Paid leave and minimum wage bills die as House adjourns for the year

Michael Bielawski/TNR

EMPTY HOUSE: A lot of sitting around and waiting — and blaming each other — is what took place at the Statehouse as the 19th week of an 18-week session concluded Friday afternoon.

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers on Friday voted to adjourn the 2019 legislative session and to reconvene in 2020 as they ended the year by failing to pass the top agenda items of the majority party: paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage.

House Speaker Mitzi Johson, D-South Hero, announced shortly after 4 p.m. that there would be no deal between the House and the Senate on the two key bills, putting and end to rumors that the Senate might strike a last-minute compromise that could send the session into a second week of overtime.

The day started in a stalemate, with both chambers blaming the other for the inability to get these bills done and wrap up the legislative session, which had already gone a week beyond schedule.

One of the final proposals was announced on Twitter early Friday afternoon by Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.

This proposal was to bring the minimum wage up to $12.25 in just two years, and to abandon the aggressive plan of hitting $15.00 an hour by 2025, as proposed earlier in the legislative session.

Regarding the paid leave program, this proposal would have mandated that working Vermonters participate in a 12-week parental leave program and eight-week family leave program. Left optional was a six-week disability program.

The House had originally passed a more comprehensive family leave program which would have required more than $80 million in new mandatory payroll taxes.

The House also passed a version of the minimum wage increase that was tied to economic trends — it was to increase 2.25 times the consumer price index (rate of inflation).

Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, P/D-Chittenden, tried to reach an agreement at mid-afternoon, but not long after they realized a deal was not within reach.

With a new Democrat-Progressive supermajority in both chambers, many expected that one or both bills would become law this year. But the margins of passage grew slimmer over the course of the session, and hopes of being able to override an expected veto by Gov. Phil Scott were dashed.

Friday morning, Johnson wrote a letter to Ashe offering last-minute compromise. The letter outlined some of the House concerns about the aggressive two-year timeline to boost the minimum wage to $12.25.

“As I have repeatedly expressed, many House members are concerned about the effects of a steep minimum wage increase on small rural businesses and on the potential loss of services to Vermonters dependent on community agencies funded largely by Medicaid and Medicare,” she wrote. “You have not addressed those concerns in your proposals.”

The Republican leadership accused the majority of attempting to finalize these last two bills behind closed doors without representation from the minority party. House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney, expressed her frustration in comments to True North.

“We’re here on the 19th week of an 18-week session,” she said Friday morning. “We’re waiting for two bills, the budget bill and the tax and revenue bill, which have been on their wall, and they chose to adjourn [Thursday night] instead of dealing with those and sending them over to us so that we can adjourn [Friday] and go home.

“My understanding is that they are holding all this up because they are striking some kind of deal behind some closed doors about paid family leave and the minimum wage of which we have not been privy to any.”

She said the House was being asked to suspend rules in order to take up the two bills, and she had advised her caucus not to support such a move.

“They want us to do this without even vetting them through the committees that should look at them — it’s just absurd,” she said. “We need to fully vet a bill that may cost taxpayers dollars. And to the notion that they are going to somehow send it over here and we’re gonna suspend rules and put it through all stages of passage to get it out of here today without even fully looking at what these bills actually do, is just not good governance.”

All the back-and-forth politics stirred a war of words between political opponents. The political group Rights & Democracy responded to comments by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe.

Rep. Mari Cordes, D-Lincoln, expressed her frustration with fellow lawmakers on Twitter for failing to pass the two priority pieces of legislation.

“While I have respect for @MitziJohnsonVT for holding strong, I’m not interested in playing games with people’s lives. No one’s a winner with no paid family leave, not minimum wage. The House voted to adjourn the House to reconvene January 7th, 2020,” she wrote.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR
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5 thoughts on “Paid leave and minimum wage bills die as House adjourns for the year

  1. Another legislative session of pipe dreams……does anyone in the Capitol even realize our population is under a million people and sadly getting smaller every day. There is no way they could ever implement these stupid ideas……….what a waste of time and money even discussing such fool hardy ideas.

  2. Rights and democracy……an astro turf “organization” of organizers if their ever was one, founded in 2015 with Chicago transplants.

    Sadly affordability will never be answered. It looks good, higher minimum wage and paid leave, but neither answer the desperate need to get Vermont affordable. The increase in fees, taxes and Vermont inflation caused by cronyism, monopolies and over regulation will quickly surpass the new increase.

    That is why despite having one of the highest minimum wages in the world for decades, people in our stat constantly, needlessly struggle.

  3. Paid leave and paid minimum wage are gone.

    Dem/Progs are crying, displaying common sense, or afraid of voter backlash?

    Just more pickpocket bills, i.e., taking from the pockets of already-struggling, hardworking Joe and Jane Worker and giving it to the work-challenged, poorly skilled, never-do-well, shirkers.

    Another inefficiency added to the moribund VT PRIVATE economy?

    Dem/Prog politicians do not care, as long as they would get the votes forever.

    Who is PAYING and who is GETTING?

    The same with with your electric or telephone bill.

    A surcharge here and a surcharge there and soon we are talking about real money out of your pocket into someone else’s pocket.

    For example, whatever efficiency program the state government sets up, any savings will be taken away from your pocket (in the name of a good cause) by means of increased electric rates, plus increases in taxes, fees and surcharges, plus increased prices of goods and services, as businesses try to recoup THEIR cost increases.

    That money will be used to pay for setting up additional government programs and/or expand existing programs, all in the name of a good cause.

    Any increases in overall productivity of the PRIVATE economy would mitigate SOME of the increases in the prices of goods and services.

    Let us hope the government will allows us to keep enough money to make the INVESTMENTS to actually achieve these increases in productivity.

    If not, we will have a growing government, a near zero, real growth economy or worse, people leaving, and down the tube we go.

    Gee, I almost thought this was rocket science, until I realized it was just Economics 101.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/deep-water-floating-offshore-wind-turbines-in-

  4. How much does Zuckerman pay his employees? Is he planning on voluntarily paying them much more than the current minimum wage?

  5. “No one’s a winner with no paid family leave, not minimum wage.” I guess taxpayers and small business owners don’t count?

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