MONTPELIER — The Vermont House gave preliminary approval by voice vote Thursday to the annual budget adjustment bill, which will lower state spending in the current fiscal year by $12 million. The reduction in spending is needed following a revenue forecast delivered by state economists last week that projects lower revenues than initially thought. In fact, the current, 2015 fiscal year budget is has seen a downgrade of more than $41 million since January 2014 — a 2.8 percent reduction in funds available to support government operations. The budget adjustment, unanimously approved by the House Appropriations Committee Monday, uses $10 million in spending reductions to cover the downgrade and sets aside $2 million for use in balancing the 2016 fiscal year budget. It brings available revenue in line with spending, and sets 2015 fiscal year spending less than 1.5 percent more than the previous year, said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero. Continue Reading →
House lawmakers this evening rejected a last-ditch attempt to postpone action on “death with dignity,” paving the way for an hours-long debate that will likely end with the preliminary approval of legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients.
An amendment offered at the outset of this highly anticipated floor debate sought to delay indefinitely action on a bill known here as “S.77.” The measure failed by a vote of 51-90, after which House Speaker Shap Smith declared an hour-long recess for dinner.
When debate resumes at 7:30 p.m., lawmakers will consider a slew of amendments, most of them authored by opponents of the legislation. Rep. Mary Morrissey, a Republican from Bennington, for instance, wants medical examiners to have to list the lethal dose of medication as the immediate cause of death for people who choose to avail themselves of what critics call “physician assisted suicide.”
Rep. Duncan Kilmartin, a Newport Republican, wants to spend $250,000 to create a “special investigations unit” at the Attorney General’s Office, where a prosecutor and investigator would work full-time probing for abuses of the new statute.
“People who are well-educated and or well-heeled may have the resources to make very informed decisions,” Kilmartin said during a Democratic caucus earlier today. Continue Reading →