2022 Legislative Session
Impose Registration with Fee for Rental Housing (S.210). Passed in the State Senate on February 10, 2022 by a vote of 20-9. S.210 would create: 1) a statewide registry of rental properties 2) a program for financing rental housing and 3) a program with financial incentives for homeownership. Those voting YES believe S.210 will increase the safety, quantity and affordability of Vermont’s rental housing market. A statewide registry would allow legislators to know where rental housing is located, allowing for more efficient use of ARPA dollars. Those voting NO were against the rental registry portion of the bill. They believe increasing housing regulations will reduce Vermont’s housing supply, raise rent on properties, shrink Vermont’s tourism industry, give landlords extra paperwork, expand state bureaucracy, and intrude on privacy. This is the first step toward state control of rental property.
Hooker - YESRestrict Firearm Freedoms in Certain Scenarios (S.30). Passed in the State Senate on February 3, 2022 by a vote of 21-9. S.30 makes it a crime to intentionally carry a gun into a hospital, lengthens the “default proceed” period for firearms background checks from 3 to 30 days, and obligates healthcare providers to report patient “threats” to law enforcement. Those voting YES believe this will protect victims of domestic abuse, hospital workers and patients undergoing treatment. Firearms are already banned in courtrooms and schools, so hospitals are a natural next step. Those voting NO believe this does not rise to a level of just cause to remove due process and 2nd amendment rights, enshrined in the US and Vermont constitutions. This makes hospitals a “soft target” and could be expanded to all gathering places.
Hooker - YESLimit Speech by Broadening 'Threat' Definition (S.265). Passed in the State Senate on February 17, 2021, by a vote of 28-2. S.265 condones legal punishment of citizens who “threaten” public officials, relying on a broadened definition of a ‘threat.’ Those voting YES believe that the increased levels of conflict between citizens, school board members and other public officials across the country warrants increased protections for elected officials from threats of violence. Those voting NO believe S.265 infringes on the constitutional rights to free speech and to petition government for change. S.265 could potentially result in citizens being punished for political criticism (rather than clear threats) of certain groups, which is clearly protected speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Hooker - YESApprove 5% Increase in State Budget (H.679). Passed in the State Senate on February 3, 2022 by a vote of 24-6. H.679 would increase Vermont's annual general budget to $367 million, a 5% increase from 2021. Those voting YES believe that the bill will provide necessary funding for important government programs. Those voting NO may support programs such as those for housing improvement (VHIP), but worry some of the federal ARPA money would be taken away from “tangible infrastructure projects” and into government services and programs that don’t provide lasting benefits.
Hooker - YESAllow 15-17 Year-olds in Brattleboro to Vote/Hold Elective Office (H.361). Passed in the State Senate on February 11, 2022, by a vote of 20-9. H.361 would allow 15-17 year old children to vote in local elections and on local issues, and to hold municipal elective office. Those voting YES believe this will help get young people more involved in the political process and establish the habit of voting. Those voting NO believe that children who are not legal adults are not ready to make fully informed decisions relating to voting or mature enough to hold positions of authority and responsibility over critical municipal decisions.
Hooker - YES
2021 Legislative Session
Override Governor’s Vetoes of Montpelier, Winooski Noncitizen Voting (H.177, H.227). Passed 20-10 both times on May 7, 2021. To override Governor Scott’s vetoes of H.177 and H.227, which amended the charters of the cities of Montpelier and Winooski to allow non-citizens who are legally in the United States and full-time residents of each city to vote in city elections. Those voting YES assert that non-citizens pay taxes, have children in the schools, and are active participants in the community, therefore they deserve the right to vote on issues that affect them. Those voting NO assert that voting is a right and responsibility tied to citizenship under the Vermont Constitution. Giving this privilege to non-citizens unfairly undermines the votes of actual citizens.
Hooker - YESImpose $2500 Fine for Unauthorized Construction Projects over $2500 (H.157, House amendments). Passed 21-9 on June 24, 2021. Requires anyone accepting a residential construction job exceeding $2500 to purchase $1 million in insurance and register with the state for $50 every 2 years ($200 per business). “Unauthorized practice” could mean a $2500 civil penalty. Those voting YES believe this bill will help prevent fraud and provide consumer protection when fraud occurs. Those voting NO believe the cost of this bill exceeds any potential benefit, given that there have been fewer than 100 complaints a year. Contract mandates will make construction more expensive, and will decrease the supply of contractors. Consumers already have small claims court to settle disputes regarding poor work or fraudulent actions by contractors, without expanding the state bureaucracy.
