2019 Legislative Overview

VBA Legislative Overview – 2019

The VBA followed a number of bills affecting the bar and the courts this legislative session. Below is a brief summary of those that have been enacted to date in bill number order; please note that a number of them have July 1, 2019 effective dates. The summary includes the bill designation, act number (if assigned), title, date signed by Governor Scott, effective date, and an indication of any VBA Connect Communities where information about the bill was posted during the legislative session. A link to each bill is included with each summary.

Many thanks to VBA Government Relations Coordinator Bob Paolini for so ably tracking these and a variety of other bills affecting the bar, and for making sure that testimony was provided when needed. Many thanks, also, to the numerous lawyers who testified so capably, when needed.   Please contact Teri Corsones at if you have any questions about this overview. Thank you very much!


H. 278Act 24 “Parentage” bill (an act relating to acknowledgment or denial of parentage); signed by Governor Scott on May 16, 2019; Sections 1–3 and 7 are effective on passage, remaining sections are effective on July 1, 2019. (VBA Family Law Community)

  • Clarification of timing for rescission of denial or acknowledgement of parentage
  • Clarification of circumstances regarding the release of parentage information
  • Clarification of certain details of parentage forms and parentage orders


H. 287 – “Small probate estates” bill (an act relating to small probate estates); signed by Governor Scott on May 28, 2019; effective on July 1, 2019. (VBA Probate Law Community)

  • Small estate limit raised from $25,000 to $45,000
  • Estate must consist entirely of personal property; time share property may be allowed
  • Listing of what needs to be filed
  • Interested parties have 14 days to object
  • Letters of administration effective for one year
  • Spells out process if small estate insolvent


H. 330 – “Repeal of Statute of Limitations” bill (an act relating to repealing the statute of limitations for civil actions based on childhood sexual abuse); signed by Governor Scott on May 28, 2019; effective on July 1, 2019 (VBA Practice and Procedure Community)

  • Repeal of statute of limitations for civil actions based on childhood sexual abuse
  • Felony sexual exploitation of a minor added to definition of childhood sexual abuse
  • Repeal applies retroactively to abuse that occurred prior to July 1, 2019
  • Damages against an entity for actions based on abuse that would have been barred by statute of limitations on June 30, 2019 only if there is a finding of gross negligence


H. 436Act 11 “International Wills” bill (an act relating to international wills); signed by Governor Scott on April 30, 2019; effective on July 1, 2019. (VBA Probate Law Community)

  • Based on Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will
  • International will in compliance with statute is valid with regard to form, irrespective of place where made, location of assets or nationality, domicile or residence of testator
  • Spells out requirements of process for validating international wills
  • Certificate by authorized person regarding requirements must be attached to will
  • Template for certificate of authorized person included in statute
  • A person with active Vermont law license and in good standing is authorized person


H. 460 – Act 32 “Sealing and Expungement” bill (an act relating to sealing and expungement of criminal history); signed by Governor Scott on May 23, 2019; effective on July 1, 2019 except Sec. 3 (expungement and sealing procedure) shall take effect on October 1, 2019.

  • Expansion of nonviolent crimes that qualify for sealing or expungement petitions, including possession of certain controlled substances, driving under the influence (first offense) in certain instances and burglary in certain instances
  • Definition of predicate offenses modified to exclude possession of a controlled substance in certain instances


H. 512 – “Miscellaneous Judiciary Amendments” bill (an act relating to miscellaneous court and Judiciary related amendments) signed by Governor Scott on May 30, 2019. Effective date July 1, 2019, but “notwithstanding 1 V.S.A. § 214, Sec. 6, 15 V.S.A. § 752(b)(9) (maintenance guidelines), shall apply to actions filed on or after January 1, 2019”. (VBA Family Law Community)

  • Option to waive use of commissioners in partition actions
  • Probate divisions to maintain electronic databases of notices of intent to retain parental rights
  • Confidentiality parameters for use of juvenile records in probate cases
  • Records of subjects of delinquency petitions filed after 7/1/06 sealed if case dismissed
  • Modifications of maintenance provisions (“long term” instead of “permanent”; retirement benefits provisions; alimony guidelines updated in light of Tax Reform bill)
  • Various revisions to marijuana/cannabinoids provisions
  • Creation of Task Force on Campus Sexual Harm – VBA appointee on Task Force


H. 526 – Act 38 “Town Clerk Recording Fees” (an act relating to town clerk recording fees and town restoration and preservation reserve funds); signed by Governor Scott on May 28, 2019; sections 1-2 (town clerk fees; town fee report), 6 (recording of tax liens); 7-9 (recording procedures) effective on July 1, 2019; sections 3-5 (survey plats) effective on Jan. 1. 2020. (VBA Property Law and Municipal Law Communities).

