Big Bills Need to Pass by Crossover in Vermont Legislature

By Steph Machado

Published 03/11 2014 06:10PM

Updated 03/11 2014 07:10PM

MONTPELIER - Lawmakers went back to work Tuesday, and they are already faced with a big deadline. By this Friday, any bill in the House or Senate needs to pass and cross over into the other chamber, or it's dead.

GMO Labeling

Multiple legislative sessions, dozens of rallies and endless debates about GMO labeling have come down to just a few days. The bill to require genetically modified foods to be labeled has to pass the Senate by Friday.

"I'm confident it will pass out," said State Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden), the Senate Majority Leader. "The question is, do we need a trigger or don't we need a trigger? A trigger being...does the legislation go into effect immediately, or do you have 5 or 6 other states necessary before the legislation takes effect?"

The first state that has a law will likely be sued by corporations that use the technology. Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell has previous told FOX44/ABC22 he will fight his hardest to win the potential lawsuit, but if the state loses it will cost millions in taxpayer dollars.

"I would prefer it to go without a trigger clause," said Sen. Baruth. "But as you know, working in this building you often don't get what you want, you pray that by crossover you'll get what you need." The Senate Judiciary Committee will ultimately make the decision about a trigger clause.

Minimum Wage

Governor Shumlin is leading a renewed effort to raise the minimum wage. He echoes President Obama's proposal to raise it to $10.10. That would require an amendment of one of the bills currently in the House and Senate.

"There is not a bill in front of us for $10.10," explained State Rep. Shap Smith, (D-House Speaker). "The bill that we have is one that would raise the minimum wage to $12.50." The Senate has a similar bill.

"It helps to have the President say 'give Americans a raise.' It helps to have him set $10.10 as a sort of standard," said Sen. Baruth.

Paid Sick Days

Former Governor Madeleine Kunin visited the Statehouse Tuesday, encouraging the House to pass the paid sick days bill. This bill would allow full- and part-time workers to accrue sick days throughout the year. There are exceptions for employers with very few employees and seasonal workers.

"Anybody who's ever been an employer knows you get so much more back than you give if you see your workers as human beings, who have a life, who have children, who have responsibilities, who occasionally get sick or break an ankle," she said. Some employers have been hesitant to support giving their employees paid sick days, especially part-timers.

Co-owner of the Alchemist Brewery Jen Kimmich refuted that, saying giving her employees paid sick days has reduced turnover and improved business.

The bill passed the House General committee 6-1-1, and is now in the House Appropriations committee. That committee gets a one-week extension, but must pass the bill by next week so it can go to a vote.

"We're still making sure that if we bring it to the floor, there's enough support for passage. And that's not the case right now," said Speaker Smith.

Money bills are exempt from crossover, so the FY 2015 budget and a bill to raise property taxes do not need to pass by Friday. The budget is expected to come out of House Appropriations by March 21.

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