- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Legislature has adjourned for the year and while Republican Gov. Phil Scott has vowed to veto the state budget, guaranteeing lawmakers will return next month for a veto session, lawmakers had a number of notable accomplishments this session.

A list of some of those accomplishments:

TEACHER HEALTH CARE

Scott’s promised veto of the state budget and a proposal on the best way to save money on teacher health care costs looms over the proceedings.

He has said he plans to veto both the budget and the separate legislation because lawmakers didn’t pass a bill to his liking that would save the state’s property taxes an estimated $26 million a year by changing the way the state’s 14,000 teachers get health insurance.

The next fiscal year starts July 1 and no one seems to know what would happen if the state doesn’t have a budget in place by then.

Scott argues that by negotiating a statewide benefit rather than having each school district negotiate separate health care deals it can save property tax payers $26 million a year. Democrats counter the savings is only an estimate and they put forth proposals that would guarantee the savings that the governor was uninterested in while ensuring all the health care plans are negotiated local by teachers’ unions.

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MARIJUANA

Earlier this month, the Vermont Legislature became the first such body in the country to vote to legalize marijuana. The other eight states and District of Colombia all legalized it through citizen referenda. But it remains to be seen if the legislation will become law next year as planned.

Under the Vermont legislation, small amounts of marijuana would be legal to possess and grow for anyone over 21. Larger amounts would remain illegal. A commission would develop a proposal to tax and regulate marijuana that would be ready for the Legislature to consider next year, ahead of the implementation date.

Scott’s office has officially received the legislation and he must decide what to do by Wednesday.

He said Friday he’d take the weekend study it.

“It’s a bit of a struggle, admittedly,” he said. “Again, it’s my own libertarian streak. What somebody does in their own home, behind closed doors as long as doesn’t affect the innocent, that’s their right and I’m fine with that.”

But he has concerns about public safety on the state’s roadways and keeping it away from children.

Separately, the Legislature expanded access to medical marijuana.

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IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT

With broad bipartisan support, Vermont lawmakers passed a law that limits police involvement with the federal government and gives the governor the power to sign off on agreements for officers to do federal immigration duties.

Scott, one of the backers of the proposal, called it a response to federal overreach by the Trump administration.

Under the law, state and local police officers are prohibited from collecting personal information on residents beyond what’s needed to carry out their law enforcement duties. It also bars police in some instances from providing information on residents to federal agents.

Before signing the bill in March, Scott addressed concerns that Vermont’s law would conflict with federal immigration laws.

“I want to be very clear. This law has been carefully crafted through a consensus-building process to confirm Vermont remains compliant with federal law, that we would not be establishing a sanctuary state,” Scott said.

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MEDIA PROTECTION

Vermont has become the latest state to enact a law that protects journalists and their sources. Earlier this month, Scott signed a new law that creates a legal protection for information given to journalists by confidential sources or for conversations that take place off the record.

That means that the identity of anonymous sources is out of the reach of Vermont’s legal system, even if those sources are government employees leaking privileged information.

At a Statehouse signing ceremony, Scott said he supported the law because it helps reporters preserve their independence.

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