Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I haven’t reported to you since the Town Meeting break as I was away last week at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute. So I missed the legislature’s first week back. The "crossover” deadline has passed and today’s calendars from both chambers are full. What that means is that as of last Friday, all bills were required to be out of the primary committee of jurisdiction and appear on the Notice Calendar. The exceptions are the money bills- budget, transportation, capital, and tax bills. With such full calendars it’s likely that each chamber may spend as much or more time on the floor as in committee as they work through their calendars.

We did make some progress on issues we have been following and some we are supporting this year. The adult guardianship bill has passed the House and is in a Senate Committee. Rich Cassidy was successful in moving the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction bill out of Senate Judiciary; it’s on the calendar for action this week. Vermont could be the first state in the country to adopt it! The House has already passed UCCJEA; so we’re three for three on uniform bills.

Property law practitioners will be happy to hear that H. 57 (energy audits) did not make it out of committee while they may be unhappy to hear that the licensed lender issues are still up in the air. The Family Law Section had a discussion last week about a draft bill advocated by the Office of Child Support. Section Chair Penny Benelli will testify tomorrow morning on the comments made by Section members. Judge Robert Bent was in Senate Judiciary this morning to comment on the draft child support bill. As this is or will be a committee bill it does not yet have a bill number; one will only be assigned if the committee advances the bill to the floor. (Last week we circulated the draft to members of the Family Law Section; if you are not Section member and would like to see it contact me and I can email a copy).

Here is what the draft purports to do:

Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to reduce the surcharge on unpaid
child support, and provide a mechanism for the court to discharge all or part of a surcharge upon a finding that the obligated parent lacked the ability to comply with the underlying support obligation, if it serves the interest of justice; allow child support orders to be extended until the child is age 22 if the child is enrolled in college; and establish a new combined process of civil and criminal contempt of a child support order.

Judge Bent’s concern was the combination of civil and criminal contempt; he prefers having the sanction of criminal contempt as a tool and didn’t want to have it become ineffective. I think the committee is heading towards a more comprehensive review of child support enforcement, perhaps after a study group makes recommendations for consideration next January. But there appears to be support for lowering the surcharge (from 12 to 6% not compounded). I’ll update this tomorrow after the morning testimony.

Tonight at 4:30 the Judicial Retention Committee is scheduled to meet and vote on the retention of all 15 candidates. However there is plenty of talk about two of the judges and a possible delay in the vote. I’ll fill you in tomorrow on what happens tonight. The joint assembly vote is set for Thursday, March 24th at 10:30. That may or may not be pushed back too.

Thanks for reading; sorry for the dry period but I’ll be trying to keep you up to date regularly now, well, maybe after this week’s Mid Year Meeting at the Hilton this Thursday and Friday. See you there.

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