REP. PATRICK BRENNAN
It’s been a very busy last couple of weeks at the statehouse. We have seen a transportation bill that provides $615 million for Vermont’s infrastructure, a once again balanced budget that relies on no new taxes and a proposal to change education funding. The latter I would have liked to support; however, after scrubbing numbers and talking to some local and very knowledgeable constituents, I decided not to support this proposal. At the last moment, a proposal to remove the tax on social security was added. This was an idea I fully support but was obviously added strictly as an enticement to vote for the larger package. This was something I could not do.
The ed bill as presented was, to put it simply, just a reshuffling of the deck chairs so to speak and didn’t address the core issue of “cost containment.” It relies on school districts to feel the pressure to reduce costs based on penalties for overspending and shifting the burden to the towns. Not my idea of true cost containment.
Transportation related (more up my alley): Our commitment remains strong as evidenced by the money in the budget. Paving is once again over $100 million, bridgework will continue on pace with previous years, public transit and rail appropriations are down slightly but remain a priority. Of interest to many is a rewrite of our state inspection manual. The DMV will, through rules and legislative enabling language, relax many non-safety related failures. As well as issue a conditional pass for up to a year for emission issues.
Lastly, after 16 hours of floor debate S.55 (the gun bill) was passed. I opposed this bill for a number of reasons. I was hoping to be able to vote for a school safety bill (sorely needed); however, the bill, after careful review, does absolutely nothing to tighten up safety. It does face several constitutional challenges however. It was hastily run through the Senate as well as the house Judiciary Committee. Many amendments were added and it became a Christmas tree for the anti-gun folks, most of which were poorly conceived impractical and totally unenforceable. When I vote for legislation I first ask: Is it practical? What does it accomplish? Is it enforceable? None of my concerns were addressed in this bill. I am a gun owner, hunter and recreational shooter and through the two days of floor discussion it became evident that this was an agenda of the majority fueled by emotions of previous events. It also became quite clear that the body as a whole had very little knowledge on this topic. Enter the emotional debate. Hopefully we can use the $5 million in the capital bill designated for improvements to school safety wisely.
This is an issue that bears further discussion. I welcome your input and ideas to keep our schools safe. Please call me at home at 863-3773 or cell 578-2763.