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

6 Issues To Watch During The 2019 Vermont Legislative Session

A dusting of snow on top of the golden dome of the Vermont Statehouse.
Ric Cengeri
VPR File.
Here are six issues expected to generate debate and discussion during the 2019 legislative session in Vermont.

Wednesday marks the beginning of the 2019 legislative session. Here's a look at what issues are likely to come up for discussion in the Vermont Legislature during the coming months.

Some of the issues expected to crop up this year may be familiar from years past, but there is also a new dynamic in the Statehouse this session — the new House makeup has Democrats and Progressives holding a veto-proof supermajority that could override Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Still, with 40 new House legislators joining the chamber, there are a number of unknowns heading into the session about what members will support and how they may pursue their individual legislative agendas.

Issues to keep an eye on

1. Paid family leave, and 2. A $15 minimum wage

Both of these initiatives passed in the Legislature last year, but were vetoed by Scott. Expect them to be taken up again this session, and we'll see if things play out differently this year considering that new veto-proof Democratic majority.

3. Clean water funding.

How to pay to clean up Vermont's waterways is a perrennial source of conversation in Montpelier. The governor and lawmakers have set aside about $50 million over each of the past two years, but much of that money is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year. It remains to be seen how they may choose to replace that funding.

4. Act 46

There are pending lawsuits where schools districts are challenging the state on forced mergers. It's a big question as to how lawmakers may respond to this education situation.

5. Establishing a retail cannabis market

Last session saw the legalization of small amounts of recreational marijuana. This session, Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe has said he's willing to look at a fast-track bill to tax-and-regulate marijuana — however House Speaker Mitzi Johnson has voiced concerns about implementing a retail system at this time.

6. Abortion rights

With recent changes to the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, there's been speculation nationally over the future of abortion rights.In Vermont, that has prompted discussion among lawmakers over the possibility of adding an abortion-rights amendment to the state constitution.

A snapshot of the January schedule

  • Wednesday, Jan. 9 — Legislative kickoff! It's day one of the 2019 session and also when lawmakers get sworn in. Vermont Edition broadcasts live from the Statehouse during the noon hour.
  • Thursday, Jan. 10 — Gov. Phil Scott will issue his inaugural address, planned for 1:30 p.m. VPR will have live coverage of this speech.
  • Thursday, Jan. 24 — Gov. Phil Scott will deliver his budget address, planned for 2 p.m. VPR will have live coverage of this speech. Proposals laid out in Scott's previous budget addresses have caused some friction with Democratic lawmakers, so it will be interesting to see what the tone will be this year and if the focus is on collaboration across party lines.

Find more of VPR's legislative coverage here, and remember you can listen to the Vermont House and Senate streams when they are in session.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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