Legislative Update – March 21, 2019

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Mar 21, 2019 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

My Committee Work: House Judiciary

Vermont State House in SpringFair and Impartial Policing

This bill passed the House. The bill allows law enforcement agencies to keep information regarding citizen and immigration status confidential to a greater degree than the existing fair and impartial policing policy model currently requires. This would allow local law enforcement agencies to have greater latitude in giving all members of their communities uniform and equal treatment.

Protecting Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

This bill passed the House. As a lead sponsor, my hope is that another avenue for justice and healing is available to victims with this bill that removes the statute of limitations on when civil actions addressing such crimes can be brought (H.330). Current law only allows for civil actions to be brought six years after the abuse suffered or six years after the victim discovers that an injury or condition was caused by the act. Many victims of such crimes are not ready to truly move forward with public disclosure until decades after the abuse took place (the average age of disclosure is 52). Removing the statute of limitations on civil actions will allow victims to move forward when they are able to do so.

Protecting Firefighters and EMS

In another effort at equity under the law, the committee took up and the House passed H.321. While state law already makes the killing of a law enforcement officer who is performing their official duties an aggravated murder, this bill would also make the killing of a firefighter or emergency medical personal who are performing their official duties an aggravated murder.

Expanding Right to Counsel/Public Defender (H.342)

Currently roughly 10% of persons charged with a crime are not eligible for a public defender. H.342 would require that public defender services be available to any person charged with a crime, thus easing the challenges of navigating the court system for a segment of the population that often does not have the financial means to avoid having to represent themselves.

H.162 Decriminalization of Possession of Small Amounts of Buprenorphine (Bupe)

My committee passed this bill after hearing very compelling testimony from Burlington’s Police Chief and State’s Attorneys who are currently not prosecuting this current misdemeanor.

H.162 provides an additional approach to counter overdose deaths due primarily to Fentanyl. It would decriminalize the possession without a prescription of small amounts of buprenorphine that under current law would result in a misdemeanor charge.

Buprenorphine is a medication shown to effectively treat opioid use disorder. This bill would remove one barrier to individuals choosing buprenorphine over more danger opiates. Buprenorphine reduces cravings for more dangerous opiates, reduces withdrawal symptoms for individuals trying to recover from opiate addiction, and has a very low risk of causing an overdose. H.162 would allow those living with opioid dependence the chance to make safer choices for themselves without fear of criminal penalty.

Buprenorphine is used as medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, along with methadone and to a lesser-extent Vivitrol. These medications have been shown to reduce fatalities, infectious diseases, and crime, and to increase people’s abilities to maintain employment and recovery.

We also heard from witnesses who work with individuals struggling with Opiate Use Disorder that when they see people using buprenorphine regularly, even without medical supervision, it often leads to stabilization in the form of reduced cravings, an ability to work and parent, and pathways to treatment in a medical setting.

H.83: Prohibiting Female Genital Cutting

This bill proposes to prohibit female genital mutilation. It would criminalize the performance of it and transporting a female for its performance consistent with cruelty to a child. It passed out of House Health Care Committee. My committee reviewed the penalty provision. In the Health Care committee, UVM Ob/Gyn residents and physicians spoke in support of the bill as well as Somali community members. This is a horrific crime. For more information see: https://www.theahafoundation.org/female-genital-mutilation/fgm-legislation-by-state/

Other Committee Work: General, Housing, and Military Affairs

The Committee has been working on H.132, An act relating to adopting protections against housing discrimination for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Testimony on this bill is ongoing. It seeks to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence from being further victimized by facing homelessness or housing insecurity. The bill would provide a number of avenues for victims to make their homes more secure in a timely manner if staying in their home is their preferred outcome. It would also allow the early termination of a lease if leaving their home was the safest option. It prohibits landlords from denying access to housing to victims. In addition to testimony, the committee is convening stakeholders to work collaboratively on the bill’s language.


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