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New Vermont laws for July 1: Batteries, hair and your employer’s opinions

A person's hand places sunscreen in a backpack
penyushkin/Getty Images/iStockphoto
A new state law says students must be allowed to self-apply sunscreen at school with a parent's permission.

Every year a new batch of laws takes effect on July 1, which is the start of state government’s fiscal cycle.

This year the list includes a ban on throwing away batteries, a new payroll tax for child care, and multiple laws related to child safety.

Here are 11 new laws as of July 1, 2024.

Child care tax

A new payroll tax takes effect July 1 to enable major investments in Vermont’s child care system.

The 0.44% tax is expected to raise $120 million a year. Employers should cover three-quarters of the tax, while employees will pay the remaining portion — unless the employer wants to pick up the entire bill.

'Captive audience' meetings at work, union formation

This law prohibits employers from firing or disciplining employees who opt out of meetings or communications about the employer’s political or religious views. (There are, however, specific provisions allowing mandatory religious and political communications within religious and political organizations.) While working on the bill, legislators heard concerns about employers requiring employees to attend anti-union meetings or watch anti-union videos.

The law also allows public sector workers to unionize if more than 50% of the bargaining unit signs a petition, often called "card check," rather than using a secret ballot election.

The legislation allows domestic workers in a household with 5 or more workers to collectively bargain, and sets up a study committee to examine how labor laws should apply to farm workers.

Race-based hair discrimination prohibited

Vermont is becoming one of 26 states to prohibit discrimination on hair types, textures or styles that are associated with race — an effort often referred to nationwide as the CROWN Act. The legislation specifically calls out locs, twists, individual braids, cornrows, Bantu knots, afros, afro puffs, wigs and head coverings.

Previous coverage: Vermont House approves legislation to prohibit race-based hair discrimination

No more throwing away batteries

This law makes it illegal to dispose of single-use and rechargeable batteries in landfills — previously, only the disposal of lead-acid car batteries, nickel cadmium batteries and mercury-containing batteries was illegal. (Vermont has a well-established battery recycling program.)

The law will later require producers of rechargeable batteries, and devices containing batteries, to participate in state stewardship programs.

Student sunscreen at school

This law requires Vermont schools to let students apply their own sunscreen if they have a parent or guardian’s permission. They cannot be required to have a medical note or to store the sunscreen in a specific location.

Child car seat requirements

This law extends the amount of time that young children must be secured in a rear-facing car seat. All children under 2 years of age must be in a rear-facing restraint system, up from the previous legal requirement of 1 year. (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends keeping kids rear-facing for as long as possible, until they max out the height or weight requirements of the seat.)

The revised state law also requires children to be secured in a car seat until 5 years old or until they max out the height or weight limit of the seat — and then to use a booster seat until 8 years old. Children under 13 should always ride in the rear seat “if practical.”

The Vermont Department of Health has a program to provide car seats to families who can't afford them.

Manipulation of a child for sex

This legislation updates Vermont’s child-luring statute to specifically outlaw actions that manipulate a child to engage in sexual activity, such as inappropriate touching, excessive gifts or compliments, provision of alcohol or drugs, or separation of the child from peers or family.

Shoplifting law

This legislation is intended to curtail shoplifting in Vermont.

Previously, if a person steals less than $900 worth of merchandise, the initial and any repeat offenses are considered misdemeanors. This law makes a third offense a felony, with a significant fine and possible jail time, if the property stolen is valued between $250 and $900.

The bill also reduces penalties for first-time offenders who steal less than $250 of merchandise.

Confidentiality of kids’ library use

This law lowers the age for children to confidentially access materials in public libraries from 16 to 12.

Previous coverage: Lawmakers deliberate bill that would give young Vermonters confidential access to library materials

Automobile trespassing

This law prohibits entering a motor vehicle without permission, a crime that will carry penalties up to three months in prison and $500.

Livestock on the loose

This law raises the possible fines for people who let livestock loose in public places. Towns are now authorized to pass ordinances related to livestock running at large.

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