Legislators will vote yes on both upcoming constitutional amendments

There are two proposals to amend the Vermont Constitution before the Legislature this year and if passed by the House this week they will go before the voters in November for their ultimate decision as to whether the Constitution will be amended.

I believe it is imperative that we allow Vermont voters to have the last word. Every voter should have the opportunity to make these two decisions for themselves, their family, their community and state. If we truly trust our fellow Vermonters, how can we not bring these important decisions to them?

Proposal 2, which clarifies the prohibition on slavery and indentured servitude, is being voted on in the House Friday, Feb. 4. It would change Article 1, Chapter 1 of the Vermont Constitution, striking language that states no person can be bound by law to serve as a slave “after arriving to the age of twenty-one years, unless bound by the person’s own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.”

These exceptions would be replaced with language stating that “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.” While Vermont was the first state in the nation to outlaw slavery, the wording in its Constitution is not absolute.

Passing Proposal 2 sends a strong and clear message about how all Vermonters deserve to be treated. I will be voting yes.

Proposal 5, which solidifies personal reproductive liberty within the Constitution, will be voted on in the House on Tuesday, Feb. 8. It would add Article 22 of Chapter 1 of the Vermont Constitution, and would read, “Article 22. [Personal reproductive liberty] That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

In Vermont, we have long recognized that decisions related to reproductive health care, including whether and when to become a parent, use temporary or permanent birth control or seek abortion care are deeply personal and private and are best left to an individual and their health care provider.

Given the now unreliable protections found in the U.S. Constitution, in Prop 5 we can protect that. I will be voting yes.

The amendment procedure is clearly outlined in the Vermont Constitution and requires approval by the General Assembly in two consecutive bienniums, followed by voter ratification. According to the Constitution, only the Senate may propose constitutional amendments, and if passed by two-thirds of the Senate, the amendment then goes the House.

The House may not amend the Senate’s proposal and it requires a majority of its members to vote to pass. In both cases, the House did.

A committee of jurisdiction (House Committee on Government Operations for Prop 2 and House Committee on Human Services for Prop 5) then votes on whether to bring it to the House floor. In 2019 both proposed constitutional amendments passed the House. They are then considered by the Legislature again in the next biennium, in this case 2021 and 2022. If a majority of both the Senate and House pass the amendment, it goes to the voters. The House committees of jurisdiction are required to again hold a public hearing, which they both did.

If the House then passes the proposals, they automatically go to the voters for the General Election, this year on Tuesday, Nov. 8.