individually, in businesses, institutions, organizations, our communities and through our government to minimize the danger and possible harm, both in terms of health as well as the economic impacts. Over the past week, the Legislature began to take steps to protect those working in the State House, legislative staff, legislators, state government officials and those working on issues and testifying in committees. The first steps were to limit visits and events such as press conferences, meetings and receptions by outside groups who often bring large numbers of people to the building.  We kept working last week, but the halls, committee rooms and cafeteria became much quieter and less busy. On Friday, the House of Representatives stayed in session from the morning through early evening to act on a large number of bills and get them to the Senate. The Joint Rules Committee comprised of leadership and members from the House and Senate continues meeting regularly to both monitor the situation and to decide next steps. The Legislature is now on a one-week recess. It is possible that it could be extended. Steps are being taken to enable at least some remote participation via technology in committee work. The building is closed and being thoroughly cleaned. We will see what happens next and hope for the best.

Two Bills Amended to Include Provisions Helping Vermonters Deal With COVID-19 

Unemployment Insurance

The House  approved amendments to H.681 proposed by the Commerce Committee regarding unemployment insurance eligibility, to make it clear that COVID-19 affected businesses and individuals are eligible for unemployment benefits. This includes both individuals who need to self-quarantine, who are infected, who need to care for people who are infected, and businesses that need to shut down temporarily. Specifically to deal with the current situation, we’ve eliminated waiting periods and streamlined application processes, and ensured that employers’ unemployment insurance experience rating is not affected by COVID-19 related claims. We included language that would enable further expansion if/when the federal government declares a national emergency which would exempt us from a few restrictions that are currently in place. This bill will now need action by the Senate.

Health Care and Human Services

The House Health Care Committee, with help from the Human Services Committee and with extraordinary work done by legislative staff, proposed a detailed and comprehensive list of measures as an amendment to H.742 to ensure our healthcare and human services systems have the tools on hand to provide the care needed to Vermonters while ensuring that we sustain our system until the COVID-19 crisis passes. The measures deal with workforce, access to services, financial stability for providers and other matters. The bill passed the House and was immediately moved to the Senate. A summary follows:

  • Allows the appropriate agencies to issue temporary licenses to permit healthcare providers licensed in other states to practice in Vermont, as well as, retired medical practitioners to return to the workforce temporarily.
  • The Agency of Human Services, which encompasses our healthcare and human services agencies that oversee hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and child care, to name a few, may waive or permit variances of state rules to providers to ensure the continuation of operations with a reduced workforce and provides for flexible staffing arrangements that are responsive to our evolving needs.
  • Loosens Medicaid and commercial insurance credentialing requirements to allow for movement of providers across the system.
  • Gives broad authority to the Department of Financial Regulation to waive or limit Vermonters out of pocket expenses related to COVID 19 diagnosis, treatment and prevention and may suspend high deductible plan requirements for the purchase of prescription drugs.
  • Ensures Vermonters with chronic maintenance medications to always have a 30-day supply on hand by allowing them to refill prescriptions early.
  • Expands pharmacists’ ability to refill prescriptions for which there is no refill or the provider authorization has recently expired.
  • Buprenorphine prescription renewals may be refilled without an office visit by an authorized provider.
  • Expands support to Vermonters needing nutrition services as a result of COVID-19.
  • Expands access to telemedicine by allowing providers licensed in nearby states to provide services related to COVID-19.
  • Allows for appropriate healthcare delivery by telephone for Medicaid members.
  • Streamlines the process for the Agency of Human Services to fund providers in the state to sustain them through the healthcare crisis.
  • Relaxes driver license and vehicle inspection requirements during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Contact me if you would like further information about the House actions. For reliable information about COVID-19 in Vermont, symptoms and what to do if you feel sick, precautions and updates, visit the Department of Health’s website:  https://www.healthvermont.gov/ . Call 2-1-1 to speak to someone directly.

Energy & Technology Committee

Our committee is expecting to begin work on some Senate bills dealing with energy and climate change. Subjects we have been taking testimony and working on include renewable energy standards for electric generation, weatherization, electric vehicles, regulatory flexibility for municipal and co-op utilities to test pilot projects, and more. Last Friday, we were scheduled to hear a report on service quality issues related to  Consolidated Communications, but this was postponed to a later date so we could be on the House floor for the all-day session described above.

