(Host) It’s the time of year in Montpelier when the leaders in the state capitol flex their political muscle. Adjournment is nearing and House Democrats are opposed to a Republican plan to send most lawmakers home while key committees work on bills.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Lawmakers hope to finish their business in Montpelier by mid-May. But with issues such as the budget, Act 60 school funding and permit reform still unresolved, there’s a lot of work left to do. Much of that action will take place in a few key conference committees. And Republican House Speaker Walter Freed would like to send many lawmakers home and have only a few members continue working until adjournment is imminent.
But Democratic Leader Gaye Symington opposes that plan. She told her caucus that members should work Mondays and Saturdays if necessary to get their work done by May 10.
(Symington) “I have looked at what we have on our dockets and I’ve spoken to leadership of the Senate and it seems to me we can get our work done if we begin to get serious about it. And I don’t think it’s fair to Vermont, I don’t think it helps the process, I don’t think it helps representation in the building to send many of us home. Our constituents elected us to be here and represent them in the process of evolving what is very significant legislation.”
(Dillon) Speaker Freed says keeping most members home would save taxpayers money. And he says it’s a strategy employed by Democratic speakers in the past. He says the Legislature has to pass an additional $700,000 to pay lawmakers through May 10.
(Freed) “And my concern is that if they don’t get the work completed by May 10, and we’ve seen that in the past, I don’t think that this necessarily creates any additional pressure by keeping the members here. Instead, it may just have a lot of people milling around chewing up the budget. And we would not [have] dollars necessary to pay them on the days when we do have to be here.”
(Dillon) On the Senate side, lawmakers are still working on the budget bill, which is the last measure considered by the Legislature. Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Welch says a May 10 adjournment is possible. But he says it’s important to pass meaningful school funding reform this year. He says the session will be judged on that, not the adjournment date.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.