Governor vetoes two bills; Burlington ranked-choice voting becomes law

Ranked choice voting gets green light. Governor takes out the veto pen for a drug bill, expungements.
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 12:57 AM EDT|Updated: May. 20, 2022 at 6:22 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Governor Phil Scott announced action on several bills Thursday.

Scott vetoed two bills. Houe Bill 505 would have created a drug use standards advisory board within the Vermont Sentencing Commission.

In a letter to the General Assembly, the governor said he was concerned the bill places no limits on which drugs can be contemplated for legalization and includes no recognition of the safety impacts of using drugs.

He also vetoed a bill expanding eligibility for the expungement of criminal records for non-violent crimes. In a letter to the General Assembly, Scott said he also had public safety concerns with H.534.

Rep. Selene Colburn, P-Burlington, supported both bills. She says she’s upset about the outcome. “We are not talking about reducing penalties for violent crimes or changing expungement eligibility. We are simply talking about treating people who have used drugs and who have struggled with substance use disorder with dignity and respect and the basic belief that their lives are valuable,” said Colburn. She says these bills also would have gotten rid of outdated language in Vermont laws.

The ACLU of Vermont also criticized the veto of H.505 saying it would have transitioned the state away from criminalizing people with substance use disorder, including eliminating a “racist crack cocaine vs, cocaine penalty disparity.”

“In a year in which more Vermont residents died of overdose than at any point in our history, after years of mounting evidence that the drug war is racist, cruel, and counterproductive, and despite resounding calls for a more humane, just, and effective public safety system, Vermont’s governor and police leadership are still ‘all in’ on the failed status quo. Their approach will continue to cause profound harm to our communities,” the ACLU’s James Lyall said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a charter change allowing ranked-choice voting in the Queen City will become law.

In a ranked-choice voting system, voters rank their choices 1, 2, 3, and so on. The system will apply to city council races.

Governor Scott says he does not support ranked-choice voting, but since he didn’t sign it or veto it, it becomes law.

Ten years ago, Burlington experimented with ranked-choice voting but residents later rejected it.

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