Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday March 29, 2012

As I wrote on Tuesday the pace has been as crazy as expected. You can feel adjournment in the air; in fact, you’d think it was coming this weekend and not at the end of April. Here’s a quick update; refer back to Tuesday’s post for more information. Magistrate Peterson finally met with the Senate Judiciary Committee which unanimously endorsed his confirmation and the full Senate followed suit yesterday. This afternoon the retention vote was held and all judicial officers were retained.

House Judiciary began its review of S. 203 and S. 116. Family Law Section Chair Penny Benelli testified on S. 203, while Probate Section Co-Chair Mark Langan was the witness on S. 116. In addition we offered an amendment to the power of attorney section of 116 adding language to deal with In re Lovell. The committee seems prepared to adopt it.

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee spent the morning on four bills we worked on in the House: H. 327, uniform principal and income; H. 272, private roads; H. 403, foreclosure; and H. 600, the foreclosure mediation bill.

The licensed lender bill is scheduled for a hearing later today, having been moved up from Friday afternoon. No action ye on S. 143, energy disclosure or the bill on tax department collection of the education tax. That bill contains the exemption from privacy for lawyers, bankers etc in getting the net tax bill amount from town clerks. If that bill, which is in House Appropriations, doesn’t emerge we’ll need a vehicle to carry the exemption language. We’re working on it. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday March 27, 2012

So after three weeks of silence on my part I’m back to (hopefully) regular posts. After the Town Meeting break I was away at an ABA event while the legislature worked to meet the crossover deadline. Then, last week the House, at least, spent most of the week on the floor advancing the bills that made the Friday, March 16th deadline. The budget passed along with a number of other bills that are now in the Senate; the same thing happened there also.

I can report that a number of the issues we’ve been following and that I’ve been reporting on have passed the original chamber and have crossed over. This week is full as the committees of jurisdiction in the second chamber have scheduled initial hearings on those bills. Here’s what’s on the calendar as of this writing:

Today the House Judiciary will review S.116, the probate proceedings bill while the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Magistrate Barry Peterson for his confirmation hearing. Later today the House General Committee will review S. 52, an act relating to workplace bullying.

Tomorrow is a bit crazy with both judiciary committees doing work of interest to us at the same time! The house committee will be reviewing S. 203, the child support enforcement bill while the senate side will look at H.327, the uniform principal and income act; H. 403, the rewrite of the foreclosure statutes; H. 600, the amendment to foreclosure mediation; as well as H. 272, the private roads bill. This is all happening while the House General Committee will continue its work on S.52.

On Thursday the retention of Judges Carroll, Pearson and Magistrate Peterson will be decided in a joint assembly at 1 PM. On Friday afternoon the Senate Finance Committee will take testimony on H.565, which contains the changes to the licensed lender law.

Clearly there’s a lot going on this week. I should mention that the bill dealing with amendments to perpetual conservation easements remains on the Senate Action while the Notice Calendar contains S. 143, the bill energy disclosure bill. There are issues with this bill that we’ve opposed. It came out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on a 3-2 vote. It is stripped of most of its language by the Senate Finance Committee in its amendment that really just leaves intact a study committee. An interesting floor battle is taking shape for later this week perhaps.

Also, the confirmations of Judges Arms and Maley are still on the calendar for Senate action.

I’ll post updates as I can this week. Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday March 2, 2012

Today is the start of a one week break in the session. A lot has happened but even more remains to be done. The week started with a public hearing on the retention of Judges Carroll and Pearson and Magistrate Peterson. A number of Lamoille County lawyers recommended to the committee that Judge Pearson be retained. Two also spoke to the acting judge work of Magistrate Peterson. Vernon representative Mike Hebert testified in favor of Judge Carroll but no lawyers from either Windham or Bennington Counties made the trip north. The meeting was short lived and, after consulting a bit further with each candidate for retention, the committee adjourned. I expect they will vote unanimously to approve all three when they next meet on March 14th. The joint assembly vote will be held on Thursday, March 22nd.

This week I focused on the Senate Natural Resources Committee which was attempting to finalize its work on three bills of interest to most of you. The permit reform bills (S.28 and H.513) have generated much testimony, mostly contradictory. Those bills don’t have committee support to move forward. However, the committee will have one more week to find consensus on the “modified on the record” approach; this could be in the form of a pilot project in a district environmental commission.

They also tackled the energy disclosure bills. They began with S.143 as introduced. It would set up a voluntary disclosure and then replaced it with the house version, the mandatory disclosure. Well after a week of back and forth, it’s now back to the voluntary version. But it’s not over. The bill will contain a mandatory provision requiring a seller to provide the disclosure if a buyer requests it. The bill still contains the database of energy reports. I testified in opposition to the bill and its effects on transfers of title as well as the possibility to stigmatize a property with a negative report. There’s a long way to go with this one.

S. 179 may be ready to move out of committee; it’s the bill concerning amending perpetual conservation easements. The original bill calling for a panel and a lot of process has been scaled way back. There will be a working group on conservation easements that the VBA will have a seat on. I’ll report more on this when the session resumes. Since what I’m referring to is still in draft form and has not been voted on as of this writing if you want to see its present form I’ll have to send it or fax it.

The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday voted out a committee bill by a vote of 6-5; H.763 proposes to have the department of taxes collect the education tax! Calm down; it’s not set to begin until 2015 and there are some steps that need to be taken before that happens. The bill is controversial as you see in the vote. The problem for us is that the bill also contains the exemption from privacy of the net tax bill for lawyers, their paralegals or assistants in connection with real estate transactions. If this bill is in trouble we’ll need a vehicle to attach that language to in order to enact it. The bill calls upon working groups to weigh in on technical areas affected by the Department’s billing. I will present this to the Board of Managers at its meeting at the Mid Year in three weeks for their input on whether to form our own working group or join with another.

Finally, foreclosure mediation is back on the radar as the House Judiciary Committee wants the VBA to do another training. I’ve reserved June 28th at the Capitol Plaza here in Montpelier for a follow up CLE for mediators. The bill requires a change in the way mediators are appointed. Again, a study committee is created to work on changes in law and policy because of the anticipated repeal of HAMP on December 31, 2013.

Well that wraps up my half time report. The session will resume on Tuesday, March 13th. Unfortunately I will be en route to an ABA event with the next two Presidents of the VBA and out of the building that week. As always, thanks for reading.