Vermont’s House gave the thumbs up to several monumental pieces of legislation on Friday that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Paid Family and Medical Leave

One of those is H.66, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. It would create a universal, mandatory job-protected 12-week leave plan for those that have worked at least two of the last four calendar quarters.  The plan would have a 90% wage replacement.  

Governor Phil Scott proposed his own 6-week voluntary paid leave plan last fall that the legislature has yet to take up.  

The Senate’s childcare bill, S.56, that is set to hit the floor has a mirroring 12-week parental leave plan that H.66’s sponsor Emily Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro, says is encouraging despite a limited amount of state funding to go around.  

“I’m really excited that the senate jumped ahead and affirmed their absolute intentions and belief of how important family leave is,” Kornheiser said. “We’ve done a lot of work in the lead-up to getting the childcare bill. We have to look closely at it to make sure we have progressive options for raising that revenue.”  

Universal School Meals

Also passing through the House on Friday was H.165, the Universal School Meals Bill. 

The state has allocated surplus money to keep students’ stomachs full since 2020, but with the funds running low, state officials estimate the annual cost for universal school meals to be between $25 million and $42 million per year. It would be paid for by a slight property tax increase.  

Governor Scott has been opposed to the plan, but many legislators say it will allow students to have a better classroom experience, including the bill’s sponsor Erin Brady, D-Williston.  

“Kids can go hungry in our schools for a lot of reasons,” Brady said. “Certainly, for financial need but also because we start really early and because families are stressed because kids forget. It’s a good program to make sure kids’ basic needs are met at school…it has kids sitting in different ways in the lunchroom than they might have before.”  

Sports Betting

The house also opted to approve online sports betting in the state, which would implement a minimum of 2 operators and a maximum of 6. They would enter a revenue-sharing system with the state.  

The Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery would regulate the betting market by negotiating tax rates, impose caps on advertising spending, and regulations prohibiting marketing towards minors. 

These bills still have to get approval from the Senate chamber before heading to the governor’s desk.