Introduced by Representatives Head of S. Burlington, Bostic of St. Johnsbury, Botzow of Pownal, Dostis of Waterbury, Edwards of Brattleboro, Hunt of Essex, Keenan of St. Albans City, Kiss of Burlington, Lippert of Hinesburg and Young of Orwell
Subject: Labor; employee ownership; economic development
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to stimulate the economy and the economic condition of employees by promoting employee ownership of businesses.
AN ACT RELATING TO EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP OF BUSINESSES
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. FINDINGS
The General Assembly of Vermont finds:
(1) Employee ownership of businesses promotes job growth, provides job protection, and maintains local ownership of businesses. Employee-owned companies tend to provide superior employee benefits, including health care. As with home ownership, employee ownership provides an effective way for working people to build wealth.
(2) Employee ownership can provide an excellent means for small business owners to transition ownership when they are ready to retire. The continuation of these businesses is in the economic interest of Vermont and assures that employees continue to use their skills productively, and that the state benefits from the continued tax revenues generated from the business and the jobs.
(3) Employee buyouts of plants scheduled for closure will preserve jobs that would otherwise be lost or moved out of state.
(4) Employee ownership coupled with employee participation has proven to be a combination that improves productivity and overall workplace quality, thereby creating companies that are better able to compete in the global economy.
(5) The United States government provides substantial support for employee ownership by offering beneficial tax treatment to Employee Stock Ownership Plans and worker cooperatives. Enhanced state support for employee ownership can bring the benefits of more employee ownership to Vermont and further leverage federal support.
Sec. 2. AGENCY OF COMMERCE AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT;
ENCOURAGEMENT OF EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP
(a) The agency shall contract with a nonprofit organization that has expertise in employee ownership in order to:
(1) Develop educational programs, including convening an annual conference on employee ownership issues.
(2) Provide information about employee ownership and technical assistance to retiring business owners, employees of plants threatened with closure, and entrepreneurs interested in creating businesses with broadly shared ownership.
(3) Link Vermont businesses interested in implementing employee ownership to available financial, technical, and legal resources.
(4) Assist firms and employee groups in performing preliminary feasibility studies to determine the initial feasibility of employee ownership, and whether the business and employee group should undertake a full feasibility study.
(5) Help businesses interested in implementing some form of employee ownership help to obtain financing.
(6) Promote best practices for operating employee-owned companies.
(7) Recommend legislative or executive action to promote employee ownership.
Sec. 3. VERMONT STATE TREASURER; STUDY
The Vermont treasurer shall, in continuation of the study entitled “A Survey of Economically Targeted Investments: Opportunities for Public Pension Funds,” study how the state can responsibly invest a portion of state pension funds in employee ownership.
Sec. 4. VERMONT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY;
The Vermont Economic Development Authority shall prioritize lending as follows:
(1) To employee-owned businesses.
(2) To businesses that are becoming employee-owned through the purchase of stock or business assets.
(3) To start-up businesses that will be owned by substantially all of the employees.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street