The Vermont legislature wrapped up a historic session that took place 100% remotely from January 6 to May 21.
As I write this, the Vermont legislature is nearing the end of the session – we hope! Several bills passed both chambers, House and Senate, in the last two weeks and have been sent to the Governor for his signature.
Over the weekend, I was able to watch a Zoom broadcast of a “Bridging” ceremony for my grandson Guthrie and his Cub Scout den. The ceremony marks the passage of a Webelos Cub Scout to a Boy Scout troop (Scouts BSA).
As the Legislature prepared to recess for town meeting week, the focus continued to be on our number one priority: Vermonters and the coronavirus.
Every two years in January a new legislature is sworn in and serves until a new legislature is sworn in two years later. During this time almost a thousand bills are introduced in the House and several hundred in the Senate. Only a hundred or so actually pass in both the House and Senate and get signed into law.
The Vermont Legislature returned virtually to Montpelier last week to complete the work of developing a budget for the last three quarters of fiscal year 2021. While this is our primary objective, we are not ignoring other important issues that require our attention. The pandemic continues to require making adjustments, and there are a number of issues that can’t be shunted aside while we wait for a return to “normal.”
The legislative session went into overtime last week with expectations that we would be able to not only finish a number of must-pass legislation, like the budget and revenue bills, the transportation bill and the clean water funding bill, but also two bills that were on the high priority list for Democrats: paid family leave and increasing the minimum wage.
The legislative process is both deliberate and deliberative. Bills do not get passed without a considerable amount of testimony from stakeholders on every side of an issue and discussion among the members of a committee comprised of Republicans, Democrats, Progressives and Independents. Bills that are introduced are often modified significantly by the time they are voted out of committee and sent to the floor for consideration by the entire body of either the House or the Senate. Once the bill gets to the other chamber, the process is repeated.