Burlington gets ranked choice voting, Gov. Scott vetoes decrim of hard drugs

For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 19, 2022

Contact:
Jason Maulucci, Press Secretary
Office of the Governor
Jason.Maulucci@vermont.gov

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott announced action on the following seven bills, passed by the General Assembly.

On May 19, Governor Scott signed bills of the following titles:

  • H.287, An act relating to patient financial assistance policies and medical debt protection
  • H.500, An act relating to prohibiting the sale of mercury lamps in the State
  • H.553, An act relating to eligibility of domestic partners for reimbursement from the Victims Compensation Program

On May 19, Governor Scott announced H. 523 would go into law without his signature, and sent the following letter to the General Assembly:

May 19, 2022

Dear Legislators:

I am allowing H.523, An act relating to reducing hydrofluorocarbon emissions, to go into law without my signature.

While I support the goals of this bill, I am concerned there may be unintended consequences for Vermonters who own vehicles made in 2015 or earlier. The number of vehicles and impacts of this law are unknown – and hopefully inconsequential – but should be determined before the effective date in January 2023. I have asked the Department of Motor Vehicles to research this and assess the consequences.

Should there be undue harm from this bill, I will ask the Legislature to make the necessary changes in January.

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott
Governor

*****

On May 19, Governor Scott announced that H.744 would go into law without his signature, and sent the following letter to the General Assembly:

May 19, 2022

Dear Legislators:

Today, I am letting H.744, An act relating to the approval of an amendment to the charter of the city of Burlington go into law without my signature.

I’m allowing it to move forward because its scope is limited to the method of elections of the Burlington City Council. Ten years ago, Burlington voters rejected a similar instant runoff election system because it yielded flawed results. Nevertheless, the political winds have shifted and once again Burlington voters, for now, favor ranked choice voting.

While H.744 will become law, it will be without my signature. I want to be clear, I am opposed to a statewide system of ranked choice voting. I believe one person should get one vote, and candidates who get the most votes should win elections.

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott
Governor

*****

On May 19, Governor Scott returned without signature and vetoed H.505, and sent the following letter to the General Assembly:

May 19, 2022

The Honorable BetsyAnn Wrask
Clerk of the Vermont House of Representatives
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633

Dear Ms. Wrask:

Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I am returning H. 505, An act relating to the creation of the Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Vermont Sentencing Commission, without my signature.

Vermont has made progress in treating drug and alcohol addiction as an illness, de-stigmatizing, expanding treatment, and instituting recovery systems that enable individuals to re-build their lives. This year, I proposed, and the Legislature passed, significant investments in these areas because this continues to be a priority issue, especially as we experience an alarming increase in the number of overdose deaths and deaths by suicide.

I agree that the criminal justice system cannot, and should not, be the only tool in this work – and in Vermont, it is not. However, we cannot completely abandon reasonable regulation and law enforcement as a tool.

Specifically, this bill creates a Drug Use Standards Advisory Board with a stated goal to identify a path to effectively legalize personal possession and use of dangerous and highly addictive drugs, stating:

“The primary objective of the Board shall be to determine, for each regulated and unregulated drug, the benchmark personal use dosage and the benchmark personal use supply. The benchmarks determined pursuant to this subsection shall be determined with a goal of preventing and reducing the criminalization of personal drug use.”

It places no limits on which drugs can be contemplated for legalization or the amounts, and while rightly saying we need to view substance abuse as a public health matter – a point where I agree – it includes absolutely no recognition of the often-disastrous health and safety impacts of using drugs like fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and more. Nor does it acknowledge the role of enforcement in tracking down and stopping the dealers who seek to poison Vermonters – including children – for profit.

In its written testimony, the Department of Public Safety expressed its concern that Vermont remains a “destination for drug trafficking” due in part to demand, and in part because of the view by drug traffickers that “the financial incentives outweigh the risks posed by Vermont’s criminal laws.”

For these reasons, I cannot allow H. 505 to go into law, and must return it without my signature pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution.

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott
Governor

*****

On May 19, Governor Scott returned without signature and vetoed H.534, and sent the following letter to the General Assembly:

May 19, 2022

The Honorable BetsyAnn Wrask
Clerk of the Vermont House of Representatives
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633

Dear Ms. Wrask:

Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I am returning H.534, An act relating to expanding eligibility for expungement and sealing of criminal history records for nonviolent offenses, without my signature because of my objections described herein.

Safe schools and communities are a top priority of State government and must consistently be a key consideration when criminal justice legislation is debated. Ultimately, I find this bill inconsistent with the State’s responsibilities to keep the public safe.

Vermont is currently experiencing a significant spike in violent crime with most being drug-related. From my perspective, this bill seeks to make offenses relating to possessing, selling, cultivating, dispensing and transporting dangerous, illicit and highly addictive drugs – as well as the use of fraud or deceit to obtain these dangerous drugs – expungable offenses.

In addition, H.534 conflicts with recent policy to increase gun safety. Specifically, the Legislature recently passed – and I signed – a firearm safety measure which increases reliance on background checks to disclose Brady-disqualifying felonies. This was done to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. H.534, however, would expunge felonies that would otherwise disqualify someone from purchasing and owning a gun.

Another area of contradictory policy can be seen with the Legislature’s recent creation of a contractor registry to address home improvement fraud. Yet, this bill makes home improvement fraud an expungable offense, eliminating the ability to hold offenders accountable through the registry the Legislature simultaneously said was about accountability. Similarly, despite passing new laws to expand criminal threatening and prohibit carrying a gun into a hospital, these crimes are also expungable.

In total, over 20 new felony crimes, including felony identity theft, could be erased – inaccessible to anyone, even law enforcement – from an individual’s criminal record if this bill becomes law.

To address these concerns, my administration proposed a uniform, simplified system of sealing – rather than erasing – criminal records. This approach would eliminate undue consequences related to housing, job and education for those Vermonters who are not repeat offenders, while also ensuring access for law enforcement and criminal justice purposes as well as for background checks necessary to ensure public safety and security.

Without allowing access to records for public safety purposes, and resolving all of the very clear inconsistency in policy and conflicts in law H. 534 would create, I cannot support this effort.

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott
Governor

To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2022 legislative session, click here.

Image courtesy of Vermont National Guard
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