Democrats, allies appear to gain veto-proof majority
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Democrats and their allies in the Vermont Legislature made gains in Tuesday’s elections, and are claiming a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate that could make it easier for them to pass liberal legislation that has been vetoed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott.
Preliminary results from Tuesday’s voting show that Democrats and their Progressive Party allies appear have reached a veto-proof majority in the House, winning at least 100 seats, with the Republicans holding 43. The Republicans are expected to hold six seats in the 30-member state Senate.
In the current House, the GOP holds 51 seats in the 150-seat chamber. A veto override requires two-thirds of each chamber, or 100 in the House and 20 in the Senate.
“In legislative races, there was a blue wave all over the state,” retired Middlebury College Political Science Professor Eric Davis said Wednesday.
He called the convincing re-election win of Republican Gov. Phil Scott a personal victory for the governor, not for the GOP.
“The House Republican party is smaller, more conservative and sort of more in its bastions of northern Vermont and Rutland County and that’s not a formula for winning statewide,” said Davis, who has been following Vermont politics since 1980.
While Scott shares the goal of helping Vermonters succeed, he has committed himself to ensuring that people and businesses aren’t burdened by increased taxes or fees or what he feels are business-restricting state mandates, said his spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley said Wednesday.
The governor, she said, recognizes that he will be less able to wield his veto pen, or the threat of a veto, to shape policy that will come out of the Statehouse after lawmakers return in January for the 2019 session.
“The dynamic has absolutely changed,” she said. “The governor recognizes that, and we will be looking to find common ground.”
The governor’s focus in the upcoming session will remain what it has always been, she said, including economic issues and Vermont’s demographic challenge.
During the 2018 session, Scott issued 11 vetoes, including bills that addressed key Democratic priorities, such as increasing over time the minimum wage to $15 per hour and paid family leave. Scott said he felt those pieces of legislation would have placed too great a burden on Vermont’s job-creating small businesses.
Six of the vetoed bills were eventually passed in some form, Kelley said.
In a victory speech Tuesday night, Democratic Vermont House speaker Mitzi Johnson said Scott’s vetoes made it harder for Vermonters to succeed and she said the results of the vote showed Vermonters want to change that.
“Tonight Vermonters said, ‘That’s not what we want, you need to listen,’” Johnson said. “We need to make sure to include everyone and raise all boats.”
Even with the increased presence in the House, Davis said he didn’t think Democrats would vote along party lines in all cases.
“Obviously, the veto is not going to be as effective a tool,” he said.
Davis said he expects that once lawmakers are back in session, they will hold “a test of strength” between the newly empowered Legislature and the governor.
He feels lawmakers could bring back the minimum wage bill vetoed by Scott in May, he said. The bill would have raised the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, perhaps modifying it before passing it again.
“I think they will want to test, both their own caucus and the governor’s ability to use the veto early in the session,” Davis said.