Roll Call: House passes criminal threatening bill, restricts firearm rights

Editor’s note: Roll Call is published by the Ethan Allen Institute.

S.265, an act relating to expanding criminal threatening to include threats to third persons, passed in the State House of Representatives on April 12, 2022, by a vote of 89-32.

Purpose: The underlying language of S.265 would allow for the legal punishment of citizens who are aggressive toward public officials.

A citizen prosecuted under S.265 could be given a misdemeanor (a year or less in prison) or even a felony (up to two years in prison). A felony charge could result in temporary relinquishment or permanent seizure. A fine between $1000 and $2000 is also in play.

The key language in section 1.f of the bill states, “A person who violates subsection (a) of this section with the intent to terrify, intimidate, or unlawfully influence the conduct of a candidate for public office, public servant, election official, or public employee in any decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion taken in capacity as a candidate for public office, public servant, election official, or public employee, or with the intent to retaliate against a … for any previous action taken in capacity as a candidate for public office, public servant, election official, or public employee, shall be imprisoned not more than two years or fined not more than $2,000.00, or both.” Additionally, S.265 makes it more difficult for a defendant’s legal defense to claim that the defendant was unable to carry out their threat.

The Notte Amendment adds sexual assault to the Senate’s list of illegal conduct, and reorders section of S.265 to make more logical sense.

Analysis: Those voting YES believe that the increased levels of conflict between citizens and school board members and other public official across the country, particularly in regard to Critical Race Theory (CRT) and controversial Covid policies, warrants increased protections for elected officials from threats of violence, above those of ordinary citizens. In Vermont, they point to recent allegations of threats to legislators, election officials, healthcare workers, neighbors of shooting ranges and women of color in Vermont. Protecting the ‘victim’ from further attacks could give the courts license to remove an individual’s firearms.

Those voting NO believe S.265 infringes on the Constitutional rights to free speech and to petition government for redress of grievances. S.265 could potentially result in citizens being punished for criticism (rather than actual threats) of certain groups, which is clearly protected speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

The ACLU of Vermont chose not to endorse S.265, warning lawmakers that an earlier version of S.265 could be applied too broadly and chill “certain forms of political hyperbole.” Vermont law enforcement already has the authority to deal with truly violent threats. Officials chose not to prosecute recent threats under current, which suggests a conscious decision by officials, rather than a failure of Vermont law. S.265 could also give the courts more freedom to violate an individual’s Second Amendment rights by removing an individual’s firearms while the case is being processed.

As Recorded in the House Journal, Tuesday, April 12, 2022: “Pending the question, Shall the bill pass in concurrence with proposal of amendment?, Rep. LaClair of Barre Town demanded the Yeas and Nays, which demand was sustained by the Constitutional number. The Clerk proceeded to call the roll and the question, Shall the bill pass in concurrence with proposal of amendment?, was decided in the affirmative. Yeas, 89. Nays, 32.” (Read the Journal, p. 1023 – 24 ).

View the floor debate on YouTube, Part 1 and Part 2.

