I thought this would be my last legislative update of the session, but we are heading back. The parties are still negotiating the budget and we have a few other important bills to pass. As you may know the House passed a budget that didn't increase revenues or taxes, hence no increase to property taxes or any other tax. The Senate passed a budget that would increase property taxes. The Governor wants his plan for a statewide contract to move forward. We will be meeting Wednesday of this week and hope to conclude by the end of the week. This is still within our budgeted schedule.
As a freshman, last week was definitely interesting. Seeing firsthand how the process worked was great learning experience. A quick recap of the process - as bills pass the House they are sent to the Senate and vice versa. In keeping with the House started the process, the Senate would determine whether to take up the bill. If they do, they will hear testimony, potentially make changes, vote and pass the bill back to the House. The House may concur with any changes and the bill moves forward. If the House doesn't concur they can either try to reach an agreement with the Senate by working informally. If the differences are just too vast, then a committee of conference will be assigned. This committee is made up of three parties of each committee of jurisdiction. They meet and hopefully agree to a final bill. That bill then is presented to both chambers for a yes or no vote - no changes can be made by either body at that point.
I am proud of the work we've completed through the session and last week. I supported S135, a large economic development bill, that improves the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive Program (VEGI), expands the state's apprenticeship and internship programs, and creates a voluntary public retirement program - The Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan - to ensure Vermonters have a simple and affordable option to save for retirement.
I also supported S103 a toxic and hazardous substance bill that will further protect our children and H233 that amends the criteria and jurisdiction of the State land use law to protect forest resources in order to support the forest economy, water quality, and habitat.
S16 passed expanding patient access to the medical marijuana registry by adding Crohn's and Parkinson's disease. Post traumatic stress disorder is now also included as long as the person is also undergoing psychotherapy or counseling with a licensed mental health care provider.
There are many more bills that passed. A full listing can be found on the "vote" page.
I look forward to the coming days and will keep you posted.