Legislative Update 3

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Feb 11, 2014 No Comments ››

Passed out of My Committee-House Judiciary:

I am thrilled to report the passage of H.88, allowing a victim of sexual assault to petition for permanent sole parental rights and responsibilities when the child was conceived as a result of a sexual assault.  In my remarks on the House floor, I stated, “H.88 gives a victim back the autonomy she lost due to the violent act of her perpetrator.  It allows her make choices about her health and life without fear for herself and her child.”

H.62 Hands-free Only Cell Phones:

Highway safety has been one of my top priorities. This bill would allow hands-free only use except in the case of an emergency or for law enforcement and emergency personnel.  Cell phone use while driving constitutes a major public health threat. This bill will be up for action this week and then go to the Senate. Please call our Senators and the Governors’ office (828-3333) to show your support for this important life-saving measure.

Fee Bill: Domestic Violence and Firearms

This year’s fee bill contains a provision that allows federally licensed firearms dealers and any law enforcement agency to charge a storage fee not to exceed $4 per week for storing firearms that are ordered to be surrendered during Relief From Abuse Orders.  Last fall, the Network Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, VT firearms groups and Governor Shumlin agreed that this should be a legislative priority.  This provision in the fee bill sets a statewide policy that will allow for the enforcement of judicial orders. Currently in domestic violence cases, family court judges are not ordering the surrender of the abuser’s firearms due to the lack of storage.  This gives the court a very much-needed tool to protect victims.


Other bills Under Committee Consideration:

Family Court Jurisdiction over Juveniles Who Commit Crimes: H. 618 intends to increase the likelihood that 16- and 17-year-olds who commit bad acts are addressed in juvenile court rather than adult court–that is, in Family Division rather than Criminal Division of Superior Court.

Currently we have many court options depending upon the age of the child and the offense.  Vermont stands almost alone in this area.   It is one of 3 states that send juveniles to adult/criminal court.  There are 45 states that have family court jurisdiction.  These states have recognized that having a criminal record as a juvenile may result in not being allowed to vote, get student loans, enter the military and other educational opportunities.   Youth charged in criminal court tend to reoffend more.  There isn’t a single study that says there is a positive outcome for the juvenile.  Evidence of the past decade indicates that the human brain–especially the decision-making capacity–is not fully developed until one’s mid-twenties.  Juveniles in adult court have much less access to the services and supports that can help them be accountable to the community, be rehabilitated, develop and contribute to society.

Our current law is in reaction to a terrible crime committed by juveniles in 1981. The bill is still very much under discussion, but the draft would have all juvenile offenses cited into juvenile court except the “Big 12,” which include rape, murder and aggravated assault.  It allows the state’s attorney to transfer a case to adult court when appropriate.

Certain Vermont states attorneys are adopting protocols that are sending the juveniles to family court. This bill would make it a statewide policy.

H.413: Collateral consequences of conviction: This refers to the impacts of a criminal conviction that follows someone after he or she has finished with the criminal justice system. Most people are aware, for example, that a felony conviction means you can never again legally own a gun. In most states you also can’t vote, and there are many federal restrictions on such things as housing, educational loans and more. These restrictions make it more difficult for people who might have made a mistake to re-engage productively in the community. H.413 comes initially from the Uniform Law Commission, a commission made of state representatives to develop model laws for states.


Other News:

Resolution Honoring Luke Foley, Vermont’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.   Others and I sponsored this resolution.  The following is an excerpt from Rep. Adam Greshin’s remarks introducing Mr. Foley:

“Congratulations to Luke Foley, Vermont’s 2014 Teacher of the Year Mr. Speaker, we’ve had many discussions in this chamber regarding education and I suspect we’ll have a few more before the session closes.  I know we sometimes struggle to agree on this topic, but I also know we can all agree that teaching matters, and that good teaching really matters.  It is in this spirit that, I would like to introduce to you and to the chamber Vermont’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

Luke Foley and his wife Rachel live in Warren.  Luke teaches at Northfield Middle High School where he’s in his third year in the STAR program (Students Taking Alternate Routes), a program specifically designed to help students who benefit from an alternative educational setting.  According to former education commissioner Armando Vilaseca, Luke “exemplifies many of the practices that we are trying to incorporate into our schools” by teaching in a way that better connects students to the real world.

Luke has a colorful background in which he’s worked as a wilderness guide, field instructor and program director for schools and programs in Vermont, the US and around the world.  Prior to taking the job in Northfield, he was a social studies teacher at Montpelier High School.

Luke was named Teacher of the Year by the State Board of Education after a rigorous evaluation process.  He will travel the state, visiting schools and working with fellow teachers.  He also becomes Vermont’s candidate at the national competition for Teacher of the Year in Washington.  This spring Luke will attend a reception at the White House with the President.

Mr. Speaker, the students at Northfield Middle High School and the people of Vermont are extraordinarily lucky to have someone of Luke’s caliber and character in the classroom. ”

Come to Farmer’s Night: Wednesdays at 7:30pm in the House chamber! Featuring performances from Vermont’s talented music groups, including The Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Maple Jam and more! This event is free and open to the public. For more information visit http://www.leg.state.vt.us/.

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.
Rep. Maxine Grad
Washington-7: Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren