Legislative Update – January 23,2020

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Jan 23, 2020 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Vermont State House, Montpelier, VTI am glad to be back at the State House. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent you. My committee, House Judiciary got right to work. We began testimony on domestic violence prevention, human trafficking, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, hate and bias related crimes and understanding drivers of our incarceration rates.

Domestic Violence in Vermont

In 2017, there were 17 homicides total and 11 of those were domestic violence related (65%).

According to the Council of State Governments, while violent crime is down in Vermont and nation-wide, domestic violence related homicides are on the increase in Vermont and the nation. Persons who commit domestic violence offenses do not age out of their criminal behavior like other offenders.

According to testimony from the Vermont Network Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, while Vermont has the second lowest overall violent crime rate in the country, our state experiences a serious and persistent problem with domestic violence. While “perpetrators may have mental health or substance abuse issues, domestic violence is not caused by those issues – domestic violence is an escalating pattern of coercion and control which may include physical violence, and psychological and financial abuse.”

According to Major Ingrid Jonas of Vermont State Police, perpetrators engaged in treatment state that they are entitled to power and control over their victims.

Domestic violence devastatingly impacts families, child development, community health and Vermont’s economy.

According to the testimony from prosecutors, law enforcement, victims’ advocates and the Attorney General, domestic violence related homicides are preventable. They are the result of predictive risk factors that if identified and measures are put into place through laws and services, can be prevented.

Part of my work this session will be to pass laws that prevent domestic violence related homicides. One bill is H.610. The bill recognizes the deadly relationship between firearms and domestic violence homicide in our state. The relationship between domestic violence homicide and firearms is well established in the scientific literature. Research indicates that access to firearms is one of the primary risk factors for domestic violence lethality. Access to a firearm by an abusive partner increase the risk of death for victims of domestic violence by 500%.

Other Committee Work: Commerce and Economic Development 

H.606 an act relating to regulating storage units is an update of January 2009 law. Vermont has 164 facilities, where 95% are small businesses.

H.1: non-compete clauses. Many of these non-compete clauses have financially ruined and hurt future employment of those who have signed these documents. The committee is looking at fair practices for business owners and employees, and hearing from many sides of the issue.

Over 150 folks from different sectors of the tourism and recreation industry arrived at the statehouse to attend the Tourism Hearing and express their opinions about living and working in Vermont. Our district was well represented. The overall tourism dollars spent in Vermont has been declining, so a modest increase in digital marketing spending would result in an additional $350 million being spent in the states. Testimony from participants were in favor of increasing tourism marketing by an additional $500K.

Energy and Technology: H.688

The Global Warming Solutions Act. I am glad to be one of the many co-sponsors. The bill is about bringing accountability and strategic planning to how Vermont responds to the climate crisis we face. H.688 updates our greenhouse gas emissions goals, aligning them with the Paris climate treaty and VT’s Comprehensive Energy Plan and making those “goals” statutory obligations of the state. H.688 draws together a half-dozen state agencies and over a dozen subject matter experts to form the Climate Action Council which will develop a Climate Action Plan. Within the confines of this Plan, the Agency of Natural Resources will adopt rules, programs, and strategies to meet emissions reduction requirements of the Plan.

Importantly, the Council and Plan will address not only issues around GHG reduction, but also how VT addresses the vulnerabilities we face from increasingly severe weather events and the unique challenges faced by rural and lower income communities. Adaptation, resilience and hazard mitigation are all key aspects of a comprehensive response to the challenges in front of us. The much discussed “right of action” in H.688 is not focused on the private sector, but instead on state government – Was policy promulgated in a timely fashion? Were the emissions requirements met? If not, a court can order state agencies to do more. The committee will continue to hear testimony on H.688 with the intention of passing out a final bill by early February.

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