By Guy Page
The Vermont House of Representatives is scheduled to meet remotely at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday. An all-House caucus was held yesterday to discuss bills to be brought up.
As explained by House Speaker Mitzi Johnson in an all-House caucus Wednesday, the first vote will be on Rule 9A, to allow remote voting. A three-quarters approval of all House members (meeting remotely) is required. This rule was given preliminary approval March 25 by a physically-present quorum of House members who were rushed to the State House after the need for a quorum was challenged by Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington. Subsequently Johnson demoted Browning from her post on House Ways & Means.
Several critics of this rule — including Browning — have questioned the circular nature of a voting process that requires a remote vote to approve remote voting.
Bills scheduled for review Thursday include:
S.340, designed to expand through August 15 the state treasurer’s borrowing authority from state funds during 2020 and the COVID-19 emergency. It’s a contingency plan to provide greater deficit-meeting authority and won’t cost the taxpayers anything, Rep. Maida Townsend, D-South Burlington, reported. Rep. Janet Ancel said the Ways & Means committee is also looking at lines or credit and short-term borrowing as 2020 budget deficit solutions.
The following bills — which were proposed by Rep. Jim Harrison to “let lie” while more pressing SOE legislation is considered — appear on the House Calendar for Thursday:
H.833 The interbasin transfer of surface waters.
H.99 Trade in covered animal parts or products
H.162 Removal of buprenorphine from the misdemeanor crime of possession of a narcotic
H.492 Establishing a homeless bill of rights and prohibiting discrimination against people without homes
H.535 Approval of amendments to the charter of the Town of Brattleboro
H.611 The Older Vermonters Act
H.673 Tree wardens
H.880 Abenaki place names on State park signs
H.923 Entering a vehicle without legal authority or consent
During the Wednesday House caucus, Johnson said she plans to schedule a caucus soon to discuss the future of the Vermont State Colleges. Also, an All Senate Caucus meets at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Caucuses are held for discussion purposes only, no votes are taken.
Most House committees are holding scheduled meetings once or twice a week. Some committees have no scheduled meetings, a few are meeting three or more days a week. Click here to see this week’s full schedule for House and Senate committees. Here are some highlights for today and tomorrow:
Friday at 2 p.m., House Education will discuss school district budgets with state education officials, superintendents or business managers for supervisory districts serving Milton, Windham County, Caledonia County, Washington County (Harwood), Springfield, and Bradford (Oxbow), and NEA, school board association, and superintendents’ association reps.
Thursday at 3 pm, House General, Housing & Military Affairs Committee may vote on S.333, a moratorium on housing ejection and foreclosure during the state of emergency (SOE)..
Thursday at 11:30 a.m., House Government Operations will vote on S.182, emergency medical services and public safety during the SOE.
Friday, 9:30 a.m., House Health Care and Senate Health and Welfare will meet with insurance providers on the emergency rule requiring coverage of COVID-19 Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention. At 10 a.m., the committees will discuss Crisis Standards of Care with David Englander, Senior Policy & Legal Advisor, Vermont Department of Health and Cindy Bruzzese, Director, Vermont Ethics Network.
Thursday at 11:45 a.m. House Judiciary will vote on S.114, the emergency judicial response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Thursday 10 a.m., Senate Agriculture will discuss COVID-19 related agricultural issues regarding migrant farm workers with Will Lambek, Organizer, Migrant Justice, dairy worker Jose Ignacio De La Cruz and others.
Senate Economic Development will meet 9:45 a.m. Thursday to discuss housing issues and get recovery updates from state officials, including Dept. of Labor.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports.