Vermont Legislative Initiative
As described in the “Court Cases for Non-Profit Organizations” section of this web site, the successful Vermont Supreme Court case of In Re Bennington School, Inc., established the principle that multi-purpose educational corporations could open group homes for people with disabilities by right in residential neighborhoods. Bennington School is actually a for-profit special education school; its mission for its students no different from special education schools organized as non-profit corporations. Even after the Vermont Supreme Court ruled, there remained a serious gap in Vermont law. The Vermont statute allowing group homes in residential neighborhoods was nearly thirty years old and applied only to homes for people with developmental or physical disabilities. Without a change in the law, proponents of community residential programs for people with mental illness, learning and emotional disabilities and other handicapping conditions would have to go through a burdensome special permit process for each home. Attorney Margolin drafted legislation to make Vermont’s definition of “disability” for group home zoning purposes consistent with the expansive definition in the federal Fair Housing Act. A team of legislative and disability rights advocates was assembled. After their year-long effort, the Vermont legislature amended the law protecting the right of all individuals with serious disabilities to live in neighborhood community residential programs.