This week in the Vermont Legislature: Capital projects, whistleblower protections, education hearing
The Vermont Legislature has just 10 business days - five this week and five after the Town Meeting Day break - to finalize bills in the House or the Senate. But the specter of March 14 doesn't appear to have yet lifted the Legislature out of the mid-session doldrums.
It appears that the big votes on emotional topics in the Senate - involuntary medication, the bottle bill, opiate treatment rules - may be put off until the end of this week or after Town Meeting Day. That said, the Senate may take up the seemingly perennial issue of the unionization of child-care workers and sole proprietors this week.
The House of Representatives will vote on the capital adjustment bill (year two of the state's biennial investments in property). The bill includes $5 million for projects that went over budget (namely the Montpelier district heating project) and preparation for new buildings that are on the list for the next capital bill cycle (including the so-called Ag Lab, a laboratory for ANR and Agency of Agriculture scientists, which was flooded out two and a half years ago by Tropical Storm Irene).
The Vermont State Employees Association has sought to protect the identity of workers who send tips to the State Auditor's office. Under the current "whistleblower protection" law, state employees are protected from retaliation, but there is no explicit requirement that the workers remain anonymous. Doug Hoffer, the auditor, says under current law if a reporter asked for the name of a worker he would be obliged to reveal that person's identity.
Gov. Peter Shumlin will sign the Budget Adjustment Act into law at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Howard Center in South Burlington. Afterward, the governor will take questions from reporters for his weekly press conference.
Thursday night, the House Education Committee is holding a public hearing on "the future of education" in Rutland from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Rutland High School Theater. Members of the public who want to speak at the hearing should sign up outside the theater at 4:30 p.m. The committee is expected to entertain comments about its education governance consolidation proposal that over a four-year period would eliminate existing supervisory unions and school districts and create a new governance system for local school boards and superintendents.
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