Op/Ed

Guest editorial: Legislature dealt with a large number of vetoes

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR DAVID ZUCKERMAN

Last week, the legislature reconvened for a special summer veto session — a time to review the bills that the governor vetoed and vote on whether those vetoes should be overridden. At the end of the session there were seven bills passed by the legislature that saw the governor’s veto pen, five of which were overridden. An additional bill was passed that significantly adjusted the handling of Vermont’s unhoused population. 

Read on for a summary of all the bills seen during the veto session last week.

Historical fact: Prior to these overrides, there had been only 14 successful veto overrides in Vermont’s history. That number increased by more than 33% on June 20.

Overridden Vetoes

Childcare (H.217) 

This year the legislature took major steps towards fixing our devastating childcare crisis that has been making it nearly impossible for working families to afford to live in Vermont. The House and Senate handily voted to override the veto of this legislation. You can read more about what this means for the future of childcare in Vermont online at tinyurl.com/ChildcareOverride. 

Budget and Extending the Emergency Motel Program (H.494 and H.171) 

A last-minute agreement was struck to allow the pandemic-era emergency motel program to continue with greater oversight of the Scott Administration’s handling of the crisis. Roughly 2,000 unhoused Vermonters will continue to be sheltered until alternative placements can be found. 

While I am glad that this adjustment has passed and many folks will remain sheltered, this still leaves out approximately 800 Vermonters who have already been exited from motels in the past month. The new eligibility criteria for the program includes families with children, elderly individuals, and those receiving disability benefits. Anyone who does not fall into one of those categories — such as folks who may have a disability but are not receiving Social Security Disability Insurance — will not be able to re-enter or remain in the program. The new agreement also does not address newly unhoused individuals, such as those happening regularly as rent and housing become more unaffordable. 

Brattleboro Charter Change (H.386) 

In March of 2019, the voters of Brattleboro approved a charter change to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections as well as run for local offices (this would not change the rules for regional, statewide or federal elections). These changes will be in effect for the next local election. 

Burlington Charter Change (H.509) 

This past March, the voters of Burlington approved a charter change that allows all legal residents of the city to vote in local elections, regardless of their citizenship status. This change would apply only for elections for local officers and local public questions. These changes will be in effect for the next local election. 

Office of Professional Regulation (H.305) 

This bill amends the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) within the office of the Secretary of State. This bill had mostly technical changes, but also included adjustments to the licensing fees for professions regulated by the OPR to account for inflation. You can contact the OPR if you have questions about how this may affect you; get the contact info here: tinyurl.com/OPRcontact. 

Vetoed Bills Referred Back to their Committee of Jurisdiction

Law Enforcement Interrogation Policies (S.6) 

This bill would have prevented law enforcement from lying to, or using deceptive practices on, Vermonters under the age of 22 during interrogations. After some concerns were raised by law enforcement and prosecutors, the bill was returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further discussion next year. I am pleased that there is a strong commitment by the Senate leadership to try to only make minor adjustments to secure the last vote needed to pass this bill with enough votes to override any veto of a future version. Young people should not be deceived into making confessions. 

Legislative Compensation (S.39) 

I’ve written about the importance of the legislative compensation bill previously here: tinyurl.com/LawmakersPay. Many everyday Vermonters cannot afford to serve, making the legislature not representative of a wide range of perspectives. Unfortunately, it would not have garnered enough votes needed for a successful veto override and was sent back to the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

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