Rep. Kelly Pajala

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The Legislature has reached the point in the session referred to as “crossover.” It is relatively close to the halfway point in terms of the number of weeks that we are in session.

More importantly, it is the deadline that the House and Senate have to vote policy and money bills out of their committees, in hopes that they will get sent to the other legislative body for their consideration. It is often an extremely busy couple of weeks. We work long hours in committee followed by long hours on the floor voting on bills.

At this stage of the process, the bills being voted on in each of the legislative chambers still have several opportunities to be changed, for better or for worse. They can be amended on the floor before they are sent to the other chamber. Once the other chamber has a bill, content can be changed during the committee process.

As changes are made to bills they move back and forth between the House and the Senate, each time decisions are made to accept or reject changes. In the event that differences in policy are not agreed to, the House and Senate create a committee of conference to negotiate a compromise.

The significance of the floor votes that happen at crossover are that they establish the policy points that will be argued over as the legislative session moves on. The colloquial term for this in the Statehouse is we are establishing the House and Senate positions on issues. At the end of the bill making process all arguments go back to fighting for the House position vs the Senate position.

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With that in mind, votes taken in the next two weeks signal the strength or weakness of a bill. Votes taken now can express concern about the content of policy bills, the thoroughness of testimony taken in creating a bill, the support for use of funds or the creation of sources of revenue.

At this stage not every yes vote will be followed by a future yes vote. Not every no vote will continue to be a no vote as the content of bills change. However, votes taken now are a signal that will be used in the future when the two chambers square off over disagreements.

This is when I find it most helpful to hear from constituents. When the politics and media spin get thick, hearing from your community is the best guide through the rest of the noise.

So, I will encourage everyone to reach out to their representatives and senators as the session continues. Remind us of what matters to you and yours. It helps us all do better work on your behalf.

Rep. Kelly Pajala represents Andover, Londonderry, Winhall and Weston in the Windham-Windsor-Bennington district of the Vermont House of Representatives. Opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.


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