And just like that, we are right back in the thick of things. It seems way too recent that I was writing how we had just adjourned, and now as I write this I’ve already had two days of budget meetings. The State Legislature officially reconvenes Tuesday, Aug. 25, but some committees have already started meeting as of Aug. 18 to prepare for budget negotiations. As before, legislators are telecommuting, so those meetings are conducted over Zoom, and they are livestreamed on YouTube. Links can be found to all the legislative YouTube channels here: www.legislature.vermont.gov/committee/streaming.
Most of the meetings going on right now are in the fiscal committees – House Appropriations and House Ways and Means. That being said, some “policy” committees have been meeting during this adjournment to discuss time-sensitive topics, for example: the House Education Committee has met during adjournment to talk about schools reopening next month; and the House Judiciary Committee has held three public hearings over just the last two weeks to talk about systemic changes to law enforcement in Vermont, conversations started in response to the racial justice protests that continue throughout the country.
We have a lot of work to do and very little time to do it. When we adjourned at the end of June, we had passed a state budget that funded the government for the first quarter of the fiscal year, July-September. Now we must pass a budget that funds the government through the remainder of the fiscal year, October-June.
The governor has made his proposal for that budget, which does include some major potential policy changes, and we must explore the details of that proposal to ensure we agree with the policies or negotiate changes with the administration where we don’t. In a normal year this process takes the House around eight weeks to review and make our proposal to the Senate, the Senate then takes another seven weeks to get their proposal back to the House, then there are a few more weeks for the House and Senate to negotiate and iron out details where we disagree. Under our new schedule, the House has about two weeks to get a budget to the Senate. So, these will be a very hectic and busy few weeks.
As always, I hope to hear from you if you have any questions or comments, about this or anything else.
Stay safe and stay strong!
Ludlow, Mount Holly, Shrewsbury