The big news from last week was the governor signing three bills dealing with firearms. The three bills were H.422, S.221 and S.55.

H.422 allows law enforcement to remove firearms from a person arrested or cited for domestic assault. S.221 allows a state’s attorney to file a petition requesting that the court issue an extreme risk protection order which would prohibit a person from purchasing or possessing a dangerous weapon, if there is clear and convincing evidence that the person in question poses an extreme risk of causing harm to themselves or another person. The day after the governor signed S.221, a judge issued an extreme risk protection order against Jack Sawyer, the young man accused of planning a mass shooting at Fair Haven High School. Both H.422 and S.221 were passed by unanimous votes in the House and the Senate.

Unlike H.422 and S.221, S.55 did not receive unanimous support in either the House or the Senate. There were five sections to the bill: (1) the disposal of unlawful and abandoned firearms, (2) banning the sale and possession of bump stocks, (3) background checks for the private sale of firearms, (4) prohibiting the purchase of long runs (rifles and shotguns) for individuals under 21, and (5) banning the sale of certain sized magazines. The first two sections were not controversial. The latter three were hotly debated.

The House passed eight bills last week. A listing of these eight and all other bills passed this session can be found here. Only one of these bills, S.237 generated a debate. S.237 allows the defender general and public defenders who are representing an immigrant in a Vermont criminal matter to also advise and possibly represent them in immigration matters. I and several other House members were concerned that this bill had the potential of significantly increasing the workload and expenses of the defender general’s office. At the third reading of the bill, my apprehension was addressed, resulting in an amendment. During the discussion, we were advised that the provision of immigrant advise/representation was currently being done on a very limited basis. The major benefit of the bill is to provide immunity to the attorneys providing this service. The bills passed on a voice vote.

The Transportation Committee finished its work on S.272, which deals with miscellaneous changes to laws related to motor vehicles. With the exception of the section dealing with vehicle inspections, the bill does not contain anything of interest to the public. The vehicle inspection section is intended to move the administrative and rule making process along. The objective of this process is to eliminate non-safety items which have in the past prevented the issuance of an inspection sticker. While many of these items may be illegal, they do not compromise the safe operation of a vehicle. Some examples of these non-safety items are a missing front license plate, parking brake failure on a vehicle with an automatic transmission, or an inoperable rear window wiper.