Legislative Update – 2/12/16

Dear Fellow Progressives,


What an amazing week it has been! We were very excited to see Bernie Sanders win in a landslide victory in the New Hampshire primaries. Special recognition and thanks to all the Progressive Party members, activists, and leaders who spent their free time knocking doors, making phone calls, and so much more over the last few months to help spread Bernie’s message of a future that working people like us can believe in!


With Bernie’s victory, Progressives also seem to be finding our way into the news quite a bit this week. Check out these pieces:


Progressive Legislative Updates – 2/12/16 


Black Lives Matter Day & Resolution at VT State House


Today (Feb 12) is being recognized as Black Lives Matter day at the Vermonte State House. The event was coordinated by several groups, including the Vermont Workers Center, and a resolution was read about the importance of Black Lives Matter in Vermont.

Rep. Diana Gonzalez (P/D-Winooski) co-sponsored the resolution along with Rep. Ruqaiyah Morris (D-Bennington), Rep. Kevin Christie (D-Hartford), and Rep. Kesha K. Ram (D-Burlington). Click here to read the resolution.



Two Criminal Justice Reform Bills Sponsored by Rep. Mollie Burke (P/D-Brattleboro)


H.617 is a bill related to probation, parole, and furlough conditions. It proposes to ‘limit the imposition of conditions of probation, parole, and furlough to restrict otherwise legal behavior of the person under supervision, and to prohibit revocation of probation, parole, and furlough for technical violations that are not new crimes.’


Reason for the bill: Often conditions for release include prohibitions against the drinking of alcohol, or the use of computers when they are legal for the general population and also not related to the underlying crime. According to Suzi Wizowaty of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, there are a number of stories from current and former inmates about being re-incarcerated for things like drinking, or not showing up for an appointment, or losing housing.  While conditions of release are supposed to relate to the underlying crime, the reality is that they often don’t relate. Some Probation and Parole Officers send a person back into prison for the slightest violation.


H.623: An act relating to compassionate release and parole eligibility. This bill proposes to establish a judicial procedure to allow for the compassionate release of certain inmates, including those who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease, and to increase parole eligibility for older inmates and inmates who have served their minimum sentence.


Reason for the bill: According to Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, we have the second oldest inmate population in the country per capita and the second highest health care costs. This bills would allow someone to petition for compassionate release, based on the Federal model, under certain conditions related to illness, age,  low risk, length of time served, and lack of disciplinary issues. While Vermont has medical furlough, it is rarely issued. 


Keeping people locked up when they are not a danger to society serves no societal purpose. And there is truth to the fact that the longer a person is incarcerated, the more institutionalized they become, and the harder it becomes to re-integrate into society in a positive and constructive way.


These bills are currently in the Corrections and Institutions Committee in the House. There are companion bills that have been introduced in the Senate under the sponsorship of Senator Becca Balint: S.206 and S.207


Rep. Susan Hatch Davis (P/D-Washington Town) Requests Commission to Study Universal Basic Income


H.689 proposes to create a Universal Basic Income (UBI) Commission to study and analyze the adoption of Universal Basic Income, including potential revenue sources and the amount of funding needed.


The Universal basic income concept is simple: In order to make sure that all citizens can afford to meet their basic needs, the government provides every citizen with a set amount of money regularly, enough to lift them above the poverty line. Every citizen would receive it no matter what.


You might think, ‘Wow! That is a radical left-wing idea!’ but the idea has been embraced by some on the right and some on the left. Libertarian economist F.A. Hayek advocated ‘a certain minimum income for everyone.’ In 1969, President Richard Nixon tried to pass a proposal called ‘the family assistance plan,’ and in 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern proposed the ‘demogrant’ — a $1,000 check given to every citizen.


Homelessness and hunger: A Universal Basic Income could potentially eliminate homelessness and hunger in our state. The Vermont 2015 Basic Needs Budget (using 2014 data) notes that a single parent with one child (not receiving health insurance thru their employment) would need to make $62,020 a year to survive. And this doesn’t even factor in student loan debt. Many single parents live on a third of that– or less. And they struggle every day just to cover basic needs.


Unpaid caregivers in the home: The Family & Medical Leave Act allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off– for having a baby or to take care of a sick child or aging parent. But most workers live paycheck to paycheck, and can’t afford to be without income for 12 weeks. With our aging population, the need for caregivers at home will increase as we move forward.


The changing nature of work: For long-term unemployed and for those who have given up looking for a job, life in the post-recession economy is daunting to say the least. UBI would allow people to survive during periods of unemployment and work toward starting new careers, new ventures and moving forward in their lives.


So why should we support a Universal Basic Income? Because we want to make our state, our country and our world a better place.”

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