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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Week in Review: Advocating for Use-Of-Force Reform, Protecting the Health & Safety of Vermonters, & Continuing the Fight For 3SquaresVT

June 5, 2020

Actions taken by AG Donovan during the week of June 1 – June 5

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171

As Vermonters continue to come together across the state to peacefully express our nation’s outrage and call for justice and change, the Attorney General’s Office remains committed to its advocacy for police use-of-force reform. Earlier in the week, Attorney General T.J. Donovan urged Vermont’s legislature to consider use-of-force reform bills and sent a letter to Congress asking that authority to investigate patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing be given to attorneys general. Other activities included continuing challenges to EPA decisions around mercury and asbestos and continuing the fight to protect 3SquaresVT.

Urging Congress to give attorneys general authority to investigate unconstitutional policing

On Thursday, June 4, Attorney General Donovan joined a coalition urging Congress to expand federal law to give state attorneys general clear statutory authority to investigate patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing. In a letter issued to Congressional leadership, the coalition is asking Congress to expand the law enforcement misconduct section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The coalition argues that attorneys general should have the authority to investigate and resolve patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing, particularly in the event that the U.S. Department of Justice fails to use its authority to act.

Coming together with the Governor in support of Vermont’s peaceful protests

On Thursday, June 4, Attorney General Donovan joined Governor Scott in issuing statements on Vermont’s peaceful protests. “Protesting is a constitutional right, and I will protect it,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Vermonters have come together across the state to demonstrate their collective outrage and voice the need for justice and change. We, as law enforcement, must listen.”

Urging Legislature to consider use-of-force reform bills

On Wednesday, June 3, Attorney General Donovan sent a letter urging the Legislature to pass legislation to improve training of law enforcement and to study a change in the standard applied to police use-of-force incidents. In the letter, Attorney General Donovan points to two bills, H.808 and H.464, which, if passed, will increase transparency and trust in law enforcement while aiming to limit the number of use-of-force incidents. “I know you share my dismay and outrage over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer,” wrote Attorney General Donovan. “I am writing today to ask you to consider legislation that would help prevent similar tragedies from happening here in Vermont.”

Challenging federal exemptions of mercury products

On Friday, June 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled favorably in the State’s challenge of a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt several large categories of mercury products from “inventory reporting.” Inventory reporting is the practice of an entity reporting to the EPA a complete inventory of all mercury and mercury-containing products in its possession and put in commerce. Today, the Court overturned EPA’s exemption of imported mercury products. The Court ruled that the “EPA cannot accurately estimate the volume of mercury introduced into the United States market within imported products if it declines to catalogue a potentially significant swath of those products.”

Calling out the EPA for failing to protect Americans from asbestos

On Tuesday, June 2, Vermont joined a coalition in submitting comments criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding that certain uses of asbestos present no unreasonable risk to human health. In the comment letter, the coalition argues that the EPA’s draft risk evaluation for asbestos violates the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and Congress’ intent that the EPA consider all uses of asbestos in its evaluation. The coalition notes the finding is unsupported by the EPA’s own assessment and urges the agency to obtain the information it has admitted it needs to conduct the necessary, thorough evaluations of the risks presented by this chemical.

Fighting for reproductive rights during COVID-19 pandemic

On Wednesday, June 3, Attorney General Donovan joined a coalition taking legal action against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for increasing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for women seeking abortions in their state. In an amicus brief filed in support of the plaintiffs in American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists et al. v. FDA et al., the coalition supports the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to halt an FDA requirement that forces women to appear in person in a clinical setting to receive a drug known as Mifepristone for early abortion or miscarriage care. The coalition argues that the drug should be readily accessible via telehealth, so as not to potentially expose women to COVID-19 by requiring unnecessary travel.

Defending Title IX

On Thursday, June 4, Vermont joined a coalition in filing a complaint against the Trump Administration’s new restrictions to Title IX. The complaint is designed to stop new regulations from weakening protections for sexual assault and harassment victims, and block the creation of inequitable disciplinary proceedings, from kindergarten through college. In the complaint, the coalition asserts that the Department of Education’s new rule strips students of longstanding protections against sexual harassment in violation of Title IX’s mandate to prevent and remedy sex discrimination. The new rule also conflicts with federal and state statutes and Supreme Court precedent and will create a chilling effect on the reporting of sexual harassment.

Continuing the fight to protect 3SquaresVT benefits for Vermonters

On Monday, June 1, Attorney General Donovan joined a coalition in urging Congress to block the Trump Administration’s attempts to cut food assistance for millions of Americans. In a letter to Congress, the coalition expressed support for provisions in the House-passed HEROES Act that would prohibit the use of funds for three U.S. Department of Agriculture administrative rules. The rules would cut food assistance under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT, by making it harder to qualify for food assistance benefits, reducing State flexibility to continue benefits beyond a three-month limit, and reducing benefit amounts for certain households. As food insecurity has risen in Vermont and across the U.S., Congress should work to protect and expand our nation’s largest anti-hunger program.

Protecting refugees’ and states’ rights

On Monday, June 1, Attorney General Donovan today joined a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s unlawful executive order on refugee resettlement. The executive order seeks to upend the existing process by requiring written consent from state and local authorities before being able to place refugees in their jurisdictions. In doing so, it undermines family reunification efforts and disrupts states’ ability to deliver essential resources that help refugees contribute to the communities that welcome them.

Last modified: June 5, 2020