by Guy Page
Bills making it easier to sue police, engage in prostitution, and take end-of-life lethal drugs, but more painful to threaten a public official, will be in House committees this week.
Lethal prescription at end-of-life
S74, eliminating in-person physician safeguards and other limitations on possible abuses of the lethal drug prescriptions at end of life, has passed the Senate and is up for House Human Services committee review Wednesday. Sharon Toborg of Vermont Right to Life is scheduled to testify Wednesday. Scheduled for Thursday is the widow of Willem Jewett, a lawmaker who died this year after taking prescribed lethal drugs.
House Judiciary on Tuesday afternoon will take up S254, the ‘qualified immunity’ bill removing police protections against lawsuits, already passed by the Senate, this Tuesday. The bill as introduced would have stripped police of the same in-the-line-of-duty civil lawsuit protections enjoyed by legislators and other government workers. As passed by the Senate, the bill instead calls for summer study of the need for removing qualified immunity. It would not be surprising if the activist House Judiciary Committee reinstated the removal of qualified immunity.
Kicking around State House committee rooms is a book by Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen called “Above The Law: How ‘Qualified Immunity Protects Violent Police.” The cover shows a cop aiming his sidearm. The back cover describes qualified immunity as “a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.”
Free Speech/Criminal Threatening
This Wednesday, House Judiciary will review S265, the ‘criminal threatening’ bill already approved by the Senate that would double the maximum prison sentence (two years) and fine ($2,000) for criminally threatening a public official or anyone else on the premises of government property. The maximum for criminally threatening a regular citizen is one year and/or $1000. Critics say it creates a ‘special class’ of elected and appointed government officials, based on skimpy evidence of actual threats. They fear it will have a chilling effect on citizen willingness to confront elected officials.
The Burlington Charter Change, removing prostitution language from the city charter and effectively decriminalizing prostitution in the Queen City, will go to the House Government Operations Committee at 2:45 pm Tuesday. The charter change is believed to be a harbinger of a statewide repeal of prostitution laws, to be replaced with 1) nothing or 2) a regulated market of legal prostitution.
Here’s an update on other hot-button issues not scheduled for committee review this week.
Vermonters for Good Government held a public forum Saturday as part of their ongoing effort to educate Vermonters about Proposition 5, which if approved by voters in November will create Article 22 in the Vermont Constitution: the right to reproductive liberty and autonomy. A six-part series about Article 22 began in Vermont Daily Chronicle yesterday. Over the weekend, national media reported that more Americans oppose abortion after 15 weeks than support it.
Vermont Daily Chronicle yesterday published a Substack report on the Burlington School District encouraging young students to consider gender identity and possible gender change. H659, which “proposes to allow a minor who identifies as transgender to consent to receiving hormone blockers and other nonsurgical, gender-affirming care and treatment without requiring parental consent,” was introduced Jan. 18 this year. It was not voted out of the House Human Services Committee by the March crossover deadline and therefore is unlikely to be passed into law this year.
The House March 24 passed H410, creating an Artificial Intelligence Commission to study and monitor all aspects of artificial intelligence systems developed, employed, or procured in State government.
Religious School Funding
After the crossover deadline, the Vermont Senate March 29 passed S219, setting restrictions on religious schools accepting public tuition funds. A Supreme Court decision opened the door to requiring some public funding of tuition, and S219 is an effort to establish restrictive parameters. It would ban, with some exceptions, hiring discrimination “on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Also, “none of the public tuition will be used to support religious instruction, religious indoctrination, religious worship, or the propagation of religious views, except for religious instruction that is designed to provide an overview of religious history and teachings and does not support religious instruction, religious indoctrination, religious worship, or the propagation of any one religion or theology over others.”
S219 is in House Education. No testimony is scheduled. If it becomes law, a court challenge is possible.