By Guy Page
The Vermont Senate today agreed with the House on bills to create statewide registries of all rental housing and building trades contractors.
S. 79 shifts responsibility for rental housing health and safety from municipalities to the State of Vermont. “The system of volunteer, untrained town health officers does not work,” Sen. Alison Clarkson said. Town health officers often lack the will, skill and funding to protect people living in substandard housing, she claimed.
The bill also allocates millions of dollars of funding to restore blighted rental properties, and is supported by state landlords and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, supportive senators said.
Before voting yes to approve an amended S79 sent over by the House, the Senate rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) to remove a section of the bill containing a statewide registry of all rental housing. The registry is funded by an annual fee paid by the landlords. Noting that Vermont already has a serious affordable housing shortage, “The end result of a bill like this is that we will have less rental housing available than we do now.”
The Senate also approved H157, registration of construction contractors. The stated purpose of the bill is to reduce fraud and enforce “green” building practices. Critics say it will raise the cost of home construction and reduce the size of Vermont’s workforce in the building trades. Both bills now go to Gov. Phil Scott for his consideration.
The Senate also voted to override Gov. Scott’s vetoes of H177 and H227, allowing non-citizen voting in Montpelier and Winooski respectively. The House overrode the vetos yesterday. With the Senate vote today, the two bills are now law.
The Senate did not address Gov. Scott’s veto of S107, raising the juvenile offender age to under age 21. The bill had been opposed by open government advocates concerned about the public information ban placed on juvenile court cases. Also, Gov. Scott explained that he vetoed it due to the state’s failure to increase youth counseling and other services since he agreed to raise the juvenile offender age to 20 three years ago.
This week, Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint (D-Windham) reportedly said the Legislature lacked the votes to override. The House adjourned yesterday, making a veto override impossible.
Senate Government Operations Committee will take up S107 in January, Chair Jeanette White said. The Senate then adjourned until (if needed) Oct. 19, or on January 4 2022.