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Legislative Notes for May 15, 2014

May 11, 2014

The 2014 Legislative session came to a conclusion on Saturday night a little after 7 PM. The last few weeks have been very busy with far too many late nights. I generally don’t mind the commute back and forth to the Statehouse each day but, I have to confess these last few weeks have been a real challenge. I am happy that the session has finished and I can now return to a more normal work schedule.
Numerous important bills passed the legislature this week including the ban on using hand-held devices while driving. I have supported this bill a number of times over the years and it finally looks like it is going to become law this year. As the Fire and Rescue Chief, I have seen far too many accidents caused by distracted drivers. A few years ago, the legislature passed a law that banned texting while driving. This was intended to deter distracted drivers however, we learned that law enforcement officers could rarely enforce that law. We heard that it was impossible for law enforcement to tell for certain whether someone was texting or using their phone for other purposes. This new law will ban the use of most hand-held devices allowing for more strict enforcement and hopefully safer roads with fewer accidents.
The last bill to pass was the FY15 budget. I am disappointed to report that I could not support passage of the budget or tax bill that raises the funding for the budget. The total budget increases state spending by more than $213 million over what was spent last year, includes $35 million in one-time dollars, relies on utilizing reserves (savings) and requires the administration to reduce spending in order to balance. My experience tells me that the administration will not reduce spending and the amount booked as savings to balance the budget will actually be the starting amount of the budget adjustment act in January 2015. The spending is growing much faster than the revenue which means that Vermont will be facing a $70 million budget gap in FY16 and over $75 million in FY17. I cannot support budgets that are growing spending at rates higher than inflation or of the people’s paychecks saddled with paying the taxes. We have to stop this cycle of spending above the states means soon or it will have a devastating effect on the future of the state.
I was honored to host the Milton High School Theater Company accompanied by director Paul Curtis on Tuesday as they were recognized for their accomplishments.
I will submit a summary of the session next week. It has been an honor to represent you again this biennium and I hope to continue representing you and your concerns in Montpelier in the future. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you. I can be reached by cell at 373-5960 or my email 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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