Executive Order enforcement

April 14, 2020

by John McClaughry

Attorney General T. J. Donovan raised some eyebrows last week when he said that violation of Gov. Scott’s Executive Order could result in civil fines of $1000 a day, and even criminal penalties of $500 or six months in jail or both.

I made it a point to inquire of the AG just whence originated this power to enforce a governor’s executive order, never voted on by our legislators, with civil and criminal penalties.

His office cited two provisions of Title 20 Vermont Statutes, Chapter 1,sections 24 and 40.  This is the chapter that defines the governor’s emergency powers, which are extremely far reaching. And yes, those two sections give support to the AG’s statement about civil and criminal penalties. His staff pointed out that no such actions were contemplated, and the two provisions served only as a last resort in a case of a flagrant and defiant violation of an emergency order, that promised really harmful consequences to society.

The civil penalty section was added in 1994, apparently relating to hazardous material spills, but it could be used for other threatening events. Incidentally, martial law is forbidden by the Vermont constitution.

Just the same, I was startled to come across a web page inviting people to report violations of the Governor’s executive order to the Vermont State Police. That was reminiscent of the East German Stasi police state, and a bit much for me.

John McClaughry is vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff April 14, 2020 at 6:20 pm

To think I moved to VT from MA to enjoy, sugaring, outdoors and to be left alone… Man, this state is getting as crazy as some other N.E. states.
Hey Montpelier, leave me the eff alone!!!


Michael P.Watson April 15, 2020 at 10:24 am

Any law going against the Constitution and bill of rights. Any one that relies to enforce illeagle laws is committing an illeagle act.


Chris Roy April 16, 2020 at 5:57 pm

I do hope that legislators revisit our emergency power statutes in light of our experiences in 2020. I say that dreading that the outcome might be to broaden the definition of emergency, not constrain and better define the scope of powers.


James B Hall April 18, 2020 at 9:40 am

Better wait until some of the present crowd is removed from office. To allow those currently in the House and Senate to review and act on such items will probably only worsen the situation. Part of the present crowd needing to be removed is Czar Scott.
Need I say more?


Wayne Dyer April 17, 2020 at 9:12 pm

The governor invoked his emergency powers and cited 20 VSA sections 8, 9, and 11. Subsection 8 of section 9 clearly states that he cannot violate the constitution in the use of his powers.


Ted Robinson April 17, 2020 at 9:41 pm

Yes, this is reminiscent of Nazi informers that I have read so much about. When I was younger I couldn’t imagine how people could be like that. With age it became apparent. They are the self appointed important ones. They are the ones that want to curry favor. They tools to be shunned.
Sections 24 and 40 should be deleted.


Philip Atwood April 18, 2020 at 1:19 am

Two different particular areas of the stay home – stay safe order that came to my attention that went beyond the spirit of the order:
1. As it related to real estate agents. Any agent was not supposed to go to a vacant house to take pictures. This was very heavy handed and way beyond any rational criteria. Our government in their eminent wisdom decided that real estate was not an essential activity. Yet NH, MA, ME & NY all ruled that real estate was an essential activity.
So this decision to consider real estate non essential will be felt later by the lack of the taxes that could have been collected.

2. I heard of a man operating an excavator ( by himself ) tearing down a building, was confronted by a neighbor telling him he was supposed to be at home, the operator continued and in a few minutes a policeman showed up to tell the operator to cease and desist or he would be fined. The operator was about as apt to give or get the corona virus as the man in the moon. Too bad that power brings out this meanness.


Isaac Boiney April 18, 2020 at 3:27 am

Scott has also been a serial violator of the Vermont constitution, by violating our article 16 rights as well. Perhaps Montpelier should think hard about restrictions against the people!!


James B Hall April 18, 2020 at 9:43 am

Better wait until some of the present crowd is removed from office. To allow those currently in the House and Senate to review and act on such items will probably only worsen the situation. Part of the present crowd needing to be removed is Czar Scott.
Need I say more?


gdp April 18, 2020 at 11:08 am

It is dubious that the legislative provisions would pass due process scrutiny by an impartial court, the utter vagueness of the term ’emergency’ when taken in context. For instance, 29 deaths (a/o 4/14/20) out of population of >600,000, and there from a number of afflicted unknown because of hidden symptoms and asymptomatic results despite testing positive! Real emergency!? And that does not factor in age, condition or even location, much less ‘less restrictive alternative’! We need responsible governance, not political knee jerk, particularly one that has to dig for an interpretation to, in effect, enslave the citizenry. Where did these people come from? And, this virus, is turning out to be wholly other than previous, if only because of an ‘unnatural’ origin stemming from, not merely Wuhan, but a government run militarized lab of Communist China, and there coincidentally (?) at the same time we are imposing punitive tarriffs to punish its piracy and worse. Time to get a grip.


Russ Ingalls April 18, 2020 at 11:16 am

Not only is there a webpage that Vermonters can squeal on one another, the Office of Professional Regulation asked that if a Realtor thought another Realtor was in violation of the stay at home order to ‘Please file a complaint’ Really quite disgusting when that type of encouragement is encouraged by our State Government.


Kay April 18, 2020 at 2:47 pm

Why are you surprised at this behavior? Our Vermont Legislature is filled with socialists/Progressives. This is the way they act. The masks are coming off even as the rest of us are told to put them on. As David Horowitz said, “Inside the heart of every liberal is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” Also remember that the Nazis were socialists. NAZI means National German Workers Socialist Party. IMHO Phil Scott is a PROGRESSIVE republican.


SONJA M BLODGETT April 18, 2020 at 7:54 pm

I totally agree with you Kay, We have been living here for 28 years from CT. We came here to enjoy the country life and have some freedom but we have moved so far to the progressive left. We have not had balance in this state for such a long time. It is run like a dictatorship and Chittenden County decides for the rest of us what is best. To bad square miles doesn’t count for voting because things would change. Our legislators in the Northeast Kingdom work to hard and have no voice because they’re bullied. Bobby Star is the only true Democrat left who doesn’t vote the party line. Thank you to Mark Higley/Bobby Star for all that you do for us in our county. We need to get as many of these far-left legislators voted out!


Mike April 18, 2020 at 12:38 pm

Goes further back, John, I’m sure you remember our ole friend Hitler. How much further will the stupids in Montpelier go before there is a ballot box revolt???? Can’t for the life of me believe rock rib Vermont could become a police state.


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