A bill crafted in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump on immigration is expected to be on the Senate floor next week.
The five-member Senate Judiciary Committee approved S.79 with unanimous support Friday.
Committee chair Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said it was one of the fastest review processes in the committee’s history.
The legislation, introduced late last week, is backed by a broad coalition of Vermont officials, including Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Progressive/Democrat Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Democrat Attorney General TJ Donovan, and leadership from all three parties in the Legislature.
The bill would restrict the federal government from mobilizing state and local law enforcement to enforce civil immigration laws without the consent of the governor. It would also block participation in a Muslim registry.
The bill would restrict public agencies in Vermont from collecting personal information for the creation of a Muslim registry, including an individual’s religious beliefs and national origin and bars state agencies from sharing personally identifying information with the federal government.
There was some concern that the bill might impede other transfers of information to the federal government, such as for a federal database used for background checks on firearm purchases.
The legislation would require the governor to sign off before local law enforcement agents could be deputized to enforce immigration law through an agreement with the federal government.
The committee added language that the governor can make those decisions in consultation with the state attorney general.
Law enforcement agencies would be permitted to enter into an agreement without the governor’s approval when a state of emergency has been declared.
Through discussions in committee, lawmakers and advisers wanted to ensure the legislation achieved the goals set out by the administration and legislative leaders, while “making sure we were clear that it would withstand any constitutional questions,” Sears said.
Gov. Phil Scott said Friday the speed with which the committee took up the legislation illustrates that the issue is important.
“I think this shows the level of importance to Vermonters across the spectrum,” Scott said.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re Progressive or Republican or Democrat … I think we want to protect our constitutional rights,” he said.