By Guy Page
When it wants to, the Vermont Legislature can convert a bill into a law very promptly. It has already done so this year with legislation regarding restorative justice, abortion rights, Town Meeting, and other issues.
As of today, only 15 bills passed by the 2023 Vermont Legislature have become full-fledged laws. Of the other 101 passed by both the House and Senate this year, many will become law soon. Others will have to wait until next year. Some may never become laws at all.
Two abortion-related laws were the result of a pro-abortion rights Legislature acting on what it perceived as a mandate from voters’ November 2022 ratification of the Article 22 Constitutional Amendment enshrining abortion rights, and the overturning of Roe V. Wade decision.
A pair of bills pertaining to criminal cases going to restorative justice, diversion and expungement passed as the Legislature sought to help relieve the crowded backlog on the Vermont criminal courts.
Bills passed by the Legislature undergo a lengthy gubernatorial and clerical review process. The following bills are among the 15 bills that have already run that gauntlet to become official Acts of the Legislature:
|Act 1(H.42)||Allows selectboards to authorize Australian ballot for Town Meeting, and hold public hearings by remote ‘Zoom’|
|Act 5(H.28)||Sets guidelines for court diversion and expungement|
|Act 8(H.148)||Raises age of eligibility to marry to age 18|
|Act 9(H.35)||Changes oversight of the Victims Assistance Program from the Office of Crime Services to the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs|
|Act 10(H.190)||Removes the residency requirement from Vermont’s patient choice at end of life [a/k/a assisted suicide] laws|
|Act 11(H.41)||Refers domestic and sexual violence cases to community justice centers for ‘restorative justice’|
|Act 13(S.3)||Prohibits paramilitary training camps|
|Act 14(H.89)||Shields abortion/transgender service providers from civil and criminal procedures|
|Act 15(S.37)||Guarantees health care coverage for abortions, shields abortion providers from professional misconduct charges, allows Attorney General to pursue deceptive advertising charges against pregnancy resource centers that do not perform abortions|
116 bills passed both the House and the Senate this year. However, not all will become law. In some cases, the two chambers passed different versions of the same bill, requiring reconciliation when the Legislature reconvenes in January. Others may be vetoed successfully by the governor.