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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Will lawmakers come back in 09?

Last night was supposed to be the real end of the 2009 Vermont legislative session -- or at least that's what I thought until the House clerk read the adjournment resolution.

On May 9, the House and Senate said goodbye until January -- which forced Gov. Jim Douglas to call them back for this week's special session when he vetoed the one bill necessary to operate state government.

Last night, by contrast, legislative leaders gave themselves the option to return next Thursday (June 11) if Douglas vetoes the companion bills they had just passed.

These two bills "fix" things in the budget bill as well as some other legislation passed during the session. Some of the fixes are housekeeping that could have been done next winter -- the tradition time for technical corrections. Others changes are policy accommodations responding to criticisms of the budget -- many voiced by the governor.

Democratic leaders said they intentionally showed they and their allies had the political muscle to win an override vote on their bare naked budget, warts and all. Then they showed they were willing to muster those same political forces and more to make fixes that answered some of their chief opponent's concerns.

Douglas has already characterized the veto override as the super-majority in the Legislature bullying through a tax-and-spend budget rather than staying at the negotiating table to find a compromise.

Democrats intend to answer with evidence of their willingness to compromise: H. 442. It contains several changes Douglas wanted -- such as sales tax holidays, restored funding for Next Generation scholarships and telecommunications, and exceptions to newly enacted reduction of the 40-percent capital gains exemption for farmers, those selling timber and, for a brief period, those over age 70.

Democrats can't afford to lose their proof of compromise to a veto, but Douglas probably can't afford to veto stuff he like or risk the political fallout of another veto session.

So it's likely the Legislature is gone for good this time.

-- Nancy Remsen

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