Vermont State Legislature

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Vermont State Legislature

Seal of Vermont.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 7, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Phillip Scott (R)
House Speaker:  Shap Smith (D)
Majority Leader:   Philip Baruth (D) (Senate),
Willem Jewett (D) (House)
Minority Leader:   Joe Benning (R) (Senate),
Donald Turner, Jr. (R) (House)
Members:  30 (Senate), 150 (House)
Length of term:   2 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Section 7 of the Legislative Department of the Vermont Constitution
Salary:   $604.79/week + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
30 seats (Senate)
150 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
30 seats (Senate)
150 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Vermont Legislature has control
The Vermont General Assembly is the state legislature of Vermont. The Legislature is formally known as the "General Assembly," but the title of "Legislature" is commonly used, including by the body itself.[1] The Legislature is a bicameral assembly, consisting of the 150-member Vermont House of Representatives and the 30-member Vermont State Senate.

Members of the House are elected by single and two-member districts. 66 districts choose one member, and 42 choose two, with the term of service being two years. The Senate includes 30 Senators, elected by 13 multi-member districts.

The Vermont General Assembly meets at the State House in Montpelier.

As of May 2015, Vermont is one of 7 Democratic state government trifectas.

See also: Vermont House of Representatives, Vermont State Senate, Vermont Governor


The Vermont State Legislature meets for biennial sessions starting on odd numbered years on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January, pursuant to Section 7 of the Legislative Department of the Vermont Constitution. The opening date for even numbered years is established by the sitting legislature during the year prior.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature will be in session from January 7 - mid-May .

Major issues

Major issues for the 2015 legislative session are expected to include the budget, the clean-up of Lake Champlain, energy concerns, education reform to stem the growth of property taxes, and reforms to the state's child welfare system.[2]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 7 through May 10.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included improving integration of environmental regulation with comprehensive planning, affordable health care, tourism funding, workforce training, a tax policy that does not increase taxes on businesses, and a labor policy to not increase costs to employers.[3]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 9 to May 14.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included addressing a projected budget shortfall of $50-$70 million, physician assisted death, and marijuana decriminalization.


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 3 through May 5.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 5 through mid May.[4]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in session from January 5 to May 12.[5]


Legislative elections are held in November of every even-numbered year. Representatives and Senators serve two-year terms. One must be a resident of the state for the two years, and of the legislative district for the one year, immediately preceding the election in order to qualify for either house.


The House is headed by the Speaker of the House, while the Senate is headed by the State's Lieutenant Governor as the Senate President. The Senate President has only a casting vote. More often, the Senate is presided over by the President Pro Tempore, or temporary President.


The Legislature is empowered to make law, subject to the Governor's power to veto a bill. However, the veto may be overridden by the Legislature if there is a two-thirds majority in favor of overriding in each House.

The Legislature has the sole power to propose amendments to the Vermont Constitution. An amendment must originate in the Senate, where it must receive a two-thirds vote. After passing the Senate, it must also receive a majority vote in the House. Any amendment that passes both Houses, must be re-passed by majority votes, after a newly elected legislature is seated; again, first in the Senate, then in the House. The proposed amendment must then be passed by a majority of the state's voters at a referendum. Only every other Senate session may initiate the amendment process. Thus, Senates elected in off-year (i.e. non-Presidential) elections may initiate amendments, but not Senates elected during Presidential elections. (Vermont Constitution, Chapter 2, Section 72)

The role of third parties

The General Assembly is notable for being the only state legislature in the United States with a significant third-party presence. Six members of the House belong to the Vermont Progressive Party, a center-left party similar to the Social Democratic Party of Germany or the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDP). Several other parties that have won legislative seats include the Green Party, and the Liberty Union Party, based largely on the philosophy of Eugene V. Debs. Some members of the smaller parties caucus with members of the Vermont Democratic Party.

Role in state budget

See also: Vermont state budget and finances
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The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[6][7]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies in September of the year preceding the start of the new fiscal year.
  2. Agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in October.
  3. Agency hearings are held from October through December.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature in January.
  5. The legislature typically a budget in May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget. The fiscal year begins July 1.

In Vermont, the governor cannot exercise veto authority over the budget.[7]

The governor is not legally required to submit, and the legislature is not legally required to pass, a balanced budget.[7]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Vermont was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[8]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[9] According to the report, Vermont received a grade of A- and a numerical score of 90, indicating that Vermont was "leading" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[9]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Vermont was given a grade of B in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[10]


The Vermont Senate is the upper house of the Vermont General Assembly. The Senate consists of 30 members. Senate districting divides the 30 members into three single-member districts, six two-member districts, three three-member districts, and one six-member district. Each member represents an average of 20,858 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[11] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 20,294.[12] There is no limit to the number of terms that a Senator may serve.

