Vermont Legislative Session Summary 2023
On May 12th, the historic 2023 session came to a close. The best way to summarize the session is “adjourned, but not done.” The Legislature has been planning since early in the session to come back for a veto session where the Democratic supermajority squares off against the most popular Governor in America on possibly up to five or six (the budget, childcare, firearm reform, juvenile justice, and perhaps the bottle bill legislation) pieces of vetoed legislation on June 20, 21, 22 with the start of a new fiscal year not far away.
The session started slowly due to the four factors we highlighted in our first update of the session.
- One-third of the legislators were new to their position – the largest new cohort in history – representing a significant loss of institutional memory. This meant a slow start, and learning the ins-and-outs of state government was a defining feature of the first two months of the session.
- Two-thirds of the Chairs in the House were new. As if things hadn’t been shaken up enough, even the leadership was new in committee.
- More than two-thirds of the Legislature is comprised of members from one party, giving that party the ability not to accommodate the desires of the Executive Branch if they so choose. The veto not having such a prominent role meant that intra-party differences mattered more; think back to when one party had control of the Legislature and the Executive Branch. Finally, caucuses were particularly important this biennium, such as long-established “climate caucus” and the newly well-organized “rural caucus” made their mark.
- Upwards of three-quarters of a billion dollars in spending was been promised or promoted by that party with complete control of the Legislative Branch, while storm clouds appeared in budget forecasts for future years. Not all that was proposed could happen, making for some difficult decisions.
Coming into the session, legislative leaders felt they had the mandate to address childcare and housing, systemic issues that had thwarted previous legislatures with a more experienced makeup. The slow start meant that the Legislature also had less time to fully address these issues, which made for a chaotic crossover and a great deal of pressure on adjournment.
The session was characterized by a high degree of division between the House, Senate, and Governor. With supermajorities in the House and Senate, the intra-chamber fighting between two political parties was replaced with inter-chamber disagreements between the leadership of the same party in the House and Senate.
Table of Contents