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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

In Waning Days of Session, Senate Blocks Child Care Union Effort

It’s the last days of pressure at the Vermont Legislature, the time lawmakers decide if bills live or die.

One piece of legislation that didn’t make it was a bill allowing child care workers to form a union.

Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, has worked on the issue for several years. His latest effort was an amendment included in a bill dealing with a variety of education issues. But Lt. Gov. Phil Scott ruled that the union amendment was not germane to the underlying bill.

McCormack then tried again, with a motion to have the Senate vote on his amendment anyway. He hoped to convince his colleagues that a child care union was relevant to overall education issues.

“Consider the ways in which early educators do, in fact, have educational implications,” he said. “And I refer to the many, many studies that indicate the importance of early childhood education.”

Under the Senate rules, McCormack’s motion needed a three-quarters majority.

But it fell short, and the union amendment died. That disappointed Judy Pransky, who runs child care programs in Cabot and Caledonia County.

“Lt. Gov. Phil Scott has ruled that we are not educators,” she said. “It’s a sad day for all Vermont’s children and families. All educators want to do is to work with the state to improve early education, and we’ve been doing that for the last three years.”

As an owner of child care center, Pransky said she hopes to improve pay and working conditions.

“We have been trying to promote professionalism and the right to decide to form a union for the many, many child care providers across the state, who are working at very low wages, doing the most important work there is in education,” she said. “We are not baby-sitters.”

Behind closed doors and in conference committees, lawmakers also tried to settle differences over taxes and the state budget as they aimed for a Saturday adjournment.

One contentious issue that has yet to be settled between the House and the Senate is legislation allowing terminally ill patients to get medication to end their lives.

House leaders indicated they would go along with the Senate version that allows a series of government-required precautions – such as a second opinion on a terminal diagnosis – to expire after three years. Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He said his committee still needs to go through the bill.

“The decision in the Senate to have this two step process, as I would refer to it, is not my preferred way to proceed,” he said. “But I understand that it’s the only way to proceed to bring this into law at this time.”

The end of life bill is likely to get final approval on Saturday.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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