September 24, 2018

Guest Column: Legislative check-in as we turn toward spring

By Guy Page

A bill (S216) that would expand medical marijuana prescriptions to treat any condition and create a state marijuana laboratory to test strength and quality of for-sale marijuana products, passed the Senate last Tuesday.

The bill cleared the Senate despite its refusal to hear physicians concerns about giving prescription carte blanche to any drug, least of all a medically questionable drug like marijuana. The bill is now in the House Human Services Committee.

“We have a lot of bills in our committee,” committee chair Ