2013 Vt. legislative session wrapping up - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

2013 Vt. legislative session wrapping up

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Vt. lawmakers say the end is in sight. They're wrapping up the session. It could be a long night, but they say it will be the last one of the legislative season.

Adjournment is expected to take place at about 9 p.m. WCAX News spoke with all three party leaders from both the Senate and the House Tuesday. Those leading the Democrats, Republicans and Progressives say Vermont's 2013 legislative season accounted for numerous triumphs.

"In all our actions we wanted to ensure we were improving the quality of life for all Vermonters," said Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Majority Leader.

"Like any year, it's a mixed bag. Some very good things that I'm very proud of, but a lot of work to do," said Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Minority Leader.

Most party leaders touted social issues like marijuana decriminalization, the end-of-life choice bill and migrant licenses as wins.

"I'm just amazed about how many things passed this session that have minimal impact to Vermonters," said Rep. Don Turner, R-Minority Leader.

House Republican Minority Leader Don Turner says those issues created charged debate, but affect only a small number of residents and distracted from broader issues like tax debate.

"People tend to forget that we passed some really groundbreaking stuff," said Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Majority Leader.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Phil Baruth says following through with most of the governor's education proposals, passing an equal pay for women act and allowing homecare workers to unionize make this season a success. He pushed gun control legislation earlier in the session, but backed off when he realized it wouldn't pass. And Baruth says he doesn't think the issue is worth pursuing next year.

"I really think we need to start concentrating on the health care situation, how to pay for it specifically. That's kind of been the white elephant in the room that nobody's willing to talk about," said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Minority Leader.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning says health care funding is a primary concern even before next January and the second year of the session begins.

Progressives agree, but are more concerned with the cost of entering the exchange for low-income Vermonters.

"I really do think single-payer is an improvement over the current system and the exchange but there's a real risk if people feel like government health care costs more," said Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Minority Leader.

"I think we would look at the things that were left on what we might call the cutting room floor," Jewett said.

Those issues include universal pre-K funding and proposed tax system changes that led to public and heated spat between the governor and legislators that the governor won.

But with more than half a year before legislators return, events on a local, national and global scale could dramatically shift those priorities once again.

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