Contact. Please contact me with questions, comments or concerns at apatt@leg.state.vt.us. For information about the status of bills, committee agendas, witness testimony or more, visit the Legislatures website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/ 




Town Meeting Week

March 1, 2020

It has been a busy two weeks at the State House, with numerous bills coming to the House floor for a vote. Most of them are not controversial and do not get a lot of debate or discussion, especially when the committees that worked on them are recommending them unanimously. A few bills which were in the news received a lot of public attention. When we return from Town Meeting break, we expect to continue our work, to take up bills the Senate has sent our way, and likewise the Senate will be working on House bills that we have passed.

The Budget

The Appropriations Committee is hard at work on the state’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st, and we expect to have it presented on the House floor in March. Budget and revenue bills begin in the House, so getting this passed and on to the Senate is a major step. There are many competing interests and needs, and I hear about many of them from voters and organizations in our communities. As always, there will be very difficult choices. I know that there will be places in the proposed budget where I feel we need to do more, as well as some places where I feel we could spend less.

Act 250 Bill Passes the House.

After a great deal of debate, interrogation and consideration of amendments, H.926, an Act Related to Changes to Act 250, passed the House on Friday and will be taken up by the Senate when they return from Town Meeting break. As the bill worked its way through three House committees, significant changes were made. On the House floor, more amendments were approved which further clarified portions of the bill or made more significant changes, and other amendment were proposed but not supported by a majority. One controversial section of the bill as originally proposed would have eliminated the nine regional commissions that have been in place since Act 250 first became law, and replaced them with a statewide professional panel, supplemented by more local members from the region where a proposed project was located. Many people had problems with this, me included, and that was changed before the bill got to the House floor. H.926 lifts the requirement for Act 250 review for many projects in city or town centers. It helps our forests, which have been declining in area, by discouraging them from being divided up and deforested, and it has provisions that helps the forestry and forest products industries in ways that preserve the forests they depend on. Fifty years ago, when Governor Dean Davis,  Representative Arthur Gibb, Attorney General Jim Jeffords and others recognized the need and worked to create Act 250, there were only a handful of lone scientists in the world who saw that our planet’s climate was changing, and who began raising concerns about what this could eventually mean.  Now, we are confronted with what they warned us about. One important change in this bill is that climate change is recognized among the criteria that projects will be evaluated on, both in terms of energy use and emissions, as well as in their impact on resiliency to withstand the increase in severe weather events.

Regulated Market for Cannabis

S.54, an act relating to the regulation of cannabis, passed the Senate last year. House committees began looking at it last year, continued their work this year, made changes and brought it to the House floor last month. After considerable discussion and debate, the bill passed the House on February 27th and was returned to the Senate. Cannabis is already legal in Vermont, but without a regulated market, people must either grow their own or continue to rely on the black market. It’s a long and complex bill, as many issues had to be dealt with. It establishes a Cannabis Control Board, defines and sets expectations and requirements for growers, processors and retail sellers. It restricts advertising. Towns may choose whether to allow retail sales within their borders, and if they have a local option tax in place, they may include cannabis sales, in addition to the statewide cannabis excise tax of 16%. Over the past two years, I have heard from many constituents in our towns, as well as from Vermont and national groups arguing for and against establishing a regulated market. I am very aware of the harm that cannabis causes in young people, on their still-developing brains, and I am very aware that it can cause harm and endanger people of any age if abused. A well-regulated market will not fully eliminate black market sales and it will not prevent some underage Vermonters from getting access to cannabis. After paying attention to this issue for more than two years, I do feel that S.54 will limit the black market ,limit access for underage people, control the amount of THC in products as well as other substances, have other public safety benefits, and support small growers in Vermont.  I voted in favor, and I am sure this will continue to be worked on further this session and in years to come.


Climate Change Legislation

In the House Energy & Technology Committee, we are considering a few energy, telecommunications and cybersecurity bills after the House passed The Global Warming Solutions Act. We are expecting to have some Senate bills dealing with energy and technology sent our way soon as well. I have written about the Global Warming Solutions Act in previous reports. There is broad support for having a real plan and taking focused action, both on reducing emissions and on increasing resiliency in our communities and in our infrastructure, to limit the damage that is already occurring. The bill sets a process in place for developing that plan quickly. But there continues to be misinformation among some about what H.688 does, and what it doesn’t do. I hope people with questions will read the bill, posted here as it passed the House: on a 105-37 vote:  https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.688.  Please contact me if you would also like to receive two thorough “Frequently Asked Questions” documents about the bill.

