Rep. Karen Dolan

2021 Legislative Session


Pass All-Mail Voting, No Safeguards (S.15). Passed 119-30 on May 11, 2021. S.15 makes permanent the Covid-19 emergency measure of mailing “live” ballots to all active voters on the statewide checklist regardless of request. Vermont would become the only state relying on all-mail voting to do so without security measures. In the event a ballot is cast fraudulently by mail and the legitimate voter shows up at the polls to vote, there is no way to remove the fraudulent vote. Those voting YES believe the convenience of an all-mail voting system is worth the potential risk of fraud, which they believe is insignificant. Those voting NO believe it is irresponsible to have a voting system in which the overwhelming number of ballots counted (76% in 2020) cannot be independently verified by election officials as valid or fraudulent. States that have moved to all-mail voting exhibit large racial voting disparities and flat or declining overall participation in the election.

Dolan - YES

Accept Ballot Security Measures for All-Mail Voting (S.15). Failed 39-99 on May 12, 2021. The S.15 Strong Amendment would delay implementation of vote-by-mail elections until after the Secretary of State’s report on ballot security is complete. Town clerks and the Director of Elections testified that there is no way to police fraud and determine if an absentee ballot was filled out and returned by the appropriate voter. Those voting YES on the Strong Amendment believe it is irresponsible to execute vote-by-mail elections before options for ballot security provisions are even studied. Those voting NO on the Strong Amendment believe absentee ballot security measures are not necessary in Vermont, and the “honor system” is enough to ensure election integrity.

Dolan - NO

Pass $2 Million Transfer Tax, Expand Urban Tax Credit (S.101). Passed 93-56 on May 18, 2021. S.101 creates an additional 0.5% property transfer tax on all real estate transactions exceeding $1 million, resulting in a tax increase of $2 million. Expands town center manufactured homes’ tax credits from $425,000 to $675,000. Authorizes the Planning Fund to give grants to municipalities for promoting “smart growth” that emphasizes walkable, compact neighborhoods. Those voting YES believe this will help revitalize town centers and encourage “smart growth” in urban areas, while raising tax revenue. Those voting NO question increasing the property tax, which would disproportionately impact small business at a time when businesses are just recovering from the Covid shutdown a recession and dissuade new businesses from setting up shop.

Dolan - YES

Override Governor’s Vetoes of Montpelier, Winooski Noncitizen Voting (H.177, H.227). Passed 103-47 both times on June 23, 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.

Dolan - YES

Impose Rental Housing Registration Requirement (S.79). Passed 93-54 on May 21, 2021. Creates a statewide registry of rental properties monitored by a 5-person, full-time task force who will collect a $35 fee per unit from owners to register with the state. Second, the inception of the “Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program,” providing grants and loans to “households identifying as Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color.” Those voting YES believe the bill would make rental housing safer, and encourage landlords who own blighted or vacant rental properties to bring them up to code, increasing the overall amount of rental housing available in the state. Those voting NO believe this would cripple Vermont’s short-term rental industry, reduce tourism, harm homeowners who rely on income from a short-term rental to afford their properties, and cause a shortage of rentals on the market.

Dolan - YES

Allow 15-17 Year-olds in Brattleboro to Vote/Hold Elective Office (H.361). Passed 102-42 on April 29, 2021 To allow children 15-17 years old to vote in local elections and on local issues, and to hold elective office. H.361 changes to the Brattleboro charter to allow 16-17 years olds (and 15 years olds who turn 16 by election day) to vote in municipal elections and serve on town boards. 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.

Dolan - YES

Declare Racism a “Public Health Emergency.” (JRH.6) Passed 135-8 on May 12, 2021. Declare white-against-black (and other minorities) racism a public health emergency. Legislators dedicate themselves to the “deep work of eradicating systemic racism throughout the State, actively fighting racist practices … grounded in science and data.” They hope to achieve “more just and equitable systems” in Vermont. Many of those voting YES believe white Vermonters are guilty of intentional and unintentional racism toward minorities, resulting in “systemic” racism that severely harms the very bodies of minorities, especially blacks. Massive amounts of money (such as reparations) from Vermont taxpayers will be necessary to eradicate the effects of slavery. Those voting NO believe that prioritizing racial disparities over all other types of social disparities increases the chances that unwieldy proposals for removing racism will hurt Vermonters of all races.

