With only three weeks left in the 2019 legislative session there are a number of high profile issues that have yet to be resolved. The session may go longer but if lawmakers adjourn in 18 weeks, as scheduled, the last day of the session will be May 18. It does appear legislative leadership is trying to stick to this schedule. Morning committees in the Senate will shut down one week from today which is typically a sign that the budget and revenue bills will be resolved two weeks later.
We have been writing about paid family leave, minimum wage, a mandatory 24 hour waiting period for handguns and legalizing cannabis for weeks now. These are the most high profile issues in 2019 outside of the money bills. Each piece of legislation has passed through the body where it was introduced but now awaits action in the second chamber. At this point it seems like these bills have as good a chance to fail as they do to pass.
There was a significant focus on cannabis this week. The House Government Operations committee was trying to pass the tax and regulate bill by today but parallel work in other committees was not completed in time and they decided to delay the vote. The holdup is in part attributable to a disagreement over roadside saliva testing. Governor Scott has said that he will veto the bill if saliva testing is not included while Senator Sears, the chair of Senate Judiciary countered by saying "I don't know why people have gotten so hung up on the saliva test when the test is basically meaningless." It’s unclear if this disagreement will get resolved or if the legislature will test the governor’s veto threat.
It’s not uncommon for the legislative session to continue past the 18 week timeframe. However, with this being the first year of the biennium it is less likely that the legislature will allow the session to drag on for anything but the mandatory money bills that are necessary for government to continue to operate. It does not appear that legislative leaders will keep members in Montpelier past May 18 in order to pass any one of the high profile bills from this year.
In addition to these issues, perhaps the most interesting political action occurred during an Act 46 conference committee meeting. The conferees remain at an impasse and it does not appear that a compromise is in sight. It is hard to see how lawmakers will overcome the impasse but there are times where the pressure of the end of the session motivates legislators to set their differences aside.