After the House floor presentation, Gov. Shumlin had requested the opportunity to meet the team in the governor’s ceremonial office just across the hall. This, too, is unusual as governors do not generally participate in team honors. This was a much more casual event with many, many photos being snapped by parents and students, including some selfies by team members with the governor. The governor even pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and asked someone to snap a couple of photos.
The second event was of a very different nature. Last year I was approached by Dover resident Stacey Blackadar, who was a senior at Brattleboro Union High School. Although I had not previously met Stacey, I had known her family for many years. She was taking an advanced placement course and had an issue that concerned her and wanted to see if legislation could be introduced to remedy the problem she had identified. Her research on the issue was sound, and she was able to be in touch with statewide advocates who were also interested in the issue. Together, and with the help of the lawyers in the Legislative Counsel’s office, we worked to frame the problem in a way that could become a draft bill to be introduced in the House. Stacey’s bill seeks to be sure that a rapist has no parental rights in the life of the child so conceived. Under present law in Vermont, a rapist who fathers a child still has parental rights, something that she felt was not in the interest of the child and certainly not in the interest of the mother of the child.
The Legislature functions in a biennium, which means that legislation introduced in the first year, if not acted on, remains alive for consideration in the second year. All bills are referred to one of the committees of the House for consideration, and Stacey’s bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. This year they are taking it up and have started to take testimony from many sources to be sure that all aspects of the problem that Stacey identified are considered before they pass it out of their committee and on to the whole House for a vote. Stacy, now a student at CCV, was asked by the committee chair to come to Montpelier and testify before the committee to share her views, which she did last week. By all accounts she gave very powerful testimony. Many committee members, and some lobbyists who happened to be in the committee room, stopped me in the halls to say how powerful her testimony was. None of them had to do that.