Legislative Update 1

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Jan 12, 2014 No Comments ››

I am excited to get back to work at the State House.

Congratulations and welcome to 8th grader Grace Simmons of Waitsfield who is serving as a Legislative Page for the next 6 weeks.  We can’t do our job without the pages.  They do a variety of tasks that keep the democratic process going and help us stay connected with our constituents.

I was glad to hear the Governor in his State of the State focus on the opiate addiction crisis and its impact on our communities.  Much of my work on the House Judiciary Committee has been looking at ways to address the issue within the criminal justice system, while recognizing that addiction is a disease.  As a law enforcement officer testified last year “we can’t arrest ourselves out of this.”  I look forward to looking at statewide initiatives that will include prevention and treatment as well as appropriate consequences for related crimes.

The following is a summary of testimony we took and what we will be working on.

H.88: Child Custody/Sexual Assault.  The first bill House Judiciary took up this session was H.88. This bill proposes to permit a parent to petition the court for permanent sole custody of a child who was conceived as a result of sexual assault. While many states have laws on this subject, Vermont does not.

Parental rights and responsibilities are divided into two categories-physical– where the child resides, and legal custody–such as medical, education, and religion. Under Vermont law these can be shared, split or sole legal rights and responsibilities.  We will get back to the bill this week.

Opiate Antidote/Narcan Education and Implementation.  We also got an update on Opiate Antidote/Narcan Education and Implementation from the Department of Health and Grace Keller and Tom Dalton of HowardCenter.

There is a statewide pilot program to deploy rescue kits of Narcan to be used by family members and others when an opiate overdose is suspected.   HowardCenter is a distribution site and there is one in WRJ. There is a hope to get more distribution centers.

S.295: Statewide Pretrial Services for a Defendant Who May be Appropriate for Substance Abuse Treatment.  We started hearing testimony of the Administrations’ Pretrial Services Program Proposal.   It is an attempt to offer services to people at the earliest time possible and avoid incarceration.  The Commissioner of DOC stated this program might reduce recidivism. The proposal has been folded into S.295.

S.295.  Would establish a statewide system of pretrial services. According to Bobby Sands of DPS, there is data that when folks come into contact with law enforcement they are more receptive to treatment and public safety is enhanced because there is supervision and monitoring.

The program starts when the defendant is arrested and is awaiting arraignment (first appearance in front of judge). A risk assessment and needs screening are done prior to the defendant’s arraignment.  The prosecutor then either makes a referral to a community based treatment provider and monitors that person’s participation in treatment, or refers the case to court.  It should be noted that participation in the assessment is voluntary.  There is communication with the court, prosecution and defense.  Defendant’s pretrial success or failure will inform the judge in granting a sentence.

Theses ideas are not new.  We have 3 similar programs. This would make it statewide.

Race and Sentencing Interim Report:  We also received an update on the Race and Sentencing Study that is being conducted by the Vermont Center for Justice Research at Norwich University.  It is looking at disparities in sentencing and what variables explain it. The final report will hopefully be done in the spring.

Our upcoming work will include bills pertaining to a ban on handheld cell phones, H.555: traumatic brain injuries as a defense, H.581: an Act relating to guardianship of minors, H.88: an act relating to parental rights and responsibilities involving a child conceived as a result of a sexual assault and bills pertaining to the Innocence Project.

How to Follow the Legislature’s Work: Each legislative committee now has a information or home page. It is a great tool for the public to follow our work and issues of interest.  The page includes committee agendas, bills in the committee, witness testimony, reports and much more.

To find my committee page, visit the Legislative page at  www.leg.state.vt.us. The third topic down is Committee Information Pages.  Click on Standing Committee Information Pages and under House Standing Committees, click on Judiciary.  There you will find our weekly agenda, documents and handouts,  links to previous meetings and other information.  Each day more and more is posted. It is a live page. I hope it helps you follow any committee in the Legislature, issues that concern you, feel connected to the process and help me help you!

If you haven’t already, please visit my website and also “like” my Facebook page. I will be posting updates as often as possible, to keep you informed about what is happening in the Vermont Statehouse. You can also look for my updates on Front Porch Forum and in the Valley Reporter and Waterbury Record.
Sincerely,
Rep. Maxine Grad
Washington-7: Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren