Nitka’s notes from the State House for Jan. 26, 2018

Dear Editor,

Have you ever thought about how much you would be paid if you were summoned to serve on a jury panel for one of the Vermont courts? The pay is probably not your first concern, but once you show up it is nice to know you will get some compensation even if it isn’t much. The per diem is currently $30 but if Senate Bill #49 passes the Senate and the House, the pay will rise to $50 for attendance. This amount will also be given to “talesmen,” the term used for persons that are recruited from the street, so to speak, when there aren’t enough jurors to hear a case. While the sheriff or court personnel don’t find themselves going to the streets very often, it definitely does occur.

Mind you, the reimbursement isn’t automatic and one does have to request it. Currently, the court system budgets $137,000 per year for juror payments, and the estimate is that it will cost the courts $114,000 more with the raise. Some jurors don’t receive payment because their employer pays their wages while serving as a juror. Other persons serving don’t bother to request the money as they say it isn’t worth filling out the paperwork. Surprisingly this bill has been before the Legislature previously but never got any traction. It’s about time it passes. Federal courts in Vermont do pay more for jury duty.

Another Senate Bill #207 was taken up by the Senate and passed on a unanimous voice vote. This bill speaks to eliminating fees for placing or removing a credit freeze. A security freeze on your credit report prohibits a credit-reporting agency from releasing any of your information without express permission from you. The freeze is designed to help prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent. This past year, Equifax, one of the three big credit-reporting agencies in our country had a security breach of its own and released vast amounts of information about their own customers. You may be one of them. The interest in this bill came about as many people wanted to put a freeze on their credit after the incident and have done so. The freeze can be removed, if for example you wanted to have a bank check your credit to receive a loan to purchase a car. This bill will still need to pass the House.

Other bills moving along in the Senate are S-244 re Spousal Maintenance; S-29 re Decedent’s Estates, which is a re-write of a section of Probate Law and S-101 relating to the conduct of forestry operations.

Calls about coyotes are flooding my mailbox. There is a bill in the House but it may or may not come to the Senate. Testimony is being taken on numerous bills concerning many issues, and you are welcome to come and hear the testimony.

Visit Montpelier, have lunch in our cafeteria, and take a tour. Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or anitka@leg.state.vt.us. I am able to read all of your emails and appreciate you sending them, however the volume received makes it impossible to respond to all of them.

Sincerely,

Senator Alice Nitka

Montpelier, Vt.

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