Week four was defined by a fast tax and slow political wrangling over Act 46 forced school district mergers.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved a 92 percent wholesale tax on e-cigarettes on Tuesday with minimal deliberation. Emboldened by Governor Phil Scott’s support of the tax the House approved the proposal on Friday.
Meanwhile the debate over whether or not to delay the forced mergers of small school districts under Act 46 boiled over with a proposed amendment to the annual budget adjustment bill that would have brought the issue to the floor. The forced mergers have generated massive controversy throughout the state. Party leaders grappled with maintaining caucus control and a decision was reached to bring the issue to the floor in the form of H.39, which was introduced by Representative Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe). The House Education Committee had a rollercoaster week hearing from witnesses and deliberating how to resolve the question of whether to delay forced mergers. More on this later.
The House Education Committee was also busy with a bill that would make curriculums in Vermont Schools more inclusive. H.3 creates a working group that includes representatives of ethnic and social groups, educators and government officials. The group is tasked with reviewing school curriculums and ensuring they are updated to incorporate the historical and cultural contributions and perspectives of ethnic and social groups.
Earlier in the week the Democratic Party hosted a fundraiser honoring Representative Jill Krowinski, (D-Burlington) for her work during the 2018 election which is widely credited for helping the party achieve a super majority in the House. In order to get a bill to become a law or for success in a political campaign, a good shepherd is absolutely necessary but often difficult to find. Based on the speeches at the event, the Democratic Party believes they’ve found an excellent one for the present and the future.