Open Letter to House Government Operations in Response to Proposed Amendment to S.281

Madam Chair and members of the Committee,

I am shocked at the sweeping changes that have essentially rendered the Systemic Racism Mitigation Bill as pointless.  Much attention has been given to the removal of the independent nature and subpoena authority of the Director.  Though these actions concern me personally, there are other decisions that you have proposed that further threaten hopes that this legislation will create a true chance to affect positive change.

Defunding the Director and Panel (HRS Internal Service Surcharge approved by Senate Appropriations) and removing the required administrative  and technical support makes this entire endeavor a nonstarter.  Another critical judgement error is placing the Director as a liaison between the Executive branch and the Human Rights Council.  By their very nature, the HRC should NEVER by required to do their work through a liaison to any agency.

Finally, it deserves clarification that the intention of this role has always primarily been data collection to identify data points to measure progress, not to “point out to state agencies what they are doing wrong”.  It is disappointing to communities of color to see representatives of the political and economic power structure pushing back on this plan to address systemic racism with a narrative of an explicit racism which hunt.  The direction that this legislation is headed is sideways and I hope that the committee can demonstrate the leadership and political and moral will to get it right.


Mark A. Hughes,

ED, Justice For All


House Gov Ops Proposed Strike All Amendment:  

  1. Eliminates the independent nature of the role (reports to Governor).
  2. Insulates the Governor’s Cabinet from the Vermont Human Rights Commission by mandating that the Director as a liaison between them.
  3. Removes responsibility of collection and oversight of statewide race data.
  4. Eliminates legal, administrative or technical support for the Director
  5. Eliminates the Subpoena Authority of the Director
  6. Defunds the Racial Equity Advisory Panel and Director by eliminating the HRS Internal Service Surcharge approved by Senate Appropriations.
  7. Creates a second redundant Panel (Racial Justice Advisory Panel) with NO appointment criteria to create the job description and submission of short list candidate list to the Governor.
  8. Calls for Panel submission of candidate recommendations to Governor at the same time as the deadline for Panel seating

Open Letter to the Senate Pro Tempore and Senators White, Sears, Pollina, Cummings, Brooks and Ingram Regarding a Resolution Proposing the 2019 Senate Amend the Constitution to Remove Slavery

April 17, 2018

Mr President Pro Tempe, Peter, et. all,This inquiry went out over a month ago and I have not received a direct response, though I’ve been told that it is now “late in the session” and there a too many other things on your plates. I asked Senator Ingram to look into this and among other reasons she is  telling me that this resolution would not be taken up this session. Some indirect responses seem to suggest the assumption that we don’t understand the constitutional amendment process. We understand the constitutional amendment process. Other Senators have avoided this discussion by speaking about the 2019 Biennium as if somehow they have little chance of being a part of it (unlikely). Not to be overly critical but it seems that someone ought to be asking why there has NEVER been a proposal of a constitutional amendment, removing slavery (though there has been an ERA proposal which was not ratified because it was voted down when it reached the state ballot.). I think we all understand that you all take an oath to the constitution every time they are sworn in.

I am hearing (also indirectly) that the reason why some senators think that this is a bad idea is that “it won’t bind the 2019 senate”. We have no intention on binding a future senate. We do however want the existing seated senate to go on record on this issue, given the fact that in all likelihood most all of them will return. It is for this reason that I disagree with some senators comments that this will “bring nothing to the discussion”. In fact, I believe that it WILL START THE DISCUSSION in the midst of our continued false narrative that Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery!

Senator White represents Windsor, the home of Stephen Jacobs who was on the Council of Censors, States Attorney, County Judge, United States District Attorney, Member of Governors Council and State Supreme Court Judge while owning at least one slave in Vermont (Dinah White). They don’t teach that in school here. Let’s not compartmentalize this because then we’ll forget the importance of S.281, a bill to mitigate systemic racism in Vermont. To not understand the history of Dinah also distracts us form the conversations of patriarchy, poverty and disability.

I am having a hard time with the fact that 1) language stating the position of intent to clarify reference to slavery in the constitution has been in the VDP Platform since 2016 (before the election), and 2) you have already passed a resolution requesting an action of the 2019 Senate [ERA Amendment]. With something as important as this, It troubles me that in a time like THIS, that our VDP senate majority would not take up a resolution to urge the 2019 senate to amend the constitution to eliminate slavery.

Are we really waiting for another election cycle to pass?


Mark Hughes,
ED, Justice For All