Dolan - YES

Allocate $80 million in Covid Funding for Bevy of Programs (H.315). Passed 141-5 on April 6, 2021. The bill allocates federal $80 million (as of yet, not received) in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to areas somewhat related to Covid’s impact on Vermont. Many of those voting YES believe this is a bill is essential for helping Vermonters during a difficult time, at any financial cost. Others reluctantly voted YES reluctantly and did not want to make their constituents wait to receive essential funding. Some of those voting NO are wary of “premature” allocation of ARPA funding that Vermont has not received yet. They view much of the funding in the bill as hastily allocated and excessive. Beginning in tax year 2021, Vermont would tax, as income, PPP loans that Vermont businesses received from the federal government (which are not taxed as income by the federal government).

Dolan - YES

$14 Million Tax on “Cloud-based” Software (S.53, Sections 9-12). Passed 96-44 on April 15, 2021. This would apply the state sales tax (6%) to cloud-based software services, costing Vermonters at least $11 million a year. Those voting YES wanted to raise tax revenue by including cloud services. Those voting NO wanted to remove the cloud tax. This tax would strike Vermont businesses relying on the cloud, while telling prospective Vermont businesses to stay away. A tax increase is not needed, given our $300 million revenue surplus.

Dolan - YES

Seize Firearms After Alleged Domestic Abuse (H.133). Passed 102-44 on March 12, 2021. Seeks to offer alleged victim of abuse greater protection, “upon a finding that there is an immediate danger of further abuse.” Section E would require the accused “to immediately relinquish, until the expiration of the order, all firearms that are in the defendant’s possession, ownership, or control, and to refrain from acquiring or possessing any firearms while the order is in effect.” Those voting YES believe this is a reasonable protection for victims of domestic abuse. Those voting NO believe this is a due process violation of the Second Amendment and Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution. The defendant has no opportunity to offer evidence disproving abuse.

Dolan - YES

Mandatory Registration for Construction Contractors (H.157). Passed 97-52 on April 6, 2021. Contractors with residential construction jobs exceeding $3500 in labor and materials must pay $75-$250 annually to register with Vermont. A written contract and liability insurance are also required. An “unauthorized practice” penalty could result in a $5,000 fine and/or 1-year imprisonment. Those voting YES believe this bill will prevent fraud and provide consumer protection when fraud occurs. It also creates a mechanism to enforce future environmental building regulations. Those voting NO note that small claims court already exists for addressing fraud. This is a $620,000 a year problem, with a $740,000 estimated cost in annual registration fees, before contract drafting costs.

Dolan - YES

Allow Montpelier’s Noncitizens to Vote (H.177). Passed 103-39 on March 10, 2021. Allows non-citizens who are legally in the US and full-time residents of Montpelier to vote in Montpelier elections, amending Montpelier’s charter. 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.

Dolan - YES

Shift Union Bargaining Costs to Taxpayers (H.81). Passed 102-46 on February 16, 2021. The purpose of this bill is to create a separate bargaining process for lower income school workers. Those voting YES want to give paraeducators, cafeteria workers, school custodians and other lower-paid school staff a bigger seat at the bargaining table. Those voting NO believe H.81 will have “significant (negative) financial implications for Vermont taxpayers.” Bargaining will take more time, and thus more money for publicly financed negotiations. If lower income employees pay just 1% less on their premiums after negotiations, taxpayers would have to pay another $1.43 million. Taxpayers in some school districts may pay more than others, worsening “inequity issues for our students and our taxpayers.”

Dolan - YES

Expand 5¢ Deposit Fee to Most Containers (H.175). Passed 99-46 on April 15, 2021. To raise revenue by expanding the 5¢ beverage container deposit/redemption requirement to water bottles, wine bottles and other containers, with new labeling requirements, except for milk. Vermont is projected to get $1 million more annually from unredeemed deposits. The expansion requires an IT upgrade and hiring a bureaucrat paid $125,000 annually. Those voting YES believe the bottle bill has a successful environmental track record and deserves to be expanded. Those voting NO believe that “single stream” recycling programs are more environmentally effective than separate systems. H.175 places financial and storage burdens (for returned containers) on small businesses. Out-of-state beverage distributors may stop selling in Vermont to avoid the re-labeling requirement.

Dolan - YES

Remove Property Transfer 0.5% Tax (H.437, Scheuermann Amendment). Failed 53-94 on March 25, 2021. This would remove an additional 0.5% property transfer tax on real estate transactions of $1 million or more. Those voting YES wanted to remove the tax increase from the bill. The majority of real estate transactions over $1 million are farms, retail, restaurants, and manufacturing businesses. Not private mansions. This tax would be another disincentive for businesses to come to Vermont. Those voting NO favored keeping the increased tax in the bill. They believe spending new tax revenue to increase the supply and quality of low-income housing is worth any negative economic impact.

Dolan - NO

Create Pension Task Force (H.449). Passed 125-22 on April 22, 2021. The Pension Benefits, Design, and Funding Task Force will analyze the state employees, teachers, and municipal employees pension funds while reviewing the retirement benefit plans for current and retired teachers and employees. Second, the Treasurer’s oversight of the Vermont Pension Investment Commission will end, giving the Commission more investment independence. Those voting YES believe creating the Task Force is critical to fixing the unfunded liability crisis. Most of those voting NO opposed the makeup of the body for not having enough representation by labor interests. Others voting NO believe more decisive action is needed now. Vermont’s three state funded pension systems have a combined unfunded liability of $5.8 billion and rising. Recognizing the problem is a small step in the right direction but is well short of decisive action.

Dolan - YES

Allow Income Tax Exemption for $30,000 in Military Pensions (S.53, Sibilia Amendment). Failed 55-79 on April 15, 2021. The Sibilia Amendment attempts to increase the military pension exemption amount from $10,000 (tax benefit ~$100) to $30,000 (tax benefit ~$400). Only 3 states currently tax fully military pensions, and Vermont is one of them. Those voting YES supported the higher exemption for military pensions to show respect for those who have served, while bringing Vermont tax policy more in line with other states. Those voting NO wanted to maintain a revenue source and opposed the higher exemption.

Dolan - NO

Resolve Against Police Restructuring (H.R.7). Passed 108-40 on February 5, 2021. To reject Governor Scott’s executive order to restructure Vermont’s police and emergency forces. This order would bring Vermont’s law enforcement, fire division, and emergency management government branches closer together. It would create an Agency of Public Safety, composed of the Department of Fire Safety & Emergency Management and the Department of Law Enforcement. Those voting YES voted to reject the order, mentioning the Governor’s lack of ‘due process.’ They were open to the governor’s proposals, but believed legislative deliberation is needed. Those voting NO were decidedly neutral toward the governor’s order but expressed alarm about the House’s general lack of transparency in getting the resolution to the floor.

Dolan - YES

Add Income Tax Surcharge on "The Rich" (H.436, Cina Amendment). Failed 21-125 on March 26, 2021. To add a marginal tax increase of 3% to income over $500,000, giving Vermont the second highest marginal income tax rate in the nation at 11.75%, behind only California. The revenue from which would be used to repair Vermont’s neglected state pension obligations. Those voting YES believe that “the rich” need to be “asked” to pay “their fair share” regardless of any other economic implications. Some voting NO believe saddling Vermont with the second-highest marginal income tax rate in the country is bad economic policy. Others voting NO sounded open to taxing the rich but didn’t want to use the tax increase to fund the pension obligations.

Dolan - NO


2020 Legislative Session (August - September)



2020 Legislative Session (January - June)



2019 Legislative Session



Took office in 2019