HOW THEY VOTED

Sally Achey (R – Middletown Springs) – NO
Janet Ancel (D – Calais) – YES
Peter Anthony (D – Barre City) – YES
Norman Arrison (D – Weathersfield) – YES
Sarita Austin (D – Colchester) – YES
John Bartholomew (D – Hartland) – YES
Scott Beck (R – St. Johnsbury) – NO
Matthew Birong (D – Vergennes) – ABSENT
Alyssa Black (D – Essex) – YES
Tiffany Bluemle (D – Burlington) – YES
Thomas Bock (D – Chester) – YES
Seth Bongartz (D – Manchester) – YES
Michelle Bos-Lun (D – Westminster) – YES
Erin Brady (D – Williston) – YES
Patrick Brennan (R – Colchester) – ABSENT
Timothy Briglin (D – Thetford) – YES
Jana Brown (D – Richmond) – YES
Nelson Brownell (D – Pownal) – YES
Jessica Brumsted (D – Shelburne) – YES
Thomas Burditt (R – West Rutland) – YES
Mollie Burke (P/D – Brattleboro) – YES
Elizabeth Burrows (P/D – West Windsor) – YES
Scott Campbell (D – St. Johnsbury) – YES
Bill Canfield (R – Fair Haven) – NO
Seth Chase (D – Colchester) – YES
Kevin “Coach” Christie (D – Hartford) – YES
Brian Cina (P/D – Burlington) – ABSENT
Sara Coffey (D – Guilford) – YES
Selene Colburn (P/D – Burlington) – YES
Hal Colston (D – Winooski) – YES
Peter Conlon (D – Cornwall) – YES
Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D – Bradford) – YES
Timothy Corcoran (D – Bennington) – YES
Mari Cordes (D/P – Lincoln) – YES
Lawrence Cupoli (R – Rutland City) – NO
Lynn Dickinson (R – St. Albans Town) – ABSENT
Karen Dolan (D – Essex) – YES
Kari Dolan (D – Waitsfield) – YES
Anne Donahue (R – Northfield) – NO
Kate Donnally (D – Hyde Park) – ABSENT
David Durfee (D – Shaftsbury) – YES
Caleb Elder (D – Starksboro) – YES
Alice Emmons (D – Springfield) – ABSENT
Peter Fagan (R – Rutland City) – NO
Martha Feltus (R – Lyndon) – YES
John Gannon (D – Wilmington) – YES
Rey Garofano (D – Essex) – YES
Leslie Goldman (D – Bellows Falls) – YES
Kenneth Goslant (R – Northfield) – NO
Maxine Grad (D – Moretown) – YES
Rodney Graham (R – Williamstown) – NO
James Gregoire (R – Fairfield) – NO
Lisa Hango (R – Berkshire) – NO
James Harrison (R – Chittenden) – NO
Robert Helm (R – Fair Haven) – NO
Mark Higley (R – Lowell) – NO
Robert Hooper (D – Burlington) – ABSENT
Mary Hooper (D – Montpelier) – YES
Philip Hooper (D – Randolph) – ABSENT
Lori Houghton (D – Essex) – YES
Mary Howard (D – Rutland) – ABSENT
Kathleen James (D – Manchester) – ABSENT
Stephanie Jerome (D – Brandon) – ABSENT
Kimberly Jessup (D – Middlesex) – YES
John Kascenska (R – Burke) – ABSENT
John Killacky (D – S. Burlington) – YES
Charles Kimbell (D – Woodstock) – ABSENT
Warren Kitzmiller (D – Montpelier) – ABSENT
Emilie Kornheiser (D – Brattleboro) – YES
Jill Krowinski (D – Burlington) – PRESIDING
Larry Labor (R – Morgan) – ABSENT
Robert LaClair (R – Barre) – NO
Martin LaLonde (D – S. Burlington) – YES
Diane Lanpher (D – Vergennes) –YES
Wayne LaRoche (R – Franklin) – ABSENT
Paul Lefebvre (R – Newark) – ABSENT
Samantha Lefebvre (R – Orange) – NO
Felisha Leffler (R – Enosburgh) – YES
William Lippert (D – Hinesburg) – YES
Emily Long (D – Newfane) – YES
Michael Marcotte (R – Coventry) – ABSENT
Marcia Martel (R – Waterford) – ABSENT
James Masland (D – Thetford) – YES
Christopher Mattos (R – Milton) – NO
Michael McCarthy (D – St. Albans City) – YES
Curtis McCormack (D – Burlington) – YES
Patricia McCoy (R – Poultney) – NO
James McCullough (D – Williston) – NO
Francis McFaun (R – Barre Town) – NO
Leland Morgan (R – Milton) – NO
Michael Morgan (R – Milton) – NO
Kristi Morris (D – Springfield) – YES
Mary Morrissey (R – Bennington) – NO
Michael Mrowicki (D – Putney) – YES
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (D – Burlington) – ABSENT
Barbara Murphy (I – Fairfax) – YES
Logan Nicoll (D – Ludlow) – ABSENT
Michael Nigro (D – Bennington) – ABSENT
Robert Norris (R – Sheldon) – NO
Terry Norris (I – Shoreham) – YES
William Notte (D – Rutland) – YES
Daniel Noyes (D – Wolcott) – YES
John O’Brien (D – Tunbridge) – YES
Carol Ode (D – Burlington) – YES
“Woody” Page (R – Newport City) – ABSENT
Kelly Pajala (I – Londonderry) – YES
John Palasik (R – Milton) – ABSENT
Joseph Parsons (R – Newbury) – NO
Carolyn Partridge (D – Windham) – YES
Avram Patt (D – Worcester) – YES
Henry Pearl (D – Danville) – YES
Arthur Peterson (R – Clarendon) – NO
Ann Pugh (D – S. Burlington) – YES
Barbara Rachelson (D/P – Burlington) – YES
Lucy Rogers (D – Waterville) – YES
Carl Rosenquist (R – Georgia) – NO
Larry Satcowitz (D – Randolph) – YES
Robin Scheu (D – Middlebury) – YES
Heidi Scheuermann (R – Stowe) – NO
Charles “Butch” Shaw (R – Pittsford) – NO
Amy Sheldon (D – Middlebury) – YES
Laura Sibilia (I – Dover) – YES
Katherine Sims (D – Craftsbury) – YES
Taylor Small (P/D – Winooski) – YES
Brian Smith (R – Derby) – NO
Harvey Smith (R – New Haven) – ABSENT
Trevor Squirrell (D – Underhill) – YES
Gabrielle Stebbins (D – Burlington) – YES
Thomas Stevens (D – Waterbury) – YES
Vicki Strong (R – Albany) – NO
Linda Joy Sullivan (D – Dorset) – YES
Heather Suprenant (D – Barnard) – YES
Curt Taylor (D – Colchester) – YES
Thomas Terenzini (R – Rutland Town) – ABSENT
George Till (D – Jericho) – YES
Tristan Toleno (D – Brattleboro) – ABSENT
Casey Toof (R – St. Albans Town) – NO
Maida Townsend (D – S. Burlington) – YES
Joseph “Chip” Troiano (D – Stannard) – YES
Tanya Vyhovsky (P/D – Essex) – YES
Matt Walker (R – Swanton) – NO
Tommy Walz (D – Barre City) – YES
Kathryn Webb (D – Shelburne) – YES
Kirk White (P/D – Bethel) – ABSENT
Rebecca White (D – Hartford) – YES
Dane Whitman (D – Bennington) – YES
Terri Lynn Williams (R – Granby) – NO
Theresa Wood (D – Waterbury) – YES
David Yacovone (D – Morristown) – YES
Michael Yantachka (D – Charlotte) – YES

