Vermont Legislature

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

VPR NEWS  
Statehouse Reporters: Bob Kinzel & Pete Hirschfeld | VPR Reporters on Twitter | Latest #VPRNews

LISTEN: Statehouse Live Streams
Vermont House | Vermont Senate | Full Audio Player | More Options
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.

AP/Toby Talbot

The Vermont House is expected to give final approval to a bill that would allow Vermont doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it.

The likely final passage of the bill sets up a clash with the state Senate, which passed a different proposal.

Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, the lead sponsor of the bill, said the bill, which is modeled after a law in Oregon, gives patients a choice to end their pain and suffering.

The Senate has passed a tax bill that raises $10 million in new revenue but it faces the strong opposition of Governor Peter Shumlin.

With very little debate or opposition, the Senate gave its strong support to its 2013 tax bill. The legislation uses four primary sources to raise the additional revenue.

It caps the amount of mortgage interest that can be deducted on the income tax, it imposes a minimum 3 percent tax for all people who earn more than $125,000, it applies the sales tax to bottled water and it places a tax on satellite TV services.

VPR/Kirk Carapezza

As public funding for pre-kindergarten plummets nationwide, Vermont lawmakers are debating whether to boost state spending on early childhood education.

On Tuesday, the Vermont House advanced a bill that would extend access to pre-kindergarten. Supporters say the goal is to make it universal across the state, but opponents wonder how – and who – will pay for it.

AP/Toby Talbot

At the Statehouse today, lawmakers are spending much of their time on the House and Senate floor debating a slew of bills. The only thing that’s certain, though, is death and taxes.

Vermont lawmakers are trying to wrap up their 2013 legislative session, with the hope of adjourning in early May.

Here’s a look at what’s been accomplished and what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

-Gas tax.  Both the House and Senate approved a gas tax, and so it will increase on May 1. Lawmakers favored a change to a sales tax on gas, rather than a per gallon increase. Many supported the bill because they wanted to take advantage of $56 million in federal matching funds.

The Vermont House is set to debate legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it.

A stripped-down version of the bill already passed the Vermont Senate. The House is expected to pass a version closer to the bill as it was originally filed in the Senate.

The proposal is up for preliminary debate in the House on Tuesday. If it gains approval, it will be up for final action on Wednesday. Differences between the House and Senate versions then would be put to a legislative conference committee to work out.

Budget writers in the Vermont Senate have completed work on their version of a fiscal 2014 state budget that includes new limits on a key welfare-to-work program.

The Senate's budget of $1.362 billion is about $2 million less than the budget the House passed about a month ago. It does not put as much money into reserve funds as the House did.

On the state's Reach Up program, which is designed to get recipients of public assistance into the workforce, both the House and Senate would limit participation to five years, with certain exceptions.

AP/Toby Talbot

It promises to be another busy week at the Statehouse. As the House and Senate burn down the clock on the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers will spend a lot of time on the floor debating spending and policy priorities.

The end-of-life choices bill is back on the calendar this week as the House Judiciary Committee considers a number of amendments.

VPR/Charlotte Albright

It’s been five years since hemp was declared a legal crop in Vermont. But there’s a catch. The law takes effect only if the feds declassify the plant—which is related to marijuana—as a controlled substance. 

Federal law still forbids growing hemp. But a new bill with wide support would legalize hemp in Vermont, despite the federal ban.   

East Thetford farm manager Will Allen has his fingers crossed.

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.

Pages