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The Vermont legislative session begins today. Here's what we're watching

A giant Christmas tree in front of the Vermont Statehouse
Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Public
The halls of the Vermont Statehouse will get a lot busier this month as lawmakers converge in Montpelier for the beginning of the 2023 legislative session.

Today marks the beginning of the 2023 legislative session, and over the next five months or so, elected officials in Montpelier will decide how to spend about $8 billion in taxpayer money.

Their choices could affect access to child care, the availability of affordable housing, and other economic and social issues that touch households and businesses across the state.

Vermont Editionbroadcasts live from the Statehouse today at noon.

With 51 newly elected members entering the House of Representatives and 11 first-year senators, House Speaker Jill Krowinski says it’ll take the new Legislature some time to find its bearings.

“I do think that we will have and we should have a slower pace in the beginning to make sure that everyone is understanding their role, getting all of the background work, doing all of our 101 and 201 trainings to really get a sense of their committees, of their jurisdictions, and what that means,” Krowinski told Vermont Public.

Those introductory classes will soon give way to complex negotiations related to housing, child care, mental health, workforce development, tax reform, climate change, paid family and medical leave, gun control and other issues.

Democrats enter the session with 104 members in the House and 23 members in the Senate — more than enough votes in both chambers to override any prospective gubernatorial vetoes.

“We need more workers here in the state. And so we need housing to do that. We need water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure, we need broadband."
Gov. Phil Scott

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth, however, is already managing the expectations of left-leaning Vermonters who want to see decisive action this year on a long list of progressive policy initiatives.

Baruth said there are plenty of fiscally conservative Democrats who will break ranks with their own party if it veers too far from the political center.

“People tend to want to call it a supermajority, that is it’s super powered and can do anything it wants and doesn’t have to listen to constituents or the governor or anyone else,” Baruth said. “And I really think people need to retire that phrase, ‘supermajority.’”

Gov. Phil Scott enters his fourth term coming off a landslide reelection victory in which he won 71% of the vote.

Lawmakers and the public will get their first glimpse at the Republican governor’s 2023 legislative agenda when he delivers his inaugural address Thursday, and then his budget proposal later this month.

Scott said both presentations will stick largely to the underlying fundamentals necessary for economic development.

“We need more workers here in the state,” Scott said. “And so we need housing to do that. We need water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure, we need broadband. We need all of those things to keep and attract more people into the state.”

Housing will again be at the top of the agenda for both Scott and Democratic lawmakers.

A coalition of affordable housing developers is calling for an additional $175 million spending in next year’s budget, on top of the quarter-billion dollars elected officials allocated in 2021 and 2022.

Scott said he isn’t opposed to putting more money into housing, “but how much we’ll need, I’m not sure.”

“The other approach might be for the Legislature to consider how do we make it less expensive to build this housing,” Scott said.

Scott said the lowering the cost of housing will require lawmakers to undertake permit and zoning reform. Several legislators are already drafting bills to that effect.

Child care and early education advocates will mount a serious campaign in the coming months to ensure that no Vermont family spends more than 10% of its annual income on child care costs.

Chittenden County Sen. Ginny Lyons, who’s already begun drafting a child care bill, said the legislation will in some ways try to make the child care system look more like the public education system for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade.

“When you look at schools, you know, oh, first grade, second grade, you know where your kid is going,” Lyons said. “When you look at child care, it’s all over the map. And you say, ‘Where is my child care center? How can I have a space available?’”

Many lawmakers and advocates will be calling for substantial investments in not just housing and child care, but also universal school meals, paid family and medical leave and health care. The deluge of federal money that supported record-high budgets over the past two years, however, will soon begin to dry up. And lawmakers and the governor will have to decide whether, and how, to address the many funding requests they’ll receive this year.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Peter Hirschfeld:


The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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