Two other issues

We spend a great deal of time in our small committee rooms focused only on those issues assigned to us, or on the big, major bills coming out of other committees. Here are two issues I’m paying particular attention to recently that have not thus far been headline-grabbers:

  • Micro-Business Development Program. This program, operated by Vermont’s five community action agencies (Capstone in our area) provides technical assistance, support and financing to lower and moderate-income people starting very small businesses. It was originally begun by Gov. Richard Snelling and called Job Start, and it was housed in the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity, which I was Director of in the 1990s. During that time, we made the decision that it would be a better fit if it was operated at the community level and it eventually became the program as we know it today. When I discovered that the Scott Administration has proposed eliminating the very modest amount of state funding for this long-standing and truly successful anti-poverty program, I asked to testify before the House Appropriations Committee, given my history. The one press report I’ve seen noted that the program helped start 11 new businesses in Rutland County alone last year. I found that committee members were also aware of and concerned about this, so I’m hoping this baffling proposal by the Administration can be corrected.
  • The cost of insulin, along with other drugs that people with chronic conditions depend on, has been escalating by sometimes huge amounts in recent years, for no other reason than that the pharmaceutical industry can raise prices on people whose lives depend on the products. Some diabetics have recently been advised that they should maintain at least a two-week insulin supply because of the spread of the coronavirus. A constituent contacted me on Friday saying that for a member of their household, this alone would result in additional out-of-pocket cost of $1500. The Senate is very likely about to pass a bill, S.296, that would require health insurers to limit out-of-pocket insulin expenses to no more than $100/month per person. I am very aware, from my own experience with a different product, of the excesses and price manipulations of the pharmaceutical manufacturers. I will be doing what I can to see that this bill comes out of committee and gets to the House floor.

Contact. Please contact with me with your questions, comments and concerns at apatt@leg.state.vt.us.  Additional contact information available on my website: https://avrampatt.com/




Vetoed Bills, Energy & Technology Committee Work, Other Bills, Budget Hearing

February 16, 2020


Paid Family Leave and Minimum Wage Bills Vetoed

Governor Scott has vetoed two very important bills which passed both the House and Senate last year with strong majorities, but with differences that needed to be worked out. At the beginning of this session, conference committees worked hard to resolve the differences between the different versions of both bills, and both the House and Senate again approved the compromises proposed and sent the bills on to the Governor. As I write this, The Senate voted to override the veto of both bills. The House missed meeting the two-thirds requirement for overriding the Paid Family Leave bill veto by one vote. The Senate has voted to override the Minimum Wage veto and the House will be voting this week, perhaps before this report is published. I have voted for both bills this year and last in their different versions. Neither bill is perfect. Major bills that require compromise will leave some feeling they don’t do enough, and others feeling they go too far. But I do believe that in order to boost incomes of working Vermonters and to make it possible for lower paid workers to actually make a living and have a decent life, we do need to boost things from the bottom up, as our nation and our state have done in the past, even as we work to encourage healthy business development and job growth. Simply expecting economic growth to trickle down to the lowest paid workers has never worked. We need to do both, to improve things from the bottom up as well.

The Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688)

I have previously reported about this major bill that the Energy & Technology Committee has worked on. It was introduced this year with 87 House members as sponsors. We spent a lot of time hearing from numerous parties, state officials both at the Secretary and Commissioner level as well as at the technical and analysis level, businesses and business groups, climatologists and other scientific experts. We made some changes that were suggested, as well as fine-tuning the language to make the intent clear. Our committee voted the bill out last week and sent it on its way. Because there are modest time-limited resources needed to implement the bill in the first two years, it was referred to the Appropriations Committee. I look forward to the full House being able to discuss and vote on it soon.

Unfortunately, there has been some misinformation about this bill circulating. Some of it is, I hope, inadvertent and based on misunderstanding. Some of the misinformation, however, comes from people who simply would rather not have Vermont be involved in seriously addressing climate change and its impacts.

  • H.688 contains provisions allowing “private right of action” by persons who believe that state government is not meeting the requirements established in law by this bill. Some have said that this opens the door to endless lawsuits, litigation and cost, but actually, the opposite is true. Any person can today go to court to try to compel the state to do something or stop doing something. Someone filing such a suit can also seek damages. H. 688 first limits the subject of legal action to whether the state is fulfilling the measurable requirements of this law. It does not allow a person to seek damages. The bill actually restricts the scope of legal actions more narrowly than what might occur today, and it discourages frivolous legal action.
  • H.688 does not cede the Legislature’s authority over state agencies or the Vermont Climate Council that the bill establishes. It requires more contact with Legislative committees in the Administrative Rulemaking process than is normally the case with state agencies. The Legislature of course has the ultimate authority to change or undo actions by state agencies if they go beyond Legislative intent or policy, and the Legislature holds the purse strings, both in terms of spending and revenue sources.

