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Legislative Update February 7, 2020

02/12/2020 11:15 AM | Denis Bourbeau (Administrator)
DRM | Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC


State of Low Drama

The two-year saga over the enactment of paid family leave legislation,H.107, abruptly ended on Wednesday as the House failed by a single vote to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto. 

The debate over the bill held plenty of intrigue for Statehouse insiders. One of the deciding votes against the override was cast by asupporterof paid leave legislation, Rep. Randall Szott, D-Barnard, who voted no because the bill did not go far enough in providing benefits to workers. 

Rep. Linda Joy Sullivan, D-Dorset, faced an agonizing choice, as she had just announced on Monday her challenge to Auditor of Accounts Doug Hoffer. Her vote not to override will no doubt be a major campaign issue in the upcoming Democratic primary. 

Another legislator, an Independent, spent a long time before the vote in House Speaker Mitzi Johnson’s office, only to emerge and vote no as well (albeit for very different reasons). An anticipated motion to reconsider on Thursday fizzled after no votes could be changed, despite intense arm-twisting by the bill’s supporters.

But the finale was hardly as dramatic as the vote count suggests. Only those with deep investment in the issue seemed to be paying much attention. Rather than demonstrate some kind of dramatic partisan divide, the outcome showed almost the opposite – that Vermont retains the ability to calmly debate even the most hotly contested issues, and move on without fanfare once they are resolved. 

More raging bipartisanship may lie ahead.  Scott has until Monday to sign or vetoa bill to increase the state’s minimum wage. That bill initially proposed an increase to $15 per hour, but ended at $12.55, which disarmed much of the bill’s opposition from the business community. Although Scott refused to tip his hand at his weekly press conference on Thursday, a veto is not expected by most Statehouse observers. 

Republican Scott showed just how unified Vermont is ashe gave his opinionat his press conference on the subject of the President’s impeachment:  “I believe [President Trump] abused his position of power … and … that he shouldn’t be in office.” A topic that threatens to tear many states asunder has Vermont’s body politic speaking in virtual unanimity. 

With the paid leave and minimum wage bills soon to be dispensed with, there are few highly partisan bills looming on the horizon. Lawmakers have settled in to the largely mundane task of dealing with the state’s problems, large and small. Most voters are likely just fine with their legislators leaving the drama to Washington

Under pressure, committee adopts hybrid to Act 250 appeals process

The House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife appears to have reached agreement on a controversial section of a bill to modernize Act 250, paving the way for legislation to be voted out of committee. 
 
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Commerce staff promote Governor’s economic development bill 

Senior staff members from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development made a compelling case this week before several legislative committees forH.641, a bill that modifies and expands the state’s incentive programs for businesses. 

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Committee approves non-compete restrictions

The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee voted on Thursday to approve a bill,H.1, that imposes limits on the use of non-compete agreements. 

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