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4 thoughts on “Roll Call: House passes criminal threatening bill, restricts firearm rights

  1. Seems to me this law could be used to shut down news articles and reporters that write things someone running for office doesn’t like. As well as teachers who whine about what public officials say. Not to mention a public official criticized by another public official. — Beware of unintended consequences, the complainers could end up in jail. If they are commies that would be ok with me.

  2. Apparently the house vote was but a formality. The legislative branch of Vermont government is now officially a politburo. Yes, a politburo. Defined as:
    The governing council of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and other Leninist political systems.
    A senior policymaking body in a political organisation, generally consisting of members who either are appointed by the party in control of the organisation or who attain membership through their personal political affiliations.

  3. Recently, it’s been very difficult to feel any pride for the Vermont legislators under the Golden Doom. The foolishness of the legislation they propose and often pass, is mind boggling. Now, with the passage of S.265, it would be damned near impossible to be proud of them. If this bill survives the likely veto by the Governor, and a resurrection by an inevitable veto override attempt, it will essentially mean that the spineless, faint of heart, frightened of their own shadow legislators will theoretically be able to have you arrested for using harsh language in opposition to their outrageous, nonsensical agenda, or for calling them out for the morons that they are. So much for Free Speech as protected by the First Amendment. Makes me wonder if the design for their new proposed, over priced cafeteria in the Statehouse will have safe spaces engineered in. Maybe add some calming lavender candles and stuffed animals…

  4. As was posted elsewhere, “a ‘threat’ becomes one only when it is perceived as such.” The elitist legislators and public officials want to silence any voices that would strongly disagree with them or express dissatisfaction with the quality of their work. This gives them free reign to perceive any criticism as a “threat”, so they are “theatening” anyone who does so with fines and jail time.
    So here’s a question: Would “I am not going to vote for your re-election because I am not satisfied with your representation.” be considered a “threat”? Think about it, folks. This legislation is dangerous and a real “threat” to basic freedom of speech. The governor would do well to veto it without hesitation when it arrives on his desk.

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