Home Vermont Legislature control over sheriffs, gender ID rights, “Climate Resilience Officer”and more discussed...

Legislature control over sheriffs, gender ID rights, “Climate Resilience Officer”and more discussed in Senate committees

Senate Health and Welfare Committee Tuesday morning, February 20

By Michael Bielawski

The Crossover deadline for most bills to be voted out of committee is steadily approaching on March 15. Senate bills under committee review this week include adding “gender expression” as a Constitutional right, having the Vermont Climate Council and a newly formed Climate Resilience Officer guide natural disaster response policies, and more. Agendas published weekly on the Legislature’s website are subject to change.  

The election of sheriffs – Proposal 1 (Tuesday, Senate Committee on Judiciary) Sponsored by Sen. Ruth Hardy, D-Addison, and others.

The proposal “would amend the Constitution of the State of Vermont to allow the General Assembly to establish by law qualifications for individuals to be elected to and hold the office of sheriff. Currently, there are no specific qualifications for being a sheriff in Vermont, including no requirement that a sheriff have or maintain law enforcement officer certification.”

Jeanette White, former senator for Windham County, and legislative counsel Tim Devlin will speak. The sheriff is currently accountable only to the electorate, and the position is regarded by some as a final safeguard against government overreach and abuses against the people. Supporters say it’s needed because of law enforcement, administrative and financial abuse or negligence by elected sheriffs.

A Chief Climate Resilience Officer? – S. 310 (Tuesday, Senate Committee on Government Operations) Sponsored by the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

This bill is intended to modify policies dealing with sewer management in the interest of flood mitigation. Near the bottom of its lengthy stated purpose is a hint of climate-related initiatives. It would “create a Chief Climate Resilience Officer in the Department of Public Safety.” It further mentions that the prioritizing of which towns get mitigation efforts will be guided by the the Vermont Climate Council. They will “establish guidelines for disaster mitigation measures and costs that will be eligible for grant funding” among other roles.

Making “gender expression” a Constitutional right? – Prop 4 (Tuesday, Senate Committee on Judiciary) Sponsored by Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, D-Chittenden, and others.

This bill is a “Declaration of rights; government for the people; equality of rights.” Its purpose is to “specify that the government must not deny equal treatment and respect under the law on account of a person’s race, ethnicity, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or national origin.”

Composition of the State Board of Education – S. 203 (Friday, Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs) Sponsored by Sen. Martine Gulick, D-Chittenden Central, and Sen. Andrew Perchlik, D/P-Washington. The bill gives the Legislature the right to appoint the majority of the members. At present, all members are appointed by the governor. Control over education policy in Vermont is a tense issue at the moment because of recent projections by state economists for a 20% rise in property taxes next year.

Funding for tech centers – S. 207 (Friday, Senate Committee on Education ) Sponsored by Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, and others.

This bill commits the Legislature to implement task force recommendations on “funding for and governance of career technical education.” Tech centers have become a hot-button issue, especially at Gov. Phil Scott’s press conferences over the years because the trades are currently lacking adequate employment throughout the state.

Library book selection policy – S. 220 (Tuesday, Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs) Sponsored by Sen. Ruth Hardy, D-East Middlebury, and others.

This bill relates to public libraries’ selection process for books and electronic materials. It states it is to “require public libraries to adopt policies governing the selection and reconsideration of library materials,” in particular protecting libraries’ rights to circulate controversial books on controversial titles. 

Currently, Lieutenant Gov David Zuckerman has been doing activism around the state via his “Banned Book Tour” at which he alleges that parents calling for the removal of books glorifying transgenderism and other controversial social justice viewpoints are violating free speech rights.

A new post office for Montpelier? J.R.S. 41 (Wednesday, Senate Committee on Government Operations) Sponsored by Sen. Anne Watson, D-Washington.

This is a “Joint resolution requesting that the U. S. Postal Service reestablish, as rapidly as possible, a full-service U.S. Post Office in downtown Montpelier.” The post office has been out of service since the 2023 summer flood.

Online-only public meetings – S. 55 (Wednesday, Senate Committee on Government Operations) Sponsored by Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, and others.

Lawmakers will continue to work on a bill that would allow for public meetings without a physical location. This time Aileen Chute, the Selectboard Chair for Putney will speak and George Blakesleee who is the town clerk for Guilford will be invited.

Electronics and online policy at schools – S. 284 (Tuesday, Senate Committee on Education) Sen. Terry Williams, R-Rutland, and others.

This bill proposes to restrict “electronic devices and digital and online products in schools.” Two attorneys from the Social Media Victims Law Center, Laura Marquez-Garrett and Mathew Bergman, are among several to speak.

According to the Centers website, they work “to hold social media companies legally accountable for the harm they inflict on vulnerable users. SMVLC seeks to apply principles of product liability to force social media companies to elevate consumer safety to the forefront of their economic analysis and design safer platforms that protect users from foreseeable harm.”

The Cannabis Control Board (Wednesday, Senate Committee on Agriculture)

James Pepper who is chair of the Cannabis Control Board is invited. The matter of marijuana potency has come up for debate lately. Currently, according to an ABC News report, there have been multiple studies on a potential connection between high-potency marijuana and an increased risk of addiction and/or psychosis. Vermont and Connecticut are the only states currently with THC limits for marijuana.

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle

The post Legislature control over sheriffs, gender ID rights, “Climate Resilience Officer”and more discussed in Senate committees first appeared on Vermont Daily Chronicle.

The post Legislature control over sheriffs, gender ID rights, “Climate Resilience Officer”and more discussed in Senate committees appeared first on Vermont Daily Chronicle.

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