By Rep. Jim Harrison
The House spent two days this past week debating a wide variety of amendments to H.57, the abortion rights legislation. None of the proposals passed and H.57 went on to approval easily. In my vote explanation Wednesday evening, I said, “Madam Speaker, I came here today hoping H.57 would get amended and I could support the legislation. I came looking for compromise that would maintain a women’s right to choose, keep us compliant with Roe v Wade, but would also recognize the interests of the unborn in their later stages of development.”
That didn’t happen. Consequently I vote no. In my opinion, H.57 goes too far.
I understand we all look at various issues differently. I heard from members of our district on both sides of this debate. While abortions in the last trimester are rare and generally to protect the health of the mother, I had serious concerns putting into statutes that is was OK for any reason when the fetus is considered viable. The majority of my colleagues felt differently.
The bill will now move to the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Senate approved a $15 minimum wage bill on a 19-8 vote. The measure was vetoed by Scott last year over concerns about its impact on Vermont’s economy and small businesses. Whether there will be compromise with the governor or whether the House will attempt a veto proof margin remains to be seen.
At a Joint Assembly of the Legislature this past Thursday, Col. Greg Knight was elected on the first ballot to replace Maj. Gen. Steven Cray as leader of the Vermont National Guard. Knight, a current member of the Army National Guard, defeated three other candidates, all former Guard. Knight has indicated he would focus on fixing any issues related to reports of sexual harassment and alcohol.
The Senate passed a measure that would exempt cars older than 10 years old from emission tests and rebuffed a proposal by the Natural Resources Committee to limit it to cars over 15 years old. The Transportation Committee was concerned about the financial hardship that would be faced by owners of older vehicles, whereas Natural Resources was trying to mitigate any air pollution impacts.
The Senate Finance Committee advanced the Senate’s Tax & Regulate Cannabis legislation, but not before increasing the proposed taxes to 16 percent excise and a 2 percent local option. Senate Judiciary version just had a flat 10 percent excise tax.
With the administration sending a signal that the governor is OK with an increase in the smoking age to 21, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee advanced the measure on a 5-0 vote late last week. It will make a stop in the Finance Committee to look at potential revenue impacts to the State.
The governor and legislative leaders appeared with actress Jennifer Garner in support of increasing access to quality child care in Vermont. Scott has proposed an additional $7 million in this year’s budget whereas there is a legislative proposal for $26 million in new funding.
Chittenden Informational Town Meeting
Monday, March 4, 7 p.m.
Polls – Tuesday, March 5, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Town Office
Mendon Informational Town Meeting
Monday, March 4, 6 p.m.
Polls – Tuesday, March 5, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Town Office
Killington Informational Town Meeting
Monday, March 4, 7 p.m.
Killington Elementary, Schoolhouse Road
Polls – Tuesday, March 5, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Town Office
Bridgewater Town Meeting
Tuesday, March 5, 9 a.m.
Grange Hall, Bridgewater Corners
Polls (for school district and wastewater bond voting) Tuesday, March 5, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Town Office
You may reach me at JHarrison@leg.state.vt.us or my cell, 802-236-3001. Messages may also be left at the State House during the legislative session at 802-828-2228.
Jim Harrison is the state rep for Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington and Mendon.