Vermont Legislature

After fighting about this issue in the final days of the session, the two sides did agree to work together over the summer but some major disagreements have emerged right at the start.

The two sides do agree on one thing. To determine a person’s tax burden, they want to shift from using an individual’s “taxable income,” to what’s known as “adjusted gross income.” This number is larger because it comes before applying a series of deductions. 

If you use this “adjusted gross” number, and most states do, you can lower the tax rate without changing a person’s tax burden.

VPR/John Dillon

A bill allowing terminally ill patients to get medication to end their lives became law on Monday with Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signature.

Although the law takes effect immediately, it may be some time before it’s used. Doctors and hospitals say they’re looking carefully at whether and how to participate.

The signing ceremony in the governor’s Statehouse office was both a celebration and a quiet remembrance for those who worked on the issue but didn’t live long enough to see it through.

AP/Toby Talbot

Mon 5/20/13 Noon & 7 pm  After laying out his priorities in January, Governor Peter Shumlin saw some of his agenda items approved by the State Legislature and others given scant attention. We speak with Governor about how he assesses the just-completed session – where he thinks he succeeded and where he thinks he failed. And what he hopes to accomplish in the second year of the biennium.

Toby Talbot / AP

Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders came into the recent session promising to make combating climate change a top priority.

Lawmakers and the governor said a warming world was the defining crisis of our time. They focused on an effort to make homes more energy efficient.

But the reality has not lived up to the rhetoric.

AP/Toby Talbot

At a little after 10:20 Tuesday night, House Speaker Shap Smith brought the gavel down on the 2013 Legislative session.

It was a session that was dominated by money issues. The budget was tight and lawmakers rejected Governor Peter Shumlin’s plan to increase spending on child care services by taking money from the state’s earned income tax credit program.

AP/Toby Talbot

High on the list of “must-pass” bills as the Legislature inched toward adjournment on Tuesday was a plan to finance Vermont’s new health care exchange beginning in January 2015. The estimated annual cost is $18 million.

When the exchange goes into place, it will be financed initially by a continuation of the current assessment on employers that don’t offer coverage to their employees. That assessment is roughly $400 a year for each employee.

Political leaders came into the 2013 session seeming to outdo each other with promises for election finance reform.

They leave Montpelier with the House and Senate in a stalemate over campaign legislation and the bill dead for the year.

Secretary of State Jim Condos, was frustrated by the political gridlock.

“I think the real loser here is Vermont’s citizens and voters in this state, because what this bill is really about was accountability and transparency,” he said.

The Vermont Legislature is tying up loose ends today as it prepares to adjourn for the year.

Lawmakers are expected to work well into the evening to reach an agreement on the proposed $1.4 billion general fund budget.

The end of the session came into sight after legislative leaders opted not to challenge Gov. Peter Shumlin over their plan to lower income tax rates. The key to the deal was to get reassurance from the governor that he will consider a similar tax plan next January.

A bill allowing dying patients to get a doctor’s help to end their lives is on its way to Governor Peter Shumlin for his signature.

Supporters last night mustered enough votes to defeat several amendments that would have stalled the bill for a year.

The first was offered by Barre Independent Paul Poirier. He says the bill was hastily patched together and may include errors that could jeopardize vulnerable people.

The Vermont House has approved legislation that sets an 18-month time limit on data collected by police agencies using license plate readers.

The readers are tiny cameras hooked up to computers that scan a vehicle’s registration plate. There is now no limit on how long the information can be stored on police computers.

Rep. Michael McCarthy, D-St. Albans City, said the bill was a compromise. Civil liberties groups had called for a 30-day limit on keeping the information.

Toby Talbot / AP

Legislative leaders decided on Monday not to challenge Gov. Peter Shumlin over their plan to lower income tax rates.

The key to the deal was the assurance by the governor that he will work with lawmakers on a similar tax plan next January.

Democratic leaders at the Statehouse didn’t relish the possibility of getting into a major fight over taxes with a governor from their own party in the final days of the session.

VPR reporter Bob Kinzel updates Vermont Edition on what to expect this week as the Legislative session winds down.

Toby Talbot / AP File Photo

Lawmakers agreed on Monday to decriminalize the possession of small amounts marijuana.

The move comes just months after Colorado and Washington State took the issue a step further and legalized pot.

Right now, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana in Vermont is a misdemeanor that can result in six months in jail for a first offense – two years for subsequent offenses.

Toby Talbot / AP

House Speaker Shap Smith is optimistic that legislative leaders will wrap up a budget bill by the end of the day. If that happens, the Legislature is on track to adjourn the 2013 session Tuesday evening.

But the two-day timetable depends on whether Democrats in the House and Senate and Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin can agree on a revenue package.

The tax-writing committees have been busy on an income tax proposal they say is revenue neutral. The plan would lower taxes for 250,000 filers but raise taxes on about 15,000 upper-income earners.

VPR/Kirk Carapezza

With the support of some members of the Vermont business community, the House on Friday morning finalized a bill to require labeling food that contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The vote was 99-42.

Hundreds of businesses and all 17 of the state’s food cooperatives have expressed their support for GMO labeling.

The Vermont Senate is set to take another crack at changes to Vermont's campaign finance law, as the 2013 legislative session nears adjournment.

House Speaker Shap Smith told lawmakers Thursday evening to expect long days Friday and Saturday, with hopes still alive for adjournment for the year late Saturday.

Smith says the must-do tax and spending bills for the next fiscal year are coming together and could be wrapped up by midday Friday.

The day after the Vermont Senate passed legislation allowing doctors to provide lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it, it gave backers of the bill a scare.

Word spread through the Statehouse Thursday afternoon that Sen. Robert Hartwell, a key swing vote on the question, was asking for reconsideration of the vote to support the bill, in which Hartwell was in the majority on Wednesday.

It’s the last days of pressure at the Vermont Legislature, the time lawmakers decide if bills live or die.

One piece of legislation that didn’t make it was a bill allowing child care workers to form a union.

Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, has worked on the issue for several years. His latest effort was an amendment included in a bill dealing with a variety of education issues. But Lt. Gov. Phil Scott ruled that the union amendment was not germane to the underlying bill.

Legislative leaders are working on a new tax plan that could put Governor Peter Shumlin in an awkward position.

For most of the session, the tax committees at the Statehouse worked on a plan to raise new revenue by capping income tax deductions and by imposing a minimum 3 percent tax rate for everyone who makes more than $125,000.

But the plan seemed to be dead when the Governor and Legislative leaders announced a deal to balance the state budget without raising any taxes.

VPR/Kirk Carapezza

The state Legislature has taken a major step toward changing the way food is labeled in Vermont.

On Thursday, the House approved legislation to require labeling of food that contains genetically modified organisms – or GMOs. Boosted by public support, lawmakers said the benefits of GMO labeling and the right of consumers to know what’s in their food outweighs the risk of a potential lawsuit brought by the dairy and biotech industries. If passed, Vermont would become the first state to require GMO foods to be labeled.