For anyone interested, I would be happy to send a detailed summary of the bill, a “frequently asked questions”  document, or a more detailed explanation of the “cause of action” section of the bill.

Budget Hearing in Morrisville

On February 10th, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees held hearings throughout the state on the Administration’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The hearings were convened by members of those committees from the local areas, and the one at Peoples Academy in Morrisville was led by Rep. Yacovone and Sen. Westman. Not being on the Appropriations Committee, I attended to sit in the back and listen. I heard brief statements from many local residents about unmet needs, particularly for our most vulnerable citizens, people with health and mental health issues, people in poverty and innovative programs to help them move out of poverty, people in need of home care, people with addictions, the need for childcare and family services, the needs of older Vermonters. Many of those who testified work on the front lines at local organizations doing good work. Others spoke from their own personal experiences as well. The formal budget adoption process starts in the House, and I know that the Appropriations Committee is listening, at these hearings around the state as well as in their committee room at the State House. It is a difficult balancing process trying to address so many real unmet needs in a budget under pressure from all directions. I hope to be able to vote for a bill that addresses these needs as much as possible. (The Energy & Technology Committee has been taking testimony about a number of one-time expenditures in the Administration’s proposed budget affecting energy, climate change, state information systems and broadband, and we will be forwarding our comments on these to the Appropriations Committee in the coming days as well.)

Upcoming Action

Major and minor bills continue to make their way to the House floor on a huge variety of subjects. The bill that would establish a regulated cannabis market (S.54) is now in its third House committee for review. Over the past two years, I have heard from many constituents on this subject, both strongly in favor as well as opposed. I expect this bill will be coming to the floor for a vote at some point this session.

Contact. Please contact me with questions, concerns or comments at apatt@leg.state.vt.us. Additional contact information is available at my website: https://avrampatt.com




Climate Change Legislation and More

February 3, 2020


As we begin the second month of the 2020 session, the pace of bills reaching the House floor is picking up and we are beginning to hear reports, discuss and vote on bills major and minor. I am always struck by how many bills pass unanimously or near unanimously, how many are reported out from the respective committees on non-partisan votes.  Actually, most are, although we certainly have our share of controversial bills with disagreements and divided votes. Nevertheless, unlike in Washington and many other states, we work together, we talk, and we do our best to understand and respect each other when we do disagree.

The Global Warming Solutions Act, H.688

This is one of the major pieces of climate change legislation being considered this year, and the House Energy & Technology Committee has been working on it since the session began, hearing testimony from numerous witnesses, reviewing detailed reports about carbon emissions, the dramatic increase in frequency, damage and cost of severe weather events, what other states are doing and what Vermont can and should do. What strikes me is how little disagreement there is that climate change has happened and that we must adapt and be more resilient to lessen the damage going forward, even as we take measures to lessen the amount of greenhouse gases we emit into the atmosphere. This almost universal recognition is a change from a few years ago, even as there are differences about what we should do, who should do it, and how we should pay for it. Vermonters are understanding that we are already paying for the effects in our local town budgets, in state and federal budgets, in costs and lost revenue to businesses and the economy, and in damage and disruption to property and lives.

As I have reported previously, the bill proposes to change Vermont’s greenhouse gas emission reduction “goals” adopted a number of years ago into actual requirements, with a structure for assuring that there is actually a plan, and that it gets implemented.

We have had a lot of suggestions to make H.688, better and more effective, suggestions to change who is ultimately responsible within state government and who the members of a Council of stakeholders and experts will be that does a lot of the planning work.. We have had some criticism about aspects of it too. The bill is similar in intent to one introduced last year which did not see action, and I believe our committee’s version is an improvement. It has 87 sponsors in the House.  We’ve heard from municipalities and regional planning commissions, trade associations including general contractors and fuel dealers, business groups, experts in our state government and elsewhere on measuring emissions, climatology, transportation, health impacts, and people involved with similar structures in neighboring Northeast states.

I was particularly struck by testimony from the president of a major Vermont ski area and by the Vermont Ski Areas Association, about the affects of climate change they have already experienced, ranging from millions of dollars in damages, repair and adaptation, to lost visitor revenue.  It’s one example of an industry that’s critical to our economy that understands what’s happening and that state government must play an active role in addressing climate change.  Ski areas nationally are making this case in Washington as well.

