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New laws in Vermont that start July 1: Gun purchases, adoption records, distracted driving and more

 Two hands grasp a catalytic converter on the underside of a vehicle
A new law tries to tamp down the black market for catalytic converters by limiting the number that anyone can transport, or sell, at one time.

Vermonters will soon see new laws that affect their wallets or their legal choices — and even possibly cut down on the theft of car parts.

Every year, July 1 is the date that many new laws take effect. Some of these laws were recently passed by the Legislature; others were approved a while ago and are just now rolling out.

Here are 11 of the changes you should know about this summer.

Waiting period for gun purchases

Young people in Vermont are less likely than their peers in other states to report feelings of sadness, hopelessness or suicidal thoughts — and yet their rate of suicide deaths is higher than the national average.

Lawmakers have decided that easy access to guns is a significant factor in those deaths. And legislation that goes into effect July 1 will institute a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases. Lawmakers hope that preventing someone in crisis from gaining immediate access to a gun will allow time for suicidal impulses to pass. The vast majority of people who survive a suicide attempt never make an attempt again.

A gun with a safety lock on it.
Taylor Dobbs, Emily Alfin Johnson
VPR File
A new law in Vermont creates a criminal penalty for unsafe storage of firearms if those guns are used in a crime.

The law will allow family members to petition courts for an extreme risk protection order, and creates a new criminal penalty for negligent storage of firearms, if that negligence results in commission of a crime.

The 72-hour waiting period provision is almost certain to invite a legal challenge. In a landmark ruling last year, the U.S. Supreme Court established a new precedent for the manner in which courts should assess the constitutionality of restrictions on gun ownership.

Though Gov. Phil Scott allowed the bill to become law, he said he doesn’t think the 72-hour waiting period will survive a constitutional challenge.

Find the details: Act 45 of 2023

Ban on child marriage

Many Vermonters might be under the impression that child brides went the way of the horse and buggy. But over the past decade, more than 250 16- and 17-year-old girls got married in Vermont — and nearly half of those girls were wed to men at least four years their senior.

This year lawmakers approved, and Gov. Phil Scott signed, legislation that prohibits individuals younger than 18 from getting married, regardless of whether their parents or guardians approve.

Windham County Sen. Nadir Hashim said women who wed as minors are far more likely to suffer domestic abuse. And he said most other states in the region either have banned child marriage or are poised to do so.

“After the obvious moral and health reasons for supporting this bill,” Hashim said earlier this year, “I also hope that we can agree that we do not want to be known as the only state in the Northeast that still allows people under 18 to get married.”

Find the details: Act 8 of 2023

Change to hard cider tax

Starting July 1, hard ciders that contain less than 7% alcohol by volume will be subject to a tax of 26.5 cents per gallon, assessed on the wholesaler. This is down from the 55-cent tax they had previously been subject to, according to the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Office.

Details: Act 177 of 2022

No more money for COVID sick leave

The COVID state of emergency is over. And state and federal programs to support workers and businesses during the pandemic have begun to dissipate.

A paid leave program that started in 2022 is the latest to expire.

June 30 marks the last day of a program that provided more than $15 million in grants to employers who provided paid time off to employees who missed work due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Peter Cade/Getty Images

If an employee needed to take a family member to a COVID-related doctor’s appointment, care for a COVID-positive loved one, or isolate at home themselves, their employers could provide paid time off, and then get compensated for those payments by a fund overseen by the Department of Financial Regulation.

The grant program was not compulsory for businesses.

State law still requires employers to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave to all full-time employees.

Find the details: Act 183 of 2022

Adopted people get access to their birth certificates

Adults who were adopted, and their direct descendants, will be able to request a copy of their original Vermont birth certificate.

More from Vermont Public: Many Vermont adoptees can't see their original birth certificates. A new law restores access

If the adoption was finalized in Vermont, adoptees will also be able to obtain identifying information about the biological or former parents — unless the parents have formally requested by July 1, 2023 that their information not be released.

Find the details: Act 100 of 2022 and the Vermont Adoption Registry website.

More land eligible for tax breaks

Lots of scientists say that letting forests grow old is a great way to trap climate-warming carbon by taking it out of the atmosphere. The OG low-tech carbon capture, if you will.

Vermont has long offered people who use their properties for timber harvest or agriculture a lower tax rate through the Current Use program.

To qualify, you have to have at least 25 acres of working forest or farmland — and in most cases, a plan in place to harvest the wood.

