By Guy Page
With an $8.5 billion budget, legislative pay hikes, police interrogation of minors, ambitious state-funded child care and more on the table, the veto override Special Session of the Vermont Legislature kicks off Tuesday with two bills in the Senate, and as many as five in the House.
Gov. Phil Scott vetoed eight bills passed by the Vermont Legislature this year. Three of those eight were first introduced in the Senate, five in the House.
As of 9:08 AM Monday morning, Tuesday’s House agenda had not been published on the legislature’s website. Up for override in the Senate tomorrow:
S.6, banning deceitful, coercive police interrogation of juveniles. law enforcement interrogation policies. There were no roll calls held in either House or Senate on its way to passage, so there’s no way to know whether either body has the votes to override.
S.6. As law, S.6 “would make Vermont an outlier by offering these expanded protections to young adult offenders up to the age of 22, despite Vermont’s already robust constitutional protections,” his veto letter said. “This bill would make it more difficult to investigate and prosecute young adult perpetrators involved in serious crimes, such as narcotics trafficking, sex offenses, including sexual assaults that happen on college campuses and child sex abuse cases, and internet crimes against children.”
During a recent press conference, Gov. Scott noted that drug gangs intentionally employ minors for drug trafficking, knowing the relatively light criminal justice consequences.
S.39, increasing legislative pay and benefits and creating a study committee for other changes, such as how often the Legislature meets – including, possibly, year-round.
S.39 would give the next and every future Legislature a steep raise, plus adjournment pay, plus State of Vermont employee-level health care benefits, plus several other benefits that, when toted up, equal almost $50,000 (estimated) per legislator.
Supporters say it will increase the racial and age diversity of the General Assembly. Opponents say legislating should remain a part-time public service, not a well-paid part-time or full-time job.
“This year, the General Assembly passed several pieces of legislation that will significantly increase costs for Vermonters through new and higher taxes, fees and penalties,” Gov. Scott said in his veto letter. “In my opinion, it does not seem fair for legislators to insulate themselves from the very costs they are imposing on their constituents by doubling their own future pay.”
S.39 offers State of Vermont employee-level health care benefits beginning with next year’s Legislature. The weekly pay hike from $811 to $1000 would begin in 2025, rise another $1000 in 2026, and total $1210 by 2027.
When S.39 proceeded to passage this year, all three Senate roll calls fell just short of the 20 votes needed to override. If Senate President Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden) can’t get 20 votes on Tuesday, the veto will be upheld. S.39 passed 102-44 in the House.
The third Senate veto – S.5, the so-called “Affordable Heating Act” – was overridden in the regular session in May.
Scott vetoed these House bills:
H.217, child care, early education, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance
H.305, professions and occupations regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation
H.386, 16-17 year-old voting charter change for Town of Brattleboro
H.494, $8.5 billion 2023-24 state budget
H.509, voter qualifications charter change for City of Burlington