MONTPELIER — House and Senate lawmakers agreed on a budget bill Thursday that includes no mention of legislation that would allow child care workers in Vermont to form a union and collectively bargain with the state, and hope is fading for some proponents of the bill, who have sought numerous avenues to pass the legislation.
“I’m afraid we’re running out of time,” said Sen. Anthony Pollina, a Washington County Democrat-Progressive.
With the Legislature planning to adjourn Saturday and Republicans in the House threatening to block rules suspensions that would allow bills to move more quickly, House Speaker Shap Smith said he doesn’t see the child care union legislation passing this year.
“I can’t see any way that it can pass because of the rule suspension issue,” said Smith.
House Minority Leader Don Turner said there’s “no way” Republicans would suspend the rules to pass the child care union bill, which they have opposed all along.
The labor legislation that advocates say will improve Vermont’s child care system by raising the pay for child care workers has been a source of controversy in the Senate this year.
Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell has blocked the bill even though a majority of Senate lawmakers showed they were willing to pass it when they attached it to the budget.
Lawmakers on a conference committee later decided to strip it from the budget because they were wary of creating policy in the budget that is unrelated to an appropriation. The conference committee considered creating a child care union working group to examine the issue, but didn’t even go that far.
Senators and lobbyists have been trying to attach a child care union amendment to two labor-related bills and for days have hovered eagerly around the Senate floor hoping the bills would be taken up, but they have not.
Sen. Dick McCormack, a Windsor County Democrat who has pushed relentlessly to pass the child care bill, said he still hasn’t given up hope.
“The House often goes through the exercise of not suspending the rules until they do,” said McCormack.
Smith agreed anything can happen.
“Nothing’s over until it’s over,” he said.
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