As in other upper houses of state and territorial legislatures and the federal U.S. Senate, the Senate is reserved with special functions such as confirming or rejecting gubernatorial appointments to executive departments, the state cabinet, commissions, boards, and electing members to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Senators are elected from a total of 13 single and multi-member Senate districts. The districts more or less correspond to the boundaries of the state's 14 counties with adjustments to ensure equality of representation. Two small counties (Essex and Orleans) are combined into one district. Each district elects between 1 and 6 senators depending on population.

In addition, Vermont is one of the 14 states where the upper house of its state legislature serves at a two-year cycle, rather than the normal four-year term as in the majority of states.

Partisan composition

Current make-up

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 20
     Republican Party 9
     Vermont Progressive Party 1
Total 30


The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Vermont State Senate from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Vermont State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Vermont House of Representatives is the lower house of the Vermont General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Vermont. The House comprises 150 members. Vermont legislative districting divides representing districts into 66 single-member districts and 42 two-member constituencies. Each member represents an average of 4,172 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[13] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 4,059.[14] Representatives are elected to a two year term without term limits.

Partisan composition

Current make-up

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 85
     Republican Party 53
     Vermont Progressive Party 6
     Independent 6
Total 150


The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Vermont State House from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Vermont State House.PNG


See also: Redistricting in Vermont

The Vermont Legislative Apportionment Board is tasked with drawing redistricting maps, but the Legislature must approve -- and can revise -- any plans. The Board is made up of a chairperson selected by the Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, and six members, two from each of the major parties (Democratic, Republican, Progressive).

2010 census

Vermont received its census data on February 10, 2011. The state grew by 2.8 percent. The most populous cities had mixed results: Burlington grew by 9.1 percent, Essex grew by 5.2 percent, South Burlington grew by 13.2 percent, Colchester grew by 0.5 percent, and Rutland decreased by 4.6 percent.[15]

The 2011 redistricting process was notable for a push to eliminate nearly all of the state's multi-member districts. Though a preliminary plan that achieved this end was passed by the Board, its final plan from August 11, 2011, only reduced the number of two-member districts from 42 to 29.

The Legislature took up redistricting in January 2012. Despite disagreements over deviation from ideal district size (18.2 percent for the Senate and 24 percent for the House), the Senate passed and the House concurred with a final plan, H. 789. The plan added a new seat in Burlington, and paired incumbents Dennis Devereux (R) and Eldred French (D). Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed the maps into law on May 1, 2012.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Vermont Legislature are paid $604.79/week during session and $112/day for special sessions or interim committee meetings. Legislators who are non-commuters receive $101/day for lodging and $61/day for meals. Commuters receive $61/day for meals/mileage.[16]


Vermont does not provide pensions for legislators.[17]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Vermont legislators assume office the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday in January.

Standing committees

See also: Public policy in Vermont

The Vermont State Legislature has twelve joint standing committees:


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Vermont
Partisan breakdown of the Vermont legislature from 1992-2013

Vermont Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Vermont State Senate for 18 years while the Republicans were the majority for four years. The Vermont State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. Vermont was under Democratic trifectas for the final three years of the study.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Vermont House: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Vermont State House of Representatives for 17 years while the Republicans were the majority for five years. Vermont was under Democratic trifectas for the final three years of the study.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Vermont, the Vermont State Senate and the Vermont House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Vermont state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Vermont state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. During the course of the study, Vermont had Democratic trifectas from 1997-2000 and from 2011-2013. Its lowest ranking, finishing 33rd, occurred in 2008 during a divided government. Its highest ranking, finishing 15th, also occurred during a divided government from 2003-2004.

Chart displaying the partisanship of the Vermont government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links


  1. Vermont State Legislature, "Home page," accessed August 2, 2014
  2. Wilson Ring, The Washington Times, "Budget likely to top 2015 Vermont Legislature," January 4, 2015
  3. Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Legislative Priorities 2014, accessed January 11, 2014
  4. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," December 19, 2011
  5. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislative Sessions Calendar," December 8, 2010
  6. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  8. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  10. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  11., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  12. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  13., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  14. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  15. U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Vermont's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," February 10, 2011
  16., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  17. USA Today, "State-by-state: Benefits available to state legislators," September 23, 2011