by Guy Page
An amendment added this week by the Vermont Senate to H18, a bill clarifying legal language about child sex abuse, would give some legal immunity against prosecution for the crime of prostitution – a potential first step towards the legalization of prostitution in Vermont.
H18 passed the House on February 5. Sponsored by Republican Tom Burditt (West Rutland) and other members of the House Judiciary Committee, it was hailed as a bipartisan effort to close legal loopholes in some child sex abuse behaviors, notably simulating some sexual acts. It passed the House without roll call or notable controversy. But the content of H18 changed significantly on April 23 when the Senate Judiciary Committee added the following amendment (see pages 2-3). The full Senate approved the bill with the amendment Tuesday, and then H18 back to the House. The amendment reads:
“A person who, in good faith and in a timely manner, reports to law enforcement that the person is a victim of or a witness to a crime that arose from the person’s involvement in prostitution or human trafficking shall not be cited, arrested, or prosecuted for a violation of the following offenses: (1) section 2632 of this title (prostitution)…..[and other offenses].”
The amendment resembles language included in the controversial prostitution legalization study bill passed by the House last year. According to one lawmaker, the amendment is “the first step towards legalized prostitution.” Furthermore, H18 may appear on the ‘notice calendar’ tomorrow for a full House vote next week, soon, possibly without consideration of the amendment by a House committee, the lawmaker said.
If so, this process will give the ‘immunity’ amendment’s supporters in the House a quick way to pass the bill with minimal attention.
This session, H268, a bill to create a study group “for the purpose of modernizing Vermont’s prostitution laws,” was introduced yesterday into the Vermont House. It alleges state law prohibiting prostitution is steeped in racism.
It is sponsored by Representatives Selene Colburn of Burlington, House Judiciary Chair Maxine Grad of Moretown, Kate Donnally of Hyde Park, John Killacky of South Burlington, Emilie Kornheiser of Brattleboro, Jim Masland of Thetford, Bill Notte of Rutland City, Barbara Rachelson of Burlington, Taylor Small of Winooski, and Rebecca White of Hartford. Grad, Colburn, Donnally, Notte and Rachelson all sit on the House Judiciary Committee, where the bill has been sent.
A virtually identical bill aimed at legalizing prostitution in Vermont, H568, passed the House last year but was stalled in the Senate.
Vermonters who wish to contact their House members will find their email addresses at the Vermont Daily Media/Legislator Contact Page.