Five weeks into the second half of the 2023-2024 legislative biennium, the members of the Vermont House and Senate have settled into the daily routine of extensive committee hearings and very short floor sessions. This schedule is the norm for this time in the session. As a member of the House, I am assigned to one committee while our Rutland County Senators are assigned to two committees: a morning committee and a different afternoon committee. However, the workloads for the Senate and the House are equal.
With only one committee, House members drill down and take copious amounts of testimony on a bill they are working on while the Senators, due to time constraints, will review bills at a very high level, leaving the detailed work to the House! I often say the Senate paints with a broad brush while the House paints with a very fine brush to finish our work and create the best legislation we can. For your information, the members of the House have introduced 845 bills while the Senate members have chipped in with 302 bills and five proposed amendments to the Constitution of the State of Vermont. How many of the initiatives will make it into law is best answered at the end of the 2024 session in May!
As citizen legislators, we serve a two-year term and meet annually for 18 weeks. Given some of the complicated and complex issues we face, this is not enough time to gather all of the information needed to make informed decisions on the proposed legislation at hand. Often legislation is passed requiring the various agencies of state government to report back to the legislature with further information concerning certain legislative issues affecting their operation. Sometimes more information is needed by the committees of jurisdiction working on legislation to further their work and create meaningful legislation. What this leads to is the setting up of “off-session” summer study committees, joint committees of the House and Senate, or working groups usually made up of citizens, subject-matter experts, and members of the administration to provide pertinent information to the committees so members of the Assembly can make informed decisions on their work at hand.
For example, the Committee on Transportation, of which I am a member, asked for and received 16 “off-session” reports, some consisting of 80 to 90 pages of very helpful information which we will use in our deliberations while preparing the State of Vermont’s $866 million transportation budget.
I mentioned earlier floor action on bills at this point of the session is very limited, but one bill I have been tracking is: H.839…The Budget Adjustment Act. This bill proposes to adjust the fiscal year FY24 omnibus appropriations act. The adjustment bill is usually passed with little fanfare, but this year’s bill spends an additional $56 million over the FY24 budget and extends the homeless hotel program from April 1, 2024 to June 30, 2024, adding an additional $13.2 million to the budget. I could not support this increase in spending and the extension of the homeless hotel program and voted no on the bill. H .839 is on its way to the Senate for their approval or adjustment to the language and spending patterns of the House passed bill. I’m hoping the Senate will reduce the spending and send the House back a revised bill with reduced spending more in line with the original FY24 as passed budget.
Questions, comments or conversations? I can be reached by e-mail at bshaw.leg.state.vt.us, by phone 802-483-2398 or by mail at PO Box 197, Pittsford, VT 05763. I’m available to have a conversation concerning our legislative district of Proctor and Pittsford or your Vermont state government.
Representative Butch Shaw
Vice Chair-House Committee on Transportation