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VT Lawmakers Wrap Up 2014 Legislative Session

As lawmakers wrapped up this legislative session we take a look back on the work they've done this year.
MONTPELIER, Vt. -  It's been a busy few months at the Statehouse in Montpelier.

“I think it’s been an incredibly productive session,” said Representative Shap Smith, House Speaker.

“It was what I would call a conversational session where there were many issues brought up that needed to be discussed. They were issues that people stayed away from,” said Senator John Campbell, President Pro-Tem.

Senator Campbell says those issues include guns, drugged driving, and the opiate epidemic to name a few.

“You can't continue to hide these things and keep just closing our drapes on issues that affect, negatively impact our families and we have to deal with them straight out, we have to recognize that they are problems, deal with them, and confront them face on,” said Senator Campbell.

Representative Smith says lawmakers passed some pretty significant laws; including the GMO Labeling Bill which made Vermont the first state in the country to pass such a law without any contingencies.

“That allows people to know what’s in their food with GMO labeling. We have strengthened our system of treatment for opiates and also have tried to make sure we get people into opiate treatment more quickly. We insured there is more investment in our renewable energy sector. We’ve put in place an enterprise fund so that we can make more investments in small businesses,” said Rep. Smith.

Shap says legislators also passed a minimum wage bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 by 2018.

Another big item was of course the state budget.

“It was a tough budget year and it’s only emblematic of what we should expect in the future,” said Campbell.

Smith says when Governor Peter Shumlin proposed his original budget he needed to raise $14 million dollars to balance it. He says the lawmakers worked tirelessly to close that gap.

“We reached a compromise of about $5.5 million dollars. There are some technical adjustments to the employer assessment for healthcare. There is a modest adjustment to the cigarette tax, and a broader definition of tobacco products to include snuff,” said Rep. Smith.

As lawmakers close the door on this legislative session, Senator Campbell says next year they could have some difficult decisions to make. 

“Next year is going to be probably the most difficult time that Vermont has faced in decades when it comes down to the pressures being placed on the budget and on the state coffers,” said Senator Campbell.

There were of course many bills that didn't pass this legislative session and lawmakers say many of those issues could be brought up again next year.

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