Final Reading: An October return

Jill Krowinski
Rep. Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, addresses her colleagues at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, is putting a premium on flexibility as the lower chamber crafts an adjournment resolution.

The Joint Fiscal Office has recommended that House members be available to return for a session in October if the Legislature must make decisions about laws passed by Congress, according to Krowinski.

Krowinski said Thursday in a House Rules Committee meeting that she is leaning toward language in the end-of-session document that would allow lawmakers to return if need be.

“I think at this point it’s probably unlikely, but I think I’d rather plan ahead and, you know, have it there,” she said.

— Kit Norton

Without debate, the Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation that would overhaul the board that governs state pensions and establish a task force to address the system’s mounting debt. 

The bill was passed by the House last month, and will soon head to a conference committee where lawmakers from both House and Senate will hammer out small differences in the legislation.

The task force would be assigned to come up with recommendations this summer for changing pension benefits and raising revenue for the struggling system.

— Xander Landen

The House Committee on Judiciary was told Thursday that legislation aimed at making the state’s court system more efficient could wind up in front of the Vermont Supreme Court, if it becomes law.

The bill, H.417, calls for a change from the current 12-member jury for civil trials to a six-person panel.

Civil trials were put on hold more than a year ago amid Covid-19 concerns and the difficulties of social distancing in a courtroom. As a result, the court system has a major backlog of cases, particularly noncriminal cases. 

With six jurors instead of 12, “we can simplify all the social distancing problems,” said Vermont attorney Rich Cassidy, who represents clients in personal injury and employment cases, and supports the legislation. “More courts can hear jury trials, and it will move things along.”

Opponents question the constitutionality of such a change.

“I think you would see this challenged in the Supreme Court,” Cassidy said. “I don’t see that as a bad thing. I think it’s the right way for the court to weigh in on this issue.”

— Alan J. Keays

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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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