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The annual Budget Adjustment Act is not typically where you’ll find intrigue or drama. But things are about to get a bit more interesting for this yearly bookkeeping exercise, thanks to the continuing Form 1099-G saga.

As you’re likely aware, the Vermont Department of Labor, in addition to recalling thousands of errant tax forms sent to the wrong addresses with the wrong personally identifiable information, is working to make sure there are no more mistakes when it sends out corrected forms. With Vermonters who received unemployment benefits waiting on forms to complete their taxes and the department keen to restore trust, getting it right matters.

One way to double-check the information before it heads out the door is to cross-reference it with data on file at the Tax Department. But that’s easier said than done.

By statute — 32 V.S.A. § 3102, if you’re curious — tax data is confidential. But the same law also lists a slew of exceptions and situations where the sharing of that data is allowed.

So the Legislature could craft another statutory exception that allows the Department of Labor and Tax Department to work together for this purpose, and get those forms out the door.

Re-enter the Budget Adjustment Act.

The House Appropriations Committee was planning to take up the slight differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill on Friday. But State Rep. Mary Hooper, who chairs the committee, told the committee she had received calls and texts from administration officials on Thursday night that, explaining they were looking for ways to get accurate information to affected taxpayers.

The Budget Adjustment Act appears to be that vehicle.

“We clearly need to think about that and consider it thoughtfully,” Hooper told the committee. But at the same time, “We don’t want to hold people up in responding to this.”

And Hooper also wants to be sure that any such action protects taxpayers’ privacy and avoids unintended consequences.

“Simple is never simple, that’s guaranteed,” she said.

WHAT’S AHEAD

Two important reminders:

• You can watch hearings stream in real time or at your convenience by following the video link on each committee page.

• Agendas are as of Sunday afternoon and are subject to change. Check back often at the Legislature’s home page.

TUESDAY

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• At 10:15 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee works on S. 25, a bill proposing numerous additions and changes to the marijuana tax and regulate law it passed last year. Included are provisions for town votes on cannabis businesses, reduced license fees for individuals who historically have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, and a requirement that vertically integrated licensed purchase at least 25 percent of their supply from licensed small cultivators.

• Starting Tuesday afternoon, House Corrections and Institutions tackles the proposed Fiscal 2022 capital budget. Topics at hand include the Vermont Police Academy (Tuesday, 1:45 p.m.); and the University of Vermont and Vermont State Colleges System (Wednesday afternoon). The cost of physical upkeep is a big part of the challenge facing VSCS, and the future plan for the system includes the possibility of removing some buildings rather than trying to catch up with millions for deferred maintenance.

• In House Government Operations at 2 p.m., House Government Operations takes up H. 196 a bill that would provide for two additional positions in the Director of Racial Equity Xusana Davis’s office as well as funding for those positions. Legislators have said they support more resources for Davis, and there’s funding for this addition in Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed 2021 budget.

WEDNESDAY

• Wednesday afternoon after its formal session, the Senate’s caucus of the whole hears from Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine on the state’s vaccination efforts. The Senate sessions starts at 1 p.m., and sessions have been brief thus far this year, so if I had to guess I’d say tune in no later than 1:15 p.m. if you want to watch it live.

• Should the state expand its bottle bill? H. 175 proposes to do just that, in addition to increasing the per-bottle deposit to 10 cents from 5 cents. The House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife will consider the bill at 9 a.m.

• At 9 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee takes testimony on H. 133, “An act relating to emergency relief from abuse orders and relinquishment of firearms.” Law enforcement officials and gun rights advocates are scheduled to testify

• The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee is set to discuss one of Gov. Scott’s initiatives, the Better Places program, at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday.

• Starting Wednesday afternoon and through the rest of the week, the House Education Committee will be working on a committee bill that would direct the Agency of Education to study the state’s PreK-12 education facilities needs and costs.

THURSDAY

Bright and early at 8:30 a.m., the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs considers the administration’s brownfields redevelopment proposal, one of the elements in the $210 million one-time spending package that’s part of the budget.

FRIDAY

At 1:45 p.m. the House Judiciary Committee hears testimony H. 145, which addresses the police use of force policy set by the Legislature last year.

TUNE INThe House convenes at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 1:15 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. Friday.

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 11:30 a.m. Friday.

Greg Sukiennik covers Vermont government and politics for New England Newspapers. Reach him at gsukiennik@reformer.com.

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for ESPN.com, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.


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