by Guy Page
Friday was a busy day in the Vermont House and Senate, with many bills being passed to meet the Friday “Crossover” deadline. Bills not passed out of their original committees by Friday are ineligible to proceed for passage this year (barring extraordinary action by the Legislature).
Vermont Daily Chronicle will publish a more comprehensive list tomorrow. Today, here are seven Crossover survivors. Information on the first five bills is sourced from the March 11 Lake Champlain Chamber advocacy newsletter
Non-Unanimous Jury Trial
The Senate Committee on Judiciary advanced S.178, reducing the requirement for obtaining a jury verdict in a civil case from unanimous to 80 percent. This is despite testimony from Judge Thomas Zonay, a Vermont Chief Superior Judge, who had polled all current civil judges and found that no judges are in favor of this legislation.
Currently, Vermont requires verdicts to be unanimous. Under this bill, the plaintiffs’ attorneys will only need to persuade 10 out of 12 jurors (or 5 of 6). Many see this as an effort by the plaintiffs’ bar to obtain more frequent and larger verdicts. This is of concern because often, jury dynamics can be such that minority voices can easily be cast aside during deliberation and the majority of the jury can ignore the views of jurors who see things differently.
Military retiree tax exemption
Senate Finance approved S53, which with many other tax changes includes the long-debated military retiree tax exemption as previously passed by the House. The Senate’s language will be included with the stipulation that retirees must choose between the military retiree exemption or the Social Security benefits exemption when they reach Social Security eligibility. There will also be a full exemption on military survivor benefits without restrictions.
Due to differences in the House and Senate versions of S53, the bill will very likely be decided in a Committee of Conference.
Hazardous household waste disposal
The House Committee on Natural Resources unanimously advanced H.115, a bill that would create a requirement for those importing products that fit the definition of Hazardous Household Waste to create stewardship organizations to handle that waste.
Clean Heat Standard
The Clean Heat Standard was passed out of the Appropriations Committee on a vote of 8-4 and will head to the House Floor next week for a vote. The Clean Heat Standard creates a regulatory system by which fossil-fuel gasoline and heating oil dealers fund non-fossil transportation and heating alternatives.
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources approved the weatherization bill, S.284, with $20 million for the Office of Economic Opportunity, focused on low-income homes.
Information on these two bills was provided by Rep. Samantha Lefebvre (R-Orange).
H. 548, miscellaneous cannabis establishment procedures, was approved by House Government Operations 9-2-0. Rep. Lefebvre voted no on this bill. “There was a lot of testimony on the labeling and safety warnings along with other portions of this bill that led me to be uncomfortable with the bill,” she said. The bill was passed with “caps” on THC concentration despite efforts by the marijuana industry to remove them.
Secondary enforcement of minor traffic offenses: goes to summer study
H. 635 – An act relating to secondary enforcement of minor traffic offenses. This was voted out of committee on a 11-0-0 vote. “While I was adamantly opposed to the first and second draft of the bill, I appreciate the sponsor being willing to pull the bill and turn it into a study by the Commissioner of Public Safety and a liaison from the Office of Racial Equity to be able to flush out what would be appropriate to remove from statute,” Rep. Lefebvre said.
More Crossover coverage in tomorrow’s edition