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Here are the bills vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott — and what the Legislature did next

Two people speak in the middle of two rounded rows of desks covered in notebooks and glasses in an ornately decorated Senate chamber.
Zoe McDonald
/
Vermont Public
Sens. Phil Baruth and Ginny Lyons speak during a Senate recess on Monday, June 17, 2024.

The Vermont Legislature overrode six of Gov. Phil Scott's vetoes Monday, enacting laws despite his disapproval on issues including property taxes, pollinator protection and a Burlington overdose prevention center.

The Republican governor had formally blocked eight pieces of legislation that passed the Democrat-majority House and Senate this year.

A two-thirds majority was needed to override the governor's vetoes, and lawmakers found the votes in nearly every attempt.

A data privacy bill that consumer advocates said would have been the strongest in the nation died in the Senate as business opposition eroded lawmakers' support.

Here are the bills vetoed by the governor and the veto session outcomes.

H.687 - Act 250 and housing

What is it?

This major housing and land-use bill that would make sweeping reforms to Act 250, a law that has governed and guided development in Vermont for half a century.

The bill was one of lawmakers’ landmark pieces of legislation this year, and a subject of lengthy debate over balancing housing growth and environmental conservation.

H.687 sets in motion a process to chop Vermont into a series of “tiers” that will dictate how development is treated under Act 250, easing the law’s reach in some already-developed areas and strengthening its protections over sensitive ecosystems.

The sprawling bill carries far more than just Act 250 changes. It also includes broad reforms to the state’s designation incentives program, a new tax on second-home buyers, funding for eviction prevention programs, flood disclosure requirements for home sellers and landlords, and more.

The veto

Scott signaled that, from his perspective, lawmakers’ Act 250 compromise focuses too much on conservation efforts and not enough on encouraging housing development.

The override

Lawmakers voted to override Scott's veto with a 107-38 vote in the House and a 21-8 vote in the Senate. The bill will now become law.

The actual boundaries of the new Act 250 tiers will be hashed out in a years-long mapping and rulemaking process. In the meantime, the bill sets up a number of interim exemptions from Act 250.

More from Vermont Public: With veto override, Act 250 reform bill becomes law

A woman with short brown hair and a navy vest and white shirt sits at a long desk in an empty House chamber.
Peter Hirschfeld
/
Vermont Public
Rep. Monique Priestley is pictured in the Vermont House chamber. Priestly worked on a data privacy bill vetoed by the governor.

H.121 - Data privacy, kids on social media

What is it?

This bill would give Vermonters the ability to sue large data brokers that misuse their personal information and has been heralded as the strongest data privacy bill in the country. The legislation would also force social media companies to make their platforms less addictive to kids.

The veto

Scott raised concerns about both major elements of the bill.

Regarding the legal mechanism to allow Vermonters to hold companies liable for harm from the misuse of personal data, the governor said it would make the state more hostile to businesses and nonprofits. He suggested adopting Connecticut's data privacy law instead.

The governor also said he wanted to see the outcome of legal challenges to similar social-media legislation in California to avoid costly court challenges here.

More details: Gov. Phil Scott vetoes data privacy bill

The outcome

A tripartisan coalition in the House overwhelmingly voted to override Scott's veto Monday. But after a last-minute lobbying push from the business community, support for the measure collapsed in the Senate, where 15 out of 29 members voted to sustain Scott's veto.

Rep. Monique Priestley, a bill sponsor, said she believes the well-known Vermont businesses like Burton and Orvis that criticized the legislation were sincere in their concerns but misinformed by Big Tech.

The Bradford Democrat said she's certain the bill will be back up for consideration next year.

H.887 - Property taxes and education finance

What is it?

This bill, often called the "yield bill," would result in an average statewide education property tax increase of 13.8% next year.

The nearly 14% increase is a significant decrease from what analysts originally predicted due to allocations of surplus money to the education fund, as well as increased taxes on short-term rentals and certain kinds of software.

It also creates a Commission on the Future of Public Education, which will be required to release an interim report on cost containment ideas this December, ahead of the upcoming legislative session.

The veto

Scott said he vetoed the bill due to the cost to Vermonters.

After the veto, the governor's administration pitched a alternative plan that would empty the stabilization reserve in the education fund, and suspend Vermont’s universal school meals program, in order to buy down property taxes. Democratic lawmakers panned the proposal as "fiscally irresponsible" and argued that it would compromise the state’s financial health for years to come.

The override

Lawmakers overrode the governor's veto by a tally of 103-42 in the House and 22-7 in the Senate. While a handful of Democrats in the House voted against the bill on Monday, votes otherwise fell along partisan lines, with the Republican minority in opposition.

