Click here to view the 2018 Legislative Session Report.
The second biennium of the 2015-2016 session of the Vermont General Assembly has adjourned. This Legislative Bulletin sets forth a number of new acts of interest to real property practitioners. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Andy Mikell at (800) 649-3366, or at email@example.com.
Act 65, Statewide Education Tax Rates
This act amends Act 46 from the 2015 session, concerning education tax rates. The 2015 legislation increased statewide education tax rates for school districts that increased spending at a rate higher than the allowable growth threshold. Act 65 of the 2016 session limits the thresholds in the 2015 legislation to fiscal year 2017 only, rather than both 2017 and 2018, and revises the process for determining the threshold. Effective January 30, 2016.
Act 66, Petroleum Cleanup Fund
The Petroleum Cleanup Fund provides financial assistance for the closure, replacement, or upgrade of underground or aboveground storage tanks. This act establishes the maximum amount of the grants that may be offered, depending on the nature of the tank, and increases the total amount of financial assistance that may be authorized in any one fiscal year. Effective February 10, 2016.
Act 73, Extending the Exemption from Encumbrance on Title of Properties Subject to a Pretransition Stormwater Permit
Vermont law provides, at 27 V.S.A. § 613, that notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no encumbrance on record title to real property or effect on marketability of title shall be created by the failure of the holder to obtain, renew, or comply with the terms of a pretransition stormwater discharge permit. Prior to the passage of Act 73, this provision was due to expire on June 30, 2016. This legislation extends that date until June 30, 2018.
The statute defines pretransition stormwater discharge permit as a “permit issued by the secretary of natural resources pursuant to 10 V.S.A. § 1264 on or before June 30, 2004 for a discharge of stormwater.” Effective April 12, 2016.
Act 76, Aboveground Storage Tanks
This act provides that the Secretary of Natural Resources shall, by July 1, 2017, adopt rules for the inspection of aboveground storage tanks. Standards for the rules are set forth, and include such matters as the protocol to be followed and the criteria to be reviewed in the performance of inspections, the frequency of inspections, and the training and certification requirements for tank inspectors. The act also provides that if the owner of an aboveground storage tank converts the type of fuel used so that the tank is no longer being used for fuel storage then the owner shall have the tank and any fill pipes removed at the same time as the conversion. Effective, generally, July 1, 2016, with the inspection and removal requirements effective July 1, 2017.
Act 79, Classification of State Waters
This act changes the classification of state surface waters, with four newly designated classes, A(1), A(2), B(1), and B(2). The act further provides that all waters, other than those that are considered Class A waters, shall be designated as Class B(2) waters unless and until they are reclassified. The Secretary is authorized to reclassify one or more uses of all or a portion of a water. Effective April 28, 2016.
Act 84, Conservation Easements
Section 1 of this act adds a new section to the statutes, 10 V.S.A. § 6311, which provides that a tax lien “shall not affect conservation rights and interests if the tax lien attaches to the subject property under 32 V.S.A. § 5061 subsequent to the recording of the conservation rights and interests in the municipal land records.” Section 2 of the act amends 10 V.S.A. § 823 to provide that a document creating conservation and preservation rights and interests shall not be subject to the requirement of filing a notice of claim within the 40-year period as provided in 27 V.S.A. § 603. The remainder of the act amends 27 V.S.A. § 604 to provide that such rights or interests shall not be barred or extinguished by reason of failure to file the notice provided for in section 605 of Title 27. Effective July 1, 2016.
Act 86, Public Notice of Wastewater Discharges
This act adds a new subchapter 1A to 10 V.S.A. chapter 47, titled “Notification of Sewage and Wastewater Discharges.” The new subchapter sets standards for notification to the public and to the Agency of Natural Resources when there has been an untreated discharge of sewage or wastewater from the treatment facility. Effective, generally, on May 4, 2016.
Act 89, Intermunicipal Services/Regional Planning
This act grants authority to a regional planning commission to enter into service agreements with multiple municipalities regarding intermunicipal services. The act sets forth the process for drafting bylaws concerning the formation of, withdrawal from, and method of terminating such an agreement. The act also lists a number of activities that the commission is not authorized to perform, including essential legislative functions, taxing authority, and eminent domain. Effective July 1, 2016.
Act 90, Municipal Plan Adoption, Amendment, and Update Process
This act makes a number of revisions to the statutes that govern the adoption and amendment of municipal development plans. The revisions include an extension of the period for which such plans remain in effect, from five to eight years, and new requirements for confirmation of the planning process by the regional planning commission. Effective July 1, 2016, with specific instructions that the eight-year expiration date applies to plans adopted or readopted on or after July 1, 2015, and that plans adopted or readopted before that date shall expire in accordance with the statute as it existed at the time of adoption or readoption.
Act 99, Pesticides
This act adopts a new statute, 6 V.S.A. § 1105a, authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets to adopt rules that govern the sale, use, storage or disposal of certain pesticides. Any such rule would establish best management practices, standards, procedures, and reporting requirements. The Secretary shall not adopt requirements if and to the extent that a pesticide is already regulated by another agency, department, board or other instrumentality of the state. Effective July 1, 2016.
Act 105, Water Quality on Small Farms
The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is charged with adopting and implementing the “Required Agricultural Practices,” 6 V.S.A. § 4810a, concerning standards for eliminating adverse impacts to water quality from farming practices. This act amends the statute to address matters such as the siting of waste storage facilities and the construction of farm structures within a floodway. Effective May 12, 2016.
