in the State House of Representatives
on February 5, 2021, by a vote of
Purpose: To reject Governor Scott’s executive order to restructure Vermont’s police and emergency forces.
Currently, Vermont’s law enforcement, fire division, and emergency management government branches all exist in separate corners of Vermont’s bureaucracy. This order would bring them closer together, by creating an Agency of Public Safety, composed of the Department of Fire Safety & Emergency Management and the Department of Law Enforcement.
Governor Scott explained why he gave the order: “by bringing together our public safety and enforcement functions under one agency, we will see better-coordinated operations, including training and accountability, as well as a consistent culture of fair and impartial policing, so this is the right time to begin this process.” The Governor noted that legislators were already familiar with this restructuring proposal from the 2020 legislative session.
The new Department of Fire Safety & Emergency Management would have 4 divisions: Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Inspection Division, Fire Safety Division, and the Technical Response Unit. The new Department of Law Enforcement would have 3 components: Motor Vehicle Enforcement, VT State Police, and a Division of Support Services.
The Governor would also commission the new Agency of Public Safety secretary to study integrating another 6 branches into the Agency of Public Safety: the Capitol Police, the VT Occupational Safety and Health Agency, Project WorkSAFE, Passenger Tramway Safety and portions of the Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Department of Liquor & Lottery dealing with law enforcement.
The resolution disapproves of Governor Scott’s order. There is legal disagreement about whether a majority vote in the Senate is needed to countermand this executive order in addition to this House vote.
3 of the 4 representatives who explained their reasons for voting YES mentioned the lack of ‘due process’ before the Governor signed the order. “Such a proposal requires consideration of legislation,” not an executive order. Some of these representatives sounded open to the governor’s proposals, but believed they needed more legislative deliberation, not executive action. “Many employees said they could support a change like this, but the ambiguity of this proposal and the seemingly limitless reach created a clear sense of fear on their part.”
6 of the 8 representatives who wished to explain their reasons for voting NO were decidedly neutral toward the governor’s order itself but express alarm about the House’s process for adopting the resolution. The resolution was “rushed” and “without public notice,” suggesting a general lack of transparency and proper legislative oversight in getting the resolution the floor. One representative exclaimed, “this body chose to ignore our constituents by not allowing them to testify on an executive order. We failed to live up to our duty to provide a free, open, and accessible government by not allowing these groups and organizations to testify.”
As Recorded in the House Journal, Friday, February 5, 2021: “…the Clerk proceeded to call the roll and the question, Shall the House adopt the Resolution? was decided in the affirmative. Yeas, 108. Nays, 40.” (Read the Journal, p.140). Watch the floor debate on YouTube.
To view the Governor Scott’s Executive Order, click here.
How They Voted
(Click on your Rep’s name to send an email)
Sally Achey (R - Middletown Springs) – NO
William Lippert (D – Hinesburg) – YES
Curtis McCormack (D – Burlington) – ABSENT
Kathryn Webb (D – Shelburne) – YES