More: School property tax bill becomes law as lawmakers override Gov. Phil Scott's veto

A Boston Red Sox T-shirt hangs over the back of an empty chair in a Senate chamber.
Zoe McDonald
/
Vermont Public
A Boston Red Sox T-shirt hangs over the back of the former Senate seat of Sen. Dick Sears, who died earlier this month, during the Senate veto session on Monday, June 17, 2024.

H.645 - Restorative justice expansion

What is it?

This bill would task the Office of the Attorney General with creating avenues to expand access to the state's restorative justice program.

It proposes creating pre- and post-charge diversion programs as well as a post-adjudication reparative program.

Bill sponsors said the legislation also tries to achieve geographic equity by directing the Office of the Attorney General to build out restorative justice programs in all 14 counties.

The veto

In a letter to lawmakers, Scott said he vetoed the bill because it lacked a funding source.

More from Vermont Public: Scott vetoes bill expanding restorative justice access. Lawmakers say they'll override

The override

Lawmakers voted to override Scott's veto Monday.

House Judiciary Chair Martin LaLonde said it's critical to expand this program.

"Restorative justice is a community based response to crimes that focuses on repairing harm and making amends," LaLonde said. "It holds individuals accountable for the harm they have caused in a manner that centers on the victim and the community that has been harmed."

LaLonde said H.645 will divert cases out of the criminal justice system, which will also aid in reducing court backlog.

H.72 - Overdose prevention center

What is it?

This bill would set up a pilot site in Burlington where individuals would be able to use illegal drugs under medical supervision. Overdose reversing medication would also be available. Advocates say overdose prevention centers, sometimes called safe injection sites, can help prevent fatal overdoses and provide touch points for people with substance use disorder to seek help.

The veto

In his veto message to lawmakers, Scott said money for the project would be better spent on existing programs.

More from Vermont Public: Gov. Phil Scott vetoes bill that would establish overdose prevention center in Burlington

The override

The House and Senate voted to override Scott's veto Monday.

Senate Health and Welfare Chair Ginny Lyons urged her colleagues to support the bill.

"They need help, they need a place to go, they need medical attention," Lyons said.

Solar panels in a snowy field
Abagael Giles
/
Vermont Public
Solar panels off Route 7 in Vergennes in January 2024.

H.289 - Renewable Energy Standard

What is it?

This policy would require every utility in the state to get 100% of its power from renewables by 2035. And, it would quadruple how much power utilities buy from new renewable sources in New England.

It was widely regarded as the biggest energy bill of the legislative session.

The veto

Scott cited concerns about how the policy would increase Vermonters' utility bills. He favored a different plan that required fewer new renewables and would have used more out-of-state nuclear power.

More from Vermont Public: Gov. Scott vetoes major electricity bill, legislative leadership pledges to override

The override

Democratic lawmakers overrode Scott’s veto, setting the multi-year plan into motion.

More from Vermont Public: Clean energy mandate for Vt. utilities becomes law after Democrats override veto

“Our bill is designed to address the unique needs of Vermont’s varied utilities and to enhance the resilience of our grid, particularly in rural areas,” Dover Rep. Laura Sibilia said Monday.

The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office estimates the bill would ultimately cost Vermonters between $150 million and $450 million by 2035, which the office predicts is the equivalent of adding between $4.50 and $13.50 to the average Vermont household’s monthly electric bill by the same year.

A man in a suit with gray hair and glasses speaks.
Zoe McDonald
/
Vermont Public
Sen. Christopher Bray speaks during the veto session on Monday, June 17, 2024.

H.706 - Neonicotinoid pesticides

What is it?

Scott vetoed this bill that would effectively ban the prophylactic use of neonicotinoid pesticides in Vermont. Nearly all of the corn and soy seed grown in the United States is coated with the pesticides. The insecticides are toxic to bees and other pollinators, which face mounting threats from climate change and disease.

The veto

In a statement, Scott called the legislation "anti-farmer" and said it places an unfair and disproportionate burden on dairy farmers who rely on growing corn for feed.

The beekeeping industry has consistently called for a ban on neonicotinoids, and several beekeepers told lawmakers this year they view the policy as essential to the honey industry's survival in Vermont. Dairy farmers in Vermont were split on the issue, with organic farmers and the Champlain Valley Farming Coalition testifying in support of the policy, and several other farmers raising concerns.

The override

Democratic lawmakers overrode the veto by votes of 114-31 in the House and 20-9 in the Senate. The ban will begin to take effect next year.

House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy of Poultney opposed the bill, saying it would place Vermont farmers at a disadvantage since nearly all corn and soy seeds are treated with neonicotinoids.

But environmental organizations hailed the override vote, saying it will restore the bee populations that are critical to Vermont’s food systems.

S.18 - Flavored tobacco ban

This bill would have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes. Scott vetoed the bill in early April, and lawmakers said they did not plan to attempt an override.

More from Vermont Public: Vermont’s flavored tobacco ban bill attracted surge in lobbying, ad spending before governor’s veto

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