On June 28 the Governor signed S.5, creating Act 9 of the Special Session. Act 9 is a landmark accomplishment in Vermont, being the first legislative mandate creating an apparatus to mitigate systemic racism across all state government in Vermont. Justice For All, other Racial Justice Reform Coalition member organizations and community members, invested countless hours in this grass root effort lead. Legislators and the Governor’s Office also worked under extraordinary conditions to get this law passed. We should all take a moment to appreciate our accomplishment. Thank you to EVERYONE who participated in making this vision into a law and once again demonstrating that Vermont leads from the front with organizing around social justice! Read more on Act 9 and how you can submit to be a Panel Member here.
Summary of Act 9
“Act No. 9 (S.5) (Special Session). Government operations; systemic racism An act relating to racial equity in State government This act creates a new five-year position of Executive Director of Racial Equity within the Executive Branch and tasks the position with identifying and working to eradicate systemic racism within State government. It also creates the Racial Equity Advisory Panel to work with the Executive Director of Racial Equity to implement reforms, advise the Director to ensure ongoing compliance with the purposes of the chapter that creates the position of Executive Director, and advise the Governor on strategies for remediating systemic racial disparities.”
High Level Overview of Act 9
Members of The Racial Equity Advisory Panel will be appointed on or before September 1, 2018. Terms of members shall officially begin on January 1, 2019. Those interested in being appointed to this panel should submit resumes to the Human rights Commission, The Governor, and The House Speaker, Supreme Court Chief Justice or the Committee on Committees.
Once appointed, the Racial Equity Advisory Panel will have until November 1, 2018 to develop and post a job description for the Executive Director of Racial Equity. They will then have until January 1, 2019 to submit candidates for the Executive Director of Racial Equity position to the Governor. The Governor will appoint the Executive Director of Racial Equity before February 1, 2019. The Executive Director of Racial Equity will identify and work to eradicate systemic racism within State government. The charge of the Executive Director of Racial Equity is as follows:
- Implement a program of continuing coordination and improvement of activities in State government to combat systemic racial disparities and measure progress toward fair and impartial governance by:
- Overseeing a comprehensive organizational review to identify systemic racism in each of the branches of State government and inventorying systems in place that engender racial disparities;
- Managing and overseeing the statewide collection of race-based data to determine the nature and scope of racial discrimination within all systems of State government; and
- Developing a model fairness and diversity policy and reviewing and making recommendations regarding policies held by all State government systems.
- Gather relevant existing data and records and develop best practices for remediating systemic racial disparities throughout State government.
- Develop performance targets and performance measures.
- Develop and conduct trainings for agencies.
- Report to the Racial Equity Advisory Panel on the progress.
- Report annually to the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations.
This year the Racial Justice Reform Coalition set off with a bold agenda for change. Our research provided overwhelming and compelling data supporting the fact that black and brown people’s civil liberties are under violent attack nationally and we have much work to do in our state. In spite of a the hard fight that we fought, there are a number of things that were were unable to get done. Below is a list:
- Making racial profiling illegal (30 other states have these laws) 1,2
- Mandating standardized policy, training and data collection on use of force 1,2
- Expanding the capacity of the Human Rights Commission 1
- Constitutional Amendment – removing slavery from the constitution 3
- Creation of Independent Commission (similar to the Human Rights Commission) 1,2
- Director to oversee implementation of Centralized data repository 1,2
- Inclusion of educational institutions 1,2
1 – Recommended as amendment and never introduced (Senate Gov Ops – S-281)
2 – Introduced but not taken up (House Gov Ops – H.868
3 – Introduced but not taken up (House Gov Ops) H.R.25
Note that there remains significant concerns surrounding the Executive Order 18-04, in that it undermines the original intent of Act 9 and has yet to be rescinded.
Justice For All
Racial Justice Reform Coalition
Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.