On June 5, 2024
State News

Back to the State House, June 17

The full Legislature will return to Montpelier on June 17 to take up any bills the governor has vetoed. Leaders will be deciding in the next few weeks which of those vetoed they will attempt to override, (two thirds required for an override), which will be rewritten to address some of Scott’s objections. The rest they will decline to vote on and let it die for the session.

At a recent press conference, Governor Scott discussed his decision-making process on bills coming to his desk. He highlighted the challenge of balancing benefits, costs and risks, his administration’s efforts to find compromise, and concerns about the realities of new costs and short timelines for numerous new initiatives coming out of the Legislature.

As the governor has already signed the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, arguably the only other bill that must be enacted is education finance, H.887. While as of this writing it has not officially been sent to the Governor’s Office, Scott has made it clear that he intends to veto it. He argues that average property tax increases of 14% (which could be higher in many districts), is too high and that the legislation does not include any structural changes to control costs in the future.

Some of the other bills that will be on the agenda include:

H.72 – Safe injection sites. In his veto message, Gov. Scott said, “While these sites are well-intentioned, this costly experiment will divert financial resources from proven prevention, treatment and recovery strategies, as well as harm reduction initiatives that facilitate entry into treatment rather than continued use.” 

There are currently two operating safe injection sites in the country, both in New York City. Legislative leaders have expressed confidence they have the votes to override the veto and proceed with the measure (initial site will be in Burlington).

H.289 – Renewable energy. In his veto message, the governor said, “I don’t believe there is any debate that H.289 will raise Vermonters’ utility rates, likely by hundreds of millions of dollars. And while that in itself is reason enough to earn a veto, it is even more frustrating when you consider our Dept. of Public Service proposed to the Legislature a much stronger plan at a fraction of the cost.”

In a statement issued following the veto, the House Speaker gave every indication that the Legislature would ignore the governor’s concerns and plan to enact the legislation with an override. The higher costs of the Legislature’s plan are primarily due to its preference of requiring future energy needs from local renewables, such as solar and wind, as opposed to lower cost regional renewables, such as Hydro-Quebec.

H.706 – Neonicotinoid pesticides. In his veto message, Scott said, “Pollinators are essential to growing food and maintaining a healthy, thriving ecosystem. The same is true of farmers, who are also critical contributors to our economy, but altogether, this legislation is more anti-farmer than it is pro-pollinator.”

Other potential vetoes?

H.687 – Act 250. At this point it is unclear what the fate will be of H.687, which amends Vermont’s Act 250 regulations. There are provisions that may help the state develop more housing by suspending certain restrictions in downtowns, but at the same time, may make it more difficult to build in rural areas.

H.121 – Data privacy. Another bill being watched as a potential veto victim is one that would regulate data privacy. The legislation received wide bipartisan support in both the House and Senate but has received criticism from some local Vermont businesses with concern over the private right of action provision (allowing individuals to sue) in the bill. The Vermont Chamber called it the most extreme version of similar legislation in the country.

While most of the bills passed have been or will be signed into law by the governor, there were several he allowed to be enacted without his signature. Among those included allowing Vermont to sue oil companies for climate damage, which he fears could cost Vermont millions in legal fees. He noted that Vermont was the first and only state to take on this gamble. Another included the extension of the Vermont Truth and Reconciliation Commission over a provision that allows its board to exempt itself from the open meeting law.

And speaking of the State House, the rumors are true. I have filed to run for a new term to represent the Rutland-11 District (Chittenden, Killington, Mendon, and Pittsfield). Thank you to all who signed my petition to help me qualify for the ballot. I believe we need more balance in the Legislature. Overriding gubernatorial vetoes on major bills does not serve Vermont well, especially as they relate to affordability. More information on my candidacy can be found at: Harrisonforvermont.com.
Other than attending the session on June 17 (and potentially June 18, too), I look forward to seeing area residents at the American Junior Golf Association tournament at Green Mountain National in Killington the week of June 17-20 where I help as the volunteer coordinator.

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

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