Lawmakers pushed for economic development measures from day one of the session, but they grappled over the details right until they adjourned.
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott declared economic development as “priority one, day one,” before going on a listening tour of Vermont to hear grassroots ideas that he shared with the Legislature and the public.
House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, brought in an 11-person business-friendly panel that ended up making different recommendations than many of the eccentric ones he received from the public.
The Shumlin administration made multiple attempts to expand the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive for manufacturing companies and unsuccessfully wrestled against using the IBM fund to pay for the bill.
A “Vermont Liquor Control System Modernization Study Committee” would study the governance of the Department of Liquor Control and how it could “be made more efficient, effective, and profitable for the Vermont economy.” A report on the potential privatization of liquor control is due Dec. 15.
The commissioner of Liquor Control would report by Jan. 15, 2018, on how the new permitting program for fortified wines is going. The study would need to recommend the appropriate number of fortified wine permits.
A “Southern Vermont Economic Development Zone Study Committee” would study the workforce decline in the past 15 years and report to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and relevant legislative committees by Dec. 1.
The Agency of Education, Department of Labor, Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the Vermont State Colleges would perform a study by Jan. 15 that has to do with career technical education.
Rent-to-Own Becomes Omnibus Consumer Protection Bill
The House Commerce Committee puts together a consumer protection bill every year, but rent-to-own companies took center stage when Shumlin and Attorney General Bill Sorrell called on the Legislature in February to regulate their practices.
After clearing the Senate, the bill that outed rent-to-own companies for repossessing used couches from poor Vermonters turned into a multifaceted measure to give all Vermonters more transparency on hidden fees.
Shumlin is expected to sign S.73, pending his standard disclaimer that he will look at the bill’s details. It puts a yearlong moratorium on settlement loan companies and has disclosure requirements for about a half-dozen industries.
Lawmakers also tacked on a popular measure to create a financial literacy commission to help Vermonters understand their financial well-being. Advocates say parents are as uncomfortable talking to their kids about money as they are talking to their kids about sex.
Correction: The mechanism of the first-time homebuyer fund and the number of homebuyers it will help was incorrect in the original version of this story. It was corrected at 11 a.m. on May 25, 2015.