Central police agency gets hearing this week in House Judiciary

By Guy Page

February 10, 2020 – the plan to centralize all state and county police under a new Agency of Public Safety will be discussed Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

A Jan. 14 study prepared by Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling argues that centralization will produce savings and efficiency. Supporters of the status quo say a central agency will be out of touch with the needs of specialized police and the people they serve. The plan does not include municipal police. A Senate bill prompted by Schirling’s study, S182, would create a new “hierarchical structure” over all state and county enforcement, including:

  • Police and fire training schools
  • Sergeant at Arms and Capitol police
  • “All state law enforcement officers” including state police and game wardens
  • All sheriff’s departments and special investigative units
  • Liquor and Lottery enforcement
  • Department of Corrections
  • Probation and Parole
  • Motor Vehicle Inspectors
  • Investigators for the Secretary of State, Attorney General, and State’s Attorneys, and Medical Board
  • Railroad Police
  • Cannabis investigators

Tuesday, Corrections and Institutions will review H842 community notification of release of sex offenders,  and H844 armed probation/parole officers. Sponsored by Rep. Brian Smith (R-Derby), H842 would require notification of owners abutting the planned home of the released sex offender before the SO is released. H844 (Rep. Mary Howard, D-Rutland) would allow probation and parole officers to carry firearms on duty (even in gun-free state buildings) after completing firearms training.

Tuesday, House and Senate Education will hold a joint hearing on planned resolution of problems surrounding proficiency based learning, which has caused frustration for high school seniors trying to apply for college. PBL grading doesn’t convert well to a grade-point average (GPA), leaving some college applicants unable to provide this crucial information on college applications.

House Education on Thursday will review H714 (Rep. Zachariah Ralph, P-Hartland), requiring implicit bias training for public and approved independent school employees. The Secretary of Education would contract with the Vermont Human Rights Commission to provide four hours of training to new employees and two hours every two years to all other employees. The bill would allow the State to receive private and private donations and grants to fund the training.

Tuesday House Energy & Technology will continue its weeks-long discussion of H688, the Global Warming Solutions Act. The bill would require all of state government to reduce carbon emissions in its programs and decision-making, and would give citizens (including activist lawyers) the expressed right to sue if reduction targets are not met.

General, Housing and Military Affairs Tuesday will discuss H492 the Homeless Bill of Rights on Tuesday, H739 creation of a statewide rental housing registry on Wednesday, and JRH 7 the apology for 20th century laws supporting eugenics-inspired sterilization on Thursday.

Government Operations will review H775 creating a state Youth Council and H557 livestock running at large on Thursday, and H464 police use of force and de-escalation on Friday.

House Human Services will discuss H663 expanding access to contraception Tuesday and Woodside Juvenile Treatment facility Wednesday.

House Transportation will hear about a Luxury Tax Wednesday and about the Transportation & Climate Initiative Thursday. In 2015 Connecticut adopted a luxury sales tax of 7.75% for most motor vehicles costing more than $50,000. Vermont now requires a vehicle sales tax of 6%. On Thursday the committee also will discuss workzone traffic safety and helmets for ATVs.

Click here for a listing of all House committee meetings this week.  Individuals who wish to contact their legislators about these or other bills and issues may call the State House during workdays at 828-2228 or contact them through the Vermont Legislature website, http://www.legislature.vermont.gov.