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Mid-Biennium Legislative Update 2023

Vermont State House

Vermont Commission on Women monitors the progress of hundreds of bills each session. In this blog post, we summarize and provide status updates on the legislation we believe is most critical and interesting to our readers.

Passed Legislation

House Bills Passed

H.41 (Act 11) – Referral of domestic and sexual violence cases to community justice centers

  • Creates a pathway for community justice centers to begin accepting domestic and sexual violence case referrals with support from the Office of the Attorney General. Requires community justice centers who wish to accept these referrals to enter a memorandum of understanding with local member programs of the Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence and referring law enforcement and prosecutors, and to develop a program that meets certain criteria before accepting referrals.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Scott on May 8, 2023.

Effective: Effective on passage.


H.45 – Abusive litigation filed against survivors of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault

  • Allows a victim/survivor of domestic or sexual violence or stalking to petition the court for an order restricting abusive litigation against them by the perpetrator when they can show that the other party has: filed claims and allegations that are not warranted by law; made allegations and other factual contentions without evidentiary support; or continued to make filings about issues that have previously been filed and disposed of unfavorably to the other part. Once issued, the order prohibits the person who is subject to the order from filing litigation against the protected individual unless a judicial officer determines there are reasonable and legitimate grounds for the litigation to proceed.

Status: Passed by the House & Senate.

Effective: September 1, 2023.


H.89 (Act 14) – Civil and criminal procedures concerning legally protected health care activity

  • Protects reproductive and gender-affirming health care by creating a civil action for damages if any person attempts to engage in abusive litigation that infringes on or interferes with or attempts to infringe on or interfere with the exercise and enjoyment, or attempted exercise and enjoyment, by any person of rights to reproductive health care services or gender-affirming health care service (“legally protected health care”).

  • Prohibits public agencies from knowingly providing any information or expending or using time, money, facilities, property, equipment, personnel, or other resources in furtherance of any interstate investigation or proceeding seeking to impose civil or criminal liability upon a person or entity for seeking or receiving, or assisting someone in seeking or receiving, reproductive health care services or gender-affirming health care services.

  • Creates a civil penalty for using force or threats or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, or interfere with another person obtaining or providing reproductive health care services or gender-affirming health care services.

  • Directs the Governor not to surrender a person charged in another state with engaging in or providing reproductive health care services or gender-affirming health care services.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Scott on May 10, 2023.

Effective: On passage, May 10, 2023.


H.94 – Removing the Reach Up ratable reduction

  • Requires the Department for Children and Families to submit a report to the legislature by March 15, 2024, with an actionable plan to remove the ratable reduction in the Reach Up program, address the financial implications, address anticipated changes to the caseload, and identify resources. The ratable reduction decreases Reach Up grants below the determined need, and removing the ratable reduction would increase Reach Up grant amounts.

Status: Passed by the House & Senate.

Effective: July 1, 2023.


H.148 (Act 8) – Raising the age of eligibility to marry

  • Raises the age of eligibility to marry to 18 without exception.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Scott on April 20, 2023.

Effective: July 1, 2023.


H.157 – Vermont Basic Needs Budget

  • Creates a Basic Needs Budget Technical Advisory Committee to update the methodology used to calculate Vermont’s basic needs budget. Requires the Committee to submit a written report with recommendations by November 1, 2023.

Status: Passed by the House & Senate.

Effective: July 1, 2023.


H.165 – School food programs and universal school meals

  • Extends universal school meals permanently providing free lunch and breakfast for all students in public and independent schools, supports farm-to-school partnerships, and provides funding for the program.

Status: Passed by the House & Senate.

Effective: July 1, 2023.


H.217 – Child care, early education, workers' compensation, and unemployment insurance

  • Makes significant changes to Vermont’s child care programming and requires state agencies to return to the legislature with reports and action plans on various improvements to the child care system including:

    • Significantly expands the Child Care Financial Assistance Program by:

      • Increasing program eligibility to families with gross income up to 575% of the federal poverty guidelines by the end of 2024 ($172,500 for a family of four).

