Vermont Legislative Summary - 2017 Session

ACLU of Vermont

Published June 1, 2017

The first half of the 2017-2018 biennium was a solid session for civil liberties. The ACLU of Vermont maintained a full-time presence at the statehouse and played a critical role in advancing some important civil rights reforms and in turning back legislation that undermined government accountability and threatened Vermonters’ civil liberties.

We and our allies helped to pass historic racial justice legislation and continue making progress on critical immigrants’ rights protections. We saw significant progress on marijuana legalization, with more work still to be done. We successfully advocated for a range of important free speech and privacy rights. And we turned back measures that would undermine law enforcement accountability and badly needed criminal justice reforms, including misguided efforts that would have created new crimes and enshrined unconstitutional privacy intrusions into law.

Looking ahead to the second half of the biennium, we have a lot of work ahead of us —to enact smart criminal justice reforms, defend Vermonters’ privacy, and increase government transparency. Most importantly, we face enormous threats to our democracy that, if unchallenged at the national level, could have a profound impact on Vermont communities. With the addition of a new Community Organizer to increase our advocacy capacity and help mobilize fellow Vermonters, the ACLU will remain vigilant in defense of civil liberties and continue working to make Vermont a more just and equitable state for all.

Here’s a brief roundup of the significant civil liberties legislation the ACLU of Vermont worked on from the 2017 session. A more detailed summary is available here.

Criminal Justice Reform

Bill

Summary

ACLU’s Position

Status

H. 308 – Racial Justice Oversight

 

Historic racial justice legislation, creating a racial justice oversight panel to review and report on racial disparities in Vermont’s criminal justice system.

 

Support

Signed by governor

H. 308 – Fair and Impartial Policing

 

Vermont’s model Fair and Impartial Policing policy—designed to keep local police out of immigration enforcement—will be redrafted into one comprehensive policy for all Vermont law enforcement agencies.

 

Support

Signed by governor

H. 503 –Bail reform

 

Forbids courts from imposing bail on a person who was cited to court for a misdemeanor in lieu of arrest. Codifies common practice.

 

Support

Passed; awaits Governor’s signature

H. 503 –Fentanyl

 

Creates new penalties specific to knowing fentanyl sales or “dispensing.”

 

Oppose

Passed; awaits Governor’s signature

H. 503 –Electronic monitoring

 

Expands the “electronic monitoring” of DOC detainees and certain prisoners.  

 

Oppose

Passed; awaits Governor’s signature

S. 134 – Expanding drug and mental health courts

 

 

Expands court diversion programs to assist non-habitual offenders and adults with substance abuse or mental health treatments needs. The bill also expands pre-trial assessment services.

 

Support

Passed, awaits Governor’s signature.

H. 74 – Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights

 

Ensures effective and efficient taking and analysis of post-assault evidence from a survivor’s body.

 

Support

Signed by governor

H. 74 – Sexual assault statute of limitations

 

Removed the statute of limitations for sexual assault. ACLU proposed raising the statute of limitations, but not eliminating it, because its elimination introduces uncertainty into the court process and could slow the already sluggish investigation and prosecution of sexual assault. 

 

Oppose

Signed by governor

H. 539—Mandatory incarceration for third DUI

 

 

Would require mandatory incarceration for a person convicted of a third DUI offense

 

Oppose

In committee

H. 370 – Restricting solitary confinement

 

Would prohibit an inmate with a serious functional impairment from spending more than 24 hours in solitary confinement within a given 7-day period for any reason.

 

Support

In committee

H. 381—Prohibiting physical restraints in juvenile detention facilities

 

Would prohibit the use of physical restraints on a juvenile except to prevent physical harm to the child or others. Ensures restraints are removed within a half hour in most circumstances

 

Support

In committee

H. 384—Protecting justice-involved moms

 

Would create a study committee to advise the General Assembly on issues involving the diversion of women charged with nonviolent offenses and who are custodial parents of minor children to alternative justice programs.

 

Support

In committee

H. 469—Ending confinement because of lack of housing

 

Would prohibit holding an inmate in confinement after their release date on the basis of a lack of appropriate housing.

 

Support

In committee

 

Drug Reform

 

 

Bill

Summary

ACLU’s Position

Status

S. 22 – Marijuana legalization

 

 

Legalizes the possession of one ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of two mature and four immature cannabis plants and creates a Marijuana Regulatory Commission to draft legislation for the taxation and regulation of marijuana to be introduced during the 2018 legislative session.

 

Support

Vetoed by Governor, but likely to be revisited.

H. 511– Marijuana per se limits / saliva testing

 

 

ACLU successfully advocated for the removal of bad “drugged driving” provisions from the omnibus Transportation Safety bill regarding marijuana per se limits and saliva testing. Both are unsupported by evidence and common sense.

 

Supported Removal

Passed.

S. 16 – Expanding medical marijuana access

 

 

Enhances Vermont’s medical marijuana program by adding more conditions eligible for treatment (including Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and PTSD).

 

Support

Passed; awaits Governor’s signature

H. 167 – Examining reduced drug punishments

 

 

Requires study of a public health approach to low-level drug possession and use as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system.

 

           Support

Passed; awaits Governor’s signature

H. 200 – Expungement

 

 

Would add to the list of qualifying crimes for expungement ‘a violation of the possession, sale, or dispensation of LSD statute.’

