Local News

Many bills make the ‘crossover’

By now many of you have heard that our Legislative colleague, Senator Dick McCormack has decided to retire. He made that announcement, March 5. I want to thank him for his decades of impressive public service. He has been a terrific and much appreciated teammate in the Senate. Whether you have agreed or disagreed with Sen. McCormack’s positions — he has held his values and principles high and served all of us thoughtfully. He has put his values into action with vote after vote on environment protections, human rights, health care and personal freedoms, issues of equity and education. We will miss his institutional memory, his constitutional knowledge, his passion for history, his music, and his stories. I wish him good luck on his next adventure and, on behalf of the people of Windsor County, we say “thank you.”

The Ides of March, Friday, March 15, was a big day in the State House.

It marked the day all policy committees had to pass out bills if they want them to become law this year. As you know, to become law, all bills must pass both chambers — the House and the Senate. So, mid-way through the Session, the “cross over” deadline ensures that all bills get on track to make it to the other chamber for consideration. If bills have an appropriation or fee in them, they then get referred to a “money” committee. Those four committees have an extra week to weigh the fiscal impact of those bills and make their recommendations.

As a result, the next two weeks will entail lengthy floor sessions as we debate the merits of the many bills making their way across chambers. Once a bill reaches the other chamber, it is subject to review and revision as that committee of jurisdiction agrees is appropriate. Often a Senate bill will come back to us looking quite different. If we are unable to reconcile those differences, a committee of conference is established, and our differences are usually worked out.

In the Senate we have many bills to consider. Here is a sampler of some of those bills.

We’ll be debating a proposal on how to update our open meeting laws (S.55) post the sunsetting of the special Covid pandemic rules, which enabled all public bodies to meet fully remotely.

The Flood Safety Act, S.213, addresses mitigating future flooding disasters by creating watershed scale solutions to increase public safety and reduce future damage.

Several pilot programs are also being offered: S.184 proposes to pilot a program of automated traffic law enforcement — speed cameras in construction areas, and S. 231 proposes a pilot for a community nursing program to serve aging Vermonters.

The “make big oil pay” bill, S.259, is designed to have those oil companies that profited from the pollution of our state, help pay to mitigate the damage to our environment.

To address some of the challenges we face with young people’s mental health and cell phone habits, S.289, known as the “kid’s code bill” proposes prohibiting certain code designs that increase use and addictions to certain apps and kids’ phones.

S.258, the Fish & Wildlife bill, proposes to reconfigure the board and make permanent a prohibition on hunting coyotes with dogs.  In addition, S.312, proposes to save the Salisbury Fish Hatchery, which the governor had slated for closure.

S.206 designates “Juneteenth,” June 19, as a legal holiday.

There are so many more bills being debated in both chambers. If interested, I encourage you to look at the House and Senate calendars for the next week. It is all online at: legislature.vermont.gov. This will give you a notion of the volume of work passing from the House to the Senate and vice versa.

Sen. Clarkson appreciates hearing from you. She can be reached by email: aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri) 802-828-2228 or at home (Sat-Mon) 802- 457-4627.

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