REP. CURT TAYLOR
Saturday, May 12 was the last day of the 2017-18 biennium. We began on the floor at 10 a.m. During a long day, we passed two important bills: one for how the State’s money is spent (the budget) and the other for how the money is raised (tax rates). The balanced budget passed 117 to 14 in the House and 29 to 0 in the Senate. Broad support. The funding bill passed the House 89 to 43 and by voice vote in the Senate. Close to party lines. At around midnight the governor gave a short speech, the speaker brought the gavel down and we all went home. Done!
So, why were 164 legislators back in Montpelier a little over a week later? The Vermont Constitution states that the governor “shall have power to call the general assembly.” That’s what he did.
When the governor calls a special session all bets are off. The general assembly starts a whole new session. Bills from the previous session that were not signed into law by the governor are dropped.
Last Friday the governor returned both H.924 (the budget) and H.911 (tax rates) to the House clerk without his signature. Those two bills from the last day of the 2018 session are now dead. When the Memorial Day weekend began, Vermont had no budget or revenue plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. A government shutdown looms.
The only way to get the finances of the state back in order before then and avoid a shutdown is to write a new budget bill and a new taxing bill. Those new bills will have to go through the process of becoming law. Normally, a bill takes quite a while to go from its introduction in the House to the governor’s desk. But, if everyone agrees that moving the bill along is essential, it can be done in a day or so. “Everyone” in this case means three-fourths of the members present, enough to suspend rules and speed things up.
To save the beleaguered taxpayers of Vermont some money, most of us stay home while a couple committees work on new bills. The Ways & Means Committee has been working on a new funding bill. The Appropriation Committee may copy, paste, perhaps modify, last session’s bill to create a budget bill for this special session. It’s not the proper way to manage a several billion-dollar enterprise, but it may avoid a shutdown come July 1. We’ll all be back this week to see what’s happened. For more information and updates on the special session see the 2018 Special Session page of my website: CT4VT.com.