Lawmakers preparing for possible Scott vetoes

Published: May. 3, 2023 at 6:47 PM EDT|Updated: May. 3, 2023 at 8:25 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Governor Phil Scott says he will officially veto the Affordable Heat Act on Thursday. It’s the first in what is expected to be a number of showdowns with Democrats as the legislative session draws to a close.

It’s crunch time under the Golden Dome. A sweeping gun reform bill aimed at suicide prevention is inching closer to the governor’s desk. It creates a 72-hour waiting period. requires safe storage, and expands red flag laws among other provisions.

“The Supreme Court has ruled on this and has left it open to constitutional challenges,” Governor Scott said Wednesday. While says he supports elements of the bill -- including red flag provisions -- he’s concerned the waiting period will be challenged in court. “There’s no doubt it will be challenged, so we will see what happens.”

“We did our best with legal counsel to craft legislation we believe will stand up in court. Our attorney general says she is behind it and will defend it,” said Vermont Senate President Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden County, adding that the bill is structured so that if one provision is shot down, other sections will stand. “Hopefully the bill is carefully crafted enough to survive.”

One of the biggest priorities of the session -- housing reform -- is also nearing the finish line. Senate Bill 100 allows duplexing statewide. It also has new Act 250 exemptions that backers hope will give it support from all.

“We are coming to a place where we will have a lot of happy people I hope, I hope,” said Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Dover. She says it exempts projects up to 25 units over five years in a five-mile radius located in village centers with zoning bylaws from the land use law. It also says that up to four units being rehabbed in one building will only count as one unit.

“There are a lot of folks that want to do right by Vermont and they have different ideas of what that means, but I think in the end, this will help us get housing built in a way that is responsible.”

The governor and his teams says lawmakers have made progress and are hopeful it can get across the finish line, but add that they wish Act 250 reforms went further and included more of the state. “We really feel with the gravity of the housing crisis in the moment we are in there should be more Act 250 reforms to encourage housing development,” said Vt. Housing Commissioner Josh Hanford.

Multiple sources say Democratic leaders will likely try to override the Affordable Heat Act before the end of the session.

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