Rep. Peter Welch supported and the House passed legislation late Wednesday to address a projected shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund by restoring $7 billion in federal transportation funding to the states. HR 3357 prevents an 85 percent reduction in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding, which would have reduced Vermont s share from $134 million to $20 million in 2010.The cut would have forced Vermont Agency of Transportation to shut down all new FHWA construction, resulting in the loss of 998 jobs, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. A recession is no time to cut federal highway funding and layoff hundreds of workers, Welch said. This bill ensures that Vermont can continue to rebuild its roads and bridges and maintain good-paying jobs.
If “no means no” becomes “yes means yes,” California could become the first state in the country to adopt a new affirmative consent standard for universities’ sexual assault and gender-based violence policies.The California bill, penned by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), passed unanimously through the state senate last month. If signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, it would require colleges receiving funding from the state to adopt an affirmative consent standard of “yes means yes,” in which only an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement uninhibited by silence, a lack of resistance or intoxication of any kind can be regarded as consent.The law would also include policies and procedures detailing how to best handle cases of sexual assault or domestic violence on college campuses in order to ensure academic institutions provide the treatment, information and resources necessary to students.Though the legislation is still pending, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry said the university will abide by the law completely if passed.“If it adds clarity for students to use the affirmative ‘yes,’ we welcome it, “ Carry said. “Every educational effort we can deploy adds clarity to the conversation.”The bill is being considered amid a nationwide conversation regarding sexual assault on college campuses. At least 76 universities, including USC, UC Berkeley and UCLA, are currently under investigation by the Department of Education for alleged misconduct in handling sexual assault cases.Undergraduate Student Government Assistant Director of Wellness Affairs Francesca Bessey said that though calling for affirmative consent is an important step, it also reflects the need to remove the responsibility from the victim to the offender.“There are a lot of associated cultural and policy shifts in choosing the ‘yes means yes’ idea because what that shift really reflects is a transition from victim-oriented conversations to predator-orientated conversations, and shifting responsibility from the person who was supposed to say no to the person who was supposed to seek permission with a yes,” Bessey said.USC Center for Women and Men Director Ekta Kumar said USC already incorporates affirmative consent language in its policies regarding sexual assault on campus.“Generally, I think this bill is great, and it helps point universities in the right direction,” Kumar said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “USC, however, already utilizes this type of affirmative consent language in its procedures and policies. If you look at SCampus policies, it is already in line with this bill and helps combat rape culture.”Last month, the university implemented seven new provisions for sexual assault prevention designed to educate the campus community about sexual misconduct, including the implementation of initiatives such as mandatory online sexual assault education and a “Step-Up” program encouraging bystander intervention. Also included in the new provisions will be a campus-wide task force composed of student volunteers committed to coordinating university efforts to address issues of sexual assault.Bessey said that though the national and on-campus conversations surrounding issues of sexual assault are to be applauded, the university must do more to seek enough input from students on how to handle it.“It is my feeling that consent is not consent if it’s not being actively given,” Bessey said. “I wish that my university would have that same standard.”Though no single piece of legislation will solve the issues surrounding sexual assault prevention on campus, Carry said the combined efforts of legislators, university administrators and students is a step in the right direction.“Students are talking about it, students are aware of it — and that’s exactly what we want,” Carry said. “We want students to be aware of these things on Friday and Saturday nights when they’re making smarter choices.”Carry also stressed the importance of maintaining the momentum surrounding nationwide conversations about sexual assaults on campus.“What I don’t want is for us to have this big storm of excitement and then forget to talk about it,” Carry said. “I’m proud of the efforts in Sacramento and on our college campuses to keep the conversation going.”Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill.