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Governor Phil Scott, Attorney General TJ Donovan and the Governor’s Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Cabinet Introduce Legislation to Help Secure the Constitutional Rights of Vermonters and the State of Vermont

February 9, 2017

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott, in collaboration with Attorney General TJ Donovan, today introduced legislation that helps safeguard the Constitutional rights of Vermonters, ensures the State of Vermont takes a unified position when dealing with the Federal Government, and supports law enforcement in its continued compliance with federal law.

Joined by Attorney General TJ Donovan, Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Sen. Dick Sears, co-sponsors of the legislation, and members of the Governor’s Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Cabinet, Gov. Scott introduced legislation to address concerns over Federal Government overreach, including its stated policy to request State and local law enforcement agencies perform immigration enforcement functions under the direction and supervision of the Federal Department of Homeland Security, and at the State’s expense.

“Despite how you may feel about the contents of the President’s Executive Orders, it is increasingly clear that many elements in the orders have the potential to violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens, and infringe on States’ rights afforded by the Tenth Amendment,” said Gov. Scott. “This legislation serves to protect Vermont and Vermonters against some of these potential violations, and to reassure our communities and citizens of their safety, and security here in Vermont.”

The legislation stipulates that the decision of whether to take on immigration enforcement functions of the Federal Government rests in the hands of the Governor. Further, it aims to promote public safety by protecting Vermont residents from collection and dissemination of personally identifying information for the purposes of establishing a mandatory federal registry or database.

Specifically, the bill defines this personally identifiable information to include sex, gender orientation, gender identity, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, immigration status, age or disability. The bill prohibits collection of information regarding religious beliefs, practices or affiliation for the purposes of a registry, and the use of State or local resources to assist in creating or enforcing any federal program for the purposes of a registry.

The bill was written to ensure compliance with federal law and the legitimate State interest in promoting a State and communities where residents feel free to engage with law enforcement and other government authorities without being singled out based on protected characteristics.

During a Thursday press conference, Gov. Scott explained, “this bill has been carefully crafted through a consensus building process to confirm Vermont remains compliant with federal law, that we would not be established as a ‘sanctuary state,’ and to address the needs and recommendations of our law enforcement partners.”

“This legislation codifies what is best about Vermont – protecting individual freedoms and policing at the local level – Vermonters protecting Vermonters,” said Attorney General Donovan.

The legislation was developed by the Office of the Governor and Attorney General’s Office, with consensus from lawmakers and the Governor’s Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Cabinet, which includes stakeholders from the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Chiefs of Police, State’s Attorneys and Sheriff’s Offices, Office of the Defender General, and Agencies of Transportation, Agriculture and Human Services.  

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