Rep Jim Harrison’s Weekly Update 5/20/19

Not quite finished.

The Vermont legislature will need a few more days to finish its work for the 2019 session. Hope for adjournment this past weekend were dashed when a number of controversial issues occupied extended debate time on the House floor and differences between the House and Senate on several key issues were still not resolved.

Complicating matters was a lack of clarity between legislative leaders and the Governor as to what bills he was likely to veto and what changes could be made to avoid that outcome. The result (perhaps intentional on Scott’s part) was negotiations between House and Senate leaders as to what might pass muster.

House floor debate was dominated by the $15 minimum wage, a medical monitoring bill championed by environmental groups and opposed by the state’s manufacturers and a new waiting period for firearm purchases.

The Senate is headed toward passing a scaled back paid family leave plan, which is a priority for House leadership. The House, in return, passed the $15 minimum wage bill with a longer phase-in than the Senate proposed, which coincidentally is a priority of Senate leaders.

The minimum wage, paid family leave and medical monitoring bills were vetoed by Scott last year. And the Governor indicated at the start of the 2019 session he didn’t believe new firearm restrictions were necessary this year after the measures signed into law in 2018.

Another controversy erupted Friday when the House Government Operations Committee voted along party lines to concur with a late Senate amendment to institute binding arbitration for contract negotiations with state employees and municipal public safety employees. The state employees union advocated for the amendment when the Labor Board chose the Administration’s final contract offer last year over the one from the Union. The municipal provision of the amendment was backed by the union representing professional firefighters. Municipalities can already add binding arbitration to their contract negotiations as several towns have done. The legislative action on Friday takes that choice away from local government.

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