• Today or early Sunday adjournment expected
    By DAVE GRAM
    The Associated Press | May 10,2014
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    MONTPELIER — The State House was filled with frenetic activity Friday, as conference committees met on budget and tax packages for fiscal 2015 and reached deals on several other bills, including one streamlining the process for medicating mentally ill patients against their will.

    Lawmakers worked toward what leaders said would be adjournment for the year late today or early Sunday.

    House Speaker Shap Smith announced at about 8 p.m. that there had been agreement on a general fund budget for fiscal 2015; negotiators on a tax bill were very close. Those are considered the two “must-pass” bills in any legislative session before lawmakers wrap up their business for the year.

    A strange alchemy of lawmakers’ competing desires and strategy based in legislative rules usually comes to a boil in the final days of a legislative session, and this year was shaping up to be no different.

    The House and Senate sent to Gov. Peter Shumlin a bill calling for speeded-up processes for courts to order a mentally ill patient committed to a psychiatric hospital and, if requested by mental health professionals, to force the person to be medicated.

    After heated debate Friday, the Senate went along with a conference committee agreement on a measure addressing storage of firearms when a person accused of domestic abuse is required to give them up while the case is pending. Police in Vermont have complained for years about a lack of space to store weapons seized in such cases. Language in a bill on executive branch fees would allow a third party — a friend or family member of the accused — to hold the weapon, as long as it is kept secure.

    The House later concurred with the Senate on the gun-storage measure.

    Also being sent to Shumlin is a bill calling for the state health commissioner to require labeling — or even to ban — toxic chemicals in products designed for children. Chemicals of concern would be recommended by a special advisory group.

    Backers argued that the federal government was lagging in such regulation, and that Vermont should join the handful of states that have been stepping in.
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