2012 Legislative Update: Week 15 (4/17 – 4/20)

by Jeff Wilson

Last week, the House worked to put the finishing touches on a few lingering committee bills and quickly took up and addressed legislation that came over from the Senate. The problem, however, was that by week’s end, there was still quite a backlog of important bills bottled-up in Senate. Although that body was able to move out the Transportation and the Capital Bills, the Budget Bill, Miscellaneous Tax Bill and a few other significant pieces of legislation still haven’t made it to the Senate floor for final action. Unfortunately, this means that the chances appear somewhere between slim and none that the session will end, as planned, on April 27th. The best guess at this stage is that the final curtain will come down sometime during the week of April 30th. We’ll see. Even though it was a bit disappointing to learn of our extended stay in Montpelier, the Week 15 news wasn’t all bad – some good economic data was reported, and one of my bills (H. 634) was signed into law by Governor Shumlin.

Citizens United – On Thursday (4/19), the House spent much of the afternoon debating the merit of a Senate-passed resolution, asking Congress to support a constitutional amendment effort aimed at clarifying that corporate campaign funding can be regulated. This initiative, championed in one form or another by 64 Vermont cities and towns at March Town Meeting, took aim at the 5-4, 2010 U.S. Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision that overturned 105 years of law on the subject and opened the floodgates, so that corporate money can now flow unchecked into political campaigns. At the end of the day, the Resolution passed by a vote of 92 – 40 (Wilson voting with the majority).

Economic News – The short story here is: revenues up, unemployment down. On Monday (4/16), Secretary of Administration, Jeb Spaulding, reported that March General Fund revenues had bounced back, after three months of softer than projected receipts. The March numbers turned out to be $7.5 (9.3%) million above forecasted General Fund income for the month. Three quarters through the fiscal year, the General Fund is now just a 0.79% smidgen off year-to-date projections. The other piece of good news coming out of the Department of Labor was that Vermont’s March unemployment rate fell once again – to 4.8%. This rate is slightly lower than the February rate, a full percentage point lower than the rate in March of last year and ranks 4th lowest nationwide.

Ordinance Fine Collection – On Wednesday (4/18), the Governor signed one of my bills (H. 634) into law. This legislation should make it easier for Manchester and other Vermont cities and towns to reel in fine revenue from those uncooperative scofflaws who don’t want to pay the piper after being found in violation of a municipal ordinance.

– Jeff Wilson, Manchester, Vermont, State Representative

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