Top News of `21: House OKs firearms relinquishment, gender ID victim protection, non-citizen voting

Beginning today, Vermont Daily will, as time permits, publish The Readable House Journal: an abbreviated version of the official Vermont House Journal edited for Vermonters not fluent in its obscure, parliamentary language. Think of it as the Reader’s Digest version of the published proceedings of the Vermont House of Representatives. – Editor

New Bill(s) Introduced 

H427 By Rep. Cina of Burlington, expanding the role of the Executive Director of Racial Equity by adding two full-time positions and allocating $1.25 million for technology to study racial data –  referred to the Committee on Government Operations. 

Voting on Bill(s) Approved by Senate

S53, exempting feminine hygiene products from sales tax. The House suspended procedural rules and immediately approved the bill, which passed the Senate 30-0. 

S110, extending eligibility for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, was given final approval. 

Bill(s) Referred to House Appropriations Committee

H360, accelerated community broadband deployment. Bills with significant spending “asks” are often sent to Appropriations for review. The total funding package of H360 is about $31 million, most of which would be loaned to communities for broadband development. 

Joint Resolution vote tomorrow 

The House agreed to vote March 12 on a joint resolution to hold a vote with the Senate March 25 on retaining Superior Court judges Brian J. Grearson and Nancy J. Waples and Magistrates Christine A. (Doremus) Hoyt, Joseph M. Lorman and Brian Valetine.

Third (Final) Reading; Bill Passed

H128, limiting criminal defenses based on victim identity, passed 144-1. H128 would prohibit a defendant in criminal court from using information about the victim’s actual or perceived gender identity, or the victim’s romantic, non-violent advances, to justify or mitigate the severity of the crime. 

H177, final approval of City of Montpelier charter change allowing non-citizen legal residents to vote in local elections, passed on final reading without a roll call. A ‘second reading’ roll call held Wednesday 3/10 passed 103-39. 

H195, allowing police to use facial recognition technology in cases involving sexual exploitation of children, sexual assault, homicide, or kidnapping, approved on final reading.

H. 289, professions and occupations regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation, passed on final reading.

Second Reading; Third Reading Ordered

H. 420, miscellaneous agricultural subjects, approved on second reading. 

H. 421, animal cruelty investigation response and training, approved on second reading. 

Second Reading; Bill Amended; Third Reading Ordered

H133, emergency relief from abuse orders and relinquishment of firearms, approved 101-41.

Rep. Batchelor of Derby explained her vote:

I voted to oppose H.133 in its current form as I cannot, in good conscience, support any legislation which allows seizure of firearms without the highest level of due process.”

Rep. LaLonde of South Burlington explained his vote:

“Emergency relief from abuse orders have long been an inexpensive and uncomplicated judicial avenue for victims of abuse to seek immediate safety. When a victim is able to prove past abuse and the immediate danger of further abuse, a court can issue a Relief from Abuse Order. As part of that order, the court has the inherent authority to require the defendant to relinquish firearms. H.133 simply creates a statutory basis for this authority that clarifies the option to order firearm relinquishment. With this bill, victims will have a clearer understanding that an order removing firearms is available to improve their safety. And, crucially, providing courts explicit as opposed to inherent authority to do so makes this option unambiguous to judges.”

Action on Bills Postponed

H227, approval City of Winooski charter change for non-citizen voting, postponed until March 16.

H366, 2021 technical corrections, postponed until March 16.

H10, permitted candidate expenditures, postponed until March 16. H10, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford) would “explicitly permit candidates to spend campaign funds on expenses necessary to allow a candidate to campaign, such as expenses for the care of a dependent family member that are incurred as a direct result of campaign activity.” In practice, campaign contributions could be raised and spent to significantly reduce candidates’ household expenses. 

H337, printing and distribution of State publications, postponed until March 16.

House Adjourned