Updated: May 5, 2022
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - APRIL 29, 2022
I think it is spring, but you cannot tell with the cold snap this week in Vermont! Thank you for your patience in offering you a written update on the legislative session in recent weeks. The last part of the second year of the biennium is a very busy time. Please remember, you can always reach out with questions/comments and/or find shorter, real-time updates on my social media pages if you are on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter at @staterepemma.
First, some resources and follow up information:
Apply for a Vermont Community Foundation grant for Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC) led organizations (staff or board). VCF is granting $60,000 to small to mid sized Vermont non-profits who work to strengthen BIPOC communities. Deadline is May 3rd.
Take a Department of Health survey about what we need/want as we age in Vermont. If you are 45 or older, please fill out this survey that will help inform EnVision Vermont: A 10-Year Action Plan for Aging Well. The survey is open through May 20th.
Read Vermonters’ stories about the impact of medical debt. This is the culmination of a project led by the Health Care Advocate’s office within Vermont Legal Aid to increase policy maker and community member understanding of this important issue.
Geoffrey Henderson, a UVM junior, worked with me this session to assist me in policy research and tracking constituent issues. Thanks to his hard work, I will offer you three updates over the next three weeks to capture major bills that either passed the legislature and/or are actively moving before the end of the session.
S.30, a bill to prohibit guns in hospitals and also closing the so-called “Charleston Loophole” (waiting period for background checks before gun purchase), was vetoed by Governor Scott in March after passing the House and Senate. The Senate went on to reach a compromise with Gov. Scott to pass S.4, a bill similar to S.30. S.4 still prevents people, other than law enforcement persons, from possessing guns in hospitals. It also prohibits defendants from having guns in ongoing legal cases of domestic violence. The compromise applies to changes in the waiting period timeline for a background check to be completed. Rather than 30 days within S.30, the legislature compromised with 7 days. Vermonters deserve to have strong, well-structured gun control policies. S.4 is a step in the right direction, but we must do more.
TAX EXEMPTION FOR STATE RECOGNIZED INDIGENOUS TRIBES (H.556)
The Western Abenaki people are the traditional caretakers of the land known today as Vermont. H. 556 is a bill that exempts state-recognized indigenous tribes from state and municipal property taxes. The bill is a small example of reparations policy to acknowledge past and ongoing harm endured by indigenous people due to colonization and racism. While this bill, now signed by the Governor, is an important step in ongoing social justice work, it also creates a structural inequity by not extending tax exemption to tribes in Vermont who are not formally recognized by the state or hold tribal recognition in other states or with the federal government.
GENDER AFFIRMING BIRTH CERTIFICATES (H.628)
H. 628 passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor in early April. H.628 is a bill that allows individuals to more easily amend their birth certificate or get a new birth certificate, to reflect their gender identities. This bill aims to mitigate future harm, violence, and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community by removing unnecessary cost and extended process for individuals looking to accurately reflect their identity with vital records. This is a significant policy as identity validation of one’s true identity by institutions such as the state, begins to remedy harms experienced by marginalized people.
FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (H.320)
One of my primary goals as a legislator is to strengthen fair employment practices. H.320 would prevent employers from making agreements that an employee can no longer work for them, following the settlement of an employee’s discrimination claim. Every Vermonter deserves to work in a labor force that engages in fair employment practices, free from retaliation. The bill is currently in the Senate and if it does not move before the end of the session, it will need to be reintroduced next session.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS - PROPOSITION 5 & 2
In early February, the Vermont General Assembly passed Proposition 5, which is a constitutional amendment granting constitutional rights to reproductive liberty for all Vermonters regardless of gender identity. This amendment allows Vermonters to have the right to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term, choose or refuse contraception, or choose or refuse an abortion. Proposition 5 now moves to the voters and will appear on the 2022 general election ballot in November as the final step of this constitutional amendment process. If Proposition 5 is voted into law, it would be a landmark event in U.S. history as Vermont will be the first state to place reproductive liberty in its state constitution.
The General Assembly also passed Proposition 2, a constitutional amendment to strengthen language to clearly prohibit slavery and indentured servitude in any form or at any age. While this is modifying archaic language, it is an important step to make sure our foundational governing document names and prohibits the enslavement of people. Proposition 2 will also be on the 2022 General Election ballot.
Thank you for reaching out this session to ask questions and share your thoughts on policy moving through the legislature. Please continue to reach out.
Picture: My legislative intern from UVM, Geoffrey Henderson and I standing in the balcony of the Vermont House of Representatives.