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Capital Letter: News from Montpelier by Representative Kathy Pellett

The Judiciary Committee recently passed H. 533, relating to Military Parents' Rights. This is very timely legislation considering the number of military personnel currently deployed or will be deployed overseas. The bill protects the parental rights and the best interests of children of deploying servicemen and women. The main issue is child custody arrangements when a parent is deployed.

The bill provides for expeditious court consideration of the necessary modifications and custody hearings by phone when necessary; specifies to whom parent-child contact rights may be delegated; and stipulates a requirement by the non-deploying parent to facilitate opportunities for telephone or other electronic contact with the deployed parent.

Another bill we are considering in Judiciary is H. 363, Ignition Interlock devices to be installed in any vehicle owned by an individual convicted of DUI. 47 states have some sort of ignition interlock law, and multiple studies for both first-time convicted and repeat offenders show decreases in DUI recidivism of up to 64% while the interlock is installed.

Some argue that interlocks are too harsh a penalty for first time offenders; however, those arrested for a first offense, on average, have driven drunk 87 times prior to being arrested. We are considering eliminating license suspension as a penalty so that individuals could continue driving to work, take children to child care, medical appointments, grocery shop and other activities that would not disrupt family life.

You will be hearing much more about this important bill as we continue to hear expert testimony about how Vermont should strengthen its DUI laws. Last session I introduced a bill which would increase the penalty for conviction of DUI when there is a child in the vehicle.

If you have concerns or issues you would like to discuss, please contact me in Montpelier Tuesday to Friday at 1-800-322-5616 or kpellett@leg.state.vt.us. I am in Chester on weekends and Monday and can be reached at 875-1372 or kathy4house@vermontel.net.

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