      • Ensures families with gross income up to 175% of the federal poverty line ($52,500 for a family of four) have no family co-payment.

      • Allowing the Commissioner to adjust the subsidy by rule to account for increasing child care costs.

      • Providing an adjustment to the base child care reimbursement for the purpose of taking steps toward implementing a professional pay scale and supporting programs to offer higher compensation and professional development for staff and to improve learning environments.

      • Directing the program to reimburse all providers using the fiscal year 5-STAR rate.

      • Reducing the differential between family child care homes and center-based child care and preschool programs by 50%.

      • Creating 11 new permanent state positions to staff the Child Care Financial Assistance Program.

      • Appropriating funds to issue readiness payments to programs for the purpose of expanding capacity, hours, improving facilities, addressing gaps in services, increasing workforce capacity, and other approved uses.

      • Creates a permanent funding mechanism for the Child Care Financial Assistance Program by establishing a child care contribution, to be collected on all covered wages paid to their employees at the rate of 0.44%, as well as on self-employment income, at the rate of .011%. Establishes 15 new positions in the Department of Taxes to support this.

    • Directs the Department for Children and Families to establish a child care quality and capacity incentive program for child care providers to provide an incentive payment for achievements related to quality, capacity, training, or other criteria.

    • Limits childcare program tuition increases and prohibits child care providers from charging application and waitlist fees to families that qualify for the Child Care Financial Assistance Program.

    • Creates a Prekindergarten Education Implementation Committee to assist the Agency of Education in improving and expanding accessible, affordable, and high-quality prekindergarten on a full-time basis. The Committee will report to the legislature by December 1, 2024, with a plan to be implemented by July 1, 2026.  

Status: Passed by the House & Senate.

Effective: Various effective dates.


H.230 – Implementing mechanisms to reduce suicide and community violence

  • Creates new criminal offenses related to the negligent storage of firearms. Prohibits individuals from storing or keeping firearms in a way that they know or reasonably should know that a child or prohibited person is likely to gain access. Imposes stricter sentences if a child or prohibits person gains access to the firearm and uses it to cause death or serious bodily injury, unless the firearm was carried or stored in accordance with specific terms, such as being stored in a locked container, or a firearm carried with such “close proximity that it can be readily retrieved and used by an authorized user”.

  • Allows family and household members to petition the court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order; current law allows only a State’s Attorney or the Office of the Attorney General to do so.

  • Implements a 72-hour waiting period on the transfer of firearms after the licensed dealer facilitating the transfer is provided with a unique identification number for the transfer by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) or seven business days have elapsed since the dealer contacted NICS to initiate the background check, whichever occurs first. Doesn’t apply to transfers that do not require a background check or to transfers at gun shows.

Status: Passed by the House and Senate.

Effective: July 1, 2023.


H.476 – Miscellaneous changes to law enforcement officer training laws

  • Directs the Vermont Law Enforcement Advisory Board to update the Domestic Violence Involving Law Enforcement Model Policy for handling domestic violence including procedures for officer training, survivor support, and dealing with officers who are victims or perpetrators of domestic violence and requires law enforcement agencies to adopt it.

  • Adds domestic violence and sexual harassment violations to the list of law enforcement offenses the Vermont Criminal Justice Council can take immediate action on.

Status: Passed by the House and Senate.

Effective: On passage.


Senate Bills Passed

S.36 – Relating to crimes against health care workers at hospitals and against emergency medical treatment providers

  • Increases protections for healthcare workers who find themselves subject to verbal and physical assault by allowing for arrest without a warrant for assaults and threats against healthcare workers and disorderly conduct at healthcare facilities.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Scott on May 30, 2023.

Effective: On passage.


S.37 (Act 15) – Access to legally protected health care activity and regulation of health care providers

  • Requires medical insurance plans to cover abortion and abortion-related care as well as gender-affirming care that is medically necessary and clinically appropriate and included in the State’s essential health benefits benchmark plan.

  • Extends unprofessional conduct for medical providers to include willfully providing inaccurate health or medical information to a patient, including purposeful misrepresentation of a patient’s health status.

