Vermont Senate to vote Tuesday on meeting, voting remotely during emergency

By Guy Page

As reported by Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe (D/P Chittenden) during his Sunday evening Facebook report, the Vermont Senate will meet in their chambers at the Vermont State House Tuesday to:

  • Adopt legislative rules to allow remote Senate meetings and voting during state of emergency
  • Change Vermont Open Meeting Law to allow local and state government (not including Legislature) to meet remotely
  • Affirm in state law Department of Motor Vehicle’s emergency 90-day extension for license and registration renewal
  • Expand unemployment insurance
  • Expand telemedicine

Both time and meeting guidelines regarding press and general public attendance were unclear as of 8:30 Monday morning, Sgt. at Arms Janet Miller said. Details will be published later today on an updated Senate Calendar. Ashe said the Senate will practice “social distancing” by having just enough senators present to hold a vote. He said he expects the measures to pass by consensus. He is encouraging non-participants not to come.

Wikimedia Commons/Orca Media

Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe

If the Senate opts to hold meetings remotely, it will allow the body to take action during the State of Emergency and State House shutdown on climate-related legislation that many of its members have said are a high priority: House bills for the revision of Act 250, the Global Warming Solutions Act, and its own bills to allow the governor to join the Transportation & Climate Initiative, require 100% instate renewable power by 2050, and amend the Vermont Constitution to make natural resources the common property of the people.

Ashe explained why the Senate must meet in person to allow future remote meeting/voting: “The Senate is governed by rules,” Ashe said. “And one of our rules is that a senator shall be seated in his or her seat when voting. The reason for cherishing the rules we have is to make sure that both sides are treated fairly. They are there to protect whichever side is in the minority at the time.”

“We are going to move to create more flexibilty for remote senate voting,” Ashe said. “We are going to have to figure out what technology ensures that the individual senator can be clearly heard and hopefully seen.”

Ashe concluded his evening Facebook message by noting, “ We are expected to face a multi hundreds of million reduction in state revenue just over the next few months.” The times are “very bleak” but “we are all in this together, in the collective challenge before us. We are experiencing this individually, But our response needs to be collective.”

Read more of Guy Page’s reports.

Images courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR and Wikimedia Commons/Orca Media

4 thoughts on “Vermont Senate to vote Tuesday on meeting, voting remotely during emergency

  1. Maybe Ashe can just re-appropriate all the spy ware they had built into the DMV
    inspection process for their voting and go back to NO NON sense old school inspections
    which without the need to pay for the spy ware would go back to 30 bucks a shot…

  2. No,just NO.The legeslature is supposed to conduct the people business in front of the people, out in the open.
    The legislature has in at least one instance this year with the many rewrites of H 610 proved that they were not above board in their zeal to gut due process. Trust any one member of the legislative body ,hardly.
    The best thing the legislature could do is adjourn,NOW.

    • I agree , any legislation regarding more spending can’t be aloud with out public
      input..period…if they want to lower cost OK…

  3. I understand the situation but I wonder if this is realty necessary? If something is a matter of emergency I would not have an issue with it. I have concerns about the Legislature moving forward on anything that is not of a critical nature. Most of these bills that are in process are not that critical that they can’t wait. Voting remotely is much like sending an email, you tend to do things differently sometimes that you would in front of the person. This should not happen.

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