SINS AND TAXES
The House and Senate worked feverishly this week to meet Friday’s crossover deadline for money bills. Long floor sessions, committees scrambling to vote on bills and the narrowing of legislation slated to pass in 2023 gave week 11 a hint of the high octane home stretch of the legislative session. Spring-like weather and longer days added to the late session feel and Democratic priorities picked up steam as high profile legislation such as paid family and medical leave and a gun violence prevention bill hit the floor.
The week started with speculation as to whether Governor Phil Scott would sign H.145, the FY2023 Budget Adjustment Act. By Monday evening the governor’s office announced he had allowed H.145 to become law without his signature. Governor Scott had concerns about the spending levels in the bill, which exceeded his budget adjustment proposal but he ultimately decided to let the bill become law.
H.145 was an early salvo in the budget battles that are expected to define the legislative session. Democratic supermajorities that control the House and Senate are under pressure to pass a legislative agenda that has long been deemed just out of reach due to the governor’s veto pen. But now, with the two-thirds of the chamber needed to override the governor, Democrats are facing the opportunities and pitfalls that come with the bigger-ticket and more expensive items on their priority list.
Paid family and medical leave, universal childcare, universal school meals, environmental reform and gun safety legislation are all slated to advance. Paid family and medical leave and universal childcare in particular are expected to be the highest profile points of contention between the governor and legislature. Unlike partisan disagreements elsewhere in the nation, the governor and legislature both generally agree the State needs to invest in paid leave and childcare. They disagree on the structure of the programs and how to pay for them.
Democrats seem keenly aware they cannot take their supermajorities for granted, and have been meticulous in their approach to the timing and messaging around the major initiatives that are now coming to the floor. While outnumbered, the Republicans are looking to amplify concern over Democratic spending proposals - particularly those that raise taxes. They emphasize inflation and an uncertain economic outlook in an effort to give Democrats pause in hopes of peeling off potential override votes.
At a high level, week 11 gave anyone interested in Vermont politics the first taste of what is likely to be a contentious and high stakes 2023 legislative endgame. Next week the FY2024 budget and other major spending bills will be on the House floor while the Senate clears the remainder of their crossover bills. After that, the endgame begins.
On Tuesday a new Democratic House Member, Representative Melanie Carpenter, D-Hyde Park, was sworn in to replace former Representative Kate Donnally. Governor Scott appointed Carpenter to the Lamoille-2 House seat. She has been assigned to the vacancy on the House Healthcare Committee.
VermontBiz.com stories this week
House approves universal school meals bill
Senate passes bill to end cash bail for nonviolent misdemeanors
House passes family leave bill H.66, Scott sticks to own plan
House passes suicide prevention bill H230 to increase gun safety
Vermont House passes Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection bill (H126)
Senate passes S73 to help firefighters with workers comp cancer claims
Governor lets budget adjustment bill become law despite reservations
Source: Leonine Public Affairs, Montpelier, Legislative Report Week 11. March 17, 2023. leoninepublicaffairs.com.
Through a special arrangement with Leonine, Vermont Business Magazine republishes Leonine's legislative report on vermontbiz.com.