Montpelier Sneak Peek: Siting, IT and education taxes on the docket


Now that the House has passed budget and tax bills, the big tradeoff between House and Senate proposals begins.

All the bits and pieces that didn't make it into the Big Bill — a study of Vermont Health Connect, security at state buildings, cuts to a St. Johnsbury prison camp — will get consideration in Senate Appropriations.

The tax proposals will likely get a warm reception in the Senate Finance Committee, where proposals to raise the bank franchise tax, employer assessments and the gross receipts tax on fuel have been vetted in prior years.

What won't get prime time play are a handful of proposals from Gov. Peter Shumlin's budget address, including a provider tax for dentists and independent doctors and funding for college savings accounts.

Meanwhile, the main focus in the Senate this week is a renewable energy bill that gives towns a little more authority to direct where large solar and wind projects are allowed to be sited. Under the bill, towns that have municipal plans in place get preferential treatment from the Public Service Board, and those that don't have a town plan get a short window to develop one. The Senate is sharply divided on the legislation, which has been tinkered with by several committees that don't like the proposal.

And maybe, just maybe, the Senate Government Operations committee will pass an ethics commission proposal. The panel has been dragging its feet on financial disclosure provisions for weeks.

Members of the House this week will have a tight schedule on the floor in an effort to wrap up an array of money bills, including the capital bill, transportation spending and setting the yield rate for the statewide property tax.

Capital bill IT proposals taken up on Wednesday and Thursday could stir up House members who are wary of more spending on technology in the wake of the troubled Vermont Health Connect system.

An increase in the smoking age from 18 to 21 could get broad support, judging from a tie vote on the subject a few weeks ago.

And a controversial bill that changes the definition for independent contractors will be taken up in the House Chamber on Thursday — if union lobbyists don't kill it in committee first.

In between the floor fights and action in the House, lawmakers will listen to hours of public testimony and hearings on the efficacy and/or detrimental impact (depending on which side you are on) of legalizing marijuana.

Key committees — judiciary and appropriations — don't appear to have the votes for the marijuana legalization bill to move forward in the House.

And that's where the horse trading comes in. It wouldn't be a surprise if Sen. Dick Sears were to hold hostage a bill the House wants in exchange for legalization.

Vermont Statehouse. Photo by Roger Crowley/VTDigger


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