MONTPELIER – Vermont is nearing the final steps to adding two amendments to the Vermont Constitution.
Prop 2 would clarify that slavery is prohibited in Vermont, while Prop 5 would guarantee the right to reproductive freedom.
Both efforts to amend the Vermont Constitution were introduced in 2019, but turning proposals into amendments is a lengthy process, and one that’s certainly stirred up some debates along the way.
“This in fact may be one of the most consequential things that this committee ever takes up,” said Mark Hughes, Executive Director of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance.
On Thursday, Hughes testified in support of Prop 2 before the House Committee on Government Operations.
“With only one dissent of 180 legislators, this proposal arrives to you to complete the legislative process of this landmark constitutional amendment,” Hughes said. “This is it.”
Constitutional amendments need to be approved by both chambers of the Vermont Legislature twice in separate bienniums. All that’s left for Prop 2 and Prop 5 is a second vote in the House, where it needs two-thirds approval.
Amerin Aborjaily from the Office of Legislative Counsel briefed lawmakers in the House Human Services committee about the process going forward. If the House passes the amendment, the Governor’s only constitutional role is to issue a proclamation to provide public notice of the proposed amendment.
“The Secretary of State is then required to publish the proposal and a summary thereof in at least two newspapers,” Aborjaily said. “…The proposal is then submitted to voters of the state for ratification.”
The vote can only happen during a general election, so if the House approves, voters are likely to see both amendments on the ballot this November.
Aside from the practical reasoning for both amendments, supporters have often spoke out about what they symbolize. When a Vermont Law School professor argued Prop 2 isn’t necessary, Hughes disagreed.
“Forget about what’s in the Constitution right now, maybe the professor has a point, who knows?” Hughes said. “Let’s talk about the 13th Amendment., because the language that we’re placing in this Constitution completely negates the 13th Amendment and says definitively that slavery under any circumstance is prohibited, that is all.”
Both House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Minority Leader Rep. Patricia McCoy have signaled a vote on both amendments is a key priority this session.