Monday, May 10, 2010

Updates on bills passed

S. 173, the technical corrections bill to the Vermont Trust Code was signed by the governor on May 7, 2010. The final bill can be read here:
H.590, the foreclosure mediation bill contains language taken from H. 476, introduced but not acted upon. Here is the statement of purpose of that bill which now appears as Sections 6-11 in H. 590:
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes a number of changes related to the
laws governing real property. The bill proposes to:
(1) clarify that a power of attorney with respect to a real estate transaction
that is validly executed in another state is also valid in Vermont;
(2) add proper witnessing to the list of defects that is cured if an instrument
has been recorded for at least 15 years;
(3) codify the Vermont supreme court’s decision in Nelson v. Russo, 956
A.2d 1117 (2008), that in order to renew a court judgment, a plaintiff must file
a new and independent action instead of seeking to reopen the original action;
(4) require that recording of a copy of the complaint in actions to foreclose
judgment liens be in order for the action to extend the duration of the lien; and
(5) establish a 15-year limitations period after which enforcement actions
or other proceedings may not be brought relating to the failure to obtain or
comply with the terms or conditions of required highway permits, including
so-called “curb cut permits.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Update #2- Saturday 8:00PM

Restructuring is done! This afternoon the Senate approved the conference committee report by a vote of 29-0-1. At about 6:00PM, the House joined the Senate in voting 124-1 to finalize the restructuring bill. The legislative part of unification is now; the implementation part looms. As I wrote this afternoon, you can check the Journals of both chambers on Monday for the complete text of the bill. Thanks to all of you that have read this blog; followed the progress of this and other issues the VBA worked on this session; and thanks to those of you that weighed in with comments. I'll keep posting things here but they will probably be less frequent now that the session is over. I'll be traveling to the ABA Pro Bono Conference next week and may follow that with a couple days off.

Restructuring Update- 3:00PM Saturday

A few minutes ago House and Senate conferees (Sens. Sears, Campbell, and Nitka) signed the conference committee report on H. 470! It must head first to the Senate floor for action and then to the House. We hope it will do so later today. There is no link to it yet on the legislature’s website. On Monday, if it is adopted by the Senate later today, it could be read in its entirety in the Senate Journal of today. I’ll post a link on Monday to an outline of the agreement. This is an historic achievement and moment in our state’s history. I’m still not sure that many people understand that this is a redesign of a branch of government. We’ve heard much about “Challenges for Change” but much less about judicial restructuring. Without quoting our vice president, this is a big deal! Congratulations are due to the members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees as well as the leadership of both bodies for keeping the focus on H. 470. Thanks for reading.

Saturday morning May 8, 2010

The foreclosure mediation bill has now passed both chambers and will soon be on the governor’s desk for signing. Until it is signed it will not have an Act number. It can still be read on either the Senate or House Journals of Friday, May 7th. Once again I urge everyone that may be interested in attending the CLE on June 7 and 8 and doing this work to read and fully understand what the bill requires.
Late Friday, the House finally refused to concur with the Senate’s version of judicial restructuring and appointed a committee of conference to work out the differences on H. 470. The House conferees are Reps. Lippert, Jewett, and Koch. Notice of that arrived in the Senate around 8PM; the Senate has not yet made its appointments but that should hopefully happen early today. Both chambers are in session beginning at 9:30. When there is some news and a break in the action I’ll run over to the VBA and update you. Have a nice Saturday.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

The conference committee report on H. 590 is on the Senate Calendar this morning. There shouldn’t be any problems with getting a rules suspension; passing it in the Senate and messaging it to the House. There another rules suspension is needed to bring it up for a vote. Assuming all goes well, and this does not get mixed up in other issues, the bill should pass today. If you want to read it, it is printed in full in the Senate Calendar. Again, if you are interested in the June 7 and 8 CLE program you really do have to read the bill to understand the nature of the work and what will be required from the “mediator”. Now I put that in quotes because, after you read the bill, you’ll see that it contemplates a somewhat different role for the mediator.
So far no action on H.470; at least none to report on here.
More later.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Here is the link to H. 470 as it passed the Senate:
Although there is no formal conference committee yet appointed negotiations between the House and Senate are taking place. It’s possible that the House could vote on the Senate-passed version “with further proposals of amendment” and return it to the Senate for its approval. My guess is if the talks are productive that’s what will happen. We’re still waiting. But I’d suggest you read the bill as the final version will probably not differ much from what has already passed both chambers.
H. 590, foreclosure mediation, is in conference and the House has drafted a few minor changes to the Senate’s version, which I expect the Senate conferees will adopt. Once that conference report is signed it will go to both chambers for action. Since it’s a House bill the Senate must approve the report first. Then final action by the House will send the bill to the governor for signature. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday May 4, 2010

