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Legislative Notes for March 22, 2012

March 18, 2012

Upon our return to the Statehouse this week we were faced with a flurry of activity. Several committees worked late into the evening on several days in an effort to get as many bills as possible completed by Friday. This deadline, referred to as crossover was established by leadership at the beginning of the session and is the drop dead date for many bills. If a proposed bill did not get voted out of committee by Friday it is not likely to be taken up for action this biennium. The only types of bills that can now be taken up for action are money, committee and Senate approved bills. This action signals that we are now entering the final stages of the session and proceeding toward adjournment.
I encountered an interesting experience in my role as Minority Leader this past week. I was the subject of an editorial on WPTZ channel 5. The editorial stated that I had requested a ban on the use of technology and the sharing of information in the Statehouse. This was not true and I do not wish to limit the use of any form of technology in the Statehouse whether it is for the purposes of sharing information or communicating with constituents. After I expressed my concern about the inaccuracy of the editorial and shared a copy of my letter to the Speaker with the person responsible for the editorial, I was given an opportunity to correct this on WPTZ. My response to the editorial will be televised on Wednesday 3/21/12 at 6:55 AM and 5:55 PM.
This accusation stemmed from a request that I had made to the Speaker during a debate on the healthcare exchange bill the previous week. When we were debating that bill I noticed how a high-ranking member of the Governors staff was instant messaging responses to the person being questioned on the House floor. This concerned me and led me to question the Speaker on the appropriateness of the executive branch actively participating in the floor debate. I subsequently followed this up with a letter requesting a review of this policy by the legislative rules committee. When a high-ranking member of the Governors staff sits in the House chamber during debate on a bill and repeatedly sends real-time responses to the reporter of the bill by electronic means, it gives me and the public reason to doubt the independence of the legislative branch. People can legitimately question whether the legislative product is our work or merely a rubber-stamped proposal of the administration. As a legislator, I have an obligation to you and all Vermonters to ask difficult questions, offer opposing viewpoints and most importantly to protect the integrity of the legislative process and our government.
Hosting friends and constituents at the Statehouse is one of my most enjoyable responsibilities. If you would like to visit the Statehouse please feel free to contact me to arrange a date and time. I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier.
As your representative, I ask that you please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you during the session. I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My e-mail address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is http://www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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