The Senate this year is meeting as a whole just two days of the week (Tuesday and Friday) for the first part of the session. The idea is to give committees more time to work and compress the full Senate action into fewer days.
It's too early to tell whether committees will produce better stuff with the new quality time, but it has cut down on a lot of wasted, high-school-recess-like time involved in convening the Senate each day.
It also means they are more apt to shuffle things around, though the Senate has always done this to some extent.
Yesterday, some of that shuffling went on. A brief break was called so that the Senate Finance Committee could meet "over by the pole" to vote on a bill that would change the fines for trucks violating the weight limits on interstates to $1, a bill that was not on the calendar.
Why, I asked Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, are they meeting over by the pole. By which he understood that I wasn't concerned about why the pole was chosen (it's near Chairwoman Ann Cummings' seat) but why they were meeting at all.
The committee had talked about the bill but not voted on it, so they met by the pole (I joined them) and voted unanimously and the bill was hastened along. Hastened so that it might pass before the Federal Highway Administration weighed in.
Then Shumlin went on to declare that since the Senate has to meet Thursday this week to elect the sergeant-at-arms and three University of Vermont trustees, it would do all its business Thursday and not meet Friday. It takes more than a calendar to keep up with the Senate.
Don't know if Thursday's session will involve any meetings by the pole. They might choose over by the couch next time.
- Terri Hallenbeck