1/17/2020  An Opportunity in Vermont
Guest Blogger Joe Yoder Goddard Alum                                        
Who am I?  I’m just a guy from Vermont. I’ve had nothing to do with sex work (so far, in my first 64 years). But I do have strong feelings about human rights, and I live in a state that has a long and strong history of standing up for them.

 
Our annual state legislative session began last week, and a State Representative named Selene Colburn Progressive Party/ Burlington SColburn@leg.state.vt.us  has introduced a bill to “protect sex workers from the risks inherent in the illicit profession” Vermont House Bill H.569
 
This bill would repeal current sex work statutes prohibiting the act. Human trafficking and the sale of sex that is coerced in any way would still be illegal under the legislation, but it would decriminalize the sale of sex between two consenting adults.
 
• At this writing, the bill is co-sponsored by
• Rep. Diana Gonzalez
dgonzalez@leg.state.vt.us
• Rep. Maxine Grad
mgrad@leg.state.vt.us
• Rep. Emilie Kornheiser
ekornheiser@leg.state.vt.us
 
 
Here’s the text of the bill as Introduced:
https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/Docs/BILLS/H-0569/H-0569%20As%20Introduced.pdf 
 
And, another bill:   Vermont House Bill H.568   Proposes to  “Provide limited immunity from criminal prosecution to a person if he or she reports to law enforcement that he or she is a victim of or a witness to a crime that arose from his or her involvement in prostitution or human trafficking and to create a Sex Work Study Committee for the purpose of examining and modernizing the state’s prostitution laws.”
 
H.568 was introduced by Representatives Grad of Moretown, Colburn of Burlington, and Jessup of Middlesex (all women)
 
Here’s the text of the bill as Introduced:
https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/Docs/BILLS/H-0568/H-0568%20As%20Introduced.pdf
 
Vermont has a seasonal (January through May) legislative session. Bills that have strong support early in the session (as in NOW!) stand the best chance of turning into an actual law.
 
I’ve already written to my two house reps and three state senators. Two positive responses have come back so far. Other than my own friends and family, I don’t yet know of any other people who would lobby for this. But I do know that even a few people can make a real difference in VT politics. We’re a small state. Our legislators are usually happy to hear from people.
       
 
Questions? Suggestions?  Please feel free to contact me: Joe Yoder     joe@tinysolarvermont.com

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Thank you for allowing me to share this with the global community! – M. Dante 

Joe and Melanie met at Goddard College Alum Gathering, Plainfield, VT 2018 – 2019

3/1/2020 To sum up VT’s progress re H-568 and H-569:

H-568 actually made it out of the house last week, and has gone onto the senate.
https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2020/H.568

“Roll Call Results Passed — Needed 73 of 145 to Pass — Yeas = 126, Nays = 19”  That’s more than a veto-proof majority!  But of course it still has to make it through the senate too.

H-569 probably won’t make it through this year, and will have to be reintroduced next year, since that is the beginning of a new “biennial legislative session”. Sandy Haas, the state rep who stays at our house, tells me that H-568 and the study that it mandates, is seen as a prerequisite to passing H-569 (the actual decrim bill).

Speaking of Representative Haas, I asked her some pointed questions about the “Study Committee” and why there didn’t appear to be any sex workers on it. She replied that she thinks that “people knowledgeable about sex work” have been added to the study committee. Here’s what the current description of the H-568 “Sex Work Study Committee” says:


Sec. 3. SEX WORKSTUDYCOMMITTEE
(a)  Creation.
There is created the Sex Work Study Committee to make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding modernization of Vermont’s prostitution laws.

(b)  Membership.  The Committee shall be composed of the following members:

(1)  a current member of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House; (2)  a current member of the Senate appointed by the Committee on Committees; (3)  the Attorney General or designee; (4) the Executive Director of the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs or designee; (5)  the Defender General or designee;
(6) the Executive Director of the Center for Crime Victim Services or designee; (7) the Executive Director of the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union or designee; (8) the Executive Director of the Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence or designee and an at-large member with knowledge of Vermont’s sex work industry appointed by the Executive Director of the Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; and (9) the Executive Director of the Vermont Pride Center or designee and an at-large member with knowledge of Vermont’s sex work industry appointed by the Executive Director of the Vermont Pride Center.

(c)  Powers and duties.  The Committee shall review 13 V.S.A. chapter 59, subchapter 2 for the purpose of developing a modern approach to State involvement in sexual activity for hire by consenting adults while maintaining criminal penalties for trafficking, coercion, and exploitation of minors and strong protections for victims of those crimes. The Committee shall examine the advantages and disadvantages of criminalization, partial decriminalization, full decriminalization, and legalization and regulation.

(d)  Assistance.  For purposes of scheduling meetings and preparing recommended legislation, the Committee shall have the assistance of the Office of Legislative Council.

(e)  Report.  On or before December 15, 2020, the Committee shall submit proposedlegislationtotheGeneralAssemblybaseduponitsrecommendations.

(f)  Meetings. (1) The member of the House of Representatives and the member of the Senate shall be co-chairs of the Committee and call the Committee to order. (2)  A majority of the membership shall constitute a quorum. (3)  The Committee shall cease to exist on December31, 2020.

(g)  Compensation and reimbursement. (1) For attendance at meetings during adjournment of the General Assembly, a legislative member of the Committee serving in his or her capacity as a legislator shall be entitled to per diem compensation and reimbursement of expenses pursuant to 2 V.S.A. § 406 for not more than four meetings. These payments shall be made from monies appropriated to the General Assembly. (2) The at-large members of the Committee shall be entitled to per diem compensation and reimbursement of expenses as permitted under 32 V.S.A.