Act 115, Disclosure of Compliance with Accessibility Standards in the Sale of Residential Construction
This act requires a seller of residential construction to provide written disclosure to a prospective buyer, before the sale, detailing whether the residential construction is in compliance with the standards set forth in 20 V.S.A. §2907. The disclosure shall be made on a form and in a manner prescribed by the Vermont Access Board. “Residential construction” is defined in the statute as new construction of one-family and multi-family dwellings, other than single-family dwellings built by the owner for personal occupancy, or the assembly or placement of residential construction that is prefabricated or manufactured out of state. Effective May 17, 2016.
Act 126, Residential Rental Agreements
This act makes a number of revisions to the statutes governing residential rental agreements, including the addition of a definition for “sublease.” 9 V.S.A. is amended by the addition of a new §4456b, titled “Subleases; Landlord and Tenant Rights and Obligations.” This new section concerns subleasing, and provides that a landlord may condition or prohibit subleasing, and may bring an action for ejectment against a person who is occupying the dwelling unit without right or permission. If subleasing is allowed, the tenant shall provide the landlord with written notice of the name and contact number of any person occupying the dwelling unit. Other provisions in the act concern expedited hearings in actions for ejectment of a person occupying the unit without right or permission and the process that shall be followed in the court’s handling of the matter. Effective July 1, 2016.
Act 132, Nonresidential Property Tax Rate, Education Tax Rates
This act sets the nonresidential education property tax rate at $1.535 per $100, for fiscal year 2017 only, rather than the rate of $1.59 per $100. The act also, for fiscal year 2017 only, sets the property dollar equivalent yield at $9,701.00 and the income dollar equivalent yield at $10,870.00. A Common Level of Appraisal Committee is created, charged with studying the use of an aggregate common level of appraisal in a merged school district to determine the statewide education tax for each municipality in that district. Other provisions of the act address a report on proposed changes to the calculation of the statewide education property tax, a report on issues related to creating an education tax that is adjusted by income for all taxpayers, and incentives for voluntary school governance mergers. Effective, generally, on July 1, 2016, with some sections effective at other times.
Act 134, Miscellaneous Tax Changes
This lengthy act makes numerous changes to the tax statutes, covering matters such as use value appraisals, assessment education for municipal assessing officials, return and payment of withheld taxes, and the homestead property tax adjustment. Effective, generally, on May 25, 2016, with some sections effective at other times.
Act 146, Estate Tax
This act makes a number of revisions to Vermont’s estate tax laws, including new language that provides that if an estate’s value exceeds $2,750,000, then the tax shall be assessed only on the value of the estate that exceeds that amount, rather than on the entire value. The rate of tax assessed on value that exceeds $2.75 million shall be 16%. Other provisions of the act concern estate tax returns filed by the estate’s executor and a study of the possible impact of moving Vermont’s exclusion amount under its estate tax to an amount that matches the federal basic exclusion amount. Effective May 26, 2016, as to the study, and retroactively to January 1, 2016 and applicable to decedents dying after December 31, 2015, as to the new estate tax exclusion and tax rate.
Act 150, Permits and Approvals/Department of Environmental Conservation
The stated purpose of Section 1 of this act is to establish standard procedures for public notice, public meetings, and decisions relating to applications for permits issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The Secretary of Natural Resources may adopt rules to implement the new Chapter 170 (Title 10), covering matters such as informational meetings, notice to adjoining property owners, public hearings, and the decision-making process. Five permit categories are established, with different requirements for each category.
Other portions of the act concern the Secretary’s environmental notice bulletin and permit handbook, appeals to the Environmental Division, permits for the construction or modification of air contaminant sources, permits in flood hazard areas, permits affecting watercourses, waste management zones, discharge permits, emergency permits, and Act 250 appeals to the Division. Effective, generally, on January 1, 2018, with some sections effective May 31, 2016.
Act 154, Potable Water Supplies from Surface Waters
This act makes numerous revisions to the statutes that govern the state’s potable water supplies and hazardous material releases. Matters covered by the act include the adoption of rules to govern permitting of surface waters as a residential water supply, testing for contamination in groundwater sources, and the assessment of damages against a person who is liable for a hazardous material release. The act also forms a working group to make recommendations concerning the state’s ability to prevent exposure to toxic or hazardous materials, identify and regulate their use, and inform the public about their hazards. Effective, generally, on June 1, 2016, with some provisions effective July 1, 2016 or July 1, 2017.
Act 157, Economic Development/Business Entities/Affordable Housing
This very lengthy act makes numerous revisions to the state’s statutes governing such matters as regional economic development, employment growth, and the Vermont Economic Development Authority. Of interest are Sections E.1 through E.4, which set forth new provisions on conversions, mergers, share exchanges, and domestications of corporations, limited liability companies and other business organizations. (11A V.S.A. Chapter 11)
Section Q.2 of the act directs the Joint Fiscal Office to conduct a comprehensive study of Vermont state taxes, covering matters such as historical trends since 2005, state tax levels per capita and per income level, and cross-border tax policies.
Sections T.2 through T.4 concern affordable housing, providing that there shall be a study of affordable housing matters, and revising the tax credit program and the Down Payment Assistance Program. Effective, generally, on June 2, 2016, with some sections effective July 1, 2016 or July 1, 2017.