We are making some improvements and changes to the bill in the coming days and it should be voted on by our committee soon.

All written testimony, presentations and reports presented to the Energy & Technology Committee are available on the committee’s page of the Legislature’s website: https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/19

Please contact me with questions, comments or concerns about any matter before the Legislature at apatt@leg.state.vt.us



Third Week of Session and Floor Votes Begin

January 20, 2020

The third week of the session beginning January 21st marks a change in activity in the House of Representatives. Up until now, we have spent almost all our time in our respective committees and in other meetings and briefings. We’ve spent very little time on the House floor, dealing mostly with procedural and some ceremonial matters.  Even though we will continue to spend most of out time in committee in the first half of the session hearing testimony and considering the bills assigned to us, the pace of action on the floor begins to pick up as bills start coming out of committee for presentation, debate and action before the full House of Representatives.

On Friday January 17th, the very first bill to be brought to the House floor was one approving the dissolution of the Village of Perkinsville and its merger with the Town of Weathersfield. It’s not controversial and it took less than five minutes to hear the report and to vote, unanimously, to have the bill read a third time before a final vote on Tuesday.

Other items coming to the floor this week will get more attention and debate, and some of them will likely have seen action before this report is published. 

Paid Family Leave. The House and Senate each passed versions of this bill last session, but the differences were not resolved before adjournment in May. A conference committee has reached agreement on a compromise and last week, the Senate voted to approve it. The House is voting this week. I will be voting in favor and I expect the House will also agree with the conference committee proposal.

Minimum Wage.  This bill also passed the Senate and House last year in differing versions. A conference committee is expected to reach agreement soon. The House will vote first on this, and I will be voting in favor.

Budget Adjustment for FY 2020.  This week, the House will be considering and acting on the Appropriations Committee’s proposed Budget Adjustment for the current fiscal year (H.760).

Proposition 2: Constitutional Amendment Regarding Slavery.  Although Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery in 1777, the article in our Vermont Constitution only abolishes adult slavery. Language in the article would actually specifically permit enslavement of people under 21, or people who are behind on debts or fines. The proposed amendment would remove this language so that it is clear that slavery is not permitted under any circumstances. I have had a few people ask me why we are taking time to deal with this now, when this kind of slavery is not actually occurring in Vermont.  First, Vermont’s Constitution should obviously not have language allowing slavery of any kind, even if it is not occurring today. Second, considering and voting on this doesn’t really take very much time and effort, and doesn’t keep us from all the other issues before us. The process of amending the Vermont Constitution started with a vote by the Senate last year. Assuming the House also votes in favor, both the Senate and House will need to vote in favor again during the following biennium in 2021-2022, after which the proposal will be on the ballot for final decision by Vermont’s voters.

The Energy and Technology Committee.  Our committee has been working hard on some significant legislation regarding climate change. At this point, we are taking a lot of testimony and hearing from many parties with expertise and interest in this issue. We also continue to work on broadband and telecommunications issues, focusing on underserved rural areas, and on state government’s major information technology systems. I covered these areas in my previous report as the session was starting and will devote much of my next report to energy issues and climate change.

Follow bills and activity at the State House. The Legislature’s website is a great way to follow what is happening at the State House. Upcoming calendars for the House and Senate, as well as journals of activity on the floor for each body are posted. Every bill is available for reading and downloading, and you can track activity for each bill, committee action, amendments, votes. Each committee’s weekly agenda is posted, including bills and subjects being considered, and scheduled testimony. All written testimony and materials submitted to committees are posted as well.  https://legislature.vermont.gov/

Contact me by email at apatt@leg.state.vt.us, and additional contact information is available on this website’s “Contact” page.




The 2020 Legislative Session Begins

January 3, 2020


The 2020 session of the Vermont General Assembly begins on January 7th It being the second year of the 2019-2020 biennium, there will be a lot of unfinished business to deal with, bills that did not see final action in 2019, as well as new bills, new issues, and budget and revenue bills.

As I get ready to return to the State House, I am very aware of how much Vermont’s legislative process is affected, directly and indirectly, by the state of the nation and the world. Our deliberations are inevitably influenced by the political turmoil in Washington, the impeachment controversies, the unwillingness of the Senate to take up bills passed by the House, the disabling of federal agencies in carrying out their functions and more. When we in Vermont are confronted by the unraveling of federal environmental regulations, energy efficiency standards, food safety enforcement and more, and when we face cutbacks in federal food and health care benefits  that so many Vermonters depend on, when we read of the Administration’s serious intent to cut back Social Security and Medicare, we have to consider whether we in Vermont can do anything about that, or not. For me, that’s the ever-present backdrop to our work in Montpelier.


