Legislative Update – April 4, 2019

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Apr 4, 2019 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

My House Judiciary Committee Work

Firearms

My committee is working on S.169. It passed the Senate on a 20 to 10 vote. S.169 makes several amendments to Vermont’s firearms statutes. The bill establishes a new waiting period requirement for handgun transfers. A handgun cannot be transferred until 24 hours after the completion of the background check required by federal or state law. The waiting period does not apply to a transfer that does not require a background check, such as transfers between immediate family members and law enforcement officers.

Last year in Act 94, the General Assembly passed 13 VSA § 4021, which generally prohibits the possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices. Act 94 included an exception to the magazine ban for devices transported into Vermont by a resident of another state for a shooting competition. S.169 repeals a sunset provision on this exception, which means that possession and use of the magazines at shooting competitions will continue to be permitted in the future.          

The bill also expands the list of immediate family members who may be involved in a transfer of firearms exempted from the background check requirement to include a parent-in-law and a sibling-in-law. As a result, transfers between in-laws can be made without needing a background check.  

The bill also modifies Vermont’s extreme risk protection order statute that was passed in Act 97 last year. Act 97 established a procedure for a State’s Attorney or the Attorney General to obtain a court order, called an Extreme Risk Protection Order (known as an ERPO) that temporarily prohibits a person from possessing a dangerous weapon if the court finds that the person’s possession of the weapon poses an extreme risk of harm to the person or to other people. S.169 clarifies that a health care provider may seek an ERPO without violating the privacy provisions of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The bill also requires an annual report on ERPO use.         

H.460: an act relating to sealing and expungement of criminal history records: Passed the House

This passed my committee 11-0. Expungement is a court-ordered process that removes a criminal conviction from a person’s record. Once a conviction has been expunged, an individual no longer must disclose it when applying for a job or housing, for example.

Why expungement?

  • The predictive value of criminal convictions disappears over time. Within 5-7 years of committing a crime, the individual is as likely or even less likely than the general population to reoffend.
  • Conversely, the collateral consequences of criminal convictions in the form of reduced access to employment, housing, and education stay with someone for a lifetime without expungement.
  • This proposal was important to the Governor’s Opioid Coordination Council for many reasons, including the creation of pathways to rehab and recovery, and a shift in thinking about drug possession from a criminal matter to a health issue.

Findings in a recent study by University of Michigan Law professors broadly support expansion of expungement. Perhaps most notably, they found that within one year of an expungement, an individual’s wages increase by more than 20%. That’s good news for Vermont’s economy.

House Floor Activity

Budget 

This week, the House passed the FY2020 State budget on a vote of 137-1. This followed a unanimous vote out of the Appropriations Committee, where budget writers spent months reviewing existing programs, priorities, and tailoring investments to build strong, healthy communities.

The $6.1 billion House budget outlines our priorities to create a Vermont that works for all of us. We made significant investments in Vermont communities while honoring commitments to pay obligations and grow reserves.

For the most vulnerable Vermonters, the House invested in substance use disorder treatment, with increased support for recovery centers. We boosted funding for home and community-based service providers. New dollars were directed to build capacity for mental health beds. These investments will help strengthen our communities.

To boost our economy, the House invested $8 million to make our child care system the best it can be so our youngest learners and their families have a fair shot at a bright future. This is an issue many of you have contacted me about. We increased the appropriation for the Vermont State Colleges System by $3 million and funded micro-business loans for startups. New dollars were directed to the Working Lands Program—one that is vital to our district, and made a major investment to bring high-speed internet to the 60,000 Vermonters who currently lack access to broadband.

The House tackled climate change, funding a range of initiatives to reduce emissions and address our shared climate challenge. We funded thermal efficiency and Weatherization for low and moderate income Vermonters. $1.5 million was set aside to encourage consumers to buy electric vehicles, while the state increased its investment to build EV charging stations.

We accomplished our budget goals while keeping our bottom line in balance. The FY2020 state budget maintains a modest growth rate, with an all-funds rate of growth of 2.6%. Ongoing funds are used for ongoing expenditures. Reserves are fully funded, putting us in a strong position should we face a national recession.

Corrections and Institutions: Investing in Clean Water, Mental Health and More

This week Corrections and Institutions Committee presented H.543, the $123M capital bill on the house floor which prioritized investments in our mental health facilities, clean water funding, higher education, correctional facilities, investments in electric vehicles and infrastructure, conservation and affordable housing, community building grants and public safety. In the final week the committee worked very closely with the House Health Care Committee to ensure that the capital funding and policy are aligned to ensure that we are making effective and wise investments in our health care facilities to address the mental health needs of Vermonters.

Other

Unclaimed Property Act

Look for your name!! This program returns unclaimed money to their rightful owners – make sure to look at the VT Treasury page for your name: https://www.vermonttreasurer.gov/content/unclaimed-property.

 

Please stay in touch: [email protected] or 828-2228.