Legislative session opens

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(Host)The 2007 Legislative session has opened in Montpelier.

Legislative leaders say property tax reform, global warming, and extending high speed Internet access throughout the state are some of their top priorities for the coming months.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Deb Markowitz) “The House will please to come to order. Thank you.”

(Kinzel) Just after ten in the morning, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz formally opened the new legislative session.

The Statehouse was packed with family members and friends of lawmakers and a festive atmosphere filled the building.

Democrat Gaye Symington was unanimously re-elected to a second term as House Speaker because the Democrats enjoy a large majority in the chamber. Markowitz administered the oath of office to Symington:

(Markowitz) “That I will support the Constitution of the United States.”
(Symington) “That I will support the Constitution of the United States.”
(Markowitz) “So help me God.”
(Symington) “So help me God.”
(Markowitz) “Congratulations!”
(Syumington) “Thank you.”


(Kinzel) Symington said she wants the House to examine issues such as property tax reform with a long term, comprehensive approach:

(Symington) “Are we looking for transient fixes that will play well for an election season or are we taking a more fundamental look at what we ask of our public schools, how we deliver those services and whether we could do that more effectively and whether we can lower Vermont’s reliance of property as a measure of wealth in paying for schools?”

(Kinzel) Symington says this deliberate approach should also be used on other key issues:

(Symington) “As we consider how best to provide safe communities, do our actions provide only perceived incremental safety today or are we making investments that lower the rate of increase in crime and the rate of increase in the cost of our corrections system?”

(Kinzel) Over in the Senate, Windham senator Peter Shumlin was elected as the president of the chamber. It’s a position that Shumlin held between 1997 and 2002.

Shumlin identified global warming as the top issue facing lawmakers. He wants Vermont to develop more renewable energy sources and he’s hoping to attract new high tech environmental companies to Vermont.

He also thinks it’s critical to expand high speed Internet access to every part of Vermont.

(Shumlin) “We all need to work together this session, in this biennium, to insist that we put together an implementation plan for high speed Internet access for every hill and every valley every main road and every back road rich and poor old and young.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin also says lawmakers have limited options in dealing with property tax reform this year.

(Shumlin) “I caution all of us not to over promise our constituents a quick and happy solution. For as long as school funding formulas have been recommended by the governor and passed by the Legislature, money has been raised by taxing some Vermonters and the proceeds have been handed out to other Vermonters. Unfortunately we do not have that option this time.”

(Kinzel) Both the House and Senate Education committees are expected to spend the first month of the session examining the specific factors that have led to higher school budgets in recent years.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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