From the Vermont State House | 4.10

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From the Governor and Administration

Governor Scott today extended the State of Emergency to May 15. The original State of Emergency, issued on March 13, was set to expire on April 15, as were the subsequent mitigation measures. As a result of this extension contained in Addendum No. 9 to the original Order, all measures, including the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, are now in effect until midnight on May 15. Schools remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year.

In addition to extending the date, the Governor ordered additional measures, including:

  • Providing legal immunity for health care facilities, health care providers, health care volunteers, individuals and entities providing emergency functions and emergency management, as defined, who are providing COVID-19 related emergency management services or response activities from civil liability for any death, injury, or loss resulting from COVID-19 related emergency management services or response activities, except in the case of willful misconduct or gross negligence.
  • For the purpose of clarifying Stay Home/Stay Safe, directed the Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to provide guidance to financial, legal and professional services and municipalities to facilitate assistance to Vermonters seeking to take advantage of state and federal financial support made available in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, and that these services are allowed as essential services.
  • Authorizing lodging operators to immediately accept reservations for stays and events occurring on or after June 15, 2020.
  • Directing the Department of Motor Vehicles to extend inspections for motor vehicles, other than school buses and motor buses, for 60 days for inspections due in April 2020.

The Governor stated the data and modeling continue to be updated and revised, are factoring into this extension, and will have the potential to impact this most recent Order as the data continues to develop.

From the State House

The Senate convened this past Wednesday to pass another rules change: to allow for Senate floor proceedings and voting to be conducted remotely during the State of Emergency and until the end of the biennium. In practice, this means the Senate floor proceedings will be conducted on Zoom to allow for senators to consider and debate legislation, and cast votes, while the proceedings are simultaneously streamed on a YouTube channel. There will no doubt be technological hurdles and challenges to overcome but this is expected to nevertheless be the new mode and continue as long as is necessary. The House has granted itself similar authority but has yet to utilize it. That may change in the near future.

The Senate quickly exercised its new authority and today passed a handful of additional bills related to COVID-19 response measures. The most prominent is likely S.333, which essentially puts a moratorium on residential evictions and foreclosures. While the Vermont Supreme Court and a handful of Superior Courts put a stay on evictions, this bill represents a uniform and statewide approach. The bill does not change the duty to pay rent or mortgage but will stay residential evictions through the duration of the State of Emergency plus thirty days to allow for the procedures to become implemented again following the end of the Emergency. Importantly, a court can still hold emergency hearings on evictions that affect the safety and health of other residents. The bill received the support of the Administration, the judiciary, and representatives of landlords and tenants. The bill will now head to the House where quick consideration is also anticipated.

Elsewhere, focus in the Legislature continues to be on developing the next series of COVID-19 legislation. Areas under consideration continue to be in health care and delivery, judicial operations, municipal operations, and employer/employee issues. Most importantly, the fiscal impact on the State’s General Transportation and Education Funds in FY20 and FY21 is daunting to say the least. The money committees will continue to take their time to get a clear picture of that impact with the help of their fiscal consultants. The impact on municipal revenues is similarly significant. All of these will continue to receive legislative attention in the coming days and weeks.