Hooker - YESLevy Registration Requirement for Rental Housing (S.79). Passed 20-10 on June 24, 2021. Allocates $200,000 for a registry and inspection bureaucracy of rental properties, at a cost of $35 per unit (late penalty of $200), making the “rental inspection” duties of local house officers obsolete. S.79 creates the Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program and Vermont Homeownership Revolving Loan Fund for renovating newly purchased and rental housing units. Those voting YES hope to make housing safer for guests. Those voting NO believe this will cripple Vermont’s short-term rental industry, such as Airbnb’s, while Vermont’s codes already provide adequate safety guidance. Increasing housing regulations risks reducing Vermont’s housing supply, raising rent on properties, shrinking Vermont’s economically significant tourism industry, and diminishing the rental tax base.
Hooker - YESTurn Schools into Social Service Centers with 1-time Money (H.106). Passed 22-6 on May 14, 2021. Funds social service “Coordinators” to low-income school districts, who will provide services inside schools. $3.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be allocated for up to 10 schools until 2024. For a community school to continue to receive grants each year, they must show a dedication to “the Five Pillars of a Community School.” Those voting YES believe low-income children living in rural areas do not have adequate access to medical care, dental care, housing or nutritious food, hampering a child’s capacity to learn. They need services beyond education. Those voting NO believe using one-time federal money to create a program with no internal funding source is fiscally irresponsible. At the end of 3 years, legislators will likely choose to raising taxes to pay for the new program.
Hooker - YESPermanent All-Mail-Out Voting (S.15). Passed 27-3 on March 18, 2021. S.15 would make the election policies and procedures adopted during the Covid pandemic emergency permanent features of Vermont elections, most importantly the mailing of “live” absentee ballots to all voters regardless of request. The bill does not provide any meaningful security measures that would allow election officials to verify that the absentee ballots counted were actually filled out by the persons to whom the vote is being attributed. All other states allowing absentee voting use “signature matching” or some other form of ID to verify ballots and they ban “ballot harvesting.” S.15 has no such safeguards. Those voting YES believe that mailing ballots to all voters will reduce barriers to voting and increase voter participation in elections. Those voting NO believe this is an invitation for voter fraud on small or large scales that cannot be detected, traced, prosecuted, or remedied.
Hooker - YESBan Guns in Hospitals (S.30). Passed 20-9 on March 18, 2021. S.30 would make it a crime to intentionally carry a gun into a hospital. Individuals who “knowingly possess a firearm” inside a hospital may be imprisoned for up to 1 year and/or fined up to $1000, in addition to the 1 year and $1000 they could face for “reckless endangerment.” Those voting YES believe carrying firearms in “sensitive places” is not a constitutional right, referencing DC vs. Heller (2008). Those voting NO believe there is no ‘just cause’ to remove constitutional gun rights, especially with no identifiable hospital gun problem. This new crime will not deter “anyone with nefarious intent.” Sensitive places banning firearms can become soft targets for violent offenders.
Hooker - YESShift Union Bargaining Costs to Taxpayers (H.81). Passed 22-5 on March 26, 2021. The purpose of this bill is to create a separate bargaining process for lower income school workers. Vermont would pay bargaining representatives about $35,000 extra annually. State spending on negotiated benefits is expected to increase each year since “the smaller the premium contributions or out-of-pocket cost, the more health care people use” (JFO). Those voting YES want to give paraeducators, cafeteria workers, school custodians and other lower-paid school staff a seat at the bargaining table. Those voting NO point to “significant (negative) financial implications for Vermont taxpayers,” placing Vermont’s education fund and local funds at risk. Taxpayers will pay for longer negotiations and any increased benefits from negotiations.
Hooker - YESDelay Unemployment Funds, Increase Benefits (S.10, Amended). Passed 18-12 on March 30, 2021. The amended bill calls for postponing funding the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. It also gives an extra $50 weekly unemployment benefits to parents, at a cost of $13-29 million annually. Vermont’s Unemployment Fund is 50% of what it was in 2020. Without action, Vermont businesses would pay the contribution taxes necessary to stabilize the Fund, unless federal funds come in, or the Legislature acts. This bill would delay those increased taxes until 2031, diverting $42 million in annual taxes from the Fund. Those voting YES believe parents on unemployment don’t “have time to wait on” federal money coming in and deserve more unemployment after Covid-19. Those voting NO did so because of federal dollars will soon bolster the Unemployment Fund, upholding the Legislature “fiduciary responsibility” for protecting the Fund. They fear creating an “obligation that could extend beyond the pandemic.”
