Legislative Report: Midpoint of the session comes with reflection


As the legislature approaches the midpoint of the session, there are indicators that members look towards to confirm where we are in our legislative calendar.  The first indicator is the town meeting break which is when we break for a week to return home to attend the various town meetings in our districts, reconnect with our families and constituents, and get out of the shadow of the “Golden Dome” while getting rejuvenated for the push toward adjournment. This year’s break is March 4th through the 8th. Another indicator is the cutoff date for legislators to introduce individual bills which is this upcoming week, and the last sign is the setting of the crossover date for individual bills to move from the House to the Senate and conversely Senate bills moving to the House.  The Crossover date for this session is Friday, March 15th, 2024.

With committees working diligently on bills under their jurisdiction and spending long days at their “desks” in committee rooms, there are often heated discussions, and we need ways to release the tension of disagreements and opposite opinions to bring a fractured conversation together. One way is to bring members together outside of the committee room to reset and change the conversation. 

An evening at “Farmers Night” can certainly give members a way to come together and clear their minds for a few short hours before delving back into committee decisions. The tradition of a weekly event of levity and entertainment started in 1902 when the formation of the farmers club (thus “Farmers Night”), a club comprised of members of the legislature that made a substantial portion of their income from the land. Most members of the legislature of that era would travel to Montpelier for the entire session, living in hotels and boarding houses because commuting was virtually impossible in that period. Legislators would gather in the well of the House on Wednesday nights to sing songs, play cards, watch traveling minstrel shows, and the like. As time went on, more and more outside entertainment was scheduled including, in 1947, a traveling circus which had ponies, sheep, and a tightrope walker. Today, Farmers Night entertainment has become much more subdued but no less enjoyable. Included in this year’s entertainment has been Vermont storytellers, Tibetan music and dancing, and the Valentine’s Day concert by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. These events are free and open to the public and I would encourage you to visit the statehouse on a Wednesday evening to enjoy one of these wonderful events.

My committee, Transportation, has been working diligently to move the FY25 $866 million Transportation Program forward. As the title says, this is the bill that provides funds for the construction and maintenance of Vermont highways, bridges, airports, freight and passenger rail, mass transit, and all things related to the transportation needs of Vermonters. Along with state assets, the bill provides funding for our towns in the form of grants to repair local roads, culverts, ditches, and bridges, along with other town highway technical assistance. The deadline for submitting this bill to the house is March 22nd, 2024, and the committee expects to have the “T Bill” completed prior to town meeting week. This is an indication of the collaboration among the members of the very geographically diverse Transportation Committee.

An early public safety bill, H. 563… Attempted auto theft has passed the House with my support. H.563 makes attempting to steal a motor vehicle a crime of grand larceny with penalties of up to five years in jail or fines of $2500 or both. The bill also provides that if someone enters a vehicle without owner’s consent, they can be convicted and sentenced for three months in jail and or fined $500 or both. H.563 is a small legislative step in the quest to stem the tide of criminal activities in Vermont. The Judiciary Committee will be introducing further bills to adjust the statutes on larceny and other public safety issues before crossover.

Questions, comments please send me an email at bshaw@leg.state.vt.us or call at 802-483-2398 for a conversation about our legislative district of Rutland-8 Pittsford-Proctor.

Representative Butch Shaw
Vice Chair-House Committee on Transportation
Chair-Rutland County Legislative Delegation

(Editor’s note: This report was intended to run in last week’s issue [Feb. 21].  Because of a filing error on our part, it is being run in this issue. Our apologies to Mr. Shaw and to our readers.)

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