This legislative session may be heading into its last few weeks, but that doesn’t mean that things are slowing down at all.
A summer veto session seems increasingly likely if not inevitable as the governor
has promised vetoes of several important bills. These currently include the school
funding formula, even though school budgets were lower than expected; funding
for water quality improvement despite being a federal requirement; funds for
expanding broadband coverage even though broadband is a priority for every
economic development plan; and a minimum wage increase despite the struggles
and reliance on state benefits of lower income workers.
This week the House is also looking at revising the new motor vehicle inspection
rules, recognizing that paying for non-critical repairs is not a possibility for many
Vermonters. The bill approved this week seeks to balance safety, pollution
reduction, and financial reality.
Changing from immediate to long term focus, we are laying the groundwork for a
complicated process to increase the number of mental health beds in the state,
especially secure residential beds. Currently some people seeking mental health
treatment are housed in hospital emergency units for weeks, waiting for a bed to
open up. Costs, federal regulations and funding, and facilities are all pieces of the
problem, which has only become more acute after Tropical Storm Irene wiped out
the State Hospital in Waterbury.
Most of the headlines this week have been generated by both the House and Senate
working on separate approaches to respond to the potential mass shooting at Fair
Haven High School. The House is debating modifying the laws that define and
punish “attempt” to commit crimes, while the Senate has approved changes to
domestic terrorism laws. I recognize the need to update existing law to address our
new national reality of frequent mass shootings, but I am wary of rushing a
solution into place without understanding the long term and unanticipated