Governor’s veto calls Legislature back to Montpelier

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas’s veto of a juvenile justice bill automatically triggers a “veto session” of the Legislature in about two weeks. Legislative leaders are hoping to limit how many lawmakers will actually have to come back to the Statehouse to consider the veto.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Language creating a so called veto session is now included in the legislature’s adjournment motion because several years ago, former governor Howard Dean vetoed a number of bills after lawmakers had gone home for the year. Since only the governor can call a special session, lawmakers had no way to convene themselves to try to override any of the vetoes.

Douglas on Thursday vetoed a bill that is designed to allow victims of crimes committed by juveniles more access to legal proceedings that are usually closed to the public. The governor supported this part of the law, but he had a problem with a provision that his legal advisors concluded could inadvertently lead to the sealing of all juvenile court records.

Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Welch and House Speaker Walter Freed support the governor’s concerns. Because the veto will initially be considered in the Senate, Welch says the best way to deal with the situation may be to bring back 11 senators to sustain the governor’s veto and then fix the problem next January:

(Welch) “It’s not clear that we’ll need to come back. I spoke to the governor last night and this has been vetoed on really a technicality, not because the governor is in opposition to the substance of the bill. He’s fearful that there’s some language in there that may actually be detrimental to getting information about people who abuse children. So we’re not in an argument or disagreement with that concern. And as far as the governor’s concerned we could fix that in January.”

(Kinzel) Freed says he’d be willing to bring all 180 lawmakers back to Montpelier if the House-Senate conference committee on permit reform reached a compromise in the next 10 days:

(Freed) “If we have our conferees meet or if they can meet between now and June 19 on permit reform issues, and we can reach some finality with that it, would be great then to call the whole Legislature back, deal with the veto but also deal with the permit reform bill. We could adopt that on that day. But to bring 180 members back for this technical correction doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

(Kinzel) Senator Welch says the Senate is interested in resolving the permit reform issue but he says it’s unlikely that a consensus plan can be worked out before the June 19 veto session date.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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