Scott vetoes non-citizen voting bills

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Scott vetoes non-citizen voting bills

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 10:57am -- tim

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine For those betting against a veto session this year, you will need to find your Venmo password. Governor Phil Scott yesterday vetoed two bills that would allow non-citizen voting in Montpelier and Winooski. Up to this point Scott had only vetoed one bill. That bill was related to raising the age of who legally would be considered a juvenile. That bill probably needed more work to tighten up the language and process and probably would not have triggered a veto session. But the vetoes of the voting rights bills have guaranteed that lawmakers will return to Montpelier at the end of this month.

In vetoing H177 and H227, Scott said they had problematic language that needed more "clarity," similar to his objections to S107 (An act relating to confidential information concerning the initial arrest and charge of a juvenile.)

The charter changes received 65 percent approval in Montpelier and 71 percent approval in Winooski.

Scott made the following statement in vetoing the legislation:

“This is an important policy discussion that deserves further consideration and debate. Allowing a highly variable town-by-town approach to municipal voting creates inconsistency in election policy, as well as separate and unequal classes of residents potentially eligible to vote on local issues. I believe it is the role of the Legislature to establish clarity and consistency on this matter. This should include defining how municipalities determine which legal residents may vote on local issues, as well as specifying the local matters they may vote on. Returning these bills provides the opportunity to do this important work.

“For these reasons I am returning this legislation without my signature pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution. I understand these charter changes are well-intentioned, but I ask the Legislature to revisit the issue of non-citizen voting in a more comprehensive manner and develop a statewide policy or a uniform template and process for those municipalities wishing to grant the right of voting in local elections to all legal residents.”

But unlike S107 (which also met the ire of the Vermont press corps), the Democratic leadership will not let him off the hook on H177 (Montpelier charter change; passed 21-9 in the Senate and 103-39 in the House) and H227 (Winooski charter change; passed 20-10 in the Senate and 99-44 in the House). To override the vetoes, the Legislature would need a two-thirds majority in each body, 100 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate.

This morning, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski issued the following statement addressing the governor's vetoes and ensuring a veto session:

“Vermont has a long history of local control and Vermonters value the right to make decisions for their individual communities. One of Vermont’s core values is our belief in the right across our 14 counties, in all of our cities, towns and villages, for Vermonters to have a voice in making the choices that best fit their communities. The voters of Montpelier and Winooski deliberated and made the decision to expand voting to members of their communities that did not fit the current voter access requirements. The Legislature did their due diligence, recognizing and respecting those decisions, by debating and approving both of these charter changes, which expand access to voting only in local elections.

“I can appreciate the Governor’s desire to have a statewide framework for policy, and that is important in some policy matters, but it simply doesn’t work in situations like this that require charters to be tailored to a specific community. We are fortunate in this state to have a wide range of Vermont experiences, and while Montpelier and Winooski have many things in common, their charter changes were developed to meet the needs and desires of their community members. It is important for us to pass legislation that touches all corners of our state, but it is also important for us to recognize the unique needs of our individual communities and their right to shape the future of local elections as the majority of their voters see fit.” 

“The legislature is returning on June 23 to June 24 and this is something that we feel strongly must be addressed to recognize and honor the voices of the citizens of Montpelier and Winooski.”

Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint echoed Krowinsky's statement:

"According to the Vermont Constitution, the legislature grants authority to towns for what they can and cannot do. We have a clearly defined charter process whereby towns can establish many of their own policies, which must be vetted and approved by the legislature. Voters in Montpelier and Winooski came out in favor of non-citizen voting and the legislature, after vigorous debate and deliberation, supported their ability to regulate their local elections in this way. I have complete confidence in the due diligence of the Senate Government Operations Committee and am grateful to the Chair, Sen. Jeanette White, for her work on this issue.

"I agree with the Governor that this is an important policy discussion. As I've said before this session, voting is one of the most sacred rights and responsibilities we have. When we make voting more accessible, democracy better reflects the will of the people. I would welcome a more comprehensive discussion on non-citizen voting, but I don't think residents of Winooski and Montpelier should have to wait for that discussion. They've made their voices heard on this issue and we should let them lead the way."

The Vermont Democratic Party also noted that Scott has now signed 23 vetoes, the most by any governor in Vermont history. He broke Democrat Howard Dean's record of 21. Dean served 11 years. Scott is in his fifth.

Also on Tuesday, Scott signed several bills into law, as passed by the General Assembly.