Hooker - YESCancel Governor’s Act 250 Reform Order (S.R.6). Passed 22-8 on February 4, 2021. This resolution rejects Governor Scott’s executive order on Act 250 reform. The order took major permit review cases from Vermont’s nine Act 250 regional commissions and gives these cases to a restructured, centralized Natural Resources Board (NRB). The regional commissions would retain their sole authority to judge smaller Act 250 projects. Those voting YES complained about of the cost of Scott’s restructuring, while opponents pointed to the need to improve the uneven and sluggish application for Act 250 building permits across different regions of Vermont. Those voting NO believe the governor’s executive order will improve the uneven and sluggish application for Act 250 building permits across different regions of Vermont.
Hooker - YESRestrict Poli-Campaign Contributions (S.51). Passed 22-8 on March 24, 2021. This bill overhauls Vermont’s campaign finance law. The most controversial change would require that all Political Action Committees (PAC’s) include “connected organizations,” such as a corporation, when they register with Vermont's Secretary of State. Those voting YES support the bill’s efforts to make those donations more public, while others would like to reduce corporate political contributions overall. Those voting NO see laws attempting to limit political participation by anyone in elections as inherently problematic. No problem exists regarding corporate contributions in Vermont that needs to be fixed, so there is no need to fix a system that isn’t broken.
Hooker - YESConception to Birth Abortion Amendment (Prop. 5). Passed 26-4 on April 9, 2021. Proposal 5 would amend the Vermont Constitution to say that “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” Those voting YES believe that unrestricted access to an abortion at any time during a pregnancy from conception to birth should be a constitutional right. Those voting NO believe that the rights of an unborn child deserve at least some consideration under law, and that the language of this Amendment are too vague to be reliably enforced. The amendment does not mention abortion.
Hooker - YESStudy Banning Firearms in Capitol (S.30, Judiciary Committee Amendment). Passed 19-10 on March 18, 2021. The amendment to S.30 includes a study of whether or not to ban firearms from the state Capitol Complex (all buildings and grounds) by 2022. Those voting YES believe an armed threat to the Legislature is likely. They reference “multiple state capitols taken over, in effect, by groups of heavily armed men wearing tactical gear and body armor” and imply that the individuals trained at the “camp in West Pawlet” could forcibly invade the Legislature. Those voting NO believe Capitol security is already adequate, making such a law redundant, quoting witness testimony from law enforcement. The bill encroaches upon the rights of individuals who make no attempt to enter the Statehouse, since the Complex includes several private residences and hotels.
Hooker - YESSoften New Restrictions on Police Use of Force (H.145). Passed 28-1 on April 23, 2021. This slightly loosens extremely strict deadly force standards for police passed last year. Potentially deadly force may now only be used to defend against an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.” Those voting YES seek to provide a mechanism for penalizing “a select few (police officers) who have lost sight of the fact that their responsibility is to protect and serve not to dominate and dictate.” The Senator voting NO was not concerned about the content of H.145. Rather, Sen. Ingalls was bothered with “the tone” of other Senators when they spoke about law enforcement, saying “I believe they (police officers) deserve so much better from us.”
Hooker - YESImpose $2500 Fine for Unauthorized Construction Projects over $2500 (H.157). Passed 20-10 on May 21, 2021. Requires anyone accepting a residential construction job exceeding $2500 to purchase $1 million in insurance and register with the state for $75 every 2 years ($250 per business). “Unauthorized practice” could mean a $2500 civil penalty. Those voting YES believe this bill will help prevent fraud and provide consumer protection when fraud occurs. Those voting NO believe the cost of this bill exceeds any potential benefit, given that there have been fewer than 100 complaints a year. Contract mandates will make construction more expensive, and will decrease the supply of contractors. Consumers already have small claims court to settle disputes regarding poor work or fraudulent actions by contractors, without expanding the state bureaucracy.
Hooker - YESImpose Registration Requirement for Rental Housing (S.79). Passed 22-7 on March 26, 2021. Allocates $200,000 for a registry and inspection bureaucracy of rental properties, at a cost of $35 per unit, making the “rental inspection” duties of local house officers obsolete. S.79 creates the Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program with “competitive grants and forgivable loans to private landlords for the rehabilitation and weatherization” of housing units. Those voting YES believe the bill is about encouraging landlords to make more housing safer for guests. Those voting NO believe this will cripple Vermont’s short-term rental industry, such as Airbnb’s, while Vermont’s codes already provide adequate safety guidance. Increasing housing regulations risks reducing Vermont’s housing supply, raising rent on properties, shrinking Vermont’s economically significant tourism industry, and diminishing the rental tax base.
