Final Reading: Senate OKS Abenaki name measure; Climate bill heads to Scott’s desk

Special Covid-19 budget session edition compiled by Kit Norton and Xander Landen.


—  In a 102-45 vote Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled House approved changes made to H.688 — known as the Global Warming Solutions Act — by the Senate in June and sent the legislation to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk where it faces a likely veto.

The climate change measure has been a top priority for the Democratic leadership in the Legislature and Wednesday’s passage marks the second time the House has voted on the proposal — after passing it in February on a 105-37 vote.

The Senate subsequently passed its version of the Global Warming Solutions Act on June 25 in a 22-8 vote.

While Johnson and House leadership did lose three votes in the intervening months, the lower chamber has retained enough support to overcome a Scott veto. – KN

The governor strongly suggested Friday during his press conference that he would indeed veto the Global Warming Solutions Act.

“The title is the Global Warming Solutions Act, but when I really look at the bill, I don’t see any solutions in there. All I see is mandates,” Scott said. – XL

— The Senate approved legislation Friday that stipulates an Abenaki name – if one exists — accompany the English moniker on place signs in state parks.

On the virtual Senate floor Friday, Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia — who chairs the institutions committee — said his panel decided to take up the proposals because it had “literally nothing to do while we were being paid” as lawmakers wait for the budget to be finished.

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“It is important for us to recognize that we are not changing our history. We are, in fact, expanding our history — a history that has always been there which we just have not paid attention to,” Benning said.

“This bill was proposed as an opportunity for our Abenaki neighbors to have some recognition of the history that has long been either forgotten or through the eugenics movement actually attempted to be suppressed,” he added.

The bill, which originated in the House, now heads back to the lower chamber.

On Wednesday, just after the institutions committee voted 4-0-1 in favor of the bill, Benning wished lead sponsor Rep. Brian Cina, P/D-Bulrington, luck on getting the House to take up the proposal.

“It’s now coming back on your shoulders,” he said. “You’re going to have to explain to the House how to get it moving through there.” – KN

 — The Senate Natural Resources committee’s work on an Act 250 reform measure finally ended Thursday, as they voted 3-1-1 to move a modest measure that focuses on best management practices for trails and outdoor recreation as well as starting to address forest fragmentation and the breaking up of natural habitat.

The Senate is expected to vote proposal Tuesday.

Lawmakers plan on taking further changes to the state’s land use law when they return in Jan. 2021. – KN

— After nearly reaching a deal last week on the bill that would create a legal marketplace for marijuana, S.54, House and Senate lawmakers were planning on meeting again this week.

But the meeting never took place, leaving reporters dazed and confused about when legislators will take up the matter.

On Thursday, Rep. John Gannon, D-Wilmington, a member of the House’s negotiating team, said he had yet to hear from the Senate, which had wanted to consult the Senate Agriculture and Finance committees before moving forward. – XL

— House Judiciary has continued to focus on Rep. Martin LaLonde’s strike all amendment to S.119 which now changes the state’s justifiable homicide statute and outlines a statewide use of force policy for law enforcement.

On Thursday, James Pepper, the deputy state’s attorney at the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, said he considers the bill one of the most restrictive pieces of legislation in the U.S. 

“The goal of this bill seems to me to be building public confidence in the system,” Pepper said. “We are in complete agreement with this goal.”

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“It does create what I would consider the most restrictive statutory framework in the country,” he added, saying that this could potentially mean Vermont will be unable to use case law on other state’s existing use of force policies.

“Fundamentally the words on the page are merely directive until the courts start determining what they mean,” Pepper said.

The ACLU of Vermont’s Falko Schilling disagreed with what Pepper and other law enforcement representatives have said about the bill.

“They’re saying ‘we don’t want this to move forward in statute, we want to be able to create our own model policy and then do our own regulation,'” Schilling said Thursday. “Regulated communities rarely want more regulation of their activities and that’s what this bill is trying to do.” – KN

— Next Monday evening, there will be a virtual general assembly to take up the judicial retention nominating and voting process. 

Mail-in ballots were sent to all 180 lawmakers Tuesday and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman said Friday that people should mail them back no later than Monday so that the votes can be counted before the following week. – KN

— Correction to Tuesday’s Final Reading:
A Senate amendment to H.663, which originally dealt with expanding access to contraceptives and making them available in secondary schools, changes existing law requiring schools to share any data about the height and weight of K-6th graders with the Department of Health. This is not House language.

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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