2024 Mid-session legislative update

As we approach the mid-point of the 2024 legislative session, known as crossover week, House and Senate lawmakers are scrambling to vote bills out of committees and send them “across” to the other chamber.  

This is a critical time to make your voice heard. If a piece of legislation does not cross over to the other chamber before the March 15 crossover deadline, it likely will not be signed into law this year.  

Join us in urging your lawmakers to act now to defend and advance the civil liberties of everyone who calls Vermont home, as detailed below—and once again, that must include investing in people, not prisons. 

Tell your legislators: Invest in people, not prisons

Smart Justice: Prisons and criminal legal reform 

Our communities are struggling. We all know it and we can all feel it. That’s why we need leadership and policies that prioritize justice, equity, and compassion. This session, we are pushing back as lawmakers and the Scott administration are considering responses to complex social issues that rely on criminalization and incarceration, when we should be advancing real and lasting solutions by investing in people’s basic needs.   

Years of experience and evidence show that harsher penalties do not deter crime and longer sentences do not prevent future crime. This year we testified against increasing criminal penalties for low-level offenses such as misdemeanor retail theft (H.534) and imposing harsher penalties and locking more people up for drug offenses (S.58) as well as other troubling proposals.  

Tell your legislators you oppose these measures. 

We owe it to our communities to keep advancing policies and investments that prevent and reduce incarceration while meaningfully addressing the suffering that exists in our communities. We applaud House lawmakers for advancing H.645, legislation that would expand approaches to restorative justice in Vermont as an alternative to prison that promotes real accountability. Please find and contact your representatives and tell them to vote YES on the restorative justice bill on the House floor. 

Proposals for more incarceration and criminalization are particularly troubling at a time when the legislature is debating whether to spend millions of dollars to begin construction on a new women's prison in Vermont. With a likely price tag of more than $80 million dollars, this facility would be far bigger and more restrictive than Vermont needs—and we continue to oppose the Scott administration's misguided proposals. 

Sign our action form to send a clear message to your lawmakers: Invest in people, not prisons.

Community safety & policing 

Despite the emphasis on potentially expanding criminal penalties, there are still encouraging signs. We thank the legislators and officials who have worked tirelessly to reimagine community safety and policing this state—and we urge others to heed the call to enact real, needed change. 

One such example promises to address one of the worst longstanding injustices in our midst: racial profiling on Vermont roadways. We should all have the freedom to travel our roadways without experiencing unnecessary interactions with police. Unfortunately, Vermont drivers are stopped at a higher rate than the national average, with severe racial disparities impacting Black and Latinx drivers.   

Through our Smarter Stops campaign, we are calling on legislators to allow traffic stops for serious safety violations only, not for minor equipment and administrative violations like a broken taillight or obscured license plate. Lawmakers have been hearing testimony on companion bills H.176 and S.257, which would reduce discriminatory practices, improve community safety, and better define the role of law enforcement in our communities.   Please contact your legislators and urge them to advance a “Smarter Stops” bill this year.


In addition, Prop 1, a constitutional amendment introduced last year to hold sheriffs, state’s attorneys, and other county officials accountable for misconduct, is headed to the full Senate for a vote, where it will need a two-thirds majority to move to the House. 

Unfortunately, there are also examples of law enforcement opposing commonsense reforms. S.6, which would prohibit officer deception and coercion of juveniles in custodial interrogation—because cops shouldn’t lie to kids, or to anyone—was vetoed by the governor last summer and likely lacks the needed number of votes for an override this session. Until this changes, Vermont police can coerce and lie to suspects—including children. 


Everyone should be able to access housing without preconditions or restrictions. That is why we are building on our ongoing advocacy to protect the rights of unhoused people and urging lawmakers to pursue a “Housing First” model for new housing policy reforms and investments.,  

We are also working with partners to support the extension and expansion of the state’s general assistance emergency housing program, also known as the motel voucher program. It is simply unacceptable for the Scott administration and the legislature to push hundreds of people and families into homelessness. Flawed as it may be, we must not let the motel program lapse unless or until there are adequate alternatives in place. 

We hope you will join us in telling our legislators that it's essential that everyone has housing who needs it. 

Harm reduction: A public health approach to substance use 

Harm reduction approaches to address the overdose crisis will save lives and make our communities safer—further criminalizing drug use will not. With partners, we are working with legislators to pursue commonsense strategies including the development of evidence-backed overdose prevention centers (OPCs), public health facilities where people can receive vital medical services if necessary and be connected to treatment.  

We applaud House lawmakers for resoundingly passing H.72, a bill that would enable the creation of OPCs in Vermont. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to do the same. In the meantime, we are pushing back against the Scott administration’s attempts to undermine the establishment of this life-saving program. Finally, we are urging lawmakers to push forward additional measures this year— such as H.423 — that would treat substance use disorder as a public health crisis, decriminalize the personal possession of drugs, connect people with essential resources, and build new pathways to recovery. 

Economic justice 

The ACLU is one of several organizations supporting the Fair Share for Vermont proposal to ensure that the wealthiest Vermonters are paying their fair share in taxes. With resulting revenue, we can meet the state’s most pressing needs in housing, social services, infrastructure, education, and the environment. 

Two bills are currently on the table: H.827, which would add to the tax liability of people who have $10 million in assets, and H.828, which would create a 3% personal income tax surcharge on income over $500,000.  

As an organization that works to remedy deeply entrenched sources of inequality, and to advance the rights and liberties of all people, economic justice is central to the ACLU’s vision for a more just and equitable state and a healthy, vibrant democracy.   

Now is a crucial time to make your voice heard. Please contact your elected representatives and let them know how you feel about any or all of these proposals. You can find your legislators’ contact information here. 

If you haven’t already, consider joining our ACLU of Vermont Action Team to help make our ambitious agenda a reality.  

Join the action team.

With your support, we are advancing bold solutions to safeguard our civil liberties and address the many challenges facing our state. Thank you for all you do to support our work!