Fighting systemic racism and climate change, they’re ready to make lists and take names
By Guy Page
The 2021-22 Vermont Legislature is making lists and taking names like no other before it.
In its war against systemic racism and climate change, this Legislature has created numerous problem-solving per diem advisory boards and commissions. To borrow a culturally-obsolete reference from mid-20th century movies, they are the White Hats.
To bring the Black Hats to justice, the White Hats need to know where they are lurking. Thus the push for (at least) four new statewide registries. All have made significant progress under the Golden Dome. None have become law – yet.
Surface water withdrawers. In the name of saving Vermont lakes, streams and ponds from climate-change induced drought, H466 requires that “beginning on January 1, 2023, any person withdrawing 5,000 gallons or more of surface water within a 24-hour period shall register with the Secretary.” A press release by former Rep. David Deen explains the ‘why’ of H466 but says less about the ‘how.’
Here’s how the H466 registry would work.
Registrants must describe when and how water will be withdrawn, how much they plan to withdraw, and what they will use it for. An annual report will be required. Withdrawals above 50,000 gallons/day must be metered. The bill says nothing specific about cost or fees.
Fire departments, hydropower, public water suppliers, and cows drinking directly from a stream or pond are exempt. Snowmakers are covered by law elsewhere. Covered uses include agricultural irrigation, industrial uses, livestock watering, water supply, aquaculture, or other off-stream uses.
H466 is now in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
Police officers. S250, passed yesterday by the Vermont Senate, requires “The Vermont Criminal Justice Council shall maintain a database cataloging any potential impeachment information concerning a law enforcement officer.”
This is in effect a state registry of any information – true or not – that can be used against a cop. This registry would include:
- Any finding of misconduct that reflects upon the truthfulness or possible bias of the law enforcement officer
- Any past or pending criminal charge brought against the law enforcement officer;
- Any allegation of misconduct bearing upon truthfulness, bias, or integrity that is the subject of a pending investigation;
- Any prior findings by a judge that a law enforcement officer testified untruthfully, made a knowing false statement in writing, engaged in an unlawful search or seizure, illegally obtained a confession, or engaged in other misconduct.
- Any misconduct finding or pending misconduct allegation that either casts a substantial doubt upon the accuracy of a law enforcement officer as a witness, including testimony, that a prosecutor intends to rely on to prove an element of any crime charged, or that might have a significant bearing on the admissibility of prosecution evidence;
- Information that may be used to suggest that the law enforcement officer is biased for or against a defendant.
- Information that reflects that the law enforcement officer’s ability to perceive and recall truth is impaired.
The sponsor of S250 is Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden), who has said “we must divest from policing” and “there is no such thing as a good officer.” It passed the Senate on a voice vote, with at least one Republican vowing to oppose it. Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), a defense lawyer, reportedly said “It is my personal belief, as a criminal defense attorney, that one should never gather data on someone merely because an allegation has been made about them.”
Gov. Scott has vetoed the following two bills. Legislative leaders are currently trying to weave them into existing bills in the hopes the governor won’t throw out the baby (good legislation in the bills) with the already-rejected bathwater (the registries).
Home-improvement contractors. H157, licensing of contractors, would require both licensing, registry and certification of almost all home-related contractors. The climate angle is that the bill also requires contractors to learn low-carbon building practices.
It passed the House by 82 votes, well short of the 100 needed for a veto, and the delay of the veto vote until at least late April suggests the votes aren’t there now. Opponents say it could cripple small business contractors at a time when their skills are especially needed to repair existing housing and build new homes.
Landlords. S79 would create a state registry of rental property owners. Supporters say it would open up funding streams for rental rehab, while critics say it also could open them up to more state oversight and regulation. While the current draft doesn’t specifically mention climate change, it would amend Vermont law dealing with rental safety and energy standards. Once a registry is in place, it would be easy for the Legislature to impose and enforce strict carbon-reduction standards, or further anti-discrimination regulations or laws.