Wednesday, April 30, 2014
For those of you in the Municipal Law Section, you’ve been reading emails about H. 497, the open meeting bill which affects executive sessions. In the House passed bill, going into executive session to receive legal advice had two preconditions. The Section disagreed and was successful in amending the bill in committee. After three hearings in the Senate Government Operations Committee, all five members finally supported the language we’ve been proposing- almost! The committee agreed last night to add the rewritten exemption (taking out rendition and using “providing”, I believe; sorry I don’t have the language in front of me). BUT, they added it as a sub F which makes it subject to the preliminary finding re: premature disclosure. An independent sub (11) was not going to win approval.
Chuck Storrow presented the new language and the compromise placement of that language. Dan Richardson answered numerous questions and persuaded the committee by using concrete examples of how this works in the real world. AND, Sen. Peg Flory, who I reached out to earlier in the day came to the hearing and helped in convincing at least two committee members.
Now, none of this would have happened without the contacts Section members made over the last week. I know of contacts between members of this Section and Senators Ayer and McAllister. They were the first two to declare support. Sen. French of Rutland County came around after digesting all the comments. Sen. Pollina of Washington County reluctantly was a yes. The last holdout was the committee chair Jeannette White of Windham County. She was a yes last night but I don’t think her heart’s really in it. So where do we go from here?
The committee has not voted the bill out yet. Along with our amendment there were others. A new clean draft will need to be done by legislative counsel; presented to the committee for a vote and then the bill heads to the floor for the full Senate to consider.
If it passes, it has to go back to the House; the House can either concur or refuse to concur and request a committee of conference. If we can convince the members of the House Government Operations Committee that this amendment is an improvement to the house passed bill, we may be able to get concurrence. If not, the 3 appointees from the house along with 3 from the Senate will write the final bill.
So, even though adjournment is scheduled for May 10th, there remains a lot to be done in that short time.
If you had a conversation and/or received a responsive email from one of the members you were in touch with, I’d suggest a follow up thanking that senator for his or her efforts. As soon as the final version is voted on and posted I’ll get it out to you; then a thank you would be in order. Again, everyone, thank you for rallying for this issue. Although it’s not 100% of what you wanted, I think you’ve improved the bill and helped protect the attorney-client privilege.
Today the Senate should be advancing H. 88, the bill concerning parent child contact when a child is conceived as a result of a sexual assault. The House passed a very broad bill that raised concerns among members of our Family Law Section. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s bill is very different. It can be read in today’s Senate calendar:
http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/calendar/sc140430.pdf (see page 1899).
Finally, this morning the Senate Judiciary Committee voted out H. 413, the uniform collateral consequences of conviction bill. The bill was amended in two places, the most significant being the limitation to non listed crimes. Listed crimes which number I think 30 or 31 are the most heinous crimes. Adding that limitation was the only way to get the Chairman’s support. The bill may come up for full senate action as early as Friday. Although some day next week is more likely.
The minor guardianship bill, H. 581, passed the senate with amendments and is now on the House Notice Calendar for full house concurrence or to go to a committee of conference. This may happen tomorrow.
I’ll keep you posted as these matters settle. Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Yes, I know it’s been too long since I reported. But I’ve been traveling a bit on VBA and ABA business and have not been in the statehouse that much in the last two weeks. As you know, the work of the first two months of the session moved from the House to the Senate. This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony on two bills that we have been following. The first, H. 413, is the uniform collateral consequences of conviction bill. Rich Cassidy took the committee through the bill and there seemed to be support for it. Judge Davenport and John Treadwell, chief of the AG’s criminal division, supported the bill with some small changes. It appears the committee will return to this issue next week and vote it out. Then it’ll be up to the House to either concur or decline and request a committee of conference. I doubt the changes will be that dramatic that consensus cannot be reached.
Right after that the committee heard from Penny Benelli and Kate Kennedy on H. 88, the bill that would vest primary parental rights in a victim of sexual assault. They both pointed out constitutional issues as well as the lack of counsel in the hearing as designed by the House. Issues concerning the best interest of the child standard as well as the interplay between the H. 88 hearing and TPR hearings left the committee with more questions than answers. Legislative counsel was directed to work up a new draft for the committee to review next week. Clearly the committee is leaning towards protecting a victim of “stranger” sexual assault and cutting off the rights of the offender. But how this affects situations where there is or was an ongoing relationship, even a marriage, needs more thought. Whatever the Senate does will send the bill into a conference committee with the House.
Later today, Dan Richardson will address the Senate Government Operations Committee on H. 497, the open meeting law bill. There is an issue in Sec 3 of the bill which amends 1 VSA 313 (Executive Sessions) by adding a new sub 10, which in (E) seems to encroach upon the attorney client relationship.
Tomorrow the minor guardianship bill is back before Senate Judiciary to work out some remaining disagreements between probate practitioners in Franklin- Grand Isle Counties and Administrative Judge Davenport.
All of this is happening in what should be the penultimate week of senate committee meetings. They’ve been told to cease regular meetings after Friday April 25th. There’s much to be done yet and too much will get left on the table if that happens. Adjournment could come as early as Saturday 3rd although I think the following Tuesday or Wednesday is a better bet.
As always, thanks for reading.