What a whirlwind of a ride! We are excited to dive into the incredible work of the Vermont Legislature at the start of a new biennium. With so many new champions in legislative leadership, we are keeping track of and supporting a wide variety of bills. It is my hope this newsletter will help keep you informed as things develop throughout the season.
If you want to receive this legislative update from VT Movement Politics Director Kiah Morris to your inbox each week, make sure to fill in the form linked at the bottom of this post!
On Friday, the House voted to support a resolution rejecting Governor Scott’s Executive Order 01-24 which was written to usurp the work of previously passed legislation to address police misconduct by creating a new division to investigate and manage complaints against law enforcement officers. There is potential for the House Government Operations Committee to create a similar committee bill with the opportunity for public opinion and testimony on the subject.
The House Judiciary Committee is reviewing a report from the Department of Public Safety and the Executive Director of Racial Equity for the state of Vermont on police use of force. Several organizations, experts and community members were invited to provide comment. RAD partners like VT ACLU, BLM Burlington, Migrant Justice, NAACP, Green Mountain Self Advocates and Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform gave input. Included in the report is draft model policy language that will be reviewed and considered by the legislature.
The House Human Services Committee and Senate Judiciary held a joint roundtable discussion on what is being called aggressive behavior from juveniles and the safety of state employees who manage their supervision and care. As of now, there is no legislation under consideration, but the conversation was initiated by the Vermont State Employees Union in response to a recent sexual assault of a social worker by a minor in the Saint Albans area. This is an important conversation because the assault has been framed by advocates in caucuses as a direct result of the closure of the Woodside Correctional facility, which historically over incarcerated BIPOC youth. Woodside was closed by order of the legislature in 2020 in support of decarceration efforts across the state. It is important to monitor these conversations to keep an eye on reactionary legislation which may lead to negative outcomes for BIPOC youth, and increased policing for youth in need of other services. The joint hearing was focused on the working conditions of state employees, and you can watch it here.
2021 Budget Adjustment
Each calendar year, the legislature has an opportunity to propose changes to the state budget based on financial shortfalls and surpluses. This year, as in 2020, the COVID crisis has forced our Federal, State and Local governments to constantly try to adapt to the challenges the COVID crisis creates. The state is currently focusing the budget adjustment on various areas that may be of interest to follow:
- Extension of funding for the Broadband Lifeline Program to support remote work, schooling and broadband needs
- Fund to support state college budgets
- Expansion of the Everyone Eats program
- Additional Support Services for the unhoused/houseless community
- 28 million in rental assistance to address evictions
The Senate will begin discussions on the budget adjustment before sending a proposal to the house. You can tune in to watch the overview here. Find date and time info at the calendar link below.
The Governor recently released his proposal for the state budget and is currently streaming hearings to review the document. All Senate and House committees are reviewing aspects of the budget and will host hearings on it over the next few weeks. We will want to keep an eye on funding increases and decreases in support of the many policies and programs that impact our community. You can see the livestream presentation of the budget here.