Vermont Legislators Scramble To Meet Crossover Deadline
This is “Crossover Week” in the Vermont Legislature, the annual scramble to clear bills out of committees and onto the floor so that they can move to the opposite chamber for completion.
Friday is the deadline for bills other than budget, taxing and spending measures to clear the committee process and be ready for debate on the floor of the House or Senate. This year is the second half of the biennium, so if a measure fails to make it out of committee, it’s dead.
Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Democrat John Campbell says his chamber did most of the work on key issues early in the session have already sent those to the House. But he admits there are a few critical bills that must make the crossover deadline. “The energy bill is probably the most important one. There’s one other one that has to do with forest management practices. That is what I consider to be a key. But it is a bill that’s in several different parts right now. Also right now I think the key is working with the House money chairs and of course our money chairs to see where we’re at as far as the shortfall, which we anticipate to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $36 million, and trying to find out how we’re going to deal with that.”
In the other chamber, House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat, reports work on numerous bills is occurring in committees. “I don’t think anything identified as top priorities are facing challenges. I do think that we’ll see the Ban the Box bill go through. We’ve already done Paid Sick Leave. I think that you’re going to see a fairly strong move forward with most of the legislation that was top priorities for this year.”
But Smith expects that one high-profile measure is unlikely to survive. “The marijuana bill has some challenges. I would say at the moment it’s unlikely that that bill goes all the way through.”
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is following a host of bills, including local energy siting, forestry bills, a state ethics bill, highway aid to municipalities, homestead property taxes, and the recreational marijuana bill. Director of Public Policy and Advocacy Karen Horn notes that those are only a few of the measures they’re monitoring. “We just heard the other day that they’re trying to get out of session by the end of April or maybe even before then. And that’s a pretty tight timeline. So I think when you look at all these pieces of legislation what’s important for municipalities is that new costs are not transferred, shifted, from the state level to the local level. And that’s a real risk in a year where there’s a budget deficit. And that municipalities have flexibility to implement laws in the way that works the best for them.”
Vermont Public Interest Group Executive Director Paul Burns quips that the only item the Legislature must finish is the budget. But he hopes they complete work on an energy bill. “This week is the intense week for the legislators who serve in the Statehouse because, you know, in each of their committees if something is going to move and they’re not on a money committee this is the week that their activity has to happen. This is the time where a lot of people have a hand in the process. So it’s really one of the most exciting weeks of the legislative session.”
Legislators must meet deadlines for the state’s budget and revenue bills next week.