Vermont Gov. Phil Scott today announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Vermont the 32nd state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“It is important that Vermont’s first responders have the best service and access to an interoperable network that is expected to advance and adapt with new technology through the next 25 years,” Gov. Scott said in a prepared statement. “Vermont faced the choice of building its own network or using the federal solution. After thoroughly considering the technological, financial and operational aspects of both options, I believe the federal plan will more quickly and sustainably provide our public-safety community with the network it needs to continue its valuable service to Vermont.”

Under the law that established FirstNet, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.

With Scott’s announcement, Vermont becomes the eighth state to announce an “opt-in” decision after issuing a request for proposals (RFP) seeking bids from vendors willing to deploy and maintain an alternative RAN. Previously, the states of Michigan, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Georgia issued RFPs but later saw their governors announce “opt-in” decisions.

“Gov. Scott’s decision is a win-win-win for the state, its public-safety community and everyone who lives, works, or visits in Vermont,” Jim Douglas, FirstNet board member and former governor of Vermont, said in a prepared statement. “The FirstNet network will modernize our emergency-communications infrastructure, help create jobs in the Green Mountain State, and ensure that our first responders have the best tools and technologies to keep our communities safe and secure.”

Scott announced his “opt-in” decision less than two weeks after Vermont legislative counsel Maria Royle wrote a memorandum to state Rep. Stephen Carr that questioned whether the governor has the sole authority to make the “opt-in/opt-out” FirstNet decision for the state without legislative input.

“There is no explicit delegation of decision-making power to the governor in either the Vermont statutes or the Vermont Constitution authorizing [Gov. Scott] to act unilaterally here,” according to the memorandum. “On the contrary, state statute establishes a mechanism for legislative review of such policy decisions. This mechanism aligns with the Vermont Supreme Court’s interpretation of the proper roles of the legislative and executive branches of government.

“Therefore, a decision by the governor to either opt in or opt out, without the opportunity for legislative review, would unconstitutionally contravene the legislative authority of the General Assembly. The fact that federal law tasks the governor, not the General Assembly, with making the FirstNet decision would not likely change this legal outcome.”

IWCE’s Urgent Communications was unable to ascertain whether Scott received legislative input before making his “opt-in” announcement, as the governor’s decision was released after business hours in the Vermont state offices.