The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 23, 2014

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Weekly news from the Ledge

There was hope for a Saturday finish of session, but as I write this, Saturday has come, and so has the delay of our final work. We adjourned around 7:50 p.m. Friday evening, and instead of aiming for a next day return, we were asked to plan on a Monday morning session, with a likely extension into Tuesday.

After passing S. 38, the immigrant driver privilege bill, last Tuesday, we marched through many bills, including several that brought on long debate.

The Government Operations Committee presented a revision of campaign finances that includes a limitation on allowable contributions from independent entities. This flies in the face of the Citizens United decision to allow unlimited super PAC contributions. The legislative majority supports a restriction on contributions that have the potential to diminish voter voices in elections they should be deciding. The bill strengthens the democratic process, and according to several legal opinions, it should hold up to any potential lawsuit.

Another long debate occurred around the bill, H.112, to require food labels that disclose genetically engineered ingredients. The bill excludes dairy and meat products, but expects that other products to reveal any GMO (genetically modified organism) they contain. Some opponents fear that prices will rise, producers will stop distributing to Vermont, and Vermont will have empty food shelves.

Others argue that an expensive lawsuit is imminent and is reason to stand still on this issue. Vermonters want to know what they are buying and consuming, and the constituent support for this legislation helped to drive its successful passage.

If we successfully move forward with this, we will join 64 countries around the world who have made this happen.

Monday, May 13, will allow the House to revisit the Senate's new revisions of S.77, the end-of-life choice bill. The new bill has the many original Oregon-style process requirements, with some new adjustments. The Senate version also proposes to sunset this procedural model after three years, and return to the more basic physician protection bill that came out of their first work with the bill. This is an interesting kind of compromise, and it is hard to know how it will affect final support.

Another bill returning the House on Monday is H.200, the marijuana decriminalization bill. I believe the Senate amended the substance amounts, recognizing that hashish needs to be restricted to much smaller amounts than marijuana, but that the rest of the bill remains intact.

The end-of-year process remains full of uncertainty, but it seems that there will be little more than this agenda before the budget bill arrives. When the budget has been decided, the session will adjourn until January of 2014. At that time, bills that got held up or remained on the committee walls will have another chance to move forward. In the meantime, I will hope to find time to visit in each the towns in my district and hear about your response to the year's actions and your hopes for the future.

Please feel free to contcat me at or 802-558-0612.