By Rep. Jim Harrison
As reported last week, Governor Scott vetoed H.157, which establishes a new registration system for home contractors. When there is a veto, the bill goes back to the House or Senate where it originated for the first vote on an override. In this case, it was a House bill, which meant it was scheduled for a vote on Tuesday. Given the current political makeup of the legislature, override votes are almost always close and can go either way (two-thirds necessary).
No doubt this played a role in the expedited move to replace a member from Franklin County (Paul Martin) who unexpectedly resigned his seat on the preceding Thursday because of work commitments. Working with local Republican committees (Martin was a Republican), Scott had appointed Wayne Laroche, a former Fish & Wildlife commissioner under Jim Douglas, to replace the outgoing member and be there for the potential vote on Tuesday. When Tuesday came, the vote was postponed until Wednesday. On Wednesday, when it was apparent that the proponents of H.157 did not have the necessary 100 votes to override the veto, the measure was again postponed until April 20. As it was explained on the House floor, the two-month delay was in hope of finding a compromise on the legislation by putting the override vote aside for now.
As we are still in the first half of the 2022 session and differences exist between the governor and legislative leaders, there will likely be other vetoes along the way. S.30, which changes the rules around firearm background checks, has already been sent to Scott. At this writing it is unclear if he will accept the bill or not. A charter change allowing 16-year-olds to vote and hold office in the town of Brattleboro will be sent to him soon. The potential veto list will grow for sure.
One item of legislation that does seem to be moving along, especially given the complexity of the issue, is the House redistricting map. Every 10 years following the census, the Legislature must realign House and Senate districts to adjust for changes in population. An appointed commission, the Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB), began the process of remapping last fall. They presented the legislature with two map options to consider. The House Committee on Government Operations took one of them as a base and then began the process to modify the map after soliciting more feedback from towns.
Our current district, Rutland-Windsor 1 (Chittenden, Mendon, Killington and Bridgewater), had been proposed by the LAB to either be broken up to be part of four different districts or three different ones (including the splitting of Mendon). The current district was destined to change in some way as the total population of the four towns was 9.5% above the new target of 4,287 residents per representative. This was largely due to Killington’s 73% growth in the last decade, according to the Census.
However, overall, the southern and northeast part of the state lost some population, while the northwest gained. Those changes will translate into increases and decreases in the number of representatives (and senators) from those areas. Senate districts will likely see fewer changes, but some towns will be moved in and out of districts to get closer to the target numbers (21,436 per senate seat). Chittenden County will likely gain a seat in the Senate.
Back to the current House district, the new map (tentative) under consideration by the committee puts Chittenden, Mendon, Killington and Pittsfield together (all Rutland County towns) and puts Bridgewater with Barnard, Pomfret and part of West Hartford (all Windsor County towns). The map has not yet been finalized by the committee nor been voted on by the full House as there are still a few districts where changes are being considered. Every move of a town in or out of a district inevitably changes another.
Each day at the State House seems a bit closer to “normal.” We started off last week with Rep. Caleb Elder performing a tune on his fiddle (As a self-proclaimed member of the Caleb fan club, I will admit to lobbying the Speaker for allowing him to start off the week). By the end of the week, we saw an increase in visitors and advocates at the state house and more in-person testifying. Even the Senate is contemplating coming back in person in March.
In closing, I hope to see many of you at the upcoming informational town meetings. There is much more to come in the 2022 legislative session.
- Mendon: Feb. 28, 6 p.m. at Town Garage, 7 Park Lane
- Killington: Feb. 28, 7 p.m. on Zoom (visit killingtontown.com for details)
- Chittenden: Feb. 28, 7 p.m. on Zoom (visit chittendenvt.org for details)
- (Bridgewater held its informational meeting via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22).
Jim Harrison is the state house representative for Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington and Mendon. He can be reached at: [email protected] or harrisonforvermont.com.