Rep. Sibilia: Week 13 of the 2023 Legislative Session

Good morning,

I will be hosting an online forum on the Affordable Heat Act next Saturday April 8th from 11:30-12:30. This week I will also be sending out an in depth piece on S.5, how we got here, and other actions we are taking to help Vermont municipalities, business and citizens adapt to climate change. I hope you will try to attend next weekend, but if you are unable and have questions, please email, text or call.

A reminder that GMP will be at the Wardsboro Town Office tomorrow at 4 pm today talking about the electric grid and activities to storm harden it in light of increasingly strong storms carrying increasing moisture. I hope you will join us.

The House will be taking up aspects of the S.100 Housing bill in the final weeks of the session (in addition to S.5 and actions to increase storm hardening of our grid) This bill has had a long journey in the Senate and comes to us with significant changes from it’s original form. I’ve included VLCT’s summery on this bill in this newsletter. VLCT has been helping guide a conversation that would have seen both local and state concessions in the interest of more housing for Vermonters.

Lastly, please join me in keeping Terri Bills Garland’s family in your thoughts. In the short time I knew her, Terri was both a source of generally helpful information and a reckoning force on property taxes as I ran to represent the Town of Jamaica. The last time I saw her she was attending and speaking out at one of the first forums I held on the changing school choice landscape. Information about her services follows later in this newsletter.

Meeting with Rep. Sibilia and GMP on power outages from increasingly intense storms

We have been seeing increasing intensity, frequency, and moisture in our storms due to our changing climate. This past winter Vermont and the region have experienced several of these intense heavy, wet snowstorms which have caused major damage to our infrastructure and resulted in power outages, including in Central and Southern Vermont. As our climate changes we will be experiencing more of these storms which will cause more damage to our towns. There are ways in which we can change, build, and or make upgrades to prevent further destruction and be more resilient. Please join Representative Laura Sibilia and Green Mountain Power to discuss what these key programs and projects are, how we can help develop storm resilience in your town, and how GMP works to restore power and is actively working to strengthen the grid. This meeting is at the Wardsboro Town Hall on Monday, April 3, 2023 from 4:00pm-5:30pm.

H.494 the FY 2024 Budget

A reminder on budgeting: The governor proposes a budget to run government and address any challenges or opportunities he wants to address. The House then takes testimony on that proposal and other priorities submitted by Vermonters and House Committees. This is where we are in the process. This week we passed the House budget by a vote of 111-38. I voted to support the budget, even though it included the funding for the Legislature’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Plan which I did not support. My sense is that the Senate does not support the extremely generous package put forward and will trim this. The Senate will now take testimony and make its own changes to the budget.

This year’s almost all new Appropriations Committee worked closely with Treasurer Mike Pieciak, our Vermonter run Communications Union Districts and the VCBB to ensure maximum flexibility and accountability was in place to draw down available federal funds. Funding for Vermont Emergency Management Services, rural transportation infrastructure and the Clean Heat Standard were also were a number of priorities from the legislature’s rural caucus. Other highlights include:

  • $134.5 million in housing investments, including opportunities for greater access to workforce housing, permanent housing for those currently in the hotel/motel program, and funding for the rehabilitation of apartments bringing more rental units online 
  • $70+ million to support the child care and early education bill, which seeks to provide quality, affordable child care to Vermonters across the state
  • $37 million for universal paid and family leave insurance, providing Vermonters with up to 12 weeks of paid leave 
  • $43+ million in workforce development initiatives 
  • $46 million in Medicaid rate increases to support EMS, primary care, home health, mental health and substance use disorder, and foster care providers    
  • Investing $1.15 million into the Department of Mental Health, allowing for a mental health mobile crisis unit to provide rapid responses 
  • Provides $1 million for refugee resettlement assistance, ensuring that new Vermonters are provided with opportunities to find work that best suits them
  • Providing $1 million to support Older Vermonters through Meals on Wheels, ensuring our vulnerable generations  
  • $1 million for the Vermont Foodbank to support Vermonters facing food insecurity

H.483 An act relating to the accountability and oversight of approved independent schools that are eligible to receive public tuition

Since the Carson decision, Vermont’s school choice laws are now in conflict with Vermont’s constitution. Public dollars are now being used to pay for religious worship in Vermont.

H.483 proposes to place new anti discrimination requirements on private schools seeking publicly funded students, restricts choice out of state to 25 miles and puts in place a moratorium on approving new private schools until additional action by the General Assembly. These are significant changes for private schools which typically do not have open enrollment policies.

While these proposals attempt to address some of the potential consequences the Carson v. Makin decision could result in, these proposals do not actually address the conflict with Vermont’s constitution, and that Vermonters are now being compelled to pay for religious worship through their taxes. This means the primary conflict remains unresolved and, absent legislative action, will almost certainly result in court decisions for resolution.

