By Guy Page
A Legislature is like a symphony with an overture and three movements. This week, many committees are concluding the two-week overture of introductory briefings, and are beginning the first movement: review of bills referred to them by the full House for study and possible action.
Committee meetings are rarely live-streamed, but are open to the public. Agendas, speakers, and all written testimony are available at the Vermont General Assembly website. The info below is a thin slice of all scheduled House Committee activity, and doesn’t address the Senate at all. Check the website to see the whole pie.
Tuesday, Jan. 22
- On 46th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, in Room 46 at 1 pm, House Human Services will consider H.57, “preserving the right to an abortion.” [I am scheduled to testify, and will do so as a private citizen and father of three adopted children.] Others scheduled include Brynn Hare of Legislative Council and Meagan Gallagher, executive director and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
- 2 pm, Room 11, House Energy and Technology and Natural Resources committees will hear consultant’s report on Decarbonization in Vermont, the ‘carbon pricing’ study commissioned last year by the Legislature. It is scheduled to be released in time for the hearing.
- 2 pm, Room 44, House General, Housing & Military Affairs will discuss National Guard fifth annual Sexual Assault Report. National Guard Adjutant General Steven Cray has been invited.
Wednesday, Jan. 23
- Human Services, afternoon testimony on H.57, “right to an abortion.” Vermonters who wish to testify may contact committee clerk Julie Tucker at email@example.com or 828-2265.
- General, Housing & Military Affairs, 9 am in room 44, hearing on “Sheltering in Vermont.” Representatives from several homeless shelters and organizations scheduled to testify.
- House Judiciary, 10 am: H.7, to permit an out of-state domestic assault conviction to qualify as a prior conviction for purposes of a second degree aggravated domestic assault prosecution in Vermont. In afternoon, H.19,sexual exploitation of a person in law enforcement officer custody.
Thursday, Jan. 24
- 9 am in Room 10 off the main lobby, House Judiciary will take testimony on Fair and Impartial Policing.
Immigration policing appears to be at least one theme. Speakers include Migrant Justice, which decries Vermont law enforcement participation with ICE and the Border Patrol, and Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, a member of the National Sheriff’s Association which strongly supports a southern border wall.
Also listed on the agenda is Kesha Ram, Chair of the Immigration Task Force, created in March 2017 by Attorney General TJ Donovan. The AG’s website reads: “Attorney General Donovan convened a task force of attorneys and citizens to examine the issue of immigration enforcement and provide recommendations to the Attorney General’s Office on the scope of their authority. On this page, you can find task force meeting notifications, agendas and minutes from the meetings. Any documents the task force produces will also be posted here.”
Since March 2017 the task force has met several times, participants say. But no further information has been posted. Last week I asked AG Donovan about the public status of the Task Force. He agreed it needs clarification and said he would look into it.
The hearing also features two leaders of the NAACP, the ACLU, and an LGBTQ activist. A 2016 law calling for better ‘fair and impartial’ training for Vermont police by Jan. 1 2019 has lacked funding for implementation, to the frustration of some legislators and activists.
- Human Services will take testimony on H.26, restricting retail and internet sales of electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine, and other tobacco paraphernalia.
- At noon, many legislators will join independent school students, teachers, parents and staff at the annual National School Choice Week banquet at Capitol Plaza. The banquet is free to interested Vermonters but reservations must be made, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, Jan. 25
All agendas are subject to change, so it’s wise to review the website before planning a visit to the Statehouse.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.