(Host) Lawmakers got caught up in a parliamentary fight on Saturday that made it impossible for the Legislature to adjourn. They’ll be back in Montpelier this week with the state’s capital bill and reapportionment still on the table.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) In one of the most unusual days in modern legislative history, lawmakers went to the brink of adjournment several times before pulling away to fight another day. Chittenden Senator Jim Leddy probably described the situation best when he called the events of Saturday “a game of Legislative chicken.”
It was like two cars were hurdling towards each other at 90 miles an hour when time froze with the cars a foot apart. The Senate actually sent an adjournment message to the House and was prepared to leave for the year when a series of Republican parliamentary maneuvers left the Democratic leadership with no choice but to come back this week.
Republicans wanted to buy more time for the conference committee on reapportionment to meet to find a solution to their disagreements. The Democrats argued the committee had met for a week and was unable to each a compromise so the only solution was to send the issue to the courts.
The last meeting of the committee erupted in name-calling and very bad feelings. House Minority John LaBarge told the Senate that his side had decided further talks would be pointless because the Democrats had a political agenda . It was a comment that drive the Senate’s lead negotiator, Dick Sears, from the room:
(Rep. LaBarge) “We can’t give any more. The Senate map really is… um, senators going around looking for places in the state to knock off a Republican senator. And um, you know, we understand that that’s politically, probably your, your right to do that-“
(Sen. Sears) “That- that’s not true. John, that wasn’t necessary, a slap at this point in the day…You wanted to smile, you wanted to shake and be friendly and you slap me in the face.”
(Rep. LaBarge) “No, no, I’m just saying that it looks like-“
(Sen. Sears) “We had testimony in our committee that Brandon wants to be back in Rutland County. You don’t like that? Well we’ve had a lot of crap…
(Rep. LaBarge) “Hey Â– there’s one thing I have to say-“
(Sen. Sears) “I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough. You guys, you guys want to hammer us with political tools, and crap like you just did?”
(Kinzel) The remaining question was whether or not the Senate would adjourn without the capital construction bill. Republicans refused to let the bill come to floor for a vote arguing more time was needed to work on reapportionment. In the end, a series of parliamentary disputes insured that the senate would have to return this week to finish its work.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.