Vt. lawmakers abandon plans for session adjournment

By DAVE GRAM / Associated Press

Patti Komline, the Republican leader in the House, said of Democratic leaders. “They should focus on getting the work done, rather than just focusing on an adjournment date.

Lawmakers did make progress on some bills Friday:

— House and Senate conferees agreed, and the House passed, a bill to crack down on abuses in slaughterhouses. The bill calls for fines of $1,000 — up to $10,000 for repeat offenders — for inhumane treatment of animals heading to slaughter, as well as prison terms of up to two years. It came as state and federal authorities continued to investigate alleged abuses discovered last year at a Grand Isle slaughterhouse.

— The Senate agreed with the House on a bill requiring health insurance companies to pay for therapy for autistic children up to the age of 6.

— Lawmakers also agreed on a bill stepping up penalties for employers who intentionally misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying workers’ compensation premiums and unemployment insurance taxes.

— The House ratified a conference committee agreement on a bill to allow people convicted of drunken driving to shorten their license suspensions by agreeing to have special devices installed in their vehicles to stop them from driving drunk. The “ignition interlock” devices require a driver to blow into them and record a blood-alcohol content less than a quarter of the legal limit before the car will start.

— Lawmakers also passed legislation to promote the use of mediation rather than foreclosure for homeowners who fall behind on their mortgage payments.

Several matters were left unresolved, including changes to a state program that lowers property taxes for farm and forest land and a plan to save money in the judiciary by cutting the number of probate judges and reducing the work done by non-lawyer “assistant judges.”


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