Lawmakers try to hammer out agreement on Act 46 delays

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont lawmakers are still trying to hammer out a compromise bill that would delay some of the forced school district mergers under Act 46.

A conference committee met twice Tuesday to find common ground between bills passed by the Senate and House. Both versions attempt -- in different ways -- to provide delays for implementing some of the mergers approved by the Board of Education last fall.

Lawmakers say they -- and the governor -- support the concept of Act 46 moving forward. But questions remain over whether to reward those districts with a delay as they continue to fight the merger process.

"The difference right now is whether it is a blanket delay for all or whether it is a delay that would be available for some districts and not others," said Rep. Kate Webb, D-Shelburne.

Meanwhile, an effort by 33 school boards to challenge the legality of the mergers rolls on in the courts. A Vermont judge Friday issued a preliminary ruling dismissing several key claims of merger opponents, including the argument that the law violates the constitution by giving the Board of Education the final say on mergers. Other issues in the case continue --including how some districts would take on the debt of schools they merge with.

Rep. Webb says the results of the ruling last week shouldn't make much of a difference in the bill that lawmakers settle on.