  • Protects health care providers from being subject to professional disciplinary action, for providing reproductive or gender-affirming care. Directs healthcare entities not to disclose protected health information related to reproductive or gender-affirming care for use in civil or criminal actions, legislative or administrative proceedings with some exceptions.

  • Makes it a violation of consumer protection law for any limited-service pregnancy center to disseminate advertising about the services or proposed services performed at that center that is untrue or clearly designed to mislead the public about the nature of services provided. Also makes it a possible professional conduct violation for healthcare providers who participate.

  • Allows retail drug stores and post-secondary schools to make over-the-counter emergency contraception available through a vending machine.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Scott on May 10, 2023.

Effective: Various effective dates.


S.138 – School safety

  • Creates the Working Group on Student Protections from Harassment and Discrimination in Schools to study and give recommendations for how to address harassment and discrimination experienced by students. Requires the Working Group to submit a report to the legislature by December 1, 2023.

Status: Signed into law by Governor Scott on May 30, 2023.

Effective: July 1, 2023.


Pending Legislation

VCW will continue to monitor the progress of dozens of bills including those highlighted below. View our Legislative Tracking Database to follow along throughout the next year.

H.22 – Sexual exploitation of a person who is being investigated by law enforcement

  • Proposes to prohibit a law enforcement officer from engaging in a sexual act with a person whom the officer is investigating or who the officer knows is being investigated by another officer.

Status: House Committee on Judiciary.


H.40 – Nonconsensual removal of or tampering with a condom

  • Proposes to create a civil right of action to address the intentional and non-consensual removal of a condom prior to or during a sexual act.

Status: Passed by the House, Referred to Senate Judiciary.


H.66 – Paid family and medical leave insurance

  • Proposes to establish a universal paid family medical leave insurance program for Vermont workers, administered by the Department of Labor and funded by a small payroll tax equally split between the employer and employee, unless the employer elects to cover more of the payroll tax. The program would provide 12 weeks of coverage in a twelve-month period for the birth of a child, adoption or new foster placement of a child, for one’s own serious health condition, pregnancy, or miscarriage; the serious health condition of the worker’s family member. The program would cover safe leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence and up to two weeks of bereavement leave following the death of a family member. The wage replacement rate would be 90% of a workers covered wages, up to the state average weekly wage. The program would also allow self-employed individuals to elect to participate in the program.

Status: Passed by the House, Referred to Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs.


H.80 – Freestanding Birth Centers

  • Proposes to establish a licensing structure for freestanding birth centers. It would also require prenatal, maternity, postpartum, and newborn coverage under health insurance plans and Medicaid to include birth center services and fees and would specify that birth centers are not subject to certificate of need review.

Status: House Committee on Health Care.


H.93 – Reach Up benefits

  • Proposes to require the Commissioner for Children and Families to annually set by rule the maximum financial assistance for a family participating in Reach Up based on the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual Fair Market Rents data.

Status: House Committee on Human Services.


H.115 – Health insurance coverage for donated human breast milk

  • Proposes to require health insurance plans and the Dr. Dynasaur program to cover pasteurized donated human breast milk for infants under 12 months of age under certain circumstances.

Status: Health Committee on Health Care.


H.116 – Miscellaneous employment protections and standards

  • Proposes to amend the law protecting applicants for employment from inquiries regarding their current or past compensation, providing additional protections for job applicants.

Status: House Committee on General and Housing.


H.154 & S.109 – Medicaid coverage for doula services

  • Proposes to require Medicaid coverage for doula services during labor and birth and for the prenatal and postpartum periods.

Status: House Committee on Health Care & Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.


H.224 – Child input in child custody cases

  • Proposes to create a basis for children to have input in child custody cases. The bill permits the court to assess a child’s wishes concerning parental rights and responsibilities. The bill also creates procedures and protections for children who desire to address the court.

Status: House Committee on Judiciary.


