State News

A rule is a rule until it’s not

By Rep. Jim Harrison

As we enter the ninth week of the 2019 legislative session and the official crossover date of March 15, committee schedules take on extra meaning this week. Crossover is set by legislative leadership and marks the date by which various committees  must pass out bills in order to crossover and be considered by the other body (House or Senate). The rule, while self-imposed, helps committees prioritize those bills it wants to get final passage on during the current session. It also allows time for committees to review issues sent over from the other chamber.

Like most rules, there are exceptions. To start with, the money committees (budget and revenue) have an extra week to finish their work (March 22). Another exception are changes to city or town charters, which do not need to meet crossover, especially as some of these are the results of town meeting votes on March 5. Committee chairs can also ask for extensions on certain bills.

A quick look at committee schedules the week leading up to the crossover date (March 15), indicates what committee chairs see as priority bills. Occasionally there are new and perhaps surprising issues. As an example, House Government Operations will be reviewing a new proposal, which would allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in municipal elections.

A sampling of bills on the agenda this week:

Act 250 changes

Workforce development

Future appointment process of the Adjutant General

Child care

Housing issues (downtown tax credit,home buyer credit; affordable housing credit, land gains tax repeal, home repair fraud)

Economic development bills

Public financing of campaigns

Firearm bills (two day waiting period, extreme risk protection orders, changes to last year’s magazine ban)

Prohibition of plastic carryout bags, expanded polystyrene, and single-use plastic straws

This Friday afternoon will give us a pretty good picture of what’s in store for the remainder of the session, other than the all-important budget bills.

Other bills that have already been approved by one chamber will likely be taken up after this week. Some of those issues include:

Raise the smoking age to 21

Taxing of vape products (e-cigarettes)

Lead testing of drinking water in schools and child care facilities

Abortion rights

Forced merger under Act 46 delays for selected towns

Tax and regulation of cannabis

$15 minimum wage

Exempting older cars from emissions inspections

Limiting senate districts to three members

In closing, just remember, “A rule is a rule until it’s not.” Crossover, the unofficial halfway mark of the session, instills some necessary discipline to the process that should us to get done in a timely fashion. (18-week legislative session ought to end by May 18.) However, important issues can pop up at any time and the self-imposed crossover date can go by the wayside.

You may reach me at [email protected] or my cell, 802-236-3001. Messages may also be left at the State House during the legislative session at 802-828-2228.

Jim Harrison is a state representative for Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington & Mendon.

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