Last week the House met on Tuesday and Friday. On Tuesday, there was a vote to override the governor’s veto of H.13. The vote fell short of the necessary two-thirds majority needed to override. I voted to sustain as did every Republican present that day. After adjourning, the House Republicans held a news conference, where they made it clear they were prepared to support an appropriation/budget bill, if the controversial education property tax language was removed. In doing so, an appropriation bill could be passed, which the governor would sign, and the danger of a government shutdown averted. The governor and legislative leadership would still need to reach an agreement on a bill dealing with the education property tax issue. The House also passed S4, S5, H.1 and H.16. I voted for each. It is important to point out that H.16 was a bill dealing with vital records (birth and death certificates, etc.).

Last Friday proved to be a long (14-plus hours) and quite unpleasant day! The body dealt with one resolution and two bills. The resolution objects to the separation of families illegally entering the U.S. One of the bills was S.6.

Most of Friday was spent on H.16, the vital records bill the House passed on Tuesday. Following the House’s approval, the bill went to the Senate, where they turned a 19-page bill into 153 pages by adding in most of the provisions (appropriations and taxes) of H.13, which had been vetoed, and some other additional provisions. The vetoed H.13 had a default rate, in absence of an agreement between the parties, of $1.59. In the spirit of compromise, the Senate’s version of H.16 lowered the non-residential rate by one cent to $1.58! The governor wanted the rate to remain unchanged at $1.53.

Behind the scenes Friday, the governor and Minority Leader Don Turner met with House Speaker Mitzi Johnson to find a compromised solution to the stalemate. An agreement was reached between the three parties in the morning. Part of the deal was for the minority leader to vote for the compromise, which he agreed to resultantly. The governor agreed to an education non-resident tax rate of $1.58. In return, the governor got an agreement to allow the FY19 expected surplus tax revenue to be split equally, half to pay down the teacher retirement debt, and half to the education fund, which would be used to bring down the non-homestead rate.

Late in the afternoon, word came down that House leadership was reneging on the deal. The reason being Senate leadership, read: Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden County), would not support the compromise.

There was already a high level of animosity toward the Senate’s move to add the appropriation/tax legislation into a bill dealing with vital records. When the House finally got down to business of addressing H.16, the first volley came from Paul Poirier (I-Barre City), who has served 28 years in the House. He raised a point of order on the constitutionality of a budget and revenue bill originating in the Senate. The speaker found his point of order “unfavorable” at which point he challenged her ruling and a vote was taken. The body supported her ruling – no surprise there. I voted to override her ruling. Tensions were running high. There were a couple of attempts through amendments to recreate the compromise agreed to in the morning. I supported them, but they failed. A little after 11 p.m., the speaker called for a vote on H.16. with one minor change. There was some confusion on what the vote was on, but before there was any clarification, a voice vote was quickly taken and the result declared. The minority wanted a roll call vote. When it became clear what had just happened, there was an outcry. The minority leader protested, a recess was taken and upon reconvening the Speaker said there would be reconsideration vote on H.16 on Monday, June 25.

Given what took place during Friday’s session, the comparison between making laws and making sausage is a disservice to the sausage industry.