Week 6 : February 12th to February 16th

Storms in the Capi-tol/tal

Tuesday evening a good ole winter storm hit Vermont. A foot of snow in Montpelier and continued cold weather. Under the golden dome the session's controversial issues are taking shape: reproductive rights, paid family leave, marijuana tax and regulate. The bills are working their way through committees. One will hit the floor this coming week

The Capital Bill

This coming week my committee starts markup of the capital bill. That means we take a serious look at the spreadsheets designating where the capital money goes and begin shifting things around. A few weeks into the session, the Governor presented his capital budget proposal. It's basically a spreadsheet with a row for each major item. After the last several weeks of testimony we decide what needs to be changed. Should we allocate $250,000 for renovations of the Asa Bloomer building in Rutland? Should we give UVM a million for major maintenance projects? How about the $4.5 million for the Integrated Eligibility software project? There are about a hundred items in the spreadsheet with values that range from $25,000 to $6.5 million. A total of about $122 million for a two-year budget.

When we're done marking up the spreadsheet, it gets passed over to the lawyers who turn it into a bill for consideration by the rest of the House. Until then there's a bit of haggling and politics between the various committees and the Senate. A lot of that is done by the committee chairs and House leadership, but eventually they have to come back to the committees for votes and then to all the members of the House for a final vote on the bill. So, though I'm not in the Speaker's office arguing over who gets what and how, it does come back to committee and we all have a chance to weigh in. The committee chair needs the support of the committee in order to get things done. It's not that bad a system.

Coming Up - Reproductive Rights

We're told that this coming Wednesday will be a long day. H.57 regarding Reproductive Rights will come out of the Committee on the Judiciary for second reading. The Human Services committee suggested some changes before passing it on to the Judiciary. Judiciary also proposed changes. I confess that I am still a little confused about exactly what votes will be taken and in what order, but it will all be explained when the time comes.

On Wednesday we begin work on the floor at 1:00 pm. H.57 should be on the calendar for that day. There will be debate, further suggested amendments, caucuses, roll-call votes, more debate, more amendments, caucuses again and more roll-call votes. This could easily take until 7:30 pm when the Farmer's Night concert is scheduled for the Well of the House. The rumor is that we will break for dinner at that time and come back after the concert for more work.

If you're interested, you can hear it all live-streamed on Vermont Public Radio.

Waiting in the Wings - Paid Family Leave

H.107 regarding Paid Family Leave is coming out of the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs. It is now referred to as a Family and Medical Leave Insurance program. A little like Social Security. I'm not sure where it goes next, but it won't be coming to the floor for a while yet. It's changing.

Some Bills Introduced during the Week

  • H.248 This bill proposes to move the statewide education property tax from a system that values taxable property at its fair market value to a system in which property is valued at its adjusted basis. The bill would also phase out income sensitivity over five years, prevent any property from being newly enrolled in the current use program, and eliminate the common level of appraisal.
  • H.254 An act relating to adequate shelter for livestock.
  • H.250 An act relating to the regulation of cannabis.
  • H.228 This bill proposes to exempt from Vermont’s purchase and use tax, automobiles belonging to new residents who choose to move to Vermont.