Nitka’s notes from the State House, March 1, 2018

Dear Editor,

Senate bill -221, re Criminal Procedures, Firearms and Extreme Risk Protection Orders passed the Senate unanimously with a 30 to 0 vote two days in a row on Feb. 28 and again on March 1. It was a unique vote in that it had the support of Democratic, Republican, and Progressive senators. It had the support of Vermont gun owner groups as well as those supporting more gun restrictions. It was carefully crafted to provide due process throughout the bill. It now needs to pass the House of Representatives. They are working tonight on S-221 as I write this. More bills may be combined with 221 in the House and the bill number may change.

The Department of Public Safety presented their budget in the Appropriations Committee this week. Per their mission statement, the department provides planning, prevention, and protection through the work of its divisions to provide a safe and secure environment for our citizens. The proposed budget of $107,842,383 is to support the State Police, Criminal Justice services, emergency management, fire safety, the forensics laboratory, and the administration of the department. Some items of note are funding for two new chemists dedicated to blood drug testing funded by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, cost $171,000; lease to own 12 Morpho Traks, (better known as fingerprint machines), $105,000 per year with software over three years; Taser Replacements, 5 year lease agreement for all devices, supplies and training for $86,000 annually; cars are replaced on rotating basis, and there is much more.

The State Police average 310 to 315 sworn officers located at 11 barracks around the state and at their headquarters in Waterbury. The full complement allowed is 327. The State Police for one year did a pilot project using body cameras and per Commissioner Tom Anderson and Col. Matthew Birmingham, the troopers would like to have them. At this point, storage of the data recorded is the cost driver and they are already preserving car camera data. (Body cameras record more data than the car cameras; we were advised as the body cameras are always running).

Another issue is developing a policy with regard to record retention and how long different types of data will be stored. An example would be footage of a trooper helping a motorist with a flat tire versus a trooper at a homicide scene. The cost of the cameras is predictable while the cost of the cloud or wherever the data will be stored is not as predictable.

Retired Senator Bill Doyle is conducting his poll again this year, and it will be available in many towns around the state during the Town Meeting period, March 3-10. The legislature will not be in session the week of March 6.

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

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