House Speaker Says Legislature Is On Track To Adjournment

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(Host) House Speaker Shap Smith says the Legislature is on track to adjourn next weekend.

Smith is confident that the House and Senate will be able to resolve their differences on most key bills by the middle of next week and he says that should pave the way for adjournment.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) House and Senate conference committees are now meeting to reconcile their differences on five "must pass" pieces of legislation; next year’s budget, the tax bill, the transportation bill, the Capital Construction bill and the health care bill.

House Speaker Shap Smith says there are very small differences between the House and the Senate on these bills and he thinks negotiators will soon reach a consensus. That would set the stage for the session to end by Saturday May 7th.

(Smith) "I think it is a very achievable date and I would like to try to get finished on the 6th if possible. You know, there are a couple of things that have to happen and one of them is we have to close most of our conference committees by Tuesday of next week…and I have had discussions with the conferees of all those particular bills and I believe that we’re ready to close those bills in a timely fashion."

(Kinzel) Smith also wants lawmakers to give final passage to legislation that expands broadband and cell phone coverage throughout the state.

(Smith) "The Telecommunications bill which has passed with strong bi-partisan support in the House Commerce and Economic Development committee and then in the Appropriations committee that will be coming to the floor."

(Kinzel) And Smith thinks that legislation creating four marijuana dispensaries will also become law.  The dispensaries would provide marijuana to those Vermonters who have been authorized to use it for medical purposes.

(Smith) "I think it’s a bill that everybody recognizes we allow for the use of marijuana for symptom relief and if we’re going to allow for that we ought to give people opportunity to obtain that without possibly running a foul of the law."

(Kinzel) Smith says he’s hopeful that a new jobs bill and legislation expanding the state’s clean energy development fund will also receive final approval in the coming days.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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