Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

It’s been two weeks plus since I posted to this blog; but there’s a reason for that. Let me explain. At the end of the session, especially after conference committees begin working on resolving differences between the two chambers, lots happens in the background. More than other times during the session, conversations happen outside of the committee room and off the record. Things move quickly and change often, too often actually. It’s hard to say where things are at any point in time. It’s best to do our work quietly and in one on one or in small group conversations.

The legislature adjourned as you know about 11PM Saturday. The funding for the judiciary held at $43,945,757  (H.490) even though the revenue bill deleted the $10 IFP fee. The legislature passed H.489 which includes increased fees mostly in probate cases to support the judiciary. The only change from the earlier senate passed version was the elimination of the $10 fee to apply for "in forma pauperis".My concern was that the predicted $35,000 that fee was to raise would be subtracted; didn’t happen.

As we’ve reported before, Dan and I reached out to his Representative Mary Hooper.  We spoke to her on numerous occasions. She became a true advocate for the judiciary. After the roll call vote last night on the budget Mary explained her vote as follows:

Rep. Hooper of Montpelier explained her vote as follows: “Mr. Speaker:
Vermonters’ access to justice is protected in this budget. The Judiciary is receiving a $2 million increase which will ensure – unlike 6 years ago – our courts will be open every day.”

Also, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee addressed the same issue on the floor of the senate during its passage of the budget. She said that senators had heard from many members of the bar who raised concerns about access to justice and that spurred the committee to look for ways to fully fund the courts. In addition, Vermont Legal Aid had a cut from the house passed bill restored in the senate.

The conference report contains some policy language about the courts. It can be read on pages 2488-2492 here:

The capital bill (H.482) passed on Thursday with the Lamoille courthouse funded at $5M. The court's case management system will get $500K next year and $4M the year after. This is down from $750K next year and $5M the year after.

Real estate practitioners should be interested in what the legislature did to raise funds to clean up Lake Champlain. H. 35, a bill to improve the quality of state waters contains a .02% surcharge on the property transfer tax. Here is the language of the bill:

        Property Transfer Tax Surcharge; Water Quality Long-Term Financing Report

Sec. 38. 32 V.S.A. § 9602a is added to read

There shall be a surcharge of 0.2 percent on the value of property subject to
the property transfer tax under section 9602 of this title, except that there shall
be no surcharge on the first $100,000.00 in value of property to be used for the
principal residence of the transferee or the first $200,000.00 in value of
property transferred if the purchaser obtains a purchase money mortgage
funded in part with a homeland grant through the Vermont Housing and
Conservation Trust Fund or which the Vermont Housing and Finance Agency
or U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has committed to
make or purchase. The surcharge shall be in addition to any tax assessed under
section 9602 of this title. The surcharge assessed under this section shall be
paid, collected, and enforced under this chapter in the same manner as the tax
assessed under section 9602 of this title. The Commissioner shall deposit the
surcharge collected under this section in the Clean Water Fund under 10
V.S.A. § 1388.


32 V.S.A. § 9602a (Clean Water Surcharge) shall be repealed on July 1, 2018.

NOTE: the surcharge in Sec. 38 takes effect on passage.
So the date the governor signs the bill is the date to watch for. As soon as I know that I will let you all know.

I can report that three bills we were interested in this year have all been signed into law. They are the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act; the revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act; and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

So, for now, this wraps up my legislative reporting. I want to thank all of you for your help during this session. Tom Moody and Peter Erly led the effort to get the LLC bill through the process deftly and quickly. Penny Benelli helped the UIFSA to pass. Stephanie Willbanks and Joe Cook’ s efforts guaranteed passage of the UTMA. Without their help and willingness to volunteer their time, none of this would have happened. It’s a real testament to the members of the VBA and their service to our profession and to all Vermonters. You all make me proud to work for you.

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy summer. The legislature will be back before we know it! 
Yikes, I can’t believe I just said that.