  • Recording cost per page increase from $10 to $15 for deeds, foreclosure complaints, document that is to be a matter of public record, and property transfer tax returns
  • Recording cost per survey sheet increase from $15 to $25
  • Examination of record cost per hour increase from $2 to $4
  • If land subdivided or boundaries changed after Jan. 1, 2020, the deed shall be accompanied by a survey plat that shows new boundaries and cite book and page of previous deed – failure to do so does not void the deed or render the title unmarketable, however
  • Vermont tax lien is deemed filed when the clerk indorses a certificate on the lien
  • Clerks shall bear the cost of returning the original copy of a recorded instrument to the filer
  • Clerk shall enter the names of parties, type and date of instrument, and date and time of recording in a searchable index open to public inspection within three days following the date an instrument is indorsed (time for entering the information may be extended for good cause shown such as illness or absence of clerk)


H. 527 – “Judicial Branch Fees” bill (an act relating to Executive Branch and Judicial Branch fees) Committee of Conference Report Adopted on May 24, 2019; effective date of Judiciary Branch filing fees is July 1, 2019. 

  • No filing fee for motions to confirm the sale of property in foreclosure
  • Filing fee of $100 for petitions for license to convey real estate or personal property
  • Filing fee of $100 to obtain a birth order
  • Filing fee of $150 to appeal the denial of an application to amend a birth or death certificate  (judiciary fees on pp. 1985-1986)


H. 541 – “Revenue” bill (an act relating to changes that affect the revenue of the State); Report of Committee of Conference adopted on May 24, 2019; act takes effect on passage, except for: (1) Sec. 1 (capital gains exclusion) shall take effect on July 1, 2019 and apply to the sales of assets on or after that date. (2) Notwithstanding 1 V.S.A. § 214, Sec. 2 (medical deduction) shall take effect retroactively on January 1, 2019 and apply to taxable year 2019 and after. (3) Secs. 4 (downtown and village center tax credit), 7–8 (rooms tax), 9–15 (property transfer tax), and 18 (fuel tax) shall take effect on July 1, 2019. (4) Sec. 5 (estate tax exclusion at $4,250,000.00) shall take effect on January 1, 2020 and apply to estates of decedents with a date of death on or after that date. (5) Sec. 6 (estate tax exclusion at $5,000,000.00) shall take effect on January 1, 2021 and apply to estates of decedents with a date of death on or after that date. (6) Secs. 16–17 (land gains tax) shall take effect on January 1, 2020 and apply to gains from sales made on or after that date.

  • Capital gains tax exclusion shall not exceed 40% of federal taxable income or $350,000, whichever is less
  • Land gains tax modified to only cover land, whether or not improved, that has been purchased and subdivided by the transferor within 6 years previous to the sale or exchange of the land
  • New property transfer tax trigger for the transfer or acquisition of a controlling interest in a property
  • Estate tax limit increased from $2,750,000 to $4,250,000 in 2020 and $5,000,000 in 2021  (capital gains tax on pp. 2009-2012; land gains tax on pp. 2025-2026; property transfer tax on pp. 2021-2025; estate tax on pp. 2019-2020)


S. 18 – “Unconscionable Terms”” bill (an act relating to consumer justice enforcement) Motion by Sen. Ashe to deliver to Governor Scott on May 23, 2019. Effective on October 1, 2020.

  • Rebuttable presumption that certain contract terms are substantively unconscionable in certain standard form contracts
  • Contract terms include inconvenient forums, waiver of a right to a jury trial, waiver of a right to seek punitive damages, modification of limitation of action periods, and excessive fees or costs to bring an action
  • Exclusions for financial institutions, credit unions, contracts regulated by DFR,  contracts for recreational activities, sports or competitions, and motor vehicle retail installment contracts (unconscionable terms on pp. 1615-1617)

S. 131 – “Insurance” bill (an act relating to insurance and securities); delivered to Governor Scott on June 5, 2019; effective date of July 1, 2019.

  • Outline of “innovation waivers” with respect to specific requirements of insurance laws, regulations or bulletins
  • New domestic surplus lines insurance provisions
  • New HIV-related test requirements
  • Parameters of Vermont Financial Services Education and Victim Restitution Special Fund
  • Modification of definition of “credit report”


Other bills that did not make it through this session but may be back next session

H. 1 - Non-compete provisions (H Comm Econ Dev) likely to come back next session  (Employment and Intellectual Property Sections) 

H. 412 – P R & R (H Jud) possibly back next session (Family Law Section)

S. 99 – Alimony reform (Sen Jud) very likely to come back next session (Family Law Section)

Act 250 Commission – the House Judiciary Committee will likely be asked to review a proposal that jurisdiction over Act 250 appeals be transferred from the Environmental Division to a lay Environmental Review Board. The Environmental Law Section will discuss the proposal during a program at the VBA Annual Meeting on September 27 in Burlington.