Vermont’s 2020 legislative session is nearing its midpoint, when lawmakers break for Town Meeting. The origin of our winter timeline comes from Vermont’s agrarian tradition. Prior to the 21st century, many citizen lawmakers farmed the land during warmer seasons. The cold weeks of the winter were the best time to meet at the State House. This tradition guides our work and adjournment in spring.
The House is the body that originates revenue and budget bills. House and Senate leaders adopt an annual “crossover” deadline by which all money bills must move out of the House money committees and onto the floor for a vote. This year, House money bills must clear committee by March 20. They will be debated on the floor the following week. This helps ensure the Senate has adequate time to review bills ahead of final negotiations in April and May.
There is a separate crossover deadline for non-money committees to complete policy bills (March 13). This deadline applies to my work in the House Education Committee, where we have been developing several bills to improve the delivery of literacy education, tweak our universal preK system, and create a mechanism to assess the infrastructure of aging schools across Vermont. We need to advance these proposals in the next two weeks if we want to see them advance through the House and onto the Senate.
As we approach the midpoint of the legislative session, more and more bills will move to the House for votes. As of February 21, when this piece was submitted, 1,274 bills had been introduced by State Representatives and Senators. Just 125 of these had passed the House. Only 99 had moved through both chambers and on to the Governor. As these figures demonstrate, passage of bills is far less common than their introduction.
One major bill that passed last week was the Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688). The bill achieved preliminary passage on February 20 by a vote of 105-37. The science is clear that climate change is real and impacting our planet. The number of major storms Vermont experienced in the 2000s increased threefold in the 2010s. The Halloween downpour that caused damage to local properties and infrastructure is just one example of the erratic and severe weather we are experiencing. I voted to support this piece of legislation, which will codify our climate goals and coordinate government and community experts to create a roadmap to reduce greenhouse gases and build resilience. I believe this bill will better position Vermont to address our shared climate challenge, while benefiting our economy. I am hopeful it will advance into law this year.
I want to thank everyone who joined our February Community Conversation meeting. We packed Sweet Alchemy Bakery and had excellent discussion and debate. For those who weren’t able to attend, we will hold our next meeting on Sunday, March 15. Please join us from 2:00-3:30pm at Nest Coffee and Bakery.
It’s a privilege to serve Essex Junction in the Vermont House. If you have any questions, or would like to connect on an issues, please email me. I can be reached anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then, I hope to see you around town as the we near the spring thaw.
Rep. Dylan Giambatista