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Legislative Weekly 2/7/19

Thursday February 7th, 2019

Dear Readers, this week my newsletter is running several days behind. Sorry about that!  I promise I’ll try to get the next edition out next Monday to get back on schedule. Here are some of the highlights from the past week and half.

  • H. 39 Amendments, in Committee and on the Floor: Last Friday, February 1st, the House Education Committee voted on Representative Heidi Scheuerman’s bill, H. 39. This bill asked for a one year delay on all forced mergers imposed by the State Board of Education last November. Our committee found the bill unfavorable by a vote of 7-4. Subsequently this week, on Tuesday the 5th,  our committee amended H.39 so that Districts under the SBE order were separated into distinct groups. This amendment represented an effort to keep the 2019 deadline in place for Districts that are on track to merge, while pushing the deadline back by one year for Districts that, for whatever reason, are unable to organize in time. These were tricky categories to parse, and will not make everyone happy, but they represented an attempt by our committee to come to a compromise. This version of the bill was found favorable by our committee on a 7-4 vote. Following these two votes, both versions of the bill (Scheuerman’s and the Ed. Committees) were advanced for votes on the House floor. Yesterday, Wednesday the 6th, the House voted on the Scheuerman Amendment to delay all mergers by one year and it was voted down 74 to 69. A very close vote! Today the Committee version of the bill, which will delay some mergers by one year, will be taken up on the House Floor. Stay tuned for an update on this vote, or you can almost certainly find a story on the subject at vtdigger.org this weekend.

  • H.57 - An act relating to preserving the right to abortion -  This bill has received a lot of attention over the past week, culminating in a hearing hosted by the House Health and Human Services Committee along with the House Judiciary Committee at the Statehouse yesterday afternoon. I have heard from constituents weighing in on both sides of this bill. At this point in time, I think there are some fundamental misunderstandings and genuine disagreements about what this bill does and what it intends to do. As a sponsor of this legislation, I can emphatically state that this bill seeks to codify existing abortion rights in Vermont and does absolutely nothing to expand those rights. Furthermore, this bill does not get around Federal law in any way. Much of the opposition to this bill has been focused on “late term abortions”. This is not a medical term and is not practiced in Vermont, nor would it be legal under Federal law. I am disappointed that this bill is being opposed based on mistruths and fear-mongering. For those that are opposed to abortion being legal in any sense, you will not like this bill. However, it’s accurate to say that this bill reinforces the legal status quo as it exists in Vermont right now.

  • Upcoming subjects to watch: Paid Family Leave bill, Cannabis Tax and Regulate bill, Universal Primary Care bill.