Week 3 : January 22nd to January 25th

Music in the Statehouse

Every Wednesday night of the session is Farmer's Night. It's a long held tradition of an evening's entertainment. This week the Vermont Symphony Orchestra performed some pieces: one written by a Vermont teen and another by Mozart when he was eight year old.

The highlight of this week was the Governor's budget address to the joint House and Senate. To a lot of people this may not sound fascinating but to legislators it is the meat of the matter. The speech, and subsequent release of both the Total and Capital budget, tells us what the administration's priorities are and how they might be funded.

The proposed budgets eventually become bills and are encoded in law. Much of the work in the money committees (Appropriations, Ways & Means, and Institutions) involves shaping these budgets. Many bills passed by the policy committees require funding and must be vetted by Ways & Means and Appropriations. This week all that work began in earnest.

More bills hit the floor and were routed to committees. Floor sessions remain short as the Speaker reads a list of bill numbers and the names of the committees to which they have been referred. That's the first reading of the bill (though only the title or bill number is read). Second reading is when a bill comes out of committee. That's when there can be floor debate. The length of the sessions on the floor will grow longer and can become interminable. If the bill passes second reading it sits for at least a day, then comes back for a third and final reading, and a vote. If it passes that, it's off to the Senate.

Here's a few of the bills that came out this week:

  • H.56 - An act relating to the use of gun suppressors for hunting
  • H.62 - An act relating to protecting towns’ rights to approve the closure of a school
  • H.65 - An act relating to requiring the removal of snow and ice from vehicles operated on public highways
  • H.71 - An act relating to prohibiting State contracts with for-profit correctional facilities
  • H.74 - An act relating to the prohibition of plastic carryout bags, expanded polystyrene, and single-use plastic straws
  • H.80 - An act relating to hearing protection while hunting
  • H.88 - An act relating to requiring a presidential candidate to disclose federal tax returns in order to be placed on the presidential primary and general election ballots
  • H.90 - An act relating to hunter education in schools
  • H.94 - An act relating to funding for State broadband initiatives

Ninety-seven bills have now been submitted and sent to committees. Many will just sit there. Some will be take up by a committee and considered seriously. Testimony will be taken and discussed. The committee will vote and, if approved, the bill will be back to the floor for second reading.

Coming Up

The Appropriations committee has finished with their Budget Adjustment bill (H.97). It will come to the floor for second reading early in the week. This is an adjustment to the current fiscal year. The state found itself with more money than expected (about $30 million). This bill specifies how those funds are to be spent. The Governor mentioned some of the items in his budget address. It will be interesting to see if there is much debate on the floor.

My committee's agenda is beginning to fill up.