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Vermont lawmakers race to gavel out virtual session

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers are looking to wrap up a marathon legislative session by putting final touches on the state budget.

The $7 billion spending plan includes $30 million in bridge funding for the cash-strapped Vermont State Colleges System. There’s also another $20 million in hazard pay for frontline workers who were left out of the first round of grants.

The hazard pay piece is in the budget right now which we still have to negotiate but I cannot imagine the House would not agree to making the benefits available to those employees," said Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia County.

Meanwhile, The Labor Department says about 25,000 unemployment checks went out on Friday to eligible Vermonters as part of the Lost Wages Assistance program. More checks are going in the mail in the coming days for people who were certified after September 14th, but there are about 2,000 people who aren’t eligible at all.

The LWA program gives eligible Vermonters $300 benefits for three weeks. Vermont was recently approved for three more weeks of benefits but the state hasn’t received any of that money yet.

Vermont lawmakers also Thursday approved a bill that would ban the sale of ivory products and other covered animal parts in the Green Mountain State. The bill is intended to reduce the illegal hunting and sale of endangered animals in Africa including organs from lions, and elephants, and giraffes. Penalties include potentially thousands of dollars in fines.

People will still be able to pass their antiques off to family members or to a museum. “If you have a chess set, for example, where it has above a certain weight, you can give it to a collection, but you can’t sell it,” Sen. Kitchel said. The bill now heads to Governor Scott’s desk.

Lawmakers are hoping to wrap up work on the budget Thursday night and adjourn soon after. But unlike the hoopla surrounding the gavelling out of traditional adjournments, the Statehouse in Montpelier is dark, and will likely remain so when lawmakers return for what will likely be another virtual session in a little over three months.

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