Monday, March 23, 2009

Vermont Closing in on SSM

The Vermont Senate seems smarter than its Massachusetts counterparts. The speeches today were toward advancing the same-sex marriage bill there and they were better than we are used to hearing here.

The 30-member body voted to move it to its third and final reading tomorrow by 26 to 4. It should pass in what is traditionally a pro forma vote then.

The Burlington Free Press is doing a great job of live streaming coverage and then analyzing the discussion and results. For today's remarks from the stream, head here. The most moving and profound remarks were from bill sponsors, particularly Senators John Campbell and Richard McCormack (both Windsor-D).

The closest thing to real controversy today was an amendment proposal from Sen. Kevin Mullin (Rutland-R) to delay it all for a non-binding referendum, which would push out the bill for at least a year. That lost 19 to 10.

The bill has been through discussion on and off for years. The concepts of SSM have been the subject to two major and prolonged public studies with hearings. The current bill has been through detailed and very open testimony and hearings, which resulted in the Senate Judiciary Committee recommending it to the whole body 5 to 0.

After it passes tomorrow, it still faces the same hearing/reading/debate/vote process in the House. Everyone there, including Speaker Shap Smith, expects it to pass. However, there it gets more interesting and tenuous.

Gov. Jim Douglas is squishy on his opposition to SSM. He claims he feels marriage is between one man and one woman. He won't say if he'll sign the bill after it gets to his desk. He won't say if he'll veto it. He won't say if he'll let it become law without acting.

The legislature has 30 Senators and 150 Representatives. A veto override requires two-thirds of each house — 20 in the Senate and 100 in the House. Until the House votes, no one is sure whether there will be 100 votes there.

Douglas is a real attention hound. He'll get plenty.

Tuesday No-Surprise Add: The Vermont Senate did pass the SSM bill, by a voice vote with what the Free Press reported was "By a voice vote with a few barely audible no votes..." Now the House repeats the Senate procedure, starting its Judiciary Committee hearing on the matter today.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They don't need a veto proof margin if the governor allows it to become law without his signature. That is certainly a possible outcome.

Regarding a mandated referendum, you may enjoy this little analysis of another similar attempt in Washington.