Key Issues Emerging

The key issues of the 2018 legislative session are now becoming evident. The Senate approved a minimum wage hike to $15 last week, while at the same time, downplaying a proposal for a new paid family leave bill passed by the House last May. Will there be a standoff between Speaker Johnson and Senate Leader Ashe? Or will both bills pass in the end and potentially face vetoes from Governor Scott? A lot can happen in two months….
Last week also saw another horrific gun shooting at a school in south Florida and closer to home, an arrest for an alleged plot for a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School. It was the latter incident that caused the Governor, a staunch second amendment supporter, to indicate that everything needed to be open for discussion on how to best protect our students, even our gun laws. The Fair Haven incident this past week, which was fortunately averted, could very well change the conversation in Montpelier.
Meanwhile the House Ways & Means Committee is busy with a proposal to make significant changes to the way the state funds education. A public hearing is scheduled for February 21 at the State House.

In what might be considered a second or third tier issue, the House approved H.614 late last week. The legislation prohibits sharing the statewide voter checklist with the federal government for purposes of comparing a voter’s information maintained in the checklist to personally identifying information contained in other federal or state databases. The bill was proposed in reaction to the Trump Administration’s election integrity commission last year, which had requested the checklist from every state. While Vermont law at the time did not prohibit sharing the checklist, the Secretary of State never submitted it to the commission. The special committee has since been disbanded.
While I agree with many that the President’s election commission may have been initiated to serve a sometimes inflated ego on who received the most votes, I opposed the bill because there is something fundamentally wrong with the approach it took. As amended, the bill allows open access to WikiLeaks, foreign political parties, every other state and most everyone else in the world, but not our own government. I have trouble justifying the disparities in this legislation.

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