Dear Editor, Nitka’s notes from the State House

The Senate Judiciary Committee sits just off the main lobby of the State House and we are reminded regularly that we are working in a museum. School tours, advocacy groups and everyone else when the building is crowded congregate outside our door. There are also some fossils in the marble floor that students love to find right near the door. When the noise level gets too high and our chairman can’t hear the testimony anymore, a committee member goes out to quiet the visitors. Some are better at it than others and no one really wants to squelch the enthusiasm the visitors are feeling.

On the other side of the door this week in the committee room a very serious testimony was taking place with regard to some difficult bills. S-87 speaks to sexual exploitation of students, S-7 addresses deferred sentences and the sex offender registry, S-79 relates to freedom from compulsory collection of personal data (this is the bill proposed by the governor and the attorney general), S-61 relates to offenders with mental illness and S-3 addresses the issue of a mental health professional’s duty to warn.

All of these bills passed the committee and were sent to the Senate floor for consideration by the full body. Other bills this week being considered are S-22 related to increased penalties for possession, sale and dispensation of fentanyl and S-55 related to territorial jurisdiction over regulated drugs.

The committee this week also held public hearings in the evening concerning alimony reform and some members were involved in a second hearing on Judicial Retention.

Committees this year are making a concerted effort to visit communities around the state to hear from people who don’t always get to the State House. A day trip involved visiting the Southeast Correctional Facility in Springfield to meet with staff and some inmates concerning S-61, a stop at the court in White River Junction to go over programs with the State’s Attorney, Judge, Probation and Parole, representatives from Diversion and other services and then on to St. Johnsbury.

In St. Johnsbury the Corrections Department Work Camp was visited and was followed by a meeting with community leaders and the public. Some of the topics there were economic development, Act 46, transportation, local roads and much more.

For those of you who do get to visit the State House, check out the dome which was built in 1859 and originally sheathed in copper and painted red to reflect the terra-cotta roofs of Italy. In 1907, it was gilded in 24-carat gold. It’s most recent gilding was 41 years ago which has lasted 21 more years than was expected. Turns out the dome on our museum needs work and new gold leaf to the tune of 1.6 million dollars. It’s not in the budget for this year and may not be for a few more years. However, it still looks darn good from the sidewalk out in front!

Visit the State House, have lunch in the cafeteria and listen to testimony in the committees on many of the bills.

Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or anitka@leg.state.vt.us

Thank you,

Senator Alice Nitka

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