Hello from Montpelier. We are fully in the end-of-session shuffle. This is a crazy time of year. It feels like we are close to adjourning, but it is still hard to tell today what is actually going to pass this year aside from what has passed already. It’s also uncertain when we will actually adjourn. And even more uncertain, what the Governor will sign and veto of the bills that may pass. It feels like each year that I’ve been here, this part has gotten crazier, but part of that may be that I’m more aware of what’s going on and more involved in conversations that I was not as a first-term legislator.
I think I talked about this in past articles and somewhat at Town Meeting, but my committee spent most of the first half of this session working on a big workforce development bill, H.703, which would put a lot of money into various technical education programs. It is a very far-reaching bill, with specific incentives for areas where we are seeing extraordinary need, like nursing, but also sets up systems for more general assistance for people looking to enter and reenter the workforce or to change careers. That bill has not yet passed the Senate, so right now a lot of our focus is trying to iron out the policy differences we have with the Senate with hopes that we can pass that bill before we adjourn.
And this seems to be happening all throughout the building right now. There are big policy bills in just about every committee in both chambers that are still up in the air, and some are taking somewhat dramatic shifts in policy, seemingly overnight. Universal School Meals is one such policy that seems like a priority for many in the building, and the scope seems to change week-to-week. There are also multiple bills reforming different aspects of Act 250, but a lot of uncertainty as to which will make it out on time.
This time of year, we colloquially talk about “Christmas Trees” and “hostages,” as some bills, which are important to certain legislators or committees, become hostages for another bill that’s important to someone else, while other bills get issues and policies added on like ornaments on a Christmas Tree. This process always worries me because otherwise good bills become vehicles containing poison pills the Governor disagrees with and may cause him to veto an otherwise great bill with one such “ornament” he disagrees with.
I am also starting to feel the election-year politics creep into the State House more these past couple of weeks. Obviously there are multiple people in the legislature running for Congress or higher office in the legislature, and they try to score their “points” where they can. It also seems like the Governor has been less forthcoming about what he is looking for in any given policy until it passes, and then he vetoes it and offers what he would accept. We’ve seen this multiple times already this session, with the Charleston loophole bill we thought he supported until he vetoed it and only then offered a compromise, and again with the contractor registry bill which we still hope to come to a compromise on. We are adjourning a little earlier this year than some years, and it seems to be because we are expecting the Governor to veto the budget, but he won’t tell us what compromises he’d accept now, seemingly because he wants the headline of vetoing the budget. I don’t mean to give the impression that we don’t work well together, because 99% of the time everyone is at the table, but that’s also what makes it that much more frustrating when someone chooses not to be.
I should have more to talk about next month as we should be adjourned by then, and I’m also thinking I’ll be able to restart coffee hours after we do adjourn so I’ll have more on that.
Talk soon, as always you can still call or text anytime at 802-345-8430.
Ludlow, Mount Holly, Shrewsbury