By Rep. Jim Harrison
Although the Vermont legislative session concluded on May 12, just like with a book or movie, I find it interesting to learn what happened afterwards. And because the legislative leaders decided to adjourn sine die, the outcome of various bills sent to the governor during the month after the session concluded was solely in the hands of Phil Scott.
Any bills vetoed by the governor can be reintroduced when the new Legislature is sworn in next January and passed again as is or modified to address any concerns raised by Scott.
H. 505, An act relating to the creation of the Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Vermont Sentencing Commission. Scott pointed out that the bill creates a Drug Use Standards Advisory Board with a stated goal to identify a path to effectively legalize personal possession and use of dangerous and highly addictive drugs. This was not a goal he could support.
H.534, An act relating to expanding eligibility for expungement and sealing of criminal history records for nonviolent offenses. From Scott’s perspective, this bill seeks to make offenses relating to possessing, selling, cultivating, dispensing, and transporting dangerous, illicit and highly addictive drugs — as well as the use of fraud or deceit to obtain these dangerous drugs — erasable offenses. He also pointed out that H.534 would expunge felonies that would otherwise disqualify someone from purchasing and owning a gun.
H.606, An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection. He pointed to concerns raised by the Agency of Natural Resources that permanent preservation has not been, and cannot be, the state’s exclusive conservation tool and this bill, intentional or not, would diminish the existing and successful conservation tools we have. The bill would have established a 50% land preservation standard.
H.728, An act relating to opioid overdose response services. The governor indicated it seems counterintuitive to divert resources from proven harm reduction strategies to plan injection sites without clear data on the effectiveness of this approach.
S.234, An act relating to changes to Act 250. From his perspective the bill makes Act 250 even more cumbersome than it is today and it will make it harder to build the housing we desperately need.
In total, the governor vetoed 11 bills passed by the Legislature in 2022. Three of these were enacted following an override vote of the necessary two-thirds by the Legislature (pension reform, non-citizen voting in Montpelier and Winooski). While vetoes capture the headlines, its important to note that these are out of 133 bills completed by the Legislature this year.
Scott had praise for the General Assembly on key investments made in housing, workforce development, broadband, climate change mitigation and economic development. And while the tax reductions passed were not his plan, he expressed appreciation for recognizing the need for tax relief measures.
To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2022 legislative session, visit: bit.ly/VtLeg2022.
Next up: primary elections
Vermont’s primary on Aug. 9 will be much busier than normal this year. Vacancies in Vermont’s U.S. Senate and Congressional seats has prompted several candidates to come forward. Additionally, there are contested primaries for the open Lt Governor position in both parties (current LG Molly Gray is running for Congress). And with open Secretary of State and Attorney General seats, there will also be contested primaries in each for the Democratic nominations.
Rarely has Vermont seen so much activity for the August primary.
For some offices, the primary will be the only real hurdle to election in November.
There are four candidates in the Democratic primary and three in the Republican race for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House. The matchup between Lt Governor Molly Gray and Senate leader Becca Balint in the Democratic primary is expected to be particularly close.
Congressman Peter Welch is the clear frontrunner in the Democratic primary. The Republican primary features former Vermont U.S. Attorney, Christina Nolan, against Gerald Malloy.
The Democratic contenders include former House Appropriations Chair Kitty Toll, Woodstock Representative Charlie Kimball, former Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and Patricia Preston. The Republican race features the moderate State Senator Joe Benning against former Rutland Alderman and Trump supporter, Greg Thayer.
Secretary of State
The Democratic primary candidates include current Deputy Sec of State, Chris Winters, Bradford Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum.
The Democratic race is between Washington County State’s Attorney, Rory Thibault and former AG Chief of Staff, Charity Clark.
Governor, Auditor and Treasurer
While Governor Scott faces a couple of lesser-known challengers in the Republican primary, the other parties do not have contested primaries. Former Commissioner of Financial Regulation, Mike Piechiak, is well on his way to replacing outgoing Beth Pearce as State Treasurer.
And of course, there is the closely watched State Representative race for the new Rutland-11 district! Just kidding. I am running for re-election and appreciate your support in whatever party ballot you choose either as checking off my name or writing me in.
All residents are encouraged to vote in this year’s primary election on Aug. 9. You can either vote in person at your town clerk’s office during the hours below or request an early ballot from your town clerk or online at the Vermont Secretary of State website (mvp.vermont.gov).
- Chittenden Town Office, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Killington Town Office, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Mendon Town Office, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Pittsfield Town Office, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
In closing, I want to also extend my thanks to the 80 plus area volunteers who helped out at the recent American Junior Golf Association tournament at Green Mountain National in Killington. Your efforts were very much appreciated!
You may reach Rep. Jim Harrison at JHarrison@leg.state.vt.us or harrisonforvermont.com.