Becca Balint commercial pot Minimum Wage Mitzi Johnson paid family leave Phil Scott S.23 Tim Ashe

House speaker signals compromise as leaders angle for adjournment

Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, speaks to the House on the opening day of the Legislature at the Statehouse in January. Photograph by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say they are planning on wrapping up the legislative session on the end of this week.

But with few days left, and a number of other key pieces of legislation outstanding, lawmakers should act swiftly to succeed in agreements on main proposals together with a minimal wage improve, a paid family depart program, and clean water funding if they are to develop into regulation within the first yr of the biennium.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, stated adjourning next weekend is feasible, but acknowledged the legislative timeline required would have to be “aggressive.”

She and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, met with Gov. Phil Scott on Friday to plan the coverage negotiations within the coming week.

“It wasn’t a negotiating meeting,” she stated Friday night. “It was more like a setting up the end of session to get the trains to run on time.”

Senate Majority Chief Becca Balint, D-Windham, stated Friday that she expects the Legislature will adjourn subsequent Sunday morning, simply after midnight.

By working lengthy hours next week, she stated lawmakers ought to be capable of iron out differences on priorities like paid household depart and minimal wage payments — two of the proposals that may require the heaviest lifts to cross this yr.

“We’re constantly in communication with the House. There’s a lot of communication happening between leadership, and both sides are committed to doing the dance and getting it done,” Balint stated.

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“We have a path, that’s all I can say,” she added.

The Senate moved this week to reduce the House paid family depart program, eradicating provisions that may permit staff to take depart time for private medical points and decreasing the variety of weeks that oldsters with newborns might receive advantages.

The Senate modifications lowered the cost of the paid depart program — which might be funded by a payroll tax on staff and employers — from $76 million to about $27 million.

Within the coming days, the House will probably push to increase the advantages the Senate decreased.

Johnson stated that eradicating personal medical depart from the paid depart program “is problematic for the House.” She also indicated she would also wish to see the program provide extra beneficiant advantages for new mother and father.

The House is working on the minimum wage bill, S.23, which handed the Senate in March and in its current type, would increase the wage from $10.78 to $15 by 2024.

But with the governor, Republicans and a few Democrats involved that the $15 minimal wage in 2024 might hamper small companies, and mean spending tens of tens of millions of dollars on raises for some state-funded health care staff, the House is considering a more average minimum wage proposal.

Scott has indicated he would veto the Senate’s minimum wage proposal in its present type. If he did, the House would possible wrestle to muster the 100 votes wanted to override his veto.

Johnson stated she expects the House will cross a minimal wage “compromise of some kind” that the governor and lots of opposed to the Senate bill might help.

The House Appropriations Committee is taking a look at proposals that would part within the $15 wage over a longer time period, and cease the phase-in briefly if the state has a recession. The governor has steered he might help a more drawn-out minimal wage improve.

Whereas prime Democrats anticipate that lawmakers will be capable of adjourn inside every week, some political observers say they might easily see the session dragging on later.

One lobbyist stated he expects reaching a compromise on minimum wage within the next week may be straightforward, but reaching a deal on the paid household depart legislation can be more durable. The session might not end until the middle of the following week, he projected.

“I think they could be done, but I just think there’s too much hanging out there,” he stated.

As the top of the session nears, the momentum to create a proposal to tax and regulate business marijuana gross sales has stalled.

The bill is now underneath evaluate in the House Ways and Means Committee, the place some lawmakers say there’s nonetheless a lot work to be achieved to determine a tax price, as properly as other laws that might come with a legal market for the drug.

Johnson reiterated that she was “willing to wait” on passing the tax and regulate proposal.

“My attitude all along on that bill is that we need to be thorough on the policy,” she stated. “The policy needs to drive the timeline, the timeline cannot drive the policy.”

The governor has flagged considerations in current days concerning the proposed degree of spending in the Senate’s finances, which he estimates depends on $40 million in further taxes, together with the paid depart program.

“I’m concerned about the aggregate amount of revenue being proposed, additional taxes being proposed,” Scott stated Thursday.

But Johnson stated that despite the governor’s considerations, she doesn’t anticipate a serious battle over the finances this yr.

“The tone in general today was ‘Yeah we can work this out,’” she stated.

Missing out on the newest scoop? Enroll here to get a weekly e-mail with all of VTDigger’s reporting on politics. And in case you possibly can’t get sufficient of the Statehouse, enroll for Last Studying for a rundown on the day’s information within the Legislature.

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Tags: Becca Balint, business pot, minimal wage, Mitzi Johnson, paid family depart, Phil Scott, S.23, Tim Ashe, Vermont legislature

Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger’s political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel overlaying crime, courts and native authorities. Xander obtained his start in public radio, writing and producing tales for NPR affiliates together with WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. Whereas at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments defend misconduct data from the general public. He is a graduate of Tufts College and his work has additionally appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

E-mail: [email protected]

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