The House voted on these proposals this past week, but there were no roll call votes. On a voice vote, I voted in favor of these proposals after a brief interrogation of the Chair of House Education about whether the bill addressed the separation of church and state issue created by the Carson v. Makin decision.

H. 276 Creating a rental housing registry

This bill requires the Agency of Digital Services to conduct a project assessment to determine the costs and technical requirements of creating and maintaining a rental housing registry. It also requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to develop a plan for implementing crisis standards of housing and the Agency of Human Services (AHS) to create a working group to conduct a systems analysis of the homelessness response program. The bill passed via voice vote and is now in the Senate.

H. 479 The Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related
to transportation

From VLCT: “The House passed H.479, the FY 2024 Transportation bill which adopts and amends the state’s annual Transportation Program and includes various amendments and funding authorizations related to transportation. The bill as voted out of the House Transportation Committee differs only slightly from the Governor’s budget proposal as it relates to funding that affects municipalities and municipal programs. The overall budget proposal totals $850,815,297. The House Ways and Means Committee, however, incorporated an amendment to the bill that essentially tacked on a “Fee Bill,” tailored to address only Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) fees which have not been updated in over six years. The Ways and Means Committee stated on the floor of the House that the increases to DMV fees will provide the state with an additional $20.5 million in revenues. The Governor continues to oppose any increases to fees and opposes this addition to the bill.  

The bill makes significant investments in carbon reduction measures – a theme we’ve seen in Transportation bills in recent years. H.479 continues such greenhouse gas emission reduction measures. Regarding municipal programs, the House did not adjust funding from the Governor’s recommended budget, except to make a technical correction to funding to the Municipal Mitigation Assistance Program, which resulted in a net increase in funding levels. The following are some of the highlights of the bill as they relate to the overall state transportation budget and the programs and funding to local governments.”

Fees pay for the people and materials who provide services to Vermonters. Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles requires dozens more people to work in their system because then would be necessary if their website and processes were modernized. While this is slowly happening now, Governor Scott has not proposed sustainable ways for paying for and maintaining these types of modern government infrastructure. With our existing labor shortage, it is even more imperative that we modernize and digitize the DMV. While I have supported the governor’s fiscal restraint in growing government, we do have to maintain government, and fees have not been raised in six years. I voted in support of this years transportation bill.

H.486. School Construction

This bill proposes a task force to assess our school construction needs and bring forth a plan for action. It also pauses PCB testing in schools until after that plan has been completed, and unlocks funding that has been reserved for PCB remediation for school districts that have been already identified. The fiscal note can be read here

VLCT Webinar: Improve Your Community’s Energy Resilience 

The Municipal Energy Resilience Program (MERP) is a new $45M state program designed to help communities most in need of improving their energy resilience (those with high “energy burden”).

This program is designed to be easy to access and use, even for the smallest municipalities! Come hear the details from the State of Vermont’s Buildings and General Services team and discover how this new opportunity might work for you. 

April 18 @ 10 AM FREE REGISTER

MERP will provide assistance and funding opportunities including:  

  • Free building energy assessments 
  • Grants up to $4,000 to help communities increase their capacity to pursue energy resilience 
  • Grants up to $500,000 for building renovation projects that include activities such as weatherization, thermal efficiency, and supplementing or replacing fossil fuel heating systems with more efficient renewable or electric alternatives
  • Technical assistance 
  • Application support


In 2020 the Federal Government made special rules that stopped Medicaid closures due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. These rules recently changed. Vermont will now begin the usual Medicaid renewal process in April. You will stay on Medicaid if you still meet the income, age, and residency requirements. If you no longer qualify, your coverage can close. If this happens, you will have a chance to sign up for other types of insurance. The Office of the Health Care Advocate is here to help if you have questions or concerns about the Medicaid renewal process.

Medicaid Renewal:
The Medicaid renewal process will begin again in April of 2023. Vermont Health Connect (VHC) will send you a renewal letter requesting information. They may request that you send them information to confirm that you meet the income, residency, and age requirements to stay on Medicaid. You may have to provide proof of your current income.

They will not do all of the Medicaid renewals at once. Instead, they will send renewal letters out in batches over the next 14 months. Responding to these letters and giving VHC the information they request is important.

Update Your Contact Information:
You should make sure that VHC has your current mailing address, phone number, and email address on file so they can send you a renewal letter and other important updates. Call them at 855-899-9600 or log into your portal by visiting to confirm that this information is up to date.

Closure Notice:
You will stay on Medicaid if you still meet the income, age, and residency requirements. But If you no longer qualify for Medicaid coverage, VHC must send you a closure notice before your benefit can end. They must give you notice before the closure date. Medicaid coverage will not close until the last day of a given month.

