The legislative session is scheduled to end just a week from today, but anything can happen! We’ve had a busy week at the State House, and some impactful pieces of legislation have passed and are making their way to the Governor’s desk.
We are facing a suicide crisis. The rate of suicide in our state is almost 1.5 times the national rate, with 142 Vermonters taking their own life in 2021. According to the data, there is a clear correlation between access to firearms and suicides. 89% of all 2021 firearm deaths in Vermont were from suicide, and children are 4.4 times more likely to commit suicide in a home with a firearm.
This week, the legislature took action to address this crisis. I was honored to preside over the Senate as it passed H.230, an act relating to implementing mechanisms to reduce suicide. This bill encourages safe storage of guns by imposing legal liability on gun owners if an improperly stored firearm is accessed and used to cause harm. It also places a minimum 3 day waiting period on the transfer of guns in sales that require a background check. Waiting period laws have been proven to reduce suicide in other states. One study showed that making gun purchasers wait just a few days curbs impulses enough to drop gun homicide rates by 17%.
I have argued for reasonable gun safety policy for well over a decade. H.230 embodies the approach that we can preserve traditions while implementing gun safety provisions. The bill takes common sense steps to address Vermont’s high rate of suicide without infringing on our hunting traditions. Based on conversations I have had with hundreds of hunters from across the state, I believe H.230 finds a balance between bolstering safety and preserving rights.
Banning Paramilitary Training Camps
On Tuesday, as President of the Senate, I signed S.3 This bill would prohibit paramilitary training camps in Vermont. It does this through banning unauthorized weapons training with the intent of creating a civil disorder. It is important for the legislature to take steps in response to the extremist organizations that have been popping up across the state and country. Passing this into law will make our communities safer.
Fair Repair Act
Just like many people would try to repair a leaky faucet themselves, farmers across Vermont would like to repair their agricultural equipment themselves. However, as tractors, balers, mowers, and other types of machines have become more and more reliant on computer chips to run, it has become more difficult to repair them yourself. Many equipment manufacturers only provide the software, codes, and other information necessary to make repairs to authorized providers and, more importantly, invalidate equipment warranties if a farmer does make the repairs they can. Without competition from independent repair shops or owner’s ability to do the repairs themselves, these authorized shops can charge high rates for their services. The distance between authorized repair shops can make it hard for many people to get timely repairs in such a rural state.
H.81, the Fair Repair Act, is moving through the House right now. This bill would make agricultural equipment manufacturers provide the same diagnostic, maintenance, and repair tools to equipment owners and independent repair shops as they do to authorized repair shops. As a farmer, I work with the type of equipment this bill addresses every day. I know firsthand the importance of being about to repair your own equipment. I want to thank former State Senator Chris Pearson, who has been advocating for right to repair legislation for years. This bill is an important step to strengthening Vermont’s important yet struggling farming sector.
H.81 passed its first procedural step in the House on Friday with only 2 votes against it and will likely be heard in the Senate next week.
Lt. Governor David Zuckerman