No adjournment for Vermont Legislature

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(Host intro) The Legislature was unable to adjourn for the year on Friday afternoon. Lawmakers found it impossible to resolve disagreements over permit reform, the minimum wage and the future of hydro dams on the Connecticut River.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel has the details.

(Kinzel) As lawmakers entered the Statehouse on Friday morning, many were hoping that differences between the House and the Senate could be worked out in a timely manner, paving the way for a late-night adjournment. But it didn’t happen.

While deals were struck on Act 60 reform, the state budget and the transportation bill for next year, there was no progress on several other key bills.

Senate Majority Leader John Campbell said it was time to go home for the long holiday weekend and come back next week to deal with the outstanding issues.

(Campbell) “Everyone was working extremely hard this week; everyone was going to late hours 11 – 12 o’clock in the evening, and the one thing we don’t want to do is at the last minute make a small simple mistake which could be extremely costly in the end. We figured let’s go ahead, it’s a holiday weekend. People should get home, get refreshed so that when we come back we can get this thing nailed down and put to bed for this year.”

(Kinzel) Finding a compromise solution on the issue of permit reform is proving to be a very difficult task. The House wants to consolidate all appeals to an expanded environmental court.

The Senate doesn’t like this idea and has proposed a one year pilot project that would help combine some of the appeals process. But the House says this approach doesn’t go far enough.

There are many elements in the bill that the two chambers do agree on, but House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bill Johnson says it’s an all or nothing proposition.

(Johnson) “I think we need to wait until a time when the Senate can accept the full package the House has included: the local permit reform as part of a top to bottom reform of the permitting process. And from my position representing the House, I think it would fall far short of their expectations if we were to accept anything less than full resolution to the dilemma in permitting, which we feel is a top to bottom review of the permitting process.”

(Kinzel) Senate Natural Resources Chairwoman Ginny Lyons says she’s confident that lawmakers will be able to find a solution to the appeals issue by next year.

(Lyons) “We are making progress and we will continue working. We’ll come back in January; I hope we’ll have a proposal to make that is acceptable and workable and we can work through the legislative process during the next year of the biennium.”

(Kinzel) Legislative leaders hope that all the conference committees will be able to complete their work by next Wednesday. If that happens, they believe the Legislature will be able to adjourn no later than Thursday.

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

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