Special Enrollment Period:
If you no longer qualify for Medicaid and are not on Medicare, you can get a Special Enrollment Period to sign up for a health insurance plan through VHC when your coverage ends. You will have 60 days after your Medicaid closes to sign up for insurance through VHC.
If your employer offers insurance, you can sign up for that coverage when your Medicaid closes. But it’s important to act quickly. The Special Enrollment Period for employer insurance can be limited to 30 days.

Call the Office of the Health Care Advocate for individualized advice if you have Medicare and have questions about Medicaid and your insurance options.

Call us with Questions:
The Office of the Health Care Advocate is a free and confidential resource for Vermont residents who have questions about health insurance or access to care. Call us if you have questions about how the Medicaid renewal process or any other health care related issue. You can reach our HelpLine at 1-800-917-7787. You can also get more information on our website or submit an online help request at
HelpLine: 1-800-917-7787 Website:

From VLCT’s Weekly Update: S.100 Housing 

During the last thirteen days, according to the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, negotiations have been ongoing between that committee and the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee to see if they could agree on an amendment to the latter committee’s housing bill as it was introduced. Debate was supposed to commence on Wednesday, but was delayed due to Chair of Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Senator Ram Hinsdale’s absence.  

On Thursday, the Senate was presented the compromise amendment from the two committees. Your VLCT staff have been clear for weeks that the proposals in the latest amendment are entirely inadequate to address the impediment that Act 250 poses to building the housing that the present crisis demands. The compromise amendment would: 

From the Jamaica, Vermont 05343 Facebook Page: This last week was a hard week in the Jamaica Town Office. Our Town Treasurer Terri Bills Garland passed away last weekend. Terri was a local gal from Wardsboro who took over as Town Treasurer over a decade ago. Terri has worked with three Jamaica Town Clerks and was the cog in the wheel in the Town Office. Terri was the person that we all went to as she was a wealth of knowledge. From Terri’s daughter Chelsea Garland: A celebration of life will be taking place next Saturday, April 8th at 1PM at the Stratton town hall for Terri Bills Garland. There will be food and sodas provided, but you are more than welcome to BYOB. All that is asked is that you wear tie dye if you have it as it was one of my mothers favorite things❤️
  • Strike out the language in the bill as introduced that would remove duplicative state permitting for connections of property to municipal water supply or wastewater permits. 
  • Amend zoning statute to provide that any ten persons “who allege a common injury to a particularized interest protected by this chapter” (Title 24 Chapter 117) may appeal a zoning permit decision. A ”particularized interest” would not include character of the area. 
  • Allow a municipality to apply for a Master Permit from Act 250 for a designated downtown or neighborhood development area. 
  • Include a provision in Act 250 that until July 1, 2026, the construction of housing projects with 25 or more units “constructed or maintained on a tract or tracts of land, located entirely within a designated downtown development district, a designated neighborhood development area, or a designated growth center, owned or controlled by a person within a radius of five miles of any point on any involved land and within any continuous period of five years” would be exempt from Act 250. Likewise, construction of a priority housing project “located entirely within a designated downtown development district or a designated growth center” would be exempt until July 1, 2026.  
  • Require the developer of the proposed 25 units or priority housing project to apply to Act 250 for a jurisdictional opinion, which “shall require that the project be substantially complete by June 30, 2029 in order to remain exempt. 
  • Allow a designated village center to apply to the state Downtown Board for an enhanced designation if the village center had adopted zoning and subdivision bylaws; municipal sewer, community or alternative wastewater system, or a pubic community water system; and adequate municipal staff to support coordinated comprehensive and capital planning, development review, and zoning administration. If enhanced designation was secured, until July 1, 2026, an Act 250 permit would not be required for a priority housing project with 50 or fewer units in the designated village center.

The compromise amendment was adopted on a vote of 19 yea and 11 nays. Then the Senate Appropriations Committee removed the appropriations in the bill, as is their wont, because all appropriations should end up in the appropriations bill. And freshmen senators in particular got a lesson in the machinations of crafting controversial legislation. 

The bill was up for third reading in the Senate on Friday. Senator Chittenden offered the one amendment that local officials support – to allow for the development of 25 housing units without triggering Act 250 in those towns with adopted zoning and subdivision. That amendment was subsequently superseded with an additional study so the 25 unit provision itself, never came to a vote. And in the end, after everyone made their speeches, the watered down bill passed with only two dissenting votes. 

Thank you to all the local officials who contacted their senators about the intense housing crisis and urged support for the original compromise bill out of Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs. We are not finished with the process yet – the bill goes to the House now that it has passed the Senate. In that chamber, the discussion about how to actually address the housing crisis, and how to provide local governments with flexibility in zoning and delegation of programs to effective, dedicated and professional local governments. 

Monitor the bills I am sponsoring and recorded roll call votes.

As always, if you have suggestions, concerns or critiques please be in touch so we can schedule time to discuss. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or Follow my regular posts online at

Rep. Laura Sibilia – Dover, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton, Wardsboro

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s