Legislative Update – June 12, 2018

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Jun 12, 2018 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Photo of the Vermont State HouseThe Legislature is still in its Special Session that the Governor called. We will focus on the budget, tax bill and bills that were vetoed or didn’t get consideration due to a lack of rules suspensions.

The following are highlights from the regular session. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of our work, I chose topics that you have expressed interest in. Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us or (802) 552-8065.

Gun Violence Prevention

Many Vermonters cherish the traditions of hunting, sport shooting, and collecting guns. Many value the security and protection that guns can provide. At the same time, many Vermonters have suffered grievous injuries and lost friends and family members in incidents involving firearms. Suicides and domestic violence related homicides are at record levels in Vermont. As school shootings have increased, many of you who are students, parents, educators and communities have told me how you live in fear.

Under my leadership, the Legislature passed three laws to address gun violence. Act 97 (S.221) will allow law enforcement to show a judge that an individual presents an extreme risk of harm to himself, herself or others in order to obtain an Extreme Risk Protection Order, requiring the person to relinquish any dangerous weapons. Act 92 (H.422) allows law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from the scene of a domestic violence incident. Act 94 (S.55) expands the requirement for background checks to include private sales, places restrictions on the sale of firearms to those under age 21, limits the transfer and possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines, and bans the transfer and possession of bump-fire stocks. Together, these policies will make it more difficult for individuals who intend harm to themselves or others to obtain firearms and will reduce the lethality of firearms that may be misused.

Improving Public Safety

Recent events locally and nationally have challenged Vermonters’ sense of security. The times we live in, when students are fearful about attending school and public spaces seem less safe than in the past, have called out for legislative action. In response, the Senate and House have developed additional tools for law enforcement to improve public safety. Thank you to the Harwood students who testified so courageously about their fears in attending school. Thank you to the teachers and parents that supported their efforts. A chair of the House Judiciary Committee, I led to passage the following:

H.25 creates an additional crime of domestic terrorism. To show that a person has committed a domestic terrorism felony, the prosecution must prove that the defendant took a substantial step toward violating a criminal law of the State with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury to multiple persons or the intent to threaten any civilian population with mass destruction, mass killings or kidnapping. H.25 also increases the penalty when a person knowingly possesses a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon on school property with the intent to injure another person.

Health Care:  Vermont Seeks Federal Approval to Import Drugs from Canada

S.175 is an act relating to the wholesale importation of prescription drugs into Vermont. This bill shall have the Agency of Human Services, in consultation with interested stakeholders and appropriate federal officials, design a wholesale prescription drug importation program, including requirements of safety and cost. The program would designate a state agency to become, or contract with, a licensed drug wholesaler to import prescription drugs at a significant cost savings to Vermonters. The state shall submit the proposed design for the program to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2019.

The bill would direct the state to seek the appropriate federal waivers. And, it asks the state Attorney General to identify the potential, and to monitor, for anticompetitive behavior in industries that would be affected by a wholesale drug importation program.

Corrections and Institutions

Capital Bill Investment in Clean Water

Clean water is vital to our local and state economy. The second year of the Capital budget allocates roughly 24 million capital dollars to the state’s Clean Water efforts. Corrections and Institutions made adjustments to that amount by adding $1.4 million targeted for the Lake Carmi area. Adjustments also support the purchase of equipment to extract phosphorus from dairy manure.

In addition, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), was expanded to allow the pairing of natural resources projects with municipal clean water projects and also to allow Federal Funds to be used to make private loans for clean water projects via the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA).

Capital Bill Investment in Human Services

Mental Health is a topic many of you expressed concern about. Corrections and Institutions supported the agency of human services in addressed the backlog of individuals in emergency rooms awaiting psychiatric evaluation or care. The capital bill will fund the renovation and repurposing of three beds in the Chittenden Corrections Facility for women and at least ten beds at the Northwest Corrections Facility. These beds will be used by offenders in a mental health crisis that does not require a hospital level of care. C & I furthered the administration’s plan to improve the flow of patients through the state’s mental health facilities by making funds available to the Brattleboro Retreat for possible renovation and repurposing of units. Corrections and Institutions also began the process of developing a long-term plan for the states human services facilities in response to the loss of Medicaid waivers and the needs of aging facilities.

Capital Bill Investment in School Safety

The state’s capital budget was also adjusted to include $4 million for school safety grants. The grants are for up to $25,000 (with a 25% local match) and can used for the planning, delivery and upgrades to school security equipment.