House To Vote On Migrant License Bill; Senate Prepares For Marijuana, End-of-Life Debates

May 6, 2013

The Vermont House is expected to advance today a bill that allows those who may be in this country illegally to apply for the right to drive.

The bill would create what are described as drivers’ authorization cards, allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

The legislation cleared the Senate last month, 27-2. It comes up for a vote in the House today and tomorrow. Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he would sign the bill into law.

The emotional debate in Vermont has generated a certain level of backlash, as some farm owners – in their last-ditch effort to block the measure – have questioned whether Hispanic migrant workers are fit to drive.

Migrant workers and their advocates, though, have dismissed those concerns, saying the bill would help to even out the power balance between workers and employers.

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The Senate is preparing to take up a pair of divisive bills.

On Tuesday, the Senate will take up a measure that would allow terminally ill patients to request lethal doses of medication to end their lives. The Senate vote comes less than a week after the House approved a version of the bill that includes a series of safeguards.

Earlier in the legislative session, the Senate had passed a shorter bill that would grant immunity to health workers and family members when a patient decides to end his or her life. The question is whether the deeply divided Senate will be able to reach a deal.

Also on Tuesday, lawmakers will debate a measure that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee amended the House bill to impose the same penalties for possession of marijuana as for alcohol for people under 21.

Meanwhile, lawmakers and the Shumlin administration are negotiating the details of the 2014 revenue and budget package.

The governor has said he won’t support any broad-based taxes, but the proposals from the Senate and the House include a number of tax increases, including hikes on the rooms and meals tax, changes in Vermont’s income tax, and an extension of the sales tax to bottled water.

Any action on the House and Senate floor you can listen to on VPR’s legislative streams.

Follow our Vermont Legislature reporting team of Bob Kinzel, John Dillon, and Kirk Carapezza on Twitter and here at VPR.net.