Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D-Windham) speaking outside the Statehouse Wednesday
Less than two weeks after adjourning for the year, legislative leaders on Wednesday vowed to return in coming weeks to try to override Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s latest vetoes, including ones blocking communities from giving noncitizens voting rights.
From the Statehouse steps, Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D-Windham) confirmed that lawmakers did not intend to let Scott stand in the way of key legislation passed by the General Assembly.
“You can bet we’ll be back for a veto session,” Balint vowed.
She stressed that she still needed to confirm details with House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington), but a spokesperson for Krowinski removed any doubt that the battle lines were being fortified.
“These vetoes sealed the deal,” Conor Kennedy, Krowinski’s chief of staff, confirmed.
On Tuesday Scott vetoed a pair of bills that would have granted local voting rights to noncitizens in Winooski and Montpelier. The governor claimed the issue needed “further consideration and debate,” suggesting a more statewide approach would avoid “inconsistency in election policy.”
Balint on Wednesday countered that the bills went through a rigorous debate in the local communities themselves and the General Assembly.
“We have a statewide conversation. It’s called the legislature,” Balint said. “If we truly believe in local control, then members of these communities can say who they believe should have a say in local elections.”
When the legislature adjourned on May 21, both chambers passed a resolution allowing them to reconvene on June 23 to address any vetoes. At that point there had been only one veto, of S.107. The bill would have extended to young adults some confidentiality provisions for arrest records now afforded to juveniles, and Scott said he felt the bill reflected a "piecemeal approach" to juvenile justice reform.
In order to force a bill into law over Scott's objection, two-thirds of both the 150-member House and the 30-member Senate would need to vote to override the governor.
In addition to the vetoed charter-change bills, Balint said she expects to also try to override the veto of S.107. Also on the table are bills that never received final passage due to time constraints, she said.
This could include H.157, a bill that would require contractors to register with the state to help reduce consumer fraud. Contractors, who are not licensed by the State of Vermont, would need to pay a $75 registration fee and provide written contracts for work worth more than $2,500.
It also includes a rental housing bill, S.79, that would create a statewide “rental registry” of short-term and long-term rental properties. Instead of relying on town health officers to perform rental inspections, the bill would create an inspection task force and property registry within the state Division of Fire Safety. Landlords would have to pay a $35-per-unit fee. The bill would also limit landlords’ ability to evict tenants following the imminent lifting of the pandemic-related eviction moratorium, which is set to take place 30 days after Scott declares an end to the state of emergency.
The urgency to get such rental protections in place had some people calling for the bill to be pushed through at all costs in the waning days of the regular session, but Balint said she didn’t want to be seen as “running roughshod over the minority.”
Any bill can be taken up during a veto session, but Balint said she would only consider legislation that ran out of runway at the hectic end of the session.
“From where I stand, the only thing that passes the straight face test is a bill that came close to passing,” she said.