Legislative Update: Impacts of ACA Repeal, Early Childhood Day, Permitting + Federal Updates

Health Care

MSA-VT released a report from Health Care for America Now that details the impact of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on individuals, small businesses and Vermont’s economy. A Cost Too High: The Financial Harm of the Republican Plan to Eliminate Health Care is evidence that proposals to repeal the ACA put Vermonters’ health and economic security at risk.


Child Care

March 15 is Early Childhood Day at the Legislature. This full day of advocacy also includes a Rally for Kids hosted by Let’s Grow Kids at 1 p.m. on the front steps of the state house. We would love to have you join - please let us know if you will be there.


Public Retirement

The Senate Economic Development Omnibus Bill includes language that would establish the Multiple Employer Plan (MEP) proposed by the Vermont Treasurers Public Retirement Study Committee. Check out our fact sheet on secure choice public retirement in Vermont.


Housing 

The House and Senate are looking at a number of different proposals to expand affordable housing in Vermont. Proposals include:

  • H.163, which would authorize the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to grant authority for up to five municipalities to incur debt to support a workforce housing pilot project and use workforce housing tax increment financing to repay debt;
  • The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee Bill proposes to promote affordable and sustainable housing through changes relating to tax increment finance districts and state and municipal land use laws concerning affordable and priority housing projects;
  • H.181, which would provide adequate funding for sustainable housing and development, create a residential rental housing registry, and adopt minimum habitability standards for residential rental housing; and
  • H.194 proposes an Act 250 exemption for priority housing projects.

For more information on any of these or to weigh in on the issue, please contact us


Minimum Wage

The House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs continued to take testimony on proposals to increase the minimum wage. Jaquelyn Rieke, MSA-VT Leadership Circle Member and Owner of Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex, testified in support of the proposals, highlighting the need for greater economic security for all Vermonters.

On Thursday, there was a joint hearing to discuss the so called “benefits cliff.” Deb Brighton, a consultant with the Joint Fiscal Office, provided testimony, stating that “some households receiving public assistance—particularly those households needing childcare—may face a decrease in net available resources as a result of earning an additional dollar because of the combination of increased taxes and reduced public benefits.”

Main Street Alliance of Vermont supports working toward further minimum wage increases. We also recognize that the benefits cliff must be addressed to make our lowest wage jobs more livable and to ensure that, with wage increases, there is a net benefit for the impacted employment base.


Permitting

The Agency of Natural Resources is hosting a listening tour on Act 250 and issues around permitting. This is a great chance for you to weigh in!  

  • St. Johnsbury: Thursday, Feb. 23 from 4-5pm at Northeast Vermont Development Authority, 30 Eastern Avenue
  • Burlington: Friday, Feb. 24 from 10-11am at Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, 60 Main Street
  • Rutland: Wednesday, March 1 from 9-10am at Rutland Economic Development Corp., 67 Merchants Row, 3rd Floor
  • Brattleboro: Thursday, March 2 from 11am-12pm at Marlboro Graduate Center, 28 Vernon Street (Hosted by Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.)
  • White River Junction: Thursday, March 2 from 2-3pm at Hotel Coolidge, 39 S. Main Street (Hosted by Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission)

No RSVP is required. For more information about the listening tour, visit www.anr.vermont.gov or call (802) 828-1294.


Federal Updates

Health Care

House Speaker Paul Ryan met with lawmakers to go over an ACA repeal and replace plan. Republicans left the meeting sharply divided. The proposal includes:

  • State per capita caps for Medicaid;
  • Elimination of advanced refundable tax credits to help consumers buy insurance;
  • Indexing of rates to age, not income; and
  • Winding down of expanded medicaid in states like Vermont.

While Congress has been slower than some expected in repealing the ACA, the Trump Administration has been making moves of its own to dismantle some important provisions, including:

  • Loosening an Obamacare provision barring insurers from charging older customers more than three times as much as younger enrollees.
  • Slashing the 2018 enrollment period in half. It would run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, rather than through the end of January 2018 as the Obama administration had proposed. It would also tighten special enrollment periods.
  • More flexibility on out-of-pocket costs. In a "Silver" plan, for example, insurers must cover between 68 percent and 72 percent of medical expenses. HHS is proposing to expand that range by another 2 percentage points. So for that same Silver plan, insurers could cover as little as 66 percent of medical costs.

Financial Regulations

Texas lawmakers Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. John Ratcliffe on Tuesday introduced legislation that would eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as pressure mounts within Congress and the Trump administration on the federal consumer finance watchdog. The legislation, introduced in the Senate by Cruz and the House of Representatives by Ratcliffe, would repeal Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB.

Retirement

The House Rules Committee voted to approve a Congressional Review Act resolutions that blocks regulations that would implement the Obama Labor Department's state and city IRA programs. This would impact a state’s ability to set up auto-IRA retirement accounts. A vote is expected Wednesday.  While this would not have an immediate impact on the work happening in Vermont to set up a public retirement option through a Multi-Employer Plan (MEP), MEPs will likely be under attack next.

Labor

Andy Puzder, withdrew his nomination for Labor Secretary. Amid pressure from numerous Americans, including Matt Birong of 3 Squares Cafe in Vergennes, Puzder did not have the votes necessary to be confirmed. In place of Puzder, Trump has nominated Alexander Acosta, a law school dean, with government experience.


Please weigh in on MSA-VT's 2017 Legislative Platform, by updating your 2017 membership today. Feel like you're missing something? Find our past updates on our blog.


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