Hooker - YES
2020 Legislative Session (August - September)
Override Gov Veto of Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688). Passed 22-8 on September 22, 2020. Creates a Climate Council made up of 22 state government officials and citizen experts to adopt a “Vermont Climate Action Plan.” The GWSA guides the Agency of Natural Resources in creating new rules for achieving carbon emission targets, beginning with 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. Any citizen/group can issue a warning to the state in court for not adopting rules quickly enough. They receive attorney’s fees if they win. Watch the floor debate on Youtube HERE.
Hooker - YESAct 250 Forest Development Restrictions (H.926, Sections 8 thru 11). Passed 24-6 on September 16, 2020. In rural areas where animals cross from one “forest block” to another, development will be constricted. The range of Act 250 regulatory interest now extends to the potential development’s surrounding “ecosystem,” a broad term which will be defined further by Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources. An Act 250 development “permit shall be granted only if impacts to forest blocks and connecting habitat are avoided, minimized, and mitigated.” Thus, an Act 250 permit will require more lawyers to underwrite the regulatory paperwork and more time to acquire. Watch the floor debate on YouTube HERE.
Hooker - YES
2020 Legislative Session (January - June)
Mandatory Paid Family Leave/Payroll Tax (H.107). Passed 20-9 on January 17, 2020. Establish a government-mandated insurance program, funded by a new employee payroll tax of 0.2% on income up to $137,000 (every $50,000 is taxed $100). While all Vermont employees would have their wages taxed, only employees who work at least 675 hours annually would be eligible to receive 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child, or 8 weeks for family care. Eligible employees can elect to pay an additional 0.38% of their wages to obtain personal medical leave of up to 6 weeks. If the volume of people claiming the benefit exceeds the revenue raised at this tax rate, the tax rate will automatically increase to meet demand.
Hooker - YESOverride Gov Veto of Minimum Wage Increase (S.23). Passed 24-6 on February 13, 2020. Increase the minimum wage from $10.96 currently to $11.75 in 2021 and $12.55 in 2022, a 14% total increase. $12.55 is 73% more than neighboring New Hampshire’s $7.25 minimum wage.
Hooker - YESRevised Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688). Passed 23-5 on June 26, 2020. Creates a Climate Council made up of 22 state government officials and citizen experts to adopt a “Vermont Climate Action Plan.” The GWSA guides the Agency of Natural Resources in creating new rules for achieving carbon emission targets, beginning with 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. Any citizen/group can issue a warning to the state in court for not adopting rules quickly enough. They receive attorney’s fees if they win. The Senate removes the House’s $900,000 appropriation to the Climate Council.
Hooker - YESRemove Governor from “All-Mail Election” Decision (S.348). Passed 21-7 on June 2, 2020. S.348 would remove the Governor’s right to approve emergency elections changes in consultation with the Secretary of State for the 2020 election made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal in question would involve mailing as many as 500,000 “live” absentee ballots to every registered, currently uncontested voter in the state of Vermont regardless of the voter requesting a ballot.
Hooker - YESProhibit “Ballot Harvesting” (S.348, Benning Amendment). Failed 5-24 on June 3, 2020. S.348 would remove the Governor’s right to approve emergency elections changes in consultation with the Secretary of State for the 2020 election made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal in question would involve mailing as many as 500,000 “live” absentee ballots to every registered, currently uncontested voter in the state of Vermont regardless of the voter requesting a ballot.
Hooker - NOExpand Scope of Energy Tax and Subsidize Program (S.337). Passed 28-2 on May 19, 2020. The bill would give electric utilities like Efficiency Vermont the option to spend up to $2 million of their ratepayer-generated funds on transportation (electric cars) and heating efficiency projects, in addition to their electricity efficiency projects. This program would be allowed for limited time frame of 3 years.
Hooker - YESAdvise Funding Afterschool with Marijuana Revenue (S.335, White Amendment). Passed 16-13 on February 14, 2020. The underlying bill would create a 15-member task force for studying universal afterschool program feasibility, which would report back to the Legislature in December 2020. The amendment asks the afterschool task force to consider funding the afterschool program with revenue from a (potential) marijuana market.
Hooker - NO
2019 Legislative Session
Mandatory Paid Family Leave/Payroll Tax (H.107). Passed 19-10 on May 15, 2019. This would put in place a government-mandated Paid Family Leave program paid for with a new payroll tax on income up to $132,900. The program would allow an employee to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child, or 6 weeks for family care. Qualified employees would receive 90% of their first $7.29/hour and 55% of their wages between $7.30-$24.10/hour. Wages above $24.10/hour ($73,580/year) would not be covered. A maximum cap on the benefit would be set at $964 per week. The payroll tax would be initially set at 0.20% (employees and employers each paying half), and the estimated total cost would be $30 million annually.