Thursday, February 28, 2008

Legislative Update by Rep. Maxine Grad

Here is Rep. Maxine Grad's most recent Legislative Update:

Committee Work:

H.859 An Act Relating to Increasing Substance Abuse Treatment. We are looking at this bill from the Institutions and Corrections committee. This would create a pilot project for court ordered substance abuse screening of those accused of a crime. The questions we addressed are: should this screening should be mandatory from the court, voluntary, and at what point in the judicial process? For example, should it be prior to conviction for use in pleas bargaining or should it be post conviction to use only for sentencing purposes. The Court Administrators office would like to see a screening project used early in the process to get people identifiend, the help they need and divert them from the court process. Therefore, the Court Administrator wants to consider if a judge should have the authority to mandate at arraignment if screening can be a condition of release into the community.

Probate Judges, Sherriffs and Deputy States Attorneys and Constable Qualifications

We voted out a bill that would require a candidate for probate judge to be an attorney admitted to practice in Vermont at time of election; a deputy state’s attorney and assistant attorney generals be an attorney admitted to practice in Vermont at time of appointment; and constables and sheriff meet minimun training standards established at the Vermont criminal justice training council parior to exercinsing law enfoecemnt authority. Elected officials who are in office on the effective date of the act are grandfathered. Currently, there are no sitting sheriffs who are not trained.

The bill originally did not include probate judges. However, the president of the probate association asked that the judges be added.

Constables were also not included, but my committee received requests from those in the law enforcement community, municipalities, and the constable association asking us to require that constables have law enforcement training if they are to engage in law enforcement duties.

We received the following email testimony that was read into the record.

The first is from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns:

“Representative Lippert had asked if we supported requiring law enforcement training in order for elected constables to perform law enforcement responsibilities. We do support that requirement and our board of directors has voted to support the measure.

We are concerned that if an elected constable does perform a law enforcement activity for which he or she is not qualified, that the towns be protected from liability for his or her actions.”

From Colonel James W. Baker, Director, Vermont State Police:

“As the Director of the Vermont State Police I support the elimination of the training exemption for Constables and Sheriffs.

In the current environment that law enforcement operates in no person should be allowed to function as a law enforcement officer without a minimum amount of training.”

From R. J. Elrick, Executive Director, Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, Vermont Police Academy:

“I support the elimination of the current training exemption for elected law enforcement officers (Constables and Sheriffs). At present, the law makes training for Constables and Sheriffs "optional". In this day and age, it is unfathomable that we have individuals who may be performing law enforcement functions without requisite training and certification.
At a minimum, this creates the opportunity for tremendous liability to municipalities and the potential for unknowing violation of the rights of our citizens. The elimination of the last sentence in Section 2358 of Title 20 will be a huge step forward in furthering the
professionalism of the Office of Sheriff and Constable. If an individual is to perform law enforcement functions in our state, they should be held to the same basic training and certification standards.

I have personally spoken with the leadership of the following organizations who support this action:

Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police
Vermont Sheriffs' Association
Vermont State Police
Vermont Constable's Association
Vermont Police Association
Vermont League of Cities and Towns.”

Finally, from Nelson Tift, President Vermont Constables Association, President Rutland County Law Officers Association:

“I have spoken with the Elected officers, past president and several current members of The Vermont Constables Assoc. and we all favor the elimination of the current exemption of mandated training for elected constables, with the provision that there be a method in place that would insure that once Constables have completed the part one phase that there be in place a method for them to complete parts two and three. Currently it is nearly impossible, as few, if any agencies are will to field train personnel that are not hired for their department. This is largely due to liability, currently only one Vermont Constable is a certified FTO. Obviously the fact that the constable has only authority in his elected jurisdiction is also a problem in that if an agency in another town would be willing to take on the training, the constable would still not have enforcement powers in their town to work with their training officer. If these obstacles can be overcome, we would wholeheartedly support this move.”

We appreciated Mr. Tift’s testimony and determined through conversations with Mr. Elrick that we can resolve his concerns. We have also made the effective date of the bill 2010 to help people get trained and learn about the law.

We also continued our work on guardianship, juvenile proceedings, and lead in housing, and death certificates.

Please stay in touch. I look forward to seeing you at Town Meeting. 828-2228 or

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