The Vermont Legislature

Frequently Asked Questions




About the Legislature and the Legislative Process

 

Q:
When and where does the Legislature meet?

A:
The Vermont Legislature meets each Tuesday through Friday during the legislative session, which runs from early January through late April. The adjournment date varies from year to year, but in general the Legislature tries to complete its work in sixteen or seventeen weeks.

The Legislature meets at the Vermont State House, in Montpelier, Vermont.

Q:
How can I contact my representatives and senators?

A:
You can contact your legislators by telephone, mail, or electronic mail. Their postal addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses are listed in the Legislative Directory. You can also meet your legislators in person at the State House or at various public functions in your district. In general, legislators are happy to hear from or meet with their constituents, time permitting.

Q:
Why don't all the members have e-mail addresses?

A:
About half of the members currently use the State House computer network and its e-mail system. The remainder, for one reason or another, do not care to do so at this time. To contact a member who does not have a published e-mail address, direct mail to the Sergeant-At-Arms' office at sgtatarms@leg.state.vt.us.

Q:
How can I contact the Governor by e-mail?

A:
You can send email to Governor Shumlin's office from this page.

Q:
What is the Legislative Service?

A:
Since the early 1900's, the Vermont Legislature has produced a daily packet containing the day's House and Senate calendars, the previous day's House and Senate journals, and the new bills to be introduced that day. This packet, called the Legislative Service, is delivered to members of the Legislature, Legislative staff, state government departments, and a variety of private subscribers. This same information is now available online.

The Legis lative Service is generally distributed Tuesday through Friday during the legislative session. However, both the contents and the days of distribution vary depending on activity at the State House.

Q:
What is the Calendar?

A:
The Calendar is a daily listing of issues which will be brought before each body for action. It lists bills to be considered, actions to be taken on each (second reading, appointment of conference committee, etc.) , proposed amendments, resolutions, and any other information which the members need in order to prepare for the day's session.

House and Senate rules provide that certain items must be listed in the calendar fo r a specified period before any action is taken. This insures that the members have adequate time to inform themselves about the issue before action is taken.

Q:
What is the Journal?

A:
The Journal is the daily record of all actions taken by each body.

Q:
What do all those underscores and strikeouts mean?

A:
In legislative documents, text which is being added to the Vermont statutes is underscored. Text which is being deleted from the statutes is struck out.

The online legislative documents follow the same convention, with one addition: deleted text is both *[bracketed and struck out]*. This is done so that people who access this site using Web browsers which do not properly display strikeouts (such as Lynx) can read and understand the bills.

Q:
What is the Legislative Bill Tracking System?

A:
The Vermont Legislature maintains a database containing the current status and legislative history of each bill, resolution, and constitutional proposition. This database includes the dates of introduction, referral to committees, passage through the various checkpoints in the legislative process, and much more. This resource is now available to the public through this Web site.

Q:
What is a token session?

A:
At certain times during the legislative session, the full House and Senate must wait for conference committees and other external events. During these times, the House and Senate meet in token session, attended only by the presiding officer and one or two members. During token session no substantive work is done; the session is held only to advance the calendar, or to comply with Legislative rules.


About the Vermont Legislative Web site

 

Q:
Who maintains the Vermont Legislative Web site?

A:
The Vermont Legislative Web Site (http://www.leg.state.vt.us) is maintained by the staff of the Vermont Legislature. It contains documents and information relating to the Legislature, the legislative process, and current legislation.

Q:
How often is the information on this site updated?

A:
Information is added to this site daily during the Legislative session. In general, information is added to the Web site as soon as it is available. Because of the nature of the legislative process, different types of information become available at different times during the day.

Q:
When are the weekly Committee Schedules updated?

A:
The Committee Schedules are updated at least daily. However, they are subject to change without notice.

Q:
When is the Legislative Service updated?

A:
The online Legislative Service is updated not later than 8 AM each morning. If the documents are available sooner, the update can occur as early as the late afternoon of the previous day. However, this early update may not be complete.

Q:
When is the Legislative Bill Tracking System updated?

A:
The Legislative Bill Tracking System is generally updated by 9 AM each morning. This update includes all actions taken by the Legislature on the previous day. A second update may be done during the late afternoon if new bills are added to the database. The date and time of the most recent update are shown on the main Bill Tracking system page.

Q:
How many years of Legislative Bill Tracking information are available?

A:
The Bill Tracking database has information for all sessions from 1987-88 to the current year.

Q:
How many years of Legislative Documents are available?

A:
Currently, bill text is available back to 1993. Calendars and Journals are available back to 1995. Earlier years will be added as time permits.

Q:
Is the text of amendments available on this site?

A:
The text of proposed amendments are listed in the House and Senate calendars and journals. Locate the amendment in the Bill Tracking system, and then check the calendar or journal for that date.

Q:
A bill in which I am interested is currently in committee, and I know they've made lots of changes to it. Can I see the changes they have made?

A:
We maintain five different versions of each bill: (1) as introduced, (2) as passed by the House (or Senate), (3) as amended by the Senate (or House), (4) as agreed to by both House and Senate, and (5) as enacted into law. We do not currently have any mechanism in place to capture the interim version of a bill as "marked up" by a committee.


Troubleshooting

 

Q:
I don't have MS Word. Why can't you post documents in [WordPerfect, RTF, Macintosh] format?

A:
The Legislative documents are created on our computer system in MS Word 2003. At this time we post documents only in their native format and in HTML. You can download a free Word reader/viewer plug-in from Microsoft which will allow you to view and print the legislative documents.

Q:
When I look at the bill text, I don't see any strikeouts or underscores. What's wrong?

A:
Not all Web browsers (the software you are using to read this) support strikeouts and underscores. If the browser you are using can't display these formats, you will have to download and install an updated browser. See Viewing the Legislative Documents for more information.

Q:
The Bill Tracking system says that a bill in which I am interested passed the House last week, but I can't find an "As Passed by House" version. Why not?

A:
If a bill goes through all stages of passage without amendment, it is possible that only the "As Introduced" and "As Enacted into Law" versions will appear. It is also possible that the clerical staff just hasn't finished the updated version yet. During busy periods it may take as much as a week (or even two) to get the updated versions done.

Q:
A bill in which I am interested is in the Legislative Service, but isn't in the Bill Tracking system. Why not?

A:
The Legislative Service and the database are updated separately. Bills are added to the Service page as soon as the documents are available. However, a new bill record may not be added to the database until later in the day.

Q:
A bill in which I am interested is in the Legislative Service, but isn't on the Legislative Documents page. Why not?

A:
The Legislative Documents page is created automatically from the information in the bill tracking database. Until the bill is added to the database, it will not show up on the Legislative Documents page.