 A view of mountains and forests
Ric Cengeri
Landowners who already qualify for Vermont's Current Use program will be able to register their forestland as well.

But some environmental groups and lawmakers say: old forests are doing work! They should count as working lands.

Starting this July, landowners who already qualify for the Current Use program can apply to register their land as “Reserve Forestland.”

To qualify, they’ll have to have large swathes of land that aren’t suitable for logging or farming or that are ecologically sensitive or rare.

More from Vermont Public: Letting forests grow old will soon be allowed under Vermont's Current Use Program

Find the details: Act 146 of 2022

Higher marriage license fee

It’s going to get more expensive to get married starting July 1.

A special fund for victims of domestic and sexual violence is running low. And lawmakers decided to replenish the coffers by hiking marriage license fees, and allocating the bulk of those fee increases to the Domestic and Sexual Violence Special Fund

Marriage license fees will jump from $60 to $80, with $15 of that increase going to the special fund. But, the fee reverts to $60 in July of 2024, in case you’re looking for an excuse to put off the nuptials.

Find the details: Act 19 of 2023

 A firefighter on a ladder is silhouetted against a fire
AP Photo/Brattleboro Fire Department/Jason Henske
A new law makes it easier for firefighters to qualify for workers compensation if they are diagnosed with cancer.

More protection for firefighters diagnosed with cancer

Firefighters are at greater risk of getting cancer than the general population. And that’s because of the toxins they’re exposed to in the line of duty.

Members of the profession are eligible for workers compensation payments if they get cancer. But only if they screen cancer-free before they begin their careers.

Members of Professional Firefighters of Vermont — the union that represents workers in the state — say many departments fail to ensure new employees get screened. And the new law will allow firefighters to be screened post-employment and still qualify.

In recognition of the fact that women, too, are firefighters, the law expands the list of conditions that are eligible for workers comp to include breast and ovarian cancers. And it creates a study to determine whether Vermont should fund annual cancer screenings for all firefighters in the state.

Find the details: Act 26 of 2023

Restrictions on the resale of often-stolen catalytic converters

Shortly before the legislative session began, Vermont State Police arrested three individuals for allegedly stealing nearly 200 catalytic converters from vehicles in more than a dozen towns in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Law enforcement authorities say it’s part of a growing problem. And that’s because the devices contain precious metals that fetch high prices from recyclers.

Legislation enacted earlier this year tries to tamp down the black market for catalytic converters by limiting the number that anyone can transport, or sell, at one time. The law also imposes new accounting requirements on recyclers, to facilitate any investigations into illegal catalytic converter theft rings.

Find the details: Act 31 of 2023

Holding a phone is no longer an acceptable exception to Vermont's distracted driving law.

Yes, holding a phone while driving is illegal

If you’re still texting and driving, then seriously, it needs to stop. But until now, if you get pulled over after a cop catches you in the act, it could be a pretty easy offense to wiggle your way out of.

That’s because existing law only prohibits a motorist from “using” a smartphone while driving. And if you explain to the officer that you were merely “holding” it, then that’s a tough distinction to prove in a court of law.

Not anymore. After hearing about the loophole this year, lawmakers revised the texting-and-driving statute to make it clear that even “holding” a “portable electronic device” while driving is a civil traffic offense, punishable by up to a $200 fine for the first offense.

Find the details: Act 41 of 2023

Tracking the Vermonters with ALS — and their occupations

Vermont will start collecting data on all residents who have been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, to better understand trends associated with the disease.

Starting July 1, all health care providers who treat someone with ALS, or diagnose a new case, must report those cases to the Health Department. The state will keep track of the patients’ occupations and industries, as well as health factors like whether they have a history of concussion or head trauma.

Find the details: Act 149 of 2022

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Corrected: June 28, 2023 at 2:22 PM EDT
This post has been updated to clarify and add more details to the change on taxation of hard cider that taxes effect July 1.
The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
Abagael is Vermont Public's climate and environment reporter, focusing on the energy transition and how the climate crisis is impacting Vermonters — and Vermont’s landscape.

Abagael joined Vermont Public in 2020. Previously, she was the assistant editor at Vermont Sports and Vermont Ski + Ride magazines. She covered dairy and agriculture for The Addison Independent and got her start covering land use, water and the Los Angeles Aqueduct for The Sheet: News, Views & Culture of the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.
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