April 18, 2024 

Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director 
[email protected], 802-223-6304 x111 

Montpelier, Vt. – The ACLU of Vermont today published its Civil Liberties Report Card, a pass/fail assessment of Governor Phil Scott’s record on civil rights and civil liberties during his most recent term, 2023–2024. The state’s premier civil liberties organization gives the governor a failing grade across several categories, including education, drug policy, criminal justice, police accountability, homelessness, and economic justice. 

ACLU Vermont Executive Director James Lyall: “As a nonpartisan government accountability organization, the ACLU has in the past applauded Governor Scott’s actions when they advanced Vermonters’ civil liberties. Unfortunately, the governor’s record on civil rights and civil liberties during the 2023-24 biennium is profoundly disappointing. The ACLU of Vermont and our supporters are increasingly troubled by the governor’s public policy choices regarding Vermonters’ rights and well-being, and we urge him to join us in advancing a more positive vision for the state and its people.” 

Among the civil liberties issues highlighted in the ACLU report card for which Governor Scott received a failing grade: 

  • Homelessness. In 2023, amid a historic housing crisis, the governor sought to forcibly un-shelter hundreds of Vermonters — children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities. This year, his administration has displaced scores of people while enacting cruel and arbitrary barriers to undermine the legislature’s emergency housing program and prevent people with disabilities and other vulnerable Vermonters from accessing shelter. 
  • Education Equity. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Carson v. Makin (2022), requiring that states that provide funding to private schools can no longer exclude religious schools from receiving public funds, the governor has offered no plan to limit the flow of public dollars to private schools that can undermine the common benefit of a public education for all of Vermont's children. 
  • Drug Policy & Criminal Justice. While the number of people who have died of drug overdoses has increased dramatically during Scott’s term, he has consistently opposed harm reduction strategies that would save lives and improve community health and safety, while stoking fears about public safety in one of the safest states in the country.  

    The governor has doubled down on the failed strategies of the past by supporting harsher criminal penalties for drug-related offenses and undermining historic “raise the age” reform passed by the legislature in 2018. 
  • Racial Justice & Police Accountability. The governor has taken no steps to address persistent racial profiling and racial disparities in the criminal legal system, which remain among the worst in the nation. His public safety “plan” announced in 2023 makes no mention of racial justice or police accountability. With the legislature unwilling or unable to advance police reform given the inevitability of a veto, the governor bears significant responsibility for Vermont’s lack of progress on racial justice and police accountability. 
  • Economic Justice. In an era of historic wealth inequality, when our communities need new resources, the governor refuses to ask the wealthiest Vermonters to pay their fair share. Meanwhile, he has made misleading statements about widely popular proposed taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and claimed, without evidence or analysis, that affluent residents will flee the state.  

    The governor even opposes a modest tax on corporations that would help to staff Vermont’s judiciary—a position squarely at odds with his stated interest in promoting public safety, and one that threatens to undermine a pillar of democratic government, our court system. 

ACLU Vermont Communications Director Stephanie Gomory: “The ACLU values Vermont’s traditions of civil discourse and cooperation, particularly in this polarizing era, but they should not preclude any governor from facing scrutiny and accountability. We hope this assessment will provide the public with a fuller accounting of Governor Scott’s actions and policy choices.” 

The report card is available on the ACLU of Vermont website and will be publicized online through emails to ACLU members, on social media, and through paid advertising, starting today.