Gavel falls on 2014 Legislature
House Speaker Shap Smith dropped the gavel on the 2013-2014 legislative biennium at 7:20 p.m. Saturday after lawmakers spent the day yea-ing or nay-ing the last of their business.
Left on the cutting room floor of this election-year session was education reform after a last-ditch effort to provide incentives to school districts to look into consolidating with their neighbors failed to win enough support to force a suspension of rules.
Bills that were approved in the final hours were those defining drugged driving, dealing with involuntary medication for mentally ill patients, an economic development package that includes $4.5 million in discretionary money to help the governor keep or lure businesses and a four-year graduated increase in the minimum wage.
Those were in addition to the must-pass budget and tax bills, on which lawmakers reached agreement late Friday night.
Smith praised lawmakers for their "incredible work" and spoke at length of the sacrifices and support the families of legislators provide.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, whose State of the State address in January focused almost exclusively on what he called the opiate addiction crisis in Vermont, told lawmakers they had made progress in that fight.
"Thanks to your hard work, we are now leading the nation in being honest and innovative as we address our addiction crisis," Shumlin said. "You have done that by expanding drug treatment centers in order to ensure that no Vermonter will be denied treatment and recovery opportunities when they need it most."
Among the highlights of the session he listed: money to improve roads, net-metering for renewable energy producers, universal pre-K education, the minimum wage hike and the passing of a law requiring the labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms.
Minority leader Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, said not enough was done to address the chronic budget deficits that lawmakers have faced for the past several years.
"I hear over and over about the cost of living in Vermont and I don't think we've done much to help it," Turner said.
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