REP. BOB BANCROFT

R-Chittenden 8-3

Eight bills were passed on the floor last week, ranging from animal cruelty laws to adding more appliances/equipment to Vermont’s efficiency standards. Additionally, the House concurred with a Senate amendment to the Budget Adjustment Act, which the House passed on January 18. A complete list of bills passed by the House and/or the Senate can be found at https://legislature.vermont.gov.

The Transportation Committee, of which I am a member, spent half of last week listening to budget presentations from various divisions within the Vt. Agency of Transportation. One morning was spent listening to testimony on roadside saliva testing, which can test for eight drugs including marijuana. The committee heard from 11 witnesses. Three science professionals with considerable experience with the efficacy of using saliva to test for drugs testified by phone, the Department of Public Safety commissioner, the director of the Vermont Forensic Laboratory, the Policy Director for the ACLU of Vermont, two Vermont motor vehicle law enforcement professionals and three attorneys testified. The attorneys were from the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, Defender General’s Office and the Department of State’s Attorneys & Sheriffs.

All of the witnesses except two supported roadside saliva testing for drugs. The attorney from the Defender General’s Office did not outright oppose roadside testing; however, he reiterated what a couple of other witnesses mentioned. It is unclear if Vermont’s Supreme Court and/or the U.S. Supreme Court would find taking a saliva sample to be invasive and, like a blood sample, would require the suspect to voluntarily agree to giving a sample or the arresting officer having to obtain a search warrant. Some believe the courts will find it non-invasive like breath tests.

The ACLU representative was adamantly opposed to roadside saliva testing. She believed it was invasive, an abridgement of personal freedom and might lead to racial profiling. She made it clear that the ACLU would challenge any such a law. It is important to point out that a roadside saliva test is not an evidentiary test, whereas a sample taken after an arrest is evidentiary. Law enforcement personnel, and a couple of the attorneys, view roadside testing as just one of many tools used, such as heel-to-toe walking, counting backward, following a finger, in determining if a person is impaired. The only use for the saliva test is to determine if a suspect has a drug in his/her system. Unlike alcohol (.08 BAC), there is no legal limit for drugs.

Many of those testifying believed the new marijuana law will lead to an increase in impaired driving. I also concur. Given the multiplicative impairment effect of marijuana used in conjunction with alcohol, I fear there will be a significant increase in serious injuries and/or deaths on Vermont’s highways.

Sen. Michael Sirotkin

D-Chittenden County; Chairman, Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs

Very pleased to report last week’s 23- 5 Senate vote, requiring all internet service providers such as Comcast, Fairpoint, AT&T, etc., to maintain “net neutrality” in their services, if they wish to procure any Vermont state contracts.

This is a big deal and will impact all Vermont internet users. Net neutrality principles essentially guarantee that all data on the internet should be treated equally, and ISPs should not discriminate or provide preference to any data, regardless of its source, content or destination. It means you can go where you want and do what you want online without your broadband provider getting in the way or making choices for you.

The bill, S.289, is very timely, as these long-standing consumer protections are currently being stripped away by the FCC in Washington, in favor of the large ISPs.

The idea that ISP companies will shortly be empowered by the federal government to decide what information and ideas on the internet receive preferential or disfavored treatment has outraged Americans from coast to coast.

Our Vermont Senate appears to be the first legislative chamber in the country to vote to preserve net neutrality for its citizens and is modeled after the executive orders issued last week by governors in New York and Montana. I was honored to be S.289’s reporter to the full Senate.  You can read the bill at www.leg.state.vt.us.