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June 04, 2010

Gov. Jim Douglas Signs His Last Bill into Law

Photo At a noontime ceremony in the State House, Gov. Jim Douglas signed his last bill into law as governor.

During his nearly eight-year tenure, Gov. Douglas said he has signed more than 750 bills into law. 

In addition, he's signed into law 62 municipal charter changes, let at least 14 bills become law without his signature and issued 18 vetoes.

Last year, Douglas saw two of those 18 vetoes overridden by the Democratic-led House and Senate: One made same-sex marriages the law of the land, and the other put in place a budget for FY 2010. This year Douglas issued only one veto — he said thumbs down to changes to the state's current use law.

"I think it's fitting that this is my last bill," Douglas said, noting that he has worked to promote renewable energy and a strong trade relationship with Quebec.

"I don't plan on signing any more bills," he said, turning to lawmakers in the room with a smile. "Unless there is an unexpected special session."

Under his leadership as governor, Vermont has continued to sport the greenest energy portfolio in the nation, and the lowest power prices in the region, Douglas noted.

Joining Douglas at today's bill signing were representatives from Hydro-Quebec, the Province of Quebec, Green Mountain Power, Central Vermont Public Service, and the Vermont National Guard.

Douglas said the bill marks his long-standing commitment as governor to sustain, and improve, trade relations with Quebec.

"The governor has not taken that relationship for granted," said Brian Keefe, CVPS' vice president for governmental affairs. "He has taken care to water and feed that relationship, and it has paid dividends."

The first bill Douglas ever signed changed the annual meeting date of Buel's Gore from no later than June 1 to no later than August 1. His last may end up being slightly more significant — at least to people outside the tiny Chittenden County community.

Douglas said he couldn't have affixed his name to all those bills without the expert eye, and advice, of his longtime friend and staff legal adviser Susanne Young.

"She has worked tirelessly to check every word, every bracket, every semi-colon and every section of every bill," said Douglas. "Thank you."

Young told Seven Days that, in fact, she finished her work about 10:30 p.m. last night on the remaining pieces of legislation the governor had left to sign from this year's session. That included the state budget, the miscellaneous tax bill, the capital bill and the renewable energy bill.

Young was on-hand for the first bill the governor ever signed, and his last, though she said she did miss a few in-between.

There was a levity to today's bill signing, with some former staffers returning to witness the last bill signing. Longtime aide Dennise Casey took a break from her job at the Republican Governors' Association to witness the event, and Secretary of Administration Neale Lunderville was snapping pictures of media, the governor, and staff.

The bill Douglas signed today makes various changes to Vermont's renewable energy laws, and deems Hydro Quebec power "renewable". This label is expected to give Vermont utilities a better bargaining position to negotiate a new, long-term contract with the Canadian utility.

Environmental groups in Vermont opposed the "renewable" designation because they believe that large-scale hydro has negative impacts on the environment and in HQ's case, the large-scale dams in northern Quebec are wiping away fishing and hunting habitats of the native Cree.

After each bill signing, the governor usually hands over a pen to an advocate or official who helped get the law passed.

So, who got the last pen from the last bill ever signed?

The pen will go to Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who did not attend. Instead, he gave the pen to Frances Dionne, Quebec's liaison to New England. She, in turn, will deliver the pen to Charest.

I was hoping the last bill he would sign into law was the removal of Kiss and Leopold from city hall in burlington.
jeezum Jim come back for one more signing please.

I was hoping the last bill he would sign into law was the removal of Kiss and Leopold from city hall in burlington.

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