By Alison Clarkson
St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, marked the deadline for crossover in the Vermont Legislature. This is the date that all bills, which hope to be enacted this session, must have passed out of their committees of jurisdiction. Crossover signals the mid-way point in the Session – and, as all bills must be passed by both the House and the Senate, it marks the moment when one chamber must send their bills on to the next. Many bills will have a stop in one of the money committees (Appropriations and/or Finance/Ways and Means), and then they are onto the floor to be debated and voted on to either send or not send on to the other chamber.
Both chambers were in a flurry of activity last week finishing up their work on must pass bills. As far as I know, all the bills that were expected to be acted upon were passed. This sets up a very busy schedule for the four money committees as they must now address several pieces of major legislation with some sizable financial impacts: childcare, housing, Paid Family Leave, sports betting, Vermont basic needs budget, rank choice voting, health insurance, unemployment insurance and the bottle bill — all of which needs to be voted out by Friday, March 24.
Indicative of the crossover activity, my afternoon committee, Senate Government Operations, passed out six bills this week. We passed: 1) a ranked choice voting bill (S.32) which allows municipalities to adopt ranked choice voting without a charter change and establishes a taskforce to create a plan for state and federal ranked choice voting in Vermont; 2) S.17 is a bill which begins the process of improving oversight, regulation, accountability and uniformity across our sheriff departments — any changes regarding eligibility requirements to be elected and serve as sheriff will need a constitutional amendment; 3) S.104 is a bill which designates Aug. 31 as overdose awareness day and allows for the lowering of all state flags to memorialize the lives lost to the opioid overdose crisis; 4) after 20 years, we are finally tackling updating and modernizing legislative compensation (S.39). This will make the general assembly more accessible and diverse, reducing some of financial barriers Vermonters face as they consider serving; 5) S.42 establishes a plan to responsibly reduce Vermont’s fossil fuel investments held by our pension funds over time; and 6) an SGO committee bill, which modernizes Vermont’s public safety communications and tackles the 53-year challenge of emergency service dispatch across the state.
This is just one committee’s work from last week. All these bills will continue to be worked on in the House. I encourage you to follow their progress and be in touch with concerns.
Other Senate Committees passed important bills: on childcare S.56 (increasing support for families, childcare workers and centers and providing a twelve-week parental leave benefit), a shield bill S. 37 (which further protects health care and reproductive liberties for providers and patients who come to Vermont for care) and two Labour bills: S.102 which protects employees from being forced to attend employer’s political or religious meetings, adds protections for labor organizing, and allows agricultural and domestic workers to organize and S.103 allows employees in all protected classes, to bring lawsuits for harassment and discrimination.
Sen. Clarkson can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri) 802-828-2228 or at home (Sat-Mon) 802- 457-4627. For more information, visit: legislature.vermont.gov.