As the Vermont legislature went through its second month, they heard the Governor’s budget address which noted that the extensive Federal funding to Vermont due to Covid is at an end. Governor Scott is re-focusing his administration on getting more Vermonters back to work and keeping more young Vermonters in the state as part of that effort.
Vermont’s regional technical centers have a renewed focus by the legislature, in part due to the Governor. The Governor, the Commerce Secretary, the Education Secretary, the House and Senate Education Committees, and the House Commerce Committee have all been invited to the Bright Futures event on March 20th. This is a slightly different focus as the VRLDA is not before the Education Committees often. However, it makes good sense since the regional technical centers are the most important training grounds for both new employees and new customers. From the Governor on down, there is an increased effort to educate young Vermonters in the trades that we have not seen before. Now is the time to find a statewide answer to filling these good jobs. A specific bill, H.452, was introduced on March 1st by the House Commerce Committee. It’s goal is to ‘expand apprenticeships and other workforce opportunities in this State’. It is a short form bill (no statutory language included); so it is a ‘vehicle’ for the committee to fill in those blanks. We will work with the committee on this issue when they are back from break.
Small Claims Jurisdictional Increase
In January 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. H.65, a bill that would do just this, was referred to committee in Mid-January and no hearings were expected on it as a stand-alone bill.
As noted last month, Senate Judiciary Chair Richard Sears committed to adding it to the ‘miscellaneous judiciary bill’, S.33. Section 9 of the bill has the jurisdictional increase we have requested. The committee had a walkthrough of the bill on February 24th and March 2nd and they will return to the issue after Town Meeting break. The issue did not generate much discussion, and no opposition in committee. We will need to stay on top of this when the Legislature returns after the Town Meeting break.
My research indicates that other northeast states have generally higher limits than $5000 in their small claims courts. New Hampshire has a $10,000 limit, with mandatory mediation on claims over $5,000; Massachusetts has a $7,000 limit; Maine has a $6,000 limit. Connecticut has a $5,000 limit, but a limit of $15,000 for home improvement contracts. Finally, New York state has a general $5,000 limit, except for New York City, which increased its limit in city courts to $10,000 in 2020. If you have examples of how this increased limit will help your business, let us know. Specific examples are always the best way to show the impact on Vermont businesses and to show how this legislation will help.