The House Energy & Technology Committee and Climate Change

 The committee I serve on, along with other relevant committees, will be working hard on climate change issues, both some significant “banner” bills as well as continuing to include measures in a variety of other bills that keep us moving towards cleaner and more efficient energy use, and away from fossil fuels.  I have spent most of my career working on energy issues, at the state’s most rural electric utility that pioneered in both energy efficiency and conversion to renewable energy sources, in state government overseeing the weatherization program, and before that, developing public transportation and rideshare services in Central Vermont. I am glad to offer my experience and expertise in the legislative process, but climate change is an issue that requires not just government action and experts, but an understanding by each of us as individuals about changes we ourselves can and must make in our day-to-day activities that will help address this critical issue.

Much of the debate in 2019 and I expect going forward is focused not on what we should do, not on whether climate change is real and caused  to a great extent by human activity, not on the effect it is already having in our own state as well as catastrophic events elsewhere, but rather on how we raise money to pay for things most of us agree we need to do, like encouraging conversion to electric vehicles, or expanding weatherization and other thermal energy efficiency efforts. I strongly support making our tax structure fairer, based more an ability to pay, and assuring that the wealthiest among contribute their share as one source for this as well as non-energy uses. We should also recognize that we have a long history of using energy-based revenue to pay for energy-based public functions. We of course pay taxes on transportation fuels to pay for roads and bridges. The existing home weatherization program has been supported since 1990 by a combination of taxes on regulated utilities, and on non-transportation fuels. Taxes and fees on utilities and on energy project developers also pay for the utility regulatory process, and those costs are absorbed by us as ratepayers. In the end, my concern is first and foremost that we act in real ways and that we do our part in addressing the climate crisis.

A new proposal is before Vermont and a number of other states to join together in a Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI)  which would assess the large national and regional fossil fuel suppliers that import fuel to these states, and then allocate the funds to participating states to use in reducing carbon emissions from transportation, which is by far the largest source in Vermont. It’s not a new concept. This type of “cap and invest” initiative has been in place for a number of years in the electric utility sector, and Vermont joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) along with other states in 2009 during the administration of Governor Douglas. RGGI is working and has helped reduce carbon emissions from electric generation in our region. It makes sense to look at whether such a multi-state compact can work in the transportation sector as well, where we have actually been losing ground.

We must realize that we are already all paying for the impact of climate change, in taxes and in other ways. The severity of storms and weather incidents is now well known-to us in Vermont. The cost to each of us is measurable, not just in the almost constant need to repair damage from the increased frequency and severity of weather events, but in making our infrastructure more resistant and resilient going forward. We see it and we pay for it in town budgets, in the state transportation budget, and in electric rates. In addition to restoring power after massive storms, utilities have been spending money for a number of years to “harden” their systems to better withstand the changing climate. It makes sense to also put resources into reducing Vermont’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions by far, transportation.

Priorities in 2020

 Since State Representatives serve on just one House committee, we do spend a lot of time and effort digging into the issues before that one committee, but we must also stay well-informed about bills, large and small, making their way to the House floor from other committees.

In the 2019 session, the House and Senate each passed different versions of a minimum wage bill and a paid family leave bill, but differences were not resolved before adjournment. Those two bills remain alive, and I expect that differences will be resolved, and the bills passed in 2020.

In early December, the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office staff and Administration officials held a briefing for legislators covering both spending and revenue issues generally, as well as key initiatives such as clean water, transportation, the Transportation Climate Initiative and other topics. As the session progresses, I hope to be supporting legislation that addresses workforce development and the difficulties many employers are facing in filling positions. Another way we can encourage younger people to stay in Vermont or to come to Vermont is to increase funding for our state colleges, which we used to support far more than we do now. I am sure we will have proposals to consider for changes in our correctional system both in specific response to recent troubling revelations, as well as concerning our incarceration policies more broadly. I’ve covered just a few of the issues before the Legislature. There are many more.

Staying in touch.

 I will be publishing and circulating State House Reports twice a month during the session, and they will be posted on my website as well ( avrampatt.com ).  As we discuss, debate and act on legislation before us in the 2020 session, please feel free to contact me with comments, concerns and questions, at APatt@leg.state.vt.us.




Scroll to Top