Politics

Legislative Wrap-up: Bills we could see next year

Morgan Brown protests a Taser hearing outside a Montpelier public forum on March 11, 2013. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana
Morgan Brown protests a Taser hearing outside a Montpelier public forum on March 11, 2013. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana

Tasers

An attempt to regulate police Taser use and training more closely stalled, despite calls from advocates and relatives of victims of Taser use. The House Government Operations Committee decided it needed more time to address the concerns of police, who feared regulators would micromanage the use of an effective weapon.

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Campaign finance

Momentum for campaign finance reform, spurred by 2012 elections featuring Super PACs from inside and outside Vermont, ultimately fizzled this year, making it several years in a row. The House and the Senate couldn’t agree on controversial provisions regarding Super PACs and donation limits, amid the threat of a legal challenge to a Super PAC cap. Although lawmakers will take up the issue again in 2014, fresh regulations won’t come in time to affect the 2014 election cycle.

Related stories:

Wright’s legislation increases filings, requires donor disclosures
Slow progress on campaign finance reform
Donation caps could edge upwards
Senate’s reform ends corporate donations
Senate backtracks on corporate money ban
VLS professor Hanna speaks to lawmakers
House panel opts to cap donations to Super PACs
House to debate cap on Super PAC donations
House reforms campaign finance rules
Senators want constitutional amendment to override Citizens United
Disagreements delay campaign finance reform
Campaign finance reform failure means cap on donations unlikely

Child care workers testified in force at a Statehouse public hearing on Wednesday evening. Those in red represented the Vermont Workers Center, while those in blue supported the legislation, and those in white opposed it. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana
Child care workers testified in force at a Statehouse public hearing on Wednesday evening. Those in red represented the Vermont Workers Center, while those in blue supported the legislation, and those in white opposed it. Photo by Nat Rudarakanchana

Unionization for child-care workers

Allowing child-care workers to unionize faced yet another year of little progress, as the issue failed to reach a Senate floor vote. In a surprise development, legislation died in committee on a 3-2 vote. Senators also ruled a floor amendment out as non-germane, so the topic didn’t receive substantive debate on the floor. Advocates vowed to return next year for a more vigorous push, and Sen. Dick McCormack, the bill’s chief champion in the Senate, showed no signs of backing down.

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Unionization legislation will get another shot in Senate
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Deputy state’s attorney union

Deputy state’s attorneys, who prosecute criminals for the state, sought the right to form a union. But the bill, pushed for by the state employee union VSEA, never cleared either chamber. It reached the Senate floor for debate, but some senators preferred to wait for the results of an ongoing study into working conditions for all state-employed attorneys. It could see action next year.

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Deputy state’s attorneys try to unionize
Union bill unlikely to pass
Advocates vow to return next session

Social media privacy

A bill designed to protect job applicants from employers snooping around inside their social media accounts, like their Facebook accounts, didn’t make it very far. Lawmakers instead formed a committee to study social media privacy for employees and job candidates, due in January 2014. The key issue is whether businesses can force people to turn over their social media passwords, as a condition of employment or otherwise.

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Flynn requests state trooper exception
Bill tabled for further study

Pre-K access

The House passed a bill to expand pre-K access. The Senate Education and Finance committees both signed off on it, but Senate Appropriations did not review the bill before the end of the session. They will take the issue up when the Legislature reconvenes.

The bill requires school districts to pay for at least 10 hours per week of pre-K education for 35 weeks a year.

Parents are currently limited to the pre-K program in their district of residence, and about 40 towns don’t have public pre-K programs. H.270 gives parents the option of enrolling their child in a private or public program in a different district. School districts could, however, choose to limit choice within certain predefined geographic boundaries.

The Joint Fiscal Office estimates that H.270 would increase spending from the Education Fund by between $1 million and $1.5 million in FY 2016.

Related stories

Pre-K bills are in motion, price tag is main concern

Pre-K bill stirs constitutionality questions

Backers work to resolve obstacles on bill expanding pre-K education

Publicly funded pre-K bill passes in House

Alicia Freese also contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

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Nat Rudarakanchana

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