Nitka’s notes from the Statehouse, Jan. 17, 2020

Dear Editor,

It’s that time of year when committees are receiving numerous reports and studies that were formulated or completed during the summer months in response to requests in bills. One such report addressed suspensions of driver licenses. The numbers were shocking even when distilled and clarified.

In 2019, there were 49,500 suspensions in effect for persons with a Vermont address on their license. However, some persons had more than one suspension; in fact, as many as 10 in one case I saw. This occurs as one could be cited for many violations such as driving while under the influence, driving with a suspended license, failure to have insurance, and a myriad of other violations. A breakdown of some violations includes underage 21, alcohol with failure to report or complete the Diversion Program 3,343; underage 21, marijuana, failure to report or complete Diversion 318; civil DUI suspensions, under 21 years, 1,032; criminal DUI Convictions 25,216; nonpayment of traffic violation 132,404; and others.

There are fines, surcharges, points on one’s license, and, of course, insurance costs. The surcharges are sometimes higher than the fines, and the judge can’t change them. If you make it to the stage of having done everything in preparation for getting your license back, you then must pay a reinstatement fee before you receive it. Ways are being explored to try to get more individuals back to licensed driving and insured.

The Public Safety Department visited the Appropriations Committees seeking $1.2 million in the Budget Adjustment Bill due to an estimated shortfall in their 2020 Fiscal Year budget. The highest portion of the cost was for dispatcher shift coverage at $431,286, which was down from $764,201 in 2019. They are authorized for 62 dispatchers but would be better served by 70, which would bring them up to the standard.

As many employers are having a hard time recruiting employees in the tight labor market, so are the State Police. They need 30 new recruits every year to keep up with retirements and replacements. Presently, there are 15 recruits in the class at the Police Academy and the program is offered twice a year. There are 334 total positions in the force. There are 289 officers fully trained and 280 available presently. The pay for a starting officer with benefits and no experience is approximately $85,000 and the salary is in the $50,000 range. With experience, the salary is higher.

The police cruiser situation, we’re told, is in “good shape” this year so that may be a place to save a few dollars. An item for which we are not likely to receive reimbursement was for the detail assigned to the vice president during his visit, which cost $35,700. In 2018, the cost for the visit was $82,922. The state did get a lot of free advertising from the visits, so hopefully some tourism benefits.

Feel free to contact me at the Statehouse at 1-800-322-5616, on weekends at 802-228-8432, or anitka@leg.state.vt.us.

Sincerely,

Sen. Alice Nitka

Windsor County

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