H.349 – Increasing access to reproductive health care

  • Proposes to require employers to permit employees to use sick time for reproductive health care appointments and to protect the privacy of employees who use sick time for reproductive health care appointments. Proposes to create a State fund to support grants to organizations that provide practical support to individuals seeking an abortion.

Status: House Committee on General and Housing.


H.356 – Medicaid and breast pumps

  • Proposes to require that Medicaid cover breast pumps prior to the birth of the child and cover at least one breast pump per child.

Status: House Committee on Health Care.


H.369 & S.63 – Health insurance and Medicaid coverage for fertility-related services

  • Proposes to require health insurance plans and Vermont Medicaid to provide coverage for fertility-related services. It would also direct the Agency of Human Services to seek federal approval of an amendment to Vermont's Medicaid state plan to permit the Medicaid coverage.

Status: House Committee on Health Care & Senate Committee on Finance.


S.103 – Amending the prohibitions against discrimination

  • Makes several significant changes to discrimination protections including:
    • Amends Vermont’s Equal Pay Provisions by adding race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and qualified individuals with a disability to the protected classes, making it illegal for Vermont employers to pay individuals for equal work differently based on these characteristics.
    • Extends a prohibition against “do not darken my door” settlement provisions that prevent an employee settling a harassment or discrimination claim from ever applying to work for the company, its subsidiaries, parent company, division, or affiliates, ever again. This protection has been in place for sexual harassment settlements since 2018 and is now extended to all employment discrimination and harassment settlements.
    • Changes the standards that apply to harassment and discrimination claims by:
      • Clarifying that sexual harassment can include written, auditory, or visual conduct in addition to physical and verbal conduct.
      • Eliminating the requirement that a complainant demonstrate that harassment substantially interfered with the individual’s work performance, and instead requires the complainant to show that the conduct had the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
      • Eliminating the severe or pervasive standard for determining whether workplace harassment is illegal.
      • Defining illegal workplace harassment as “unwelcome conduct based on an employee’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, place of birth, age, crime victim status, or physical or mental condition that interferes with the employee’s work or creates a work environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
      • Clarifying whether conduct constitutes harassment is based on the totality of the circumstances, and that a single incident may constitute unlawful harassment. Rather than looking at harassment based on several protected characteristics separately and distinctly, the courts will look at them together.
      • Extending similar protections to places of public accommodation.

Status: Passed by the House.

H.372 & S.125 – Voluntary engagement in sex work

  • Proposes to repeal the prostitution laws that currently prohibit "indiscriminate sexual intercourse" and consensual engagement in sex work for hire by adults while retaining strict prohibitions and felony criminal penalties for human trafficking of persons who are compelled through force, fraud, or coercion to engage in sex work.

Status: House Committee on Judiciary & Senate Committee on Judiciary.


S.43 – Child and Parent Representation Working Group

  • Proposes to establish the Child and Parent Representation Working Group to report to the General Assembly with a plan to develop two distinct administrative programs to provide an interdisciplinary approach to effective legal representation for both children and parents involved in the child protection system.

Status: Senate Committee on Judiciary.


S.108 – Increasing the minimum wage and studying increasing the wages of inmates and workers who are not subject to the minimum wage

  • Proposes to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by January 1, 2025, create a study committee to study changes to the tipped minimum wage law and wages paid to incarcerated individuals, and to examine the number of workers who are otherwise expect from receiving the minimum wage.

Status: Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs.


S.157 – Harassment, hazing, and bullying prevention in schools

  • Proposes to require the Secretary of Education to include the names, addresses, and contact information for State and federal agencies responsible for enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, such as the Vermont Human Rights Commission and the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, in the model harassment, hazing, and bullying prevention policies required under 16 V.S.A. 13 § 570. This bill also proposes to allow a claim to be brought under the Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act prior to exhaustion of the administrative remedies available to the students under the model policy if the student has filed a claim with a State or federal agency responsible for enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, such as the Human Rights Commission or the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

Status: Senate Committee on Education.

Are you interested in any of the bills we have included here, especially in any still pending? Reach out and let us know so we can connect with you about how to get involved!

VIEW Newsletter 5/31/2023 - legislative update edition**