Week 7 : February 19th to February 22nd
With H.57, a bill on Reproductive Rights, hitting the floor on Wednesday we started a roll-call vote marathon. There were about a dozen proposed amendments to the bill that was designed to codify current practices regarding abortion in Vermont. Over the course of two days and 10 hours we voted on the amendments and passed the bill.
We were warned that Wednesday would be a rough one. H.57 would be controversial, with amendments, debate and roll-call votes. Each such vote requires the clerk to read each of our names aloud. We respond: "yes" or "no." It takes about 20 minutes to half an hour. After each vote there is a chance for whoever wants to, to briefly explain their vote. Before the vote there is the debate. It all can take a while.
But this debate was particularly interesting and thoughtful. Some valid amendments were proposed and discussed.
Here's the intent portion of the bill:
"Currently Vermont does not restrict the right to abortion. The General Assembly intends this act to safeguard the existing rights to access reproductive health services in Vermont by ensuring those rights are not denied, restricted, or infringed by a governmental entity. "
It then goes on with two simple statements:
- The State of Vermont recognizes the fundamental right of every individual to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization.
- The State of Vermont recognizes the fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion.
And finally it says that no public entity can deny or interfere with these rights.
The dozen or so amendments proposed many of the common ways that abortions might be limited. For details see my Controversial Bills page.
Thursday morning we also elected the Adjutant General for the Vermont National Guard. Vermont is the only state that selects its state militia leader in such a manner. Col. Greg Knight of the Army Guard won. I suspect that process will change. Many legislators were uncomfortable with it. We're used to having some committee, or the Governor make recommendations.
We also elected a Sargent at Arms and three trustees to the University of Vermont. On top of that we had nearly two hours of Implicit Bias training.
In between all this my committee continued work on the Capital Bill. We should be able to settle in to some sort of routine soon. But after next we have Town Meeting week off. That's when I head to Mississippi to visit a prison. Maybe after that, things will settle down . . . I suspect not. I should just get used to the pace.
Bills this week
We're up to 400 bills submitted. A lot of them will go nowhere. But here's some of the more interesting:
- H.346 An act relating to the use of head protection on all-terrain vehicles.
- H.343 An act relating to the imposition of an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
- H.340 An act relating to the dissolution of the State Board of Education.
- H.329 An act relating to safe storage of firearms.
- H.316 An act relating to creating an automotive workforce training pilot program.
- H.373 An act relating to creating an employee surcharge to pay for child care subsidies.
- S.121 An act relating to Adjutant and Inspector General.
- H.283 An act relating to penalties for animal cruelty offenses