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The Vermont Statehouse Insider – Week 8

The Vermont Legislature is off next week for Town Meeting Day break. The Leonine Legislative Update will return on Friday, March 4.

The House policy committees finalized their FY2023 budget recommendations this week, providing the House Committee on Appropriations with direction on the spending decisions they will need to make over the next few weeks. These recommendations address spending proposals made by the governor in January (in some cases supporting them, in some cases not) and additional priorities added by the policy committees. The House Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to approve the FY2023 budget by March 18. In addition to finalizing budget recommendations, committees worked to refine their priorities in time to meet crossover for policy bills, which is March 11. With the legislature on break next week for Town Meeting Day, the mid-session deadlines are fast approaching.

The Senate will cease conducting business virtually and return to the statehouse in person after the Town Meeting Day break. On Thursday the Senate Rules Committee agreed on the framework for their operations. For the week of March 7 (and potentially the week of March 14) the Senate will hold token floor sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday to allow for more committee time leading up to crossover. The Senate will have full floor sessions on Thursday and Friday of those weeks. Sessions will be held in-person with the ability for Senators to participate remotely if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are quarantining or have refused to comply with the Senate’s masking, testing or vaccination policies. Committees will also meet in person, though the Chair of each committee has the discretion to allow committee members to participate remotely during the first two weeks after break.

On Tuesday the House voted to adopt H.R.18 (https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2022/WorkGroups/House%20Rules/Resolutions%20approved%20for%20introduction/W~House%20Committee%20on%20Rules~House%20resolution%20revising%20and%20establishing%20by%20rule%20a%20House%20member%20dress%20code~2-17-2022.pdf) , which amends the House Rules to make the customs and traditions of the House more inclusive and non-gendered. Traditionally, as the session runs into the warmer months, men could remove jackets while on the floor of the House, but only after a woman had made the request. Under Mason’s Manual of Legislative procedure, traditions become customs and a rule is needed to take precedence over a custom. H.R.18 moves away from the current gendered custom by stating that the dress code is business professional. Since this is a rule, any member can rise to request that the rule be suspended.

Governor Scott issued a veto of S.30 this week, a bill that would have prohibited firearms in hospitals and closed the “Charleston Loophole,” which allows the sale of a firearm to proceed after three business days, even if a background check has not been completed. Governor Scott opposed a provision in S.30 that extended the three day hold to however long it takes for the background check to be completed. The governor indicated he would be willing to sign a bill that extended the hold period from three business days to seven. The legislature will now decide whether to try and override the veto (an unlikely prospect in the House as the vote count on the bill was well shy of the two-thirds needed) or pass another bill with the governor’s recommended changes by the end of the legislative session.
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