Today was by far the most interesting day I’ve spent in the statehouse this session. The full Senate started its morning with third reading of H. 470. Third readings are usually pro forma but today there were a number of amendments to be voted on. Some were procedural but two were substantive and important. The first, offered jointly by Senators Shumlin, Sears, Illuzzi, and Mullin, would strike the provision in the House passed bill that requires probate judges to be lawyers. This provision was a proposal of the Commission on Judicial Operation and was supported by the VBA in its position paper. Senator Sears said, on the first day the bill arrived in his committee, that he would vote against the bill if that provision remained. He tried to get the committee to remove it but lost in a 3-2 vote. Going back to the sponsors, they include the Pro Tem, Judiciary Chair, another Judiciary Committee member, and a Senator who has long championed the roles of lay judges. The floor debate was fascinating to watch; I was surprised by the positions taken by certain Senators. Perhaps most surprising was the support for that amendment by Senator White, a member of the Commission on Judicial Operation which recommended the opposite position. The opposition was really led by John Campbell, a lawyer, and Vice Chair (to Sears) of Senate Judiciary. You can see how this can get uncomfortable. Senators Peg Flory and Dick McCormack spoke eloquently in opposition also. The final vote was 14-16 and the amendment failed! Now, in theory at least, that should not be on the table in conference because there is no difference in the versions of the bill between the House and Senate. But that’s in theory; we’re dealing in reality.
The second amendment was a last minute move to help increase the salaries of the probate judges that were reduced in the committee’s version of the bill which passed yesterday. That amendment can be read here:
It increases the notary fee from $20 to $30 (every four years) and sends $10 of that to the state general fund. That should raise about $180,000 every four years. A little less that ¼ of that amount is used annually to add to the salaries of those probate judges that took the biggest hit. Good idea? Bad idea? Who Knows? Remember that under both versions of the bill, the judiciary will face a deficit in FY12. Should this money have been ‘set aside” for that? Anyway, as I left the building around 2PM, the Chair of House Judiciary was called into the Speaker’s Office to discuss the bill. I expect that, upon reconvening this afternoon, the House will refuse to concur with the Senate amendments and appoint a committee of conference. I’ll update later today or in the morning when I have news. Both bills will be available on the legislative website to read but refer to yesterday’s blog post to see the side by side comparison done by Erik Fitzpatrick. Even though the Senate bill is a ‘strike all” it doesn’t mean it’s 100% different. That’s done as much for drafting purposes as for the substance of the bill.
Changing the subject to H. 590, foreclosure mediation, the Senate has appointed its conferees: Senators Campbell, Illuzzi, and Cummings. Although the conference committee has yet to meet, there have been discussions about some minor changes (and maybe one not so minor) to the Senate version that the House could go along with and wrap this up. I’m still working with the coalition that managed this bill to set up our CLE to qualify the mediators. We’ve had to schedule it for judicial college week, June 7th and 8th, a Monday and Tuesday in order to accommodate out of state speakers. Stay tuned for a special announcement of this CLE. As soon as the bill is finalized I’ll post a link; you should read and understand it if you are interested in attending and offering your services as a mediator. This will be a somewhat different CLE, with stricter attendance requirements and confirmations before anyone’s name is certified by the VBA as having successfully completed the foreclosure prevention and loss mitigation course.
More either later tonight or tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010- first day of the final week?

Now that the restructuring bill (H.470) is out of committee you can read it in full in today’s Senate Notice Calendar, beginning on page 2353. Published there it is 102 pages in length. There will be amendments offered, no doubt, tomorrow which should appear on tomorrow’s calendar. Although the bill is written as a “strike all”, it is not completely different than the house passed version. The important differences, as I wrote about last week, are in the sections dealing with side judges and probate judges. The side judge piece is in section 198 on page 2429. This transfer the duty to pay to the counties when side judges sit with a presiding judge; the state will continue to compensate those 8 (I believe it’s 8) that hear small claims cases as well as those that hear judicial bureau cases. On the next page in section 199 you’ll find the new salary scale for probate judges. The Senate Judiciary Committee had to find a delicate balance between keeping 14 judges and compensating them in a way that would still reach the targeted savings. You’ll see that four counties-Bennington, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor actually see increases in probate judge compensation. Remember that three of these four presently have two probate districts: Bennington already consolidated upon the retirement of Doris Buchanan. I know that many of the probate judges are unhappy with this pay scale but I don’t expect an amendment to change that on the Senate floor. But we still have to get through a committee of conference and there anything can happen! Anyway, here is a link to an outline prepared by Erik Fitzpatrick, legislative counsel to the judiciary committees, as well as a two page summary of how the money works prepared by Maria Royle of the Joint Fiscal Office:
The handwritten note is mine from Friday’s committee discussion. I expect the outline to be used by senators during the floor debate which I expect wil happen Tuesday. I’ll keep you posted as things develop. Thanks for reading.