Leonine 2023 Legislative Wrap-up – Veto Session


During an unexpectedly speedy veto session, Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate successfully overrode five vetoes on key legislation. The veto session marks a significant victory for House and Senate Democrats, who were able to enact their top priorities over the objection of Republican Governor Phil Scott. Up until this week Governor Scott has been able to sustain all but three vetoes during his tenure.

Leading up to this week it was unclear how the veto session would play out. Since adjournment in mid-May, Democratic leaders have been grappling to develop a plan to provide support for the people who would lose their state-funded housing as the pandemic-era motel program came to an end. A group of House Democrats and Progressives had been threatening to sustain the governor’s veto of the FY2024 budget if legislative leaders did not produce a plan to extend the motel program. The House supermajority was at risk and the situation threatened to deliver Governor Scott a surprising victory.

Legislative leaders showed poise in the final week leading up to the veto session and were able to hammer out a deal that drew support from state officials across the political spectrum – including the governor. The deal utilizes $19 million that was earmarked for housing in the FY2024 budget to extend the motel program until spring 2024. The plan will help state officials gather information to ensure they are providing individuals with the services they need to find and maintain permanent housing. The plan also requires participants to transition out of the housing program as soon as a more permanent option becomes available, if they refuse they can no longer participate in the motel program.

With the deal made, House Democrats were able to override the governor’s veto of the budget with a 105-42 vote. The Senate vote was 25-5.

The legislature also overrode the governor’s veto of the child care reform bill (H.217), a top priority for Democrats. H.217 raises revenue for child care by establishing a payroll tax of 0.44 percent starting July 1, 2024, and requires employers to cover at least 75 percent of the tax for their employees.

Lawmakers also achieved an override of H.305, a bill that relates to the Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation. H.305 increases licensing fees for regulated professions and grants pharmacists and pharmacy technicians the authority to continue to administer immunizations, among other things.

Finally, lawmakers successfully overrode vetoes on charter changes for Brattleboro (H.386) and Burlington (H.509). Brattleboro’s charter change permits voters as young as 16 to participate in local elections, while Burlington’s change allows non-citizen residents to vote in city elections.

While the veto session was a success for Democrats they were unable to get the votes to override every veto issued by Governor Scott. S.6, a bill prohibiting law enforcement from lying to individuals under 22 during interrogations, faced opposition and was ultimately sent back to committee.

Legislation to double state legislators’ compensation and provide benefits including health insurance (S.39) also did not come to the floor for an override vote this year. S.39 lacked the two-thirds majority in the Senate to override the governor’s veto. The Senate decided to send the bill back to committee.

A wide-ranging elections bill (H.429) also faced obstacles and was sent back to committee. Concerns over ballot security and restrictions on multi-party candidates contributed to the bill’s setback.

All three bills that were vetoed but did not come up for a vote during the override session are eligible to be overridden when the legislature reconvenes in January 2024.



Bottle Bill

The House took up H.158, also known as the “Bottle Bill,” and passed it. The bill will head to the governor’s desk next. The Governor has indicated on multiple occasions that he plans to veto this legislation. H.158 expands Vermont’s existing beverage container redemption program beyond beer and soda containers to include water bottles, wine bottles and sports drinks. It would also create a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) beginning in 2027. A PRO is an organization that assumes responsibility for collecting and recycling certain products. Stakeholders who oppose the bottle bill expansion say that the changes will increase the cost of recycling and create a hefty burden on distributors and redemption centers, among other businesses. There has also been criticism of the bill for continuing to divert the unclaimed deposits. The organizations that will be tasked with running the PRO would prefer that they be allowed to keep 100 percent of the unclaimed deposits in the PRO for the first five years, when costs are expected to be substantial as the program is designed and investments are made in new technology and infrastructure.


Data Privacy

The House Commerce & Economic Development committee met for an hour on Tuesday during the override session to review an updated 62-page draft of H.121, a consumer data privacy bill that includes protection of biometric data. Chair Michael Marcotte, R-Coventry, said he asked the committee’s attorney to draft a bill based on Connecticut’s privacy law as a starting place. Chair Marcotte believes that Connecticut may be a good model because it will allow for a regional approach that will make compliance easier for Vermont businesses. Chair Marcotte added that he has heard some committee members may support using California’s data privacy law as a model instead. He said he is “open” to considering this option. The committee has permission from the Speaker to meet over the summer and fall to work on this legislation with the goal of the House passing H.121 early in 2024 to give the Senate time to consider it next year as well. The committee is planning to meet again at the end of July.


Thank you for following along throughout the course of the 2023 legislative session. We will be back next year!