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Lawmakers offer Montpelier update at Town Meeting

After rigorous debate, all articles voted on floor pass

PUTNEY—Although many articles inspired lengthy debate, all of the articles voted on the floor at the 2018 Town Meeting warning passed without amendment.

Articles 3 and 4, which ask voters to authorize “the legislative body” — in this case, the Selectboard — to appoint the town clerk and treasurer, were decided by Australian ballot. Results were unavailable at press time.

Three of Putney’s four legislators appeared at the meeting to give residents a recap of their recent efforts, and what they are currently working on.

State Rep. David L. Deen, D-Westminster, spoke briefly about environmental concerns, including the state’s waters. He expressed his shock that “it’s not a felony to bring a gun onto school [property] with the intent to do harm,” and told attendees the Legislature was working on gun laws and funding for special education.

“It is great to be home!” said state Rep. Michael Mrowicki, D-Putney, in the opening of his report.

Mrowicki compared the current legislative session to the current state of the roads.

“We’ve got frost heaves and potholes,” he said, and noted legislators have to “keep one eye on Montpelier and one eye on Washington.” Referring to President Trump, Mrowicki said, “I can’t wait until this reign is over."

Specific legislative topics Mrowicki addressed were supporting local agriculture, addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, the $15 per hour minimum wage, and closing the pay gap between men and women. The latter two, he said, “are under assault in Washington,” and the Legislature will mitigate this on the state level.

Mrowicki expressed both his personal support for Planned Parenthood and his commitment to protecting it through his legislative work.

He also introduced a proposal. “If the feds cut funding for Planned Parenthood, we’ll backfill it by funding it by taxing Viagra,” said Mrowicki, which inspired audience laughter and applause. “Let’s go to the source!” he added.

Regarding gun violence, Mrowicki said “we have good hopes” of passing gun laws, especially those that would protect children. Governor Phil Scott “seems to have had an epiphany on guns and gun violence,” Mrowicki noted.

“Do we want an America where kids are afraid to go to school because they’ll be shot?” Mrowicki said. “That’s not the America I want.”

State Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, who sits on several legislative committees, mentioned some work coming from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We’ve redone the court system so juveniles up to the age of 19 are first treated at family court,” and then, if deemed appropriate, the youth are referred to criminal court, she said. This change was partly inspired by “research in brain development” in adolescents, White said.

White spoke about work on gun laws, and said her committee “came to a consensus on gun control” between gun owners and those calling for stronger laws. One proposal will bar those younger than 21 from buying — but not possessing — a gun.

One bill White said hasn’t received much media attention but is important is S.105, “An act relating to consumer justice enforcement.”

This bill, passed by the Senate, is now in committee in the House of Representatives. It covers contracts and offers more protections to Vermonters, White said. She gave employment contracts with “unconscionable” sexual harassment policies as an example.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #449 (Wednesday, March 7, 2018). This story appeared on page A2.

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