Statehouse stalemate: Why liberals are giving the governor a win

(WCAX)
Published: May. 28, 2019 at 5:05 PM EDT
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It's been a long, strange ending to the 2019 legislative session. Wednesday, senators will be back once again to bring it to an official close.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate spent weeks negotiating bills to raise the minimum wage and create a paid family leave program. They didn't have enough votes to override a likely veto, so on Friday, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said time was up and the House passed an adjournment resolution.

"We had hoped that they would come back and finish the job on two of the big bills, but they're not gonna come back. They have decided to adjourn and not come back until January," said Sen. Tim Ashe, D-President Pro Tem.

Ashe is bringing back the Senate on Wednesday. He hoped the speaker would face pressure over the long holiday weekend to bring the House back, too, so that they could all force the governor's hand. But in a conference call Tuesday, Johnson informed Ashe the House won't be returning. That left the Senate with few options.

"That leaves us coming back, really, just to close out the session," Ashe said.

Gov. Phil Scott spoke to the House Friday as is customary at the end of a session.

"I understand tensions are high right now and that many may be feeling a bit agitated, but I've been here for 20 years and from time to time this kind of thing happens," said Scott, R-Vermont.

Ashe says he's not sure if the governor will be on hand Wednesday to address the Senate. If he is, his message is likely to be the same as it was Friday.

"It's frustrating. Tempers have risen and the conversations have gotten uncomfortable for some. But no one said democracy was going to be easy," Scott said.

For Democrats, it's a messy ending without success on two of their top priorities.

"Obviously, disappointed. Both bills are priorities in both the House and Senate," Ashe said.

It won't be traditional, but the legislative session will end Wednesday, and Democrats will be back next year to pick up their priorities.