By Rep. Mike Yantachka
When the Legislature adjourned in May, it allowed for a brief return to consider any legislation Governor Scott might have vetoed. When the governor vetoed his third bill of this session, he tied Governor Howard Dean’s record as the Vermont governor with the most vetoes during his tenure: 21. The veto session also provided an opportunity to finalize action on a bill that got stranded by adjournment. The House convened for the veto session on June 23, and the Senate met on June 24 and 25.
The three bills vetoed during the 2021 legislative session include:
- 107, an act relating to confidential information concerning the initial arrest and charge of a juvenile
- 177, an act relating to the approval of an amendment to the charter of the city of Montpelier, and
- 227, an act relating to the approval of an amendment to the charter of the city of Winooski.
S.107 raises the age from 18 to 20 for exempting from public access records related to the arrest and charging of juveniles. The exemption does not pertain to the “Big 12” major crimes. The rationale for raising the age was to conform to the legislation enacted three years ago to treat young adults ages 18 to 20 as juveniles in Family Court rather than as adults for minor crimes. The goal was rehabilitation rather than incarceration. The issue of whether the identity of a young adult should be public arose in part as a result of an automobile accident on Route 7 in Charlotte that resulted in the death of two Ferrisburgh residents when a vehicle driven by a young person crossed into oncoming traffic and hit the couple’s vehicle head-on. The state police released the young person’s name, but was criticized by the Chittenden County States Attorney for doing so. Governor Scott’s veto message disagreed with the provisions in S.107 because he feels the 2018 legislation has not had the predicted positive results and has exposed 18 to 20 year-olds to manipulation by criminal elements because of their more lenient treatment. The Senate declined to attempt an override of this veto during the veto session.
The House, on the other hand, met for one day to take up three items of business. The first item was to send to the Senate S.79, a bill passed on the last day of the session, but which ran out of time to be sent to the Senate before they adjourned. S.79 created a registry for contractors, another registry for rental units throughout the state, and allowed landlords dealing with problem tenants to initiate eviction proceedings despite the emergency moratorium on evictions. This bill was subsequently passed by the Senate when they met and was sent to the governor, who vetoed it this past Friday as veto #22.
The two bills dealing with the charter changes, H.177 and H.227, were considered next. Both of these bills would allow non-citizens who are legal residents of the cities of Montpelier and Winooski to vote in local elections. The charter amendments were passed overwhelmingly at each city’s Town Meeting election. Governor Scott’s objection was that “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 eligible to vote in local elections.” The House voted to override both vetoes by identical 103 to 47 votes. Municipal charters allow towns and cities, with the consent of the legislature, to customize their policies on various issues. The Vermont League of Cities and Towns supported the veto overrides, stating that “until the legislature enables all municipalities to vote to allow non-citizen residents voting rights in local elections, the charter process is the only means municipalities have to achieve this goal.” Following the House action, the Senate concurred in overriding the vetoes by identical 20 to 10 votes on both bills.
This will be my last regular Legislative Report for this session, although I may pen an article occasionally to report on out-of-session work. There will be opportunities for in-person meetings between now and January. As always, I welcome your emails or phone calls at (802) 233-5238. This article and others can be found at my website.