As we reach the midpoint of the 2021 legislative session, we wanted to take some time to update you on the bills we are working on and to give you an idea of what we might expect in the second half of the session.

This year brought us the first fully virtual legislative session, providing both challenges and new opportunities for the public to engage in the process. Though Vermonters no longer have easy access to legislators in the hallways of the people’s house, the public can now watch full committee hearings at their convenience and from the comfort of our homes. But regardless of circumstances, we will continue working with you to create a Vermont where “we the people” means all of us.

Advancing ACLU Priorities and Defending Civil Liberties

The legislature has taken important steps to advance ACLU priorities in the areas of criminal justice reform, racial equity, and strengthening democracy. While we are making progress, we have also had to spend significant time pushing back on proposals that infringed on constitutional rights, eroded privacy protections, diminished protection from police violence, and would have further contributed to mass incarceration.

Below are some of the key pieces of legislation moving forward we hope to see passed this session.

In the House

  • H.87 Sentencing reform. The bill raises Vermont’s felony threshold from $900 to $3000, reduces sentence lengths for property crimes across the board, and creates a structure that will lower sentence lengths for other crimes in the future.
  • H.196 Funding for the office of the Executive Director of Racial Equity. The bill provides funding for two new positions in the office of the Director of Racial Equity.
  • H.210 Health Disparities. The bill creates a Health Equity Advisory Commission to help establish an office of Health Equity, collect and report on data that relate to health disparities, and advise the legislature on how to address disparities in health care.
  • H.430 Expanding Dr. Dynasaur to all income-eligible children and pregnant individuals regardless of immigration status.

In the Senate

  • S.15 Universal vote by mail. The bill would require the state send a ballot to all registered voters for future general elections.
  • S.16 School discipline advisory council. Creates a School Discipline Advisory Council and institutes new data reporting requirements to help the Council advise policy makers on school discipline practices.
  • S.45 Earned discharge from probation. Creates a process to discharge people at the midpoint of their probation if they have met risk reduction requirements and have not had a violation of their probation in the last six months.
  • S.100 Universal School Meals.  Provides two free meals to all school children in Vermont and promotes purchasing of local food.

Still In Committee

Two of our top priority bills that still remain to be taken up by key committees in the second half of the session are H.317, a bill that would create the Bureau of Racial Justice Statistics – finally allowing Vermont to identify and remedy the sources of racial disparities in our criminal legal system – and S.63, a bill that would remove armed police from Vermont’s schools.

To ensure we make progress on these bills this session your legislators need to hear from you. Below are two links that will help you connect with your lawmakers and tell them to prioritize these important bills that will help address the disparities that exist in our criminal legal and educational systems.

What’s next?

We will continue to advocate for our legislative priorities and to shine light on the legislative process.  Our power lies in our members and supporters, and we look forward standing with you as we fight to make Vermont a better place for everyone who calls this state home.