14 April 2017

For Immediate Release

April 13, 2017

Contact: Katherine Levasseur

(802) 828-2245

MONTPELIER, VT - Today, the House gave final approval to two bills that take important steps toward improving racial justice in Vermont. H.492 was preliminarily approved yesterday on a vote of 120 to 25, as was H.523 on a vote of 124 to 21. These measures establish critical protections for Vermonters and initiate processes that will continue to work on racial justice issues in our state.

H.492 establishes a Racial Justice Oversight Board tasked with assessing state racial data, overseeing the progress of racial justice reform, and offering policy recommendations. The Board will be comprised of appointees representing the interests of communities of color and state officials or their designees. The goal of the board is to combine a breadth of vision and expertise to determine whether there are disparities in how Vermonters of color are treated.

Representative Kiah Morris is one of the sponsors of H.492. She describes this process as “a powerful journey that has had the full support of our legislative leadership. This ensures that this work happens and that the voices of Vermonters of color are not only heard, but amplified through this work.”

Representative Maxine Grad is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “These bills are critical steps forward for civil rights,” she said. “In addition, they are important to the economic vitality of our state and our commitment to ensuring that regardless of race or ethnicity, Vermonters can feel safe in their homes and communities and engage in our workforce.”

H.523 would adopt a fair and impartial policing policy for State and local law enforcement, establishing that all law enforcement officers are trained to comply with fair and impartial policing standards. This policy will improve the equal treatment and safety of all Vermonters by reducing discrimination or bias in law enforcement.

“I am very proud of the House’s passage of H.523 and H.492,” said Speaker Mitzi Johnson, “During a time of increasing tensions both in our state and on a national level, these bills exhibit the Legislature’s commitment to strengthening our communities and ensuring safe, healthy futures for all Vermonters. Although there is still much work ahead to address racial justice reform, these are important steps forward for Vermont.”

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