The Vermont Legislature (with a near record number of new members) was sworn in during the f irst week of the month, elected leadership and formed its committees. Those committees have immediately started working on their priorities, some of which coincide with the three legislative priorities of the VT Retail Lumber Dealers Association. As your representative, I have also been meeting with House and Senate leadership to make them aware of the issues of importance to this industry, and they are generally supportive, particularly of the technical center matter.
Vermont’s regional technical centers have traditionally focused on training programs for juniors and seniors, with the particular types of programs based on the interests of students and the background of the teachers. VRLDA priorities have been presented to the House and Senate Education Committees and to the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee. I found that the 11th and 12th grade limitation is in statute, and have asked these committees to change that to ensure younger students have access to these programs. Guidance counselors need to reach out to students in middle school to be able to respond to this need. All the committees responded very positively to this priority. We will be looking to add emphasis and make statutory changes in the (as yet undrafted) workforce development bill that is forthcoming. As part of this we have asked the committees to look at apprenticeship programs and work based learning.
Governor Scott, in his budget address, asked Legislators to provide matching funds for federal funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Some of this will be in the Governor’s budget proposal, released yesterday. Areas of focus, in addition to jobs, will be funding for more weatherization, appliances, and cleaner home heating options—all of which are provided by our members to their customers.
Small Claims Jurisdictional Increase
In discussions with key House and Senate members in the last few weeks, there was quite a bit of interest to increase the jurisdictional amount from $5,000 to $10,000. The last increase (from $3,500 to $5,000) was in 2007. In the House, H.65 was introduced as a stand alone bill to make this increase, and it was referred to House Judiciary Committee.
In the Senate, Judiciary Chair Richard Sears committed to adding it to the ‘miscellaneous judiciary bill’. This bill is a compilation of various updates to statutes relating to the civil and criminal courts and is introduced every biennium. In 2023-24, the bill is S.33. Section 9 of the bill has the jurisdictional increase we have requested.
This issue will need to be followed up on when the committee schedules testimony on the matter in the coming weeks. Your specific experiences will be essential to moving this issue forward and keeping it in the bill as it moves through the Senate and over to the House. The issue is better treated in a comprehensive bill than as a stand alone bill like H.65, but it will be important.