 

           Support

In committee

H. 213 – Expanding access to drug and DUI treatment courts

 

 

Would expand access to drug and DUI treatment courts and create funding mechanisms to aid that expansion.

 

           Support

In committee

 

 

H. 468 – Expanding addiction treatment in prison

 

 

Would require the Department of Corrections to provide medication-assisted treatment to inmates fighting opioid dependency at state correctional facilities.

 

           Support

In committe

Police Accountability

Bill

Summary

ACLU’s Position

Status

H. 22 – Police decertification

 

 

Significantly expands the grounds for which an officer’s misconduct at one law enforcement agency can prevent that officer from working for other Vermont agencies.

 

           Support

Passed, awaiting Governor’s signature

H. 419 – Requiring and regulating body cameras

 

 

Would ensure that law enforcement agencies equip officers with body cameras and require that officers turn their cameras on during interactions with someone the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe is committing a crime or civil violation.

 

          Support

In committee

S. 80 – Authorizing corrections officers to carry firearms

 

 

Would authorize corrections officers who are certified as law enforcement officers to carry firearms.

 

          Oppose

In committee

 

H. 475 – certifying parole/probation as law enforcement officers

 

 

Would require the Commissioner of Corrections to allow a correctional officer assigned to a parole and probation office to be certified as a law enforcement officer.

 

          Oppose

In committee

Government Accountability and Transparency

Bill

Summary

ACLU’s Position

Status

S.8 – Required disclosures and ethics

 

 

Creates a state ethics commission and imposes financial disclosure and conflict of interest rules on lawmakers and state officeholders and candidates. The ethics commission, however, has no investigatory or enforcement power.

 

          Support

Passed, awaits Governor’s signature

H. 495 – Ensuring public records access

 

 

ACLU and partners successfully removed provision exempting nutrient management plans (which deal with farmer management of natural resources concerns) from the Public Records Act (PRA), replacing it with a study committee on the exemption.

 

           Support

Passed, awaits Governor’s signature

S. 4 - Open meetings for ACOs

 

 

Ensures that board meetings of accountable care organizations (ACOs) are generally noticed, produce published minutes or recordings, and are open to the public with an opportunity to comment.

 

         Support

Passed, awaits Governor’s signature

First Amendment

Bill

Summary

ACLU’s Position

Status

 

 

S. 18 – Protecting student journalists’ free expression

 

 

Guarantees free expression and freedom of the press for student journalists under the Vermont Constitution, with exceptions only for libel and slander, invasions of privacy, profanity or threats, harassment, violations of federal or state law, or disruptions.

 

 

          Support

 

 

Passed; awaits Governor’s signature

 

 

S. 96 – Media shield law

 

 

Protects journalists from compelled disclosure of information from confidential sources by the government. The bill also provides some protection for information from non-confidential sources.

 

Support

Signed by Governor

 

 

H. 74 – Abuse Prevention Order violations

 

ACLU of Vermont was successful in protecting the First Amendment right to free expression by requiring that a person who speaks out against a partner, spouse, or domestic partner online cannot be guilty of violating an abuse prevention order unless they posted their comments with the purpose of communicating with the other party.

 

 

 

           Support

 

 

Signed by Governor

Individual Rights

Bill

Summary

ACLU’s Position

Status

H. 228 / S. 79 – Preventing Muslim registry and deputizing of local police

 

 

Seeks to prevent Vermont’s support for a registry of persons based on protected characteristics, including religion; prevents local police from entering into two types of agreements with federal immigration agencies without the express approval of the Governor.

 

Support

Signed by Governor

H. 136—Pregnancy accommodations

 

Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with pregnancy-related conditions unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

 

Support

Signed by Governor

 

H. 230 – Mental health treatment of minors without parental or guardian consent

 

Authorizes mental health treatment of minors without parental or guardian consent

Support

Signed by Governor

H. 333—Gender-neutral bathrooms

 

Ensures any single-user bathroom in public buildings or places of public accommodation will be made available for use for people of all genders.

 

Support

Passed by VT House

H. 196 – Paid family leave

 

 

Establishes a six-week paid family leave program in Vermont, creating a 0.141 percent payroll tax to provide 80% pay.

 

Support

Passed by VT House

Privacy

Bill

Summary

ACLU’s Position

Status

H. 462 – Protecting employees’ online speech

 

 

Prohibits employers from requiring or asking employees or job applicants to share their personal social media account information.

 

Support

Signed by Governor

H. 467/S. 72 – Regulating data brokers

 

 

Requires the Commissioner of Financial Regulation and the Attorney General, in consultation with stakeholders, to submit recommendations to the Legislature on data broker legislation.

 

Support

 

Passed, awaiting Governor’s signature

H. 535/S. 147/S. 72 – Reinstating FCC rules to protect online privacy

 

 

Requires the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Public Service, in consultation with stakeholders, to submit recommendations to the Legislature on Internet service provider regulation legislation by December 2018.

 

Support

Passed, awaiting Governor’s signature.

 

H. 364 – Resisting the surveillance state

 

 

Forbids the State of Vermont from assisting in the federal government’s collection or use of electronic data or metadata without a warrant.

 

Support

In committee

 

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