House Speaker Smith lays out legislative timetable
by Nat Rudarakanchana February 20, 2013 vtdigger.org House Speaker Shap Smith outlined his provisional Statehouse timetable to the Republican House caucus on Tuesday: He suggested that lawmakers should be able to finish the session in the minimum 16 to 17 week timeframe for legislative doings and named a date ‘ May 8.Smith has consistently maintained the discipline required to keep within this minimum standard since he took over the House in 2008, and it looks like he’ s going for a fifth shot at the ring.The Speaker urged House lawmakers to push their bills out of committees within the next two weeks, just before Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday of March. The cross-over deadline to send bills to the Senate is the week after legislators return from the town meeting break.Money bills in the Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Institutions committees, however, he said will likely need extra time and attention, as legislators face a ‘ tough’ budget.‘ This is a team effort. Hopefully it will continue to be a team effort. But there’ s no doubt about it: This [budget] is a tough one,’ Smith said.On Thursday, the House will continue debate on raising the property tax rate by five cents, a major increase, of which House Republicans are highly critical.This is the first in what is likely to be an ongoing battle over money bills, and it’ s this debate over taxes, capital expenditures and the budget that in the long run predetermines the schedule more than anything else. But with a ‘ super majority’ of Democrats in the House and Senate and a conservative Democrat on the Fifth Floor, Republicans and Progressives can do little else except kick up a little dust. When the Speaker, the most powerful man in the Statehouse sets the schedule, he sticks to it and pretty much everyone in the building eventually toes the line.The first step on the path to timely adjournment? The House passage of the Big Bill. Smith wants the lawmakers to vote on the House response to Gov. Peter Shumlin’ s budget by the last week of March. He wants the miscellaneous tax bill to be considered that same week, with the capital bill, which lays out the state’ s major infrastructure and long-term capital investments, including the Waterbury State Office Complex, to be out the week after.