On June 1, Governor Scott signed bills of the following titles:       

  • S.62, An act relating to employee incentives, technical education, and unemployment insurance

  • H.88, An act relating to the use value appraisal program

  • H.135, An act relating to the State Ethics Commission

  • H.140, An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the Town of Williston

  • H.420, An act relating to miscellaneous agricultural subjects

  • H.434, An act relating to establishing the Agricultural Innovation Board

  • H.445, An act relating to approval of an amendment to the charter of the Town of Underhill

  • H.171, An act relating to child care systems and financing 

    Governor Scott issued the following statement when signing this bill:

“Expanding Vermont’s focus on early care and learning has been a top priority for my administration since my first year in office. Signing H.171 into law represents another important step forward as we continue our work in this critical area. In partnership with the General Assembly, we’ve increased funding for childcare, expanded access for more families and created a simplified family co-payment. This bill also makes significant investments in workforce supports, including a student loan repayment program, scholarships for prospective early childhood providers and need-based scholarships for individuals already employed at regulated, privately operated center-based childcare programs or family childcare homes. We know there is still more to do, so I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to ensure every child and family has access to high quality and affordable childcare.”

  • H.225, An act relating to possession of a therapeutic dosage of buprenorphine 

In signing this bill, Governor Scott signed an executive order, which can be viewed by clicking here, to ensure the state tracks, measures and can react to the impact of this legislation and sent the following letter the General Assembly:

Dear Legislators:

Today, I signed H.225, An act relating to possession of a therapeutic dosage of buprenorphine, despite concerns on whether there is a need for this legislation given the availability of substance misuse treatment options through our proven hub and spoke system. I am concerned about the lack of data on decriminalizing buprenorphine and its effectiveness in reducing opiate overdoses is unproven. The impact of diverted medication and its use outside of treatment is also a concern, given the critical support the hub and spoke system provides, and with the difficulty prescribers may face in their work to ensure successful treatment.

However, we know addiction is a chronic illness and continue to see the devastating impacts on individuals, their families, and communities. Although I remain skeptical, I signed this bill because it is well-intentioned and offers another potential approach to reduce the impacts of substance use disorder. Most importantly, from my perspective, was the Legislature’s decision to include an endpoint for this law, which will sunset on July 1, 2023, providing experts the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of this initiative.

It is important to me that we do not unravel previous progress, increase abuse of diverted drugs, or jeopardize the success of the hub and spoke system. 

Attached to this letter please find Executive Order 05-21, directing the chief prevention officer to assemble a task force charged with setting performance metrics and collecting and measuring the data needed to assess the effectiveness of decriminalizing buprenorphine.

Sincerely,

/s/

Philip B. Scott

Governor

  • H.430, An act relating to eligibility for Dr. Dynasaur-like coverage for all income-eligible children and pregnant individuals regardless of immigration status

Governor Scott issued the following statement when signing this bill:

“This session, we have taken important steps to address inequities in our health care system. By providing access to critical health care services for children and pregnant women who are not eligible for Medicaid because of their immigration status, we further that work. Every child living in Vermont deserves access to care and the ability to achieve their full potential. I’m proud to sign this bill into law.”

  • H.438, An act relating to capital construction and State bonding

Governor Scott issued the following statement when signing this bill: 

“This bill makes strategic, long-term investments that ensure the continued operation of government and better outcomes for Vermonters. From basic investments needed to maintain our state buildings, to clean water projects and improvements to outdoor recreation, this bill touches every Vermonter in some way.

“I’m happy that the General Assembly supported our effort to double the investment in the Building Communities grant program, which has been helping to complete recreation, human services and economic development projects in towns and communities across the state.

“Replacing the temporary Middlesex secure residential facility with a new facility in Colchester, also included in this bill, will help close gaps in our mental health system, take pressure off emergency rooms and allow us to offer a better standard of care for people in transition. A modern courthouse in Newport will result in safer and more efficient spaces and help improve access to our justice system. And commencing with the replacement of the Women’s Correctional Facility is an important step toward bringing our correctional system into the 21st century.

“This bill also helps strengthen our outdoor recreation sector, including building more of the popular and more accessible rustic cabins in our state parks, along with major investments to improve trailheads, boat launches and other facilities, will provide better options for visitors and Vermonters to access the outdoors—something we’ve all come to appreciate more in the past year.

“These are just some examples of what this bill accomplished, and I want to thank the institutions committees for their important work.”

To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2021 legislative session, click here.