Vermont Legislature

VPR covers the Vermont Legislature with live streams from the Statehouse chambers and news coverage from our capital bureau.

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VPR provides live streaming feed of the House and Senate proceedings, without editing or commentary. The streams are active when there's a meeting in the House or Senate and the chamber microphones are turned on; otherwise, the streams are quiet.

Under a bill approved 85-to-53 by the Vermont House on Friday, teachers and municipal employees who are not members of a union would still have to pay agency fees.

Supporters argue that Vermont’s municipal and educational institutions have been unionized for years, and they say new hires have known they’re accepting a position in a union shop.

Speaking on the House floor after the vote Friday, Rep. Jean O’Sullivan, D-Burlington, said those workers have always accepted their benefits while expecting their workplace rights to be upheld.

Entergy Vermont Yankee has sued the state again in federal court, claiming the state has delayed approval of a back-up emergency generator.

Entergy has brought a familiar claim to the latest court action. It says federal law trumps state law on issues of safety.

In 2012, Entergy won a similar federal preemption case in a suit that challenged two Vermont laws that required legislative approval to operate the plant after its state license expired.

VPR/Kirk Carapezza

At the Statehouse this week, some Vermont farm owners are raising public safety and liability concerns about a bill that would grant driver identification cards to Vermont residents who are in this country illegally.

It’s the latest effort to stall the legislation, which easily cleared the Senate earlier this month. But migrant workers and their advocates say some of the farmers’ arguments and allegations sound offensive and discriminatory.

VPR/Bob Kinzel

Governor Peter Shumlin and the Senate Finance committee are on a collision course concerning a new tax package.

The Governor didn’t like the tax package that was passed by the House last month and he doesn’t think m

uch of the proposal being crafted by the Senate Finance committee.

The committee’s draft plan caps mortgage interest deductions on the income tax, it creates a new minimum income tax rate and it imposes the sales tax on bottled water.

The Governor made it clear that he opposes the committee’s approach.

For years, House Democrats have been very reluctant to consider changes to Act 68, the state’s education funding law, but projections of double digit increases in spending over the next two years have changed the debate at the Statehouse.

Late Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 110 to 24, the House give its preliminary approval to a bill that’s designed to slow down the growth of education spending in the future.

Bristol Rep. Dave Sharpe said the time has come to make some changes to the state’s education financing system

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow brewers to ship their beer to customers like wineries can do to expand their markets.

Artisan craft brewers, like Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, which was rated on a consumer website the world's top brewer for 2013, also say allowing them to ship beer to consumers would cut down on people selling beer online and marking up the price.

A lobbyist for an industry group supporting wind power has apologized to a Vermont Senate committee after a witness she brought in called health concerns connected with wind power "hoo-hah," nonsense and propaganda.

Gabrielle Stebbins of Renewable Energy Vermont called the remarks of acoustics expert Geoff Levanthall unhelpful for the debate and offered an apology to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after Leventhall testified by phone from England.

AP/Alden Pellet

Vermont Supreme Court Justice Brian Burgess has announced that he is retiring from the court.

Burgess, a former trial court judge and assistant attorney general, was appointed associate justice to the Vermont Supreme Court in 2005.

Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna says that Justice Burgess brought a good awareness of how decisions by  the Vermont Supreme Court would affect the lower courts. And Hanna says he was known for his excellent writing skills.

The Vermont House this morning approved a compromise transportation bill that will raise gas and diesel taxes on May 1.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Pat Brennan, R-Colchester, said the bill strikes a middle ground between the House and Senate versions.

“With a little back and forth I think we’ve come to a place where we can actually make this tax package a little more palatable, if that’s possible,” he said.

Toby Talbot / AP/file

Legislation that began with a proposed moratorium on wind development has been whittled down to a legislative review of how all electric generation projects are sited.

The vote in the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee to approve the much-reduced bill was unanimous. And both sides in the fight over ridgeline wind development say they’re happy with the outcome.

Despite the bill’s brevity, Committee Chairman Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, said the extensive discussion led to a meaningful outcome.

The Vermont House will soon consider an end of life bill that is very different from legislation that passed the Senate earlier this session.

When the Senate passed this bill several weeks ago, a 20 page bill was amended to just a single page during the floor debate.

The original bill contained a detailed process before a terminally ill person could request life ending medication from a physician. The amended version eliminated the process and granted doctors and family members immunity from prosecution for supplying the drugs.

The Legislature continues to set funding priorities, and a key Senate committee this week is seriously considering capping how much mortgage interest someone can deduct from their state income taxes. Supporters say the plan would raise much-needed revenue.

The Senate Finance Committee could advance as early as Wednesday a proposal that would limit the deduction to $12,000.

Deputy state’s attorneys would be allowed to join a public employees union under a bill advanced today by the Vermont Senate.

The bill was sponsored by Chittenden Democrat Philip Baruth. He told senators that the legislation covers 101 employees, including the deputy prosecutors and victims’ advocates.

House committees are rewriting a bill about end-of-life care that the Senate previously scaled back.

The House Human Services Committee voted seven-to-four in favor of the bill that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription medication.

Rochester Representative Sandy Haas says the committee put in safeguards that members of the Senate say are necessary.

As the Legislature struggles to put together a plan to raise new revenue, it could get an unexpected gift from Congress that would boost revenue in Vermont by at least $20 million.

Currently, Internet retailers like Amazon, don’t have to impose a state sales tax unless the company has a physical presence in the state.

Many small retailers have complained that this gives Amazon an unfair price advantage and state officials are upset because they lose revenue.

A committee of the Vermont House has approved changes in the state school funding system designed to curb growth in spending.

The House Ways and Means Committee has been trying to slow spending growth that has forced it to recommend increasing the statewide education property tax three years in a row.

Efforts to slow spending growth in light of declining student enrollments have not been very successful. Last month, local voters raised school budgets an average of 5.5 percent.

A committee of the Vermont Senate is expected to complete work this week on a revenue bill that would limit how much a homeowner could deduct for mortgage interest when filing state income taxes.

Finance Committee Chairman Tim Ashe says the committee is looking at a range of possible caps, from $10,000 to $15,000 in how much could be deducted from taxable income.

AP/Toby Talbot

Governor Peter Shumlin is not backing down from his position on gun control, even as momentum in Washington for universal background checks seems to have run out of steam.

Shumlin continues to call for a 50-state solution.

Last week, the U.S. Senate defeated the Obama administration’s gun-control proposals.

VPR/John Dillon

Lawmakers are reacting to the stun gun death of a Thetford man last year with legislation that would restrict police use of the electronic weapons.

Sponsors of the bill say they are also want to improve police training, especially in dealing with people undergoing a mental health crisis

Macadam Mason was 39 when he died last June. His encounter with police came after he had called a hospital threatening to harm himself or others. After a brief standoff, a state police officer shot him in the chest with a stun gun after Mason refused orders to lie on the ground.

Toby Talbot / AP

It’s likely that Vermonters will pay more for gas and diesel fuel in about 10 days.

That’s because the Senate approved legislation increasing those taxes, and legislative leaders are seeking quick compromise with the House.

That’s because they want the tax hikes to be in place at the beginning of May.

The vote in the Senate was 23-5.        

The Senate plan imposes a 4 percent sales tax on gasoline. Senate Transportation Chairman Dick Mazza says it’s critical to move away from the current per-gallon tax because of declining gas sales.

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