We just concluded the 17th week of the 2019 legislative session and are nearing adjournment. 18 weeks is the preferred time frame for us to wrap things up. Based on where negotiations stood Friday between the Governor, House and Senate, we may need an additional day or two to complete our work and adjourn. Stay tuned for updates.
Final deals are made in the closing hours of the session. Outside of the State House, it’s not always clear how these last minute negotiations transpire. Sessions are long and a bill’s path through the House and Senate can be unpredictable. If you’re interested in the steps of how a bill becomes law, I encourage you to check out this helpful 1-page resource that describes Vermont’s legislative process.
In the first year of a 2-year biennium, it is not unusual for certain negotiations to stall. Some neighbors have asked what happens if the House and Senate cannot agree on a bill’s passage. If a bill has enough support (both within and outside the State House) legislative leaders can agree to form a Committee of Conference, a 6-member panel made up of 3 House Reps and 3 Senators. This group is charged with resolving differences. To advance a compromise back to the House and Senate, at least 4 of the 6 conferees must vote in the affirmative to send the package back to each body. This is the most common approach to resolve impasse.
There is no guarantee that a bill committed to a Committee of Conference will succeed — some fail. Most advance on to both chambers for a vote. If conferees cannot reach consensus, all or part of the stalled proposal could be attached to another bill that is moving toward passage. This is a common tactic. If all other avenues are exhausted and a bill is not moving, a lawmaker can offer it as an amendment during debate on the floor of the House or Senate. In this latter case, the body would debate and vote on whether to pass the proposal as an amendment.
Procedural shenanigans are unpredictable. What is 100% certain is that the House and Senate will spend many late nights on the floor next week as bills are debated. 733 bills have been introduced by legislators since we convened in January. 96 of these bills have passed both chambers. After passage, bills move to the Governor. He has the option to either 1) sign the bill into law; 2) allow the bill to become law without signing it; or 3) veto the bill, which effectively send the bill back to lawmakers.
By June 1st, the date of our next legislative community coffee, we ought to know whether we will need to return to consider a gubernatorial vetoes. Please join your Essex Representatives from 8:30 – 10:00am at Nest Coffee & Bakery. This will be our fifth and final forum during the 2019 session. These meetings have been well attended and have provided us with helpful perspective.