By Guy Page
H.333, the gender-free (GF) bathroom law signed into law last week, applies only to single-stall public bathrooms. People are asking, is mandating multi-stall bathrooms next? At least one major Vermont institution — the University of Vermont — is implementing a plan to expand GF multi-stall bathrooms.
A 2016 UVM study co-authored by UVM librarian and H.333 sponsor Rep. Selene Colburn (Burlington) recommends at least one multi-stall GF bathroom in each campus building. As of 2016, of 1,473 UVM-owned restrooms, 380 were “non-gender-segregated,” of which were multi-stall, the study said. Multi-stall gender-free bathrooms at UVM are present now and are planned to become more numerous, the January 24, 2018 Vermont Cynic reports. New construction — including the new athletic center — will feature some multi-stall GF restrooms.
The study recommends privacy and security design changes: “Urinals can be placed in stalls and newly constructed buildings can be outfitted with new stall designs that afford everyone more privacy while reducing cleaning time for custodial and increasing the sanitation of the restroom. Stall doors can be outfitted with vacant and occupied switch locks, eliminating the need to look under a stall door to determine if the stall is in use.”
It also permits some gender-based restrooms — in buildings with at least three multi-stall facilities, anyway: “Prioritizing non-gender-segregated, multi-stall restroom access does not mean that all gender-segregated restrooms would be eliminated. In fact, in cases where buildings have a number of restrooms, we suggest that non-gender-segregated and gender-segregated restrooms alternate floors. In existing buildings this can be achieved simply with a review of facilities to select the rooms most appropriate and then replacing signs, a process that is already underway at Bailey/Howe library.”
The task force suggests some accommodation for religious and cultural pushback, but not at the expense of GF use: “The task force discussed restroom users who may have religious beliefs, cultural practices and/or personal histories that impact their ability to use multi-stall, non-gender segregated restrooms, we suggest that when possible gender-specific male and female restrooms be maintained in all buildings, unless doing so would prevent the access to a non-gender-segregated restroom in that building.”
UVM sees itself as a launching ground for GF bathrooms statewide, as shown in this statement on pg. 28 of the study:
The University of Vermont takes pride in being ahead of our time and we must continue being leaders on issues of social justice. We, who may be less affected by forms of social oppression, have the obligation to not only stand with those who may be oppressed, but to take action where needed to clear the path for them to walk. We may not be able to change the world beyond our university in terms of how transgender and gender non-conforming people are treated, but together we can change our campus environment, to help all members of our community feel safe when they are inside our buildings.
As UVM goes GF multi-stall, can the rest of Vermont be far behind? Study co-author and H.333 sponsor Colburn is an influential member of the activist, often-progressive House Judiciary Committee. The idea is not far-fetched.
Occupational choice drives 16% Vermont gender pay gap
In Vermont, women earn 16 percent less than men, according to a 2016 study by the Vermont Commission on Women and two other women’s’ advocacy groups. The study was the basis for the 2018 Equal Pay Day resolution approved by the Vermont Legislature.
Vermont women earn 84 cents for every dollar earned by men, a narrower gap than the reputed 20 percent national gender pay gap. The study provides more Vermont detail:
“The median annual income for women working full-time is $37,000, $7,000 less that the median annual salary of men. This translates into a wage gap of 16 percent — or 16 cents on every dollar earned by a man. If a woman has dependent children, the wage gap increases to 23 percent. The gap narrows to 14 percent when a woman has a college degree.”
While demographic factors such as age, education, marital status, and responsibility for minor children are quite similar for men and women, women choose occupations that pay less, the study said. Citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the study shows women dominate occupations such as elementary school education (avg. $45K), Office Worker ($33K), Healthcare Support ($28K), and Personal Services ($22K). Men dominate Engineering ($75K), Protection Services ($50K), Manufacturing and Production ($40K), and Construction ($37K).
Still, a significant gap remains for extremely good paying jobs (CEOs, judges, etc.) and in many more or less gender-free occupations. Interestingly, women only reach parity when working in the traditionally male-dominated positions such as protective services, construction, and STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics).
The study does not address another crucial earning factor: the gender gap in hours worked. A 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that “on the days they worked, employed men worked 52 minutes more than employed women. This difference partly reflects women’s greater likelihood of working part time. However, even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women — 8.4 hours compared with 7.8 hours. Nor does the Vermont study address whether a gender gap in seniority exists.
Youth hunter education resolution shot down in Legislature
A bi-partisan resolution by Rep. Mark Higley (Eden) and Susan Buckholz (Quechee) seeking Vermont Department of Wildlife assistance for school-based, volunteer-led youth hunter education courses was rejected May 10 by House Education Committee leadership.
A new state law prohibits gun ownership for 18-21 year-olds who have not passed a hunter safety course. During 2017, more than 400 volunteer instructors offered the Department’s hunter education courses in many Vermont schools. To Higley, hunter education provided by volunteers seems frugal and safety-conscious. It also seems supported by the Vermont Constitution: “the inhabitants of this State shall have liberty in seasonable times, to hunt and fowl on the lands they hold, and on other lands not inclosed.”
HR26 was introduced May 9. (An early draft asking Fish & Wildlife to “encourage” was amended to “assist” after some lawmakers thought encouragement gave the wrong idea.) Higley said he immediately asked House Education leadership to discuss and approve the bi-partisan, youth-safety-oriented resolution. After being told there wasn’t enough time, etc., he persisted, only to be told flatly “there was no way that resolution would be discussed in House Education,” Higley recalled. So on May 10 he tried to move HR26 out of House Education, “which was disagreed to” according to the Legislature’s website. The resolution was stuck in House Education when the session adjourned.
Gun safety training may not be popular among some Vermont legislators, but it is popular nationwide, with 81 percent of Americans saying it would reduce mass shootings, according to an October, 2017 New York Times poll.
House Education Chair David Sharpe (Bristol) has announced he will not run for re-election. If Higley is returned by voters in November, perhaps the 2019 Legislature will get another chance to urge Fish & Wildlife to assist in life-saving education offered at no cost to either school or student.
Many bills DOA (Dead On Adjournment)
The Legislature adjourned Saturday night, May 12 after passing a $5.8 billion budget Gov. Phil Scott has promised to veto. Gov. Scott has called a special session to pass a budget, beginning Wednesday May 23 and possibly concluding Friday, May 25. Bills that did not pass both houses during the January – May 2019 session are technically “dead.” Although eligible to be reintroduced in the special session, they would have to pass the entire, time-consuming, bi-cameral legislative process they failed to survive during the much longer regular session.
The governor reportedly may choose to rework the budget from “scratch,” giving him the flexibility to save $120,000 now ticketed to study “de-carbonization,” AKA carbon pricing, AKA carbon taxation. A carbon tax study bill died in committee, but the spending survived when it was made a special line item in the proposed House budget.
Here’s a sample of DOA bills and resolutions followed by Headliners this year:
H.247, requiring a report on vaccine-related deaths.
S.216, expansion of prescription for medical marijuana for all conditions;
JRH9, calling for free speech on college campuses and condemning the April 25, 2017 attack by activists on Middlebury College professor and speaker Charles Murray;
HR24, saying President Trump “has used the Office of the President to bully, belittle, and disparage peoples of other nations, races, and creeds.”
H.733, expanding the definition of prostitution to more sexual acts. The bill was requested by Rutland police to help them crack down on human trafficking in Rutland City locations. It died in the otherwise-active House Judiciary Committee.
H.797, making simple possession of heroin and other “hard” drugs a misdemeanor.
H.412, the Homeless bill of rights, which supporters say would have helped homeless people have equal access to jobs and housing, and opponents say would have enabled their pestering of downtown businesses and customers.
H.831, investing $5 million in state pension funds in weatherization revolving loan programs.
Studies, Studies Everywhere, but nothing about the heroin/gang connection since 2013
In the last six months, 150 mandated studies and reports have been submitted to the Legislature. Many go unread. Many were ordered by committees that were unable to reach a decision but, unwilling to just drop the matter, chose the non-committal, expensive “further study.” These expenses include a $141/diem per legislator for summer study committees, and research and preparation time by state employees.
One subject of great interest to many Vermonters that hasn’t been studied since January 2013 is the strong, deadly connection between Vermont’s heroin epidemic and Vermont-based pushers from New York-area gangs. These gangs send representatives to sell to Vermonters heroin produced in Mexico by drug cartels and then smuggled across the southern border and major cities, which serve as cartel distribution hubs. [The same cartels also are now growing marijuana in large, illegal amounts in “legal” Colorado, thus making it easier to distribute and freeing up agricultural sites for opium production. But that’s another story….]
The Report of the Vermont Gang Activity Task Force to the Vermont Legislature of January 15, 2013 stated bluntly in its introduction: “Fact is, we do not know enough about gang activity in Vermont to move aggressively from research to comprehensive intervention. As a state, we simply need more facts.”
Yet since then, while Vermont has been ravaged by heroin distributed by gangsters from the Bronx and other NYC area locations, there have been no Legislative reports about who these gangster are, how they operate, and (most important) how can they be stopped. Not surprisingly, many legislators expressed ignorance and/or disinterest in the heroin/gang connection, when asked this year by Headliners.
The 2013 report makes for harrowing if somewhat dated reading. Gangs such as the Crips, the Bloods, and the Los Solidos gang in L.A. all had active Vermont drug rings. And in state prison, officials said, “We have members in our facilities in Vermont that are members of very high level gangs that we cannot send out of state,” and “It’s very hard to operate a facility, to keep people safe, when gang activity is at [such a high] level.”
Vermont cops seem aware of the problem. As noted in the April 7 Headliners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont has prosecuted several alleged drug dealers from the Bronx for conspiracy to distribute large amounts of heroin and other drugs. Vermont local and state police also make regular arrests of New York City area residents with drug crime records. Recently a St. Albans woman was charged with killing a Brooklyn man who, she said, moved into her family home and used drugs to enslave family members and commit rape. “If I could bring him back to life again and kill him again, I would,” murder suspect Erica Guttila reportedly said.
But how well informed is our Legislature? Right now, Vermont treats our heroin problem with the “social services” of education, prevention and treatment. If armed with more insight into the Mexican/Bronx/Vermont Connection, might lawmakers approve more border security, drug interdiction, and targeting of active drug gangs?
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.