On June 30, 2023

One day

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the legislature’s return last week was that the session was just one day in duration. 

Legislators were told to reserve June 20-22 if they were called back to take up any vetoes by the Governor, following the May 12 adjournment for the regular session. Some hinted that the special session could go even longer than the planned three days leading up to June 20.

When all was said and done, the full Legislature was at the State House for just one day (Tuesday, June 20) and adjourned around 5:30 p.m. 

Five vetoed bills were pushed through by overriding gubernatorial vetoes and two were sent back to committee as they lacked the votes for an override. A total of seven bills had been vetoed by Scott since May 12. The eighth veto was on S.5 (Clean Heat) and that was overridden before the regular session adjourned.

Additionally, another bill was amended, H.171, to continue the motel voucher program through next March. The extension only applies to those currently receiving motel housing and establishes new guidelines for a transition to the end of the program with existing funding in the budget. 

For a bit of theater, former Democratic candidate for Gov. Brenda Siegel, was at the State House on Tuesday along with protestors objecting to any restrictions on the motel program going forward. The protestors managed to delay the start of the House session by shouting over Speaker Krowinski until they were escorted out by the Sargent at Arms.

Also completed last week was H.158, which expands the bottle deposit system to water, wine and most drinks and juices. This legislation could potentially become the ninth veto of the session due to Scott’s concern over its impact on increasing recycling costs. If that were to happen, the legislature could attempt an override next January.

Recap of the vetoes the legislature overrode and enacted into law:

H.494, the FY24 State Budget – Scott raised concern about the 13% overall increase in spending and the 20% increase in motor vehicle fees. 

H.217, expansion of childcare assistance – Scott objected to the new payroll tax on employers and employees of approximately $100 million annually beginning July 2024. The Governor’s plan increased childcare support without new taxes and would have put Vermont tied for the top among states in assistance. Lawmakers and the advocacy group, Let’s Grow Kids, wanted to go much further and needed a new tax to do so.

H.305, Office of Professional Regulation – The Governor objected to the $7 million increase in various professional and trade license fees. Lawmakers and the Secretary of State’s office believed increases were necessary to keep up with the costs of maintaining licensure programs.

H.386, Brattleboro charter allowing 16-year-olds to vote in local elections and hold local offices. The Governor prefers statewide standards to who can vote and expressed concern over allowing 16-year-olds the ability to sign contracts for the town if they serve on the Select Board.

H.509, Burlington charter allowing non-citizen residents to vote in local elections. Scott prefers statewide standards for voting qualifications.

Two bills apparently did not have enough votes in the Senate to override the Governor’s vetoes and were sent back to their respective committees for consideration next session. One was S.39, the legislative pay and benefit increase and the other was S.6, which added new restrictions to law enforcement interrogations for persons under 22.

With the past three months coming in below state revenue forecasts (though it remains above for the fiscal year to date), there will be a great deal of interest in the July 31 revenue update from the state economists.

The full legislature will return to the State House Jan. 3, 2024, unless there is a recommendation from the special House committee looking into impeachment proceedings for either the Franklin County States Attorney or Franklin County Sheriff. If impeachment articles are recommended for either elected official, the House could be called back by the Speaker.

Thank you for your continued interest in my legislative updates. Best wishes for an enjoyable summer!

And thank you to all who assisted with last week’s American Junior Golf Association tournament at Green Mountain National. We had over 80 volunteers filling 158 various positions throughout the four day event.

Rep. Jim Harrison is the statehouse representative for Mendon, Killington, Chittenden and Pittsfield. He can be reached at JHarrison@leg.state.vt.us or harrisonforvermont.com.

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