2018 Town Meeting Report Part 1

2018 Town Meeting Report Part 1

Rep. Curt McCormack and I are honored to serve as your voice in Montpelier.  We are fighting for a government that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.  We’re fighting for a Vermont where paid family leave is part of every job, where Vermonters can afford high-quality health care, attain a great education, and retire with security.  Right now we are half way through the legislative session and have a three part update for you on legislation that reflects our shared goals. Here’s part 1:

House Passes Gun Violence Prevention Package

Children should not be afraid to go to school and parents should not be afraid to put their children on the bus. We must be safe in our homes, our neighborhoods and at work, without the constant threat of gun violence hanging over our heads. We must make immediate changes, and are working with the Governor and the Senate to take swift action to make a difference for Vermonters and will save lives.

The gun violence prevention legislation passed by the House included four critical parts: 1) It would put current practice into law which gives the judge discretion to require any individual who is a risk to themselves or others to turn over weapons as a condition of pre-trial release, 2) Empowers a State’s Attorney or the Attorney General’s office to petition a court to issue an order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they pose a danger to self or others (commonly called a ‘Red Flag’ bill, the Senate passed a different version), 3) Provides protection to a victim of domestic assault by allowing a law enforcement officer, in certain circumstances, to remove a firearm from the scene if the removal is necessary for the protection of the officer, the victim, or another person, and 4) Creates a felony charge for the possession of a firearm on school grounds with intent to harm.
The House will continue to work on gun violence prevention measures this week. In addition to the Senate bill which includes universal background checks and raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, we’ll be looking at adding measures such as bump stock bans and limits on magazine clips.

House Passes Equal Pay Provision
It’s time we rewrite the rules so that women’s work and contributions are fully valued.  Women in Vermont are paid 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to an annual wage gap of nearly $8,000.  The practice of having to disclose one’s current salary only reinforces the pay gap by gender or race in our state. H.294 prohibits an employer asking a prospective employee this question prior to making a job offer. By eliminating this practice, we expect salary equity to become the new normal. We clarified that employers can still ask for salary expectations and still post salary ranges. All of the major business organizations that testified, representing over 5,000 Vermont businesses, supported the bill.

Sexual Harassment Prevention
H.707 sets forth a number of statutory changes that will level the imbalance that has made it more difficult for victims of harassment, male, female, LGBTQ included, to access protection. Reporting harassment exposes a victim to retaliation, and employers tend to shield the company from negative attention at the expense of the victim. H.707 also cleans up our law concerning the use of non-disclosure of sexual harassment contracts and the prevention of a victim from accessing legal remedies for sexual harassment. It also clarifies that anyone who signs a NDA would allow the victim to assist in future cases of harassment committed by their harasser.

The bill also addresses work-related relationships that are not conventionally established, as in an office or workplace. This could mean, for instance, with contractors, or at the other end of the spectrum, with volunteers. And the bill updates recommended sexual harassment prevention activities to reflect best practice.

Originally conceived as a response to the powerful #metoo movement, H.707 clarifies our statutes in order to provide victims of sexual harassment some recourse and protections that are not apparent in our current law. The bill passed out of General, Housing and Military Affairs on a 10-0-1 vote.

Tackling Climate Change Through Efficiency Standards
Last year the House passed a bill to protect the efficiency standards that exist at the federal level,but were threatened by the Trump Administration and certain members of Congress. This year’s legislation (H.410) takes a step further by adding 18 new products to the State energy efficiency standards. In so doing, the State of Vermont joins 13 other states in moving energy and water efficiency standards forward nationally. Additionally, this bill will cut Vermont’s carbon dioxide emissions by 33,000 metric tons each year, which is the equivalent to the emissions of approximately 7,000 passenger cars per year. This supports working Vermonters by increasing average household savings in energy costs by over $660 each year.

We know that climate change is the greatest threat to Vermonters’ health and safety. We also know we have an opportunity to take a measurable step forward that helps Vermonters and helps our state address emissions. Adopting these efficiency standards is a triple win because we lower energy use and decrease our carbon footprint while saving families money.

Leave Your Comment