Vermont Legislature

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Legislation designed to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana is heading to the House floor for a full debate.

Late Wednesday afternoon, after hours of testimony, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would make it a civil offense – rather than a criminal one – to possess one ounce or less of marijuana. The 9-2 committee vote comes as the issue of decriminalization is moving swiftly through the country, and it comes in a state whose local law enforcement remain divided on the issue.

The Vermont Senate has overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to move the state's primary elections to early August. 

The early date was supported by Secretary of State Jim Condos, who said he needed more time between the primary and the general election to meet federal deadlines to get ballots to overseas voters. 

But senators complained that the early August primary election would lower voter turnout. 

The Senate Finance committee is working on a tax package for next year and the plan is likely to look quite different from a proposal adopted in the House several weeks ago.

The House plan raised roughly $25 million in 2014 and $46 million in 2015. It increased the rooms and meals tax by half a percent, imposed the sales tax on soda, candy, and bottled water, and capped personal income tax deductions.

Governor Peter Shumlin has vowed to oppose any plan that increases a broad based tax and he says the House proposal does this three times.

Vermont House members should be mindful of where they stand and walk during debates so they don't cross between members who are speaking and the presiding officer.

That was one tip First Assistant House Clerk William MaGill shared with lawmakers during a special decorum training session on Tuesday.

House leaders agreed to the session after an evening debate two weeks ago on the budget that was marked by some unorthodox debating tactics.

The Vermont Senate is expected to debate a bill that would move up the state's primary election to early August.

Vermont's primary used to be held in mid-September, before the 2010 election the date was moved to late August to ensure the secretary of state's office has time to produce general election ballots in time to meet federal deadlines. That included sending absentee ballots to overseas service members.

But Secretary of State Jim Condos said even more time is needed.

If the bill is passed by the full Legislature, the 2014 primary would be held on Aug. 5.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate has passed a bill that would give driver’s licenses to immigrants regardless of their immigration status.

With a nearly unanimous voice vote, state senators gave their final approval Tuesday morning to the measure that would create what are described as drivers’ authorization cards for people living illegally in Vermont.

Kirk Carapezza / VPR

Lawmakers are set to vote on a bill this week that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The House Judiciary Committee has been taking testimony for weeks and the bill is likely to pass Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, lawmakers are set to mark-up and vote on a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The House Judiciary Committee has been taking testimony for weeks on a bill that would decriminalize two ounces of pot and a version of the measure is likely to pass in the afternoon.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will also continue to look at its version of a decriminalization bill.

Governor Peter Shumlin's plan to finance a major expansion of child care programs is sharply dividing Vermont's early childhood community.

Within the state's early childhood community, there's almost unanimous support for the Governor's plan to significantly increase funding for child care subsidies and to boost rates for providers.  But there's a huge disagreement over how to pay for the initiative.

Two years ago, lawmakers endowed a five-person panel with the power to tell doctors how much they can charge patients for health care services. Now, some physicians with private practices say the rate-setting authority could put them out of business.

As part of a health care reform initiative launched under Gov. Peter Shumlin, lawmakers have intensified oversight of the medical industry, and granted unprecedented powers to a board that now regulates doctors and hospitals.

Vermont Lawmakers this week looked at legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. VPR's Bob Kinzel lays out the arguments in favor and against and discusses the likelihood of the bill's passage with Peter Biello.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly advanced a bill on Friday that would give driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The bill would create what are described as drivers’ authorization cards for people living in Vermont illegally. It would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly advanced a bill on Friday that would give driver's licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The bill would create what are described as drivers' authorization cards for people living in Vermont illegally. It would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

Pete Hirschfeld, bureau chief of the Vermont Press Bureau, talks with Vermont Edition about some of the issues being debated at the Statehouse this week.

Senate To Mull Immigrant License Bill

Apr 5, 2013

The Vermont Senate is scheduled to take up a bill allowing immigrant farm workers to become Vermont drivers.

It was approved last week by the Transportation Committee by a vote of 4-1.

Vermont dairy farms employ an estimated 1,500 Mexican farm workers, many of whom are in the country illegally. They say they are isolated in rural areas and have to get rides from their employer or volunteers or sometimes pay for transportation to go to the grocery store or doctor.

The House has unanimously approved a two-year capital construction bill that solidifies a commitment to rebuild the Waterbury state office complex devastated by Tropical Storm Irene.

The bill includes $173 million in spending, with close to $70 million dollars set aside for Irene-related projects.

This is the second legislative session that lawmakers have crafted a two year spending cycle for state construction projects.

And a top priority remains repairing or replacing buildings damaged by the floodwaters of Irene.

The House has unanimously approved a two-year capital construction bill that solidifies a commitment to rebuild the Waterbury state office complex devastated by Tropical Storm Irene.

The bill includes $173 million in spending, with close to $70 million set aside for Irene-related projects.

This is the second legislative session that lawmakers have crafted a two-year spending cycle for state construction projects. And a top priority remains repairing or replacing buildings damaged by the floodwaters of Irene.

Patients living with Lyme disease crowded the Statehouse on Wednesday to tell their stories about years of misdiagnosis and chronic pain.

The patients and their advocates want legislation to protect doctors if they prescribe long-term antibiotic treatment contrary to current medical standards.

Lawmakers also learned that Lyme disease is just one of several tick-borne infections now sweeping through Vermont.

The momentum to reform Vermont’s earned income tax credit appeared to run out last week, but Governor Peter Shumlin continues to lobby a small group of state senators. He hopes to strike a deal on his proposal to subsidize child care by redirecting $17 million from the tax credit for poor working Vermonters.

A week after a key House committee narrowly rejected his plan, Shumlin has his work cut out for him in the Senate.

Job losses in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene were in many cases temporary, lasting only as long as it took businesses to repair damage from the flood.

The financial impact of those layoffs has been more lasting, but lawmakers may have found a way to soften the blow.

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