Under a snow-covered capitol dome Friday, legislators covered a controversial topic. Vermont could become the third U.S. state to allow terminal patients in chronic pain and with signoff from doctors the option to take a lethal dosage of pills.
"The bill as drafted is flawed, and needs to be-- a number of areas need to be clearer," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sears says he's against the concept of the proposed law, as are a majority of his committee colleagues. Normally, that would spell the end of a bill, a fate prior versions met in previous sessions.
"But I really believe Vermonters have the right to have the entire senate engaged in the debate," said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County.
The committee needed procedural clarification to make that a reality, as it held an unusual vote on whether to recommend that the full Senate reject the bill.
"No... Wait, yes," laughed Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor County.
With three in support, one against and one absent, that question will now land in front of the full body next week.
"I would want the opportunity to correct the bill in ways that I think can improve the bill whether you're for it or against it," said Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden County.
Because the committee is not recommending the bill pass, amendments could not be made Friday. Ashe will get that chance though if the Senate votes to keep the bill in play.
About five senators have not publicly expressed their views on the legislation, making its fate next week unclear. In the event of a tie, Sears says he expects Lt. Governor Phil Scott would cast a decisive vote against the bill.
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