Vermont lawmakers return Tuesday promising quick action on key legislation

By Stewart Ledbetter Jan 6, 2020

Vermont lawmakers return to the Statehouse Tuesday for the second half of the biennium.

In the opening days of 2020, the House and Senate will consider compromise legislation to raise the state minimum wage and establish mandatory paid family leave benefits for all workers.

Democrats are considering a mandatory leave program funded through a small payroll tax on all Vermont employees.

“Everyone agrees we need to move quickly on these bills and come to a resolution on them so Vermonters can begin to see the benefits of having the flexibility to take care of a family member, new baby, a sick parent and our lowest income Vermonters can begin to see an increase in wages. That’s the most critical thing,” House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said Monday.

Minutes later, the small business group Main Street Alliance of Vermont held a news conference urging the House insist on comprehensive family leave benefits. The Senate version makes personal disability coverage an optional extra for the employee or employer to pay for.

“We’re here to today to call upon the Legislature to take the time to pass a paid leave policy that works for all working Vermonters, and includes personal medical leave,” said Morgan Nichols, the executive director of the group. The Senate version, she said, “leaves thousands of Vermonters behind.”

Gov. Phil Scott opposes both a higher minimum wage and any new paid leave mandate.

The governor will deliver his annual State of the State address to a joint session at the Statehouse on Thursday.