By Senator Alice Nitka, Windsor CountyApril 18, 2014
These are the days of Spring school trips.Children are “exploding” off of school buses onto the front lawn of the State House, having been sitting on the bus for long hauls to get to Montpelier.It’s not easy to be quiet in the State House after a long trip and to listen to a tour guide talk about history and an old grey building but they are doing it almost every day here. One of the first things they do is try to find the many fossils that are in the marble floor in the entry way. If possible, students are introduced as a group to the members of the House of Representatives.They also get to hear from some of our 8th grade pages who are working at the State House. Many students are following certain bills and the older ones are preparing reports and interviewing legislators. They want their opinions on bills and why they might or might not vote a certain way on a bill. Some issues in bills that were raised by students today as one passed them in the hallways were about: eyewitness identification involving a crime, food labeling, drunk driving penalties, requirements to work and serve alcohol and bullying consequences. They’ve been doing their homework and are ready with their questions.
Issues directly affecting children are topics undergoing study every day here. In addition to all the education bills that will affect our 89,000 students in grades K-12 are other bills such as H-581 re Guardianship of Minors. This bill was presented following a report by a study committee, comprised of parents, relatives of children, judges, social workers, lawyers and other interested parties who worked for almost two years to get consensus where ever possible on issues affecting children who needed guardians and to have it be in the best interests of the child. There are approximately 3000 children under guardianship in VT. Some are due to parents in the military and deployed overseas, incarcerations, substance abuse situations, mental illness, disabilities and deaths. The majority of guardianships are with relatives but many are with other parties. There are also financial guardians for some children as well. The bill spells out responsibilities in consensual and non-consensual arrangements, powers and duties of the guardian, etc. while keeping with the presumption that the interests of a minor child are best promoted in a child’s own home if possible. This bill gives clear guidance and will hopefully reduce conflicts. It protects the rights of parents while addressing the best interest of the child. The bill is most likely to pass this month and become law on September 1, 2014.
Many bills are moving around so if you are trying to follow a particular bill you can see its status on the web or feel free to give me a call. Contact me at home at 228-8432, the State House at 1-800-322-5616, email@example.com or PO Box 136, Ludlow, VT 05149.