Government

2012 Legislative Update: Week 17 (4/30 – 5/5)

by Jeff Wilson

We are done. The 2012 legislative session was gaveled to a close at 6:45 PM last Saturday (5/5). Some of the chronological highlights of this long, busy week include:

Redistricting – On Monday (4/30) the House adopted the Conference Committee report by a vote of 124-8 (Wilson voting with the majority). The final plan, hailed as nonpartisan model for cooperative problem-solving, includes a new two-member district for Manchester, Arlington Sandgate and a portion of Sunderland.

Transportation Bill – The Conference Committee report on this bill was approved on Wednesday (5/2) in the House by a voice vote. The record spending included in this legislation was aimed at putting our infrastructure back together after Irene and included enhanced local highway aid, along with additional resources for state paving and bridges.

Vaccination Bill – The House gave its final approval to this bill on Thursday (5/3) by a vote of 133-6 (Wilson voting with the majority). The original compromise, calling for the Commissioner of Health to suspend the so-called philosophical exemption if certain statewide inoculation rates fell below 90%, failed to muster sufficient House support. The final Conference Committee agreement that was approved, preserved the exemption, but calls for additional education and outreach on the vaccination question.

Health Care – On Friday (5/4) the House gave its approval to the Health Care bill by a vote of 94-46 (Wilson voting with the majority). This legislation is largely directed towards preparing Vermont for the Federal Affordable Care Act, which is scheduled to ramp up in 2014.

Miscellaneous Tax – This multi-faceted tax bill was blessed by the House on a voice vote on Friday (5/4). Along with a host of other provisions, the bill calls for more of the state sales tax to be earmarked to the Education Fund (up from 33.3% to 35%), eliminates the wrong-headed assets test for seniors seeking property tax relief under Acts 60/68 and it clarifies the rules for who has access to income sensitized property tax information.

State Budget – The “Big Bill” was also approved by the House on Friday (5/4) – the vote was 113-18 (Wilson voting with the majority). The all-inclusive FY 13 budget, comprised of the General Fund, Education Fund Transportation Fund and smaller special funds, totals a bit over $5 billion. This is about 6.3% higher than the fiscal plan for this year, with about half of that increase devoted to Irene-related recovery and reconstruction.

Given that this will be my last column for a while, I’d like to take this opportunity to once again thank the Journal and its civic-minded editor, Andrew McKeever, for making room in the paper for my weekly “updates”. This is why local newspapers are still such a hit with, an important to, the general public. For me, it was a great year. I truly enjoyed the work and hope I’ll have the good fortune to head north next January for one more term.

– Jeff Wilson, Manchester, Vermont, State Representative

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