Full article at Vermont Digger
by Anne Galloway | July 1, 2013
Six weeks is a lifetime in politics, especially once the legislative session comes to a close. The minute the last gavel falls, the mavens of the Vermont Statehouse — lawmakers, the governor’s staff, the press, advocates, lobbyists — scatter ASAP. It’s not that people don’t love the place — for many it’s an addiction — but the four months’ worth of intensity wears even the stoutest politicos down. When 500 people gather in a small historic space for 18 weeks and make demands of one another day after day for 12 hours at a stretch, nerves get frayed. Tempers flare; unsavory exchanges occur. It’s all part of the process, as they say.
This year was no different, except in its particular variations on the struggle between those who have power (i.e., the governor and legislative leaders) and those who don’t, namely a few rebels among the rank and file.
The twist this year was a new form of internecine Democratic warfare not seen since the Dean era. Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget proposal drove a wedge between the Fifth Floor and the overwhelming Democratic Legislature. Shumlin shocked the party faithful by tacking further to the right than his Republican predecessor on welfare reform and cuts to a popular anti-poverty program. Shumlin pitched a budget with more than $30 million in new spending based on untried revenue sources that failed in the Senate and the House.
In the waning days of the session, unexpected tax receipts filled a $10 million budget hole and enabled the governor to save face. Shumlin used the windfall to humiliate Democratic leaders who proposed modest tax increases and bucked his proposal to use the Earned Income Tax Credit to fund subsidies for child care workers.
Other measures — especially the liberal policies the governor proposed — were eagerly embraced. Major social policy changes made this session include: decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, driver’s licenses for migrant workers here in the United States illegally, a legal means for terminally ill patients to take their own lives with prescription drugs and a brace of pro-union bills.