Legislative crossover is referred to the week after the Vermont House returns from the break from Town Meeting. All bills must pass out of their committee of jurisdiction for that bill to make it to the Senate from the House and to the House from the Senate. This means that a lot of bills are debated on the House Floor and calls for long Floor sessions. This year seemed longer than previous years.
Major bills were voted out of their committees of jurisdiction which included rewrites of Chapter 11 of Act 46, the Clean Heat Standard, and legislative reapportionment. On Monday and Tuesday of the week we took up over 28 bills for consideration. House Education heard testimony on new Senate bills that will take up the rest of our time here this session.
Legislative reapportionment is a process redrawing legislative districts and a bill that I have spoken about previously at length. The House Committee on Government Operations were tasked at taking the state’s population of 643,077 residents and equally dividing that into 150 house seats which equates to around 4,287 people per house seat. This bill passed by a vote of 129-13 and is expected to be unchanged by the Senate.
St. Albans City and St. Albans Town deserve around 3.19 House members together based on population, but rounded equally we will continue to have three state representative districts. The major change this year is that the Franklin 3-1 district currently represented by me and Rep. McCarthy will split from a two-member district into two single-member districts. The new City/Town district will be named Franklin-8 and will encompass City wards 5 & 6 as well as the southern portion of St. Albans Town, but also including the neighborhood of Hill Farm Estates.
In House Education we took up two Senate bills that could have impacts back in St. Albans. S.100 is an act relating to universal school meals. This would implement a statewide meal plan to feed every student breakfast and lunch. The questions become: what will this cost and how will we pay for it? We have already heard preliminary reports that this could cost over $36 million, so please stay tuned as we take further testimony on this bill.
Senate bill S.139, an act relating to public schools’ team mascots, came before our committee and could possibly force school boards to replace their mascots if the state deemed them offensive. This would have a dramatic effect on Bellows Free Academy as the bill could prohibit mascots that are named after people. The Bobwhites and Comets are both named after people and could potentially be forced to change under this bill if the state felt it necessary. The cost of changing a mascot could cost upwards of $500,000 to replace logos, jerseys, scoreboards, and many other items. This bill was only discussed once last week, and we will revisit in the coming weeks.
After a week of long floor debates and late nights we have finished our crossover work. We still have a lot of work to be done before we finish up our state budget and adjourn at some point in May. I appreciate everyone following along and reaching out with a lot of questions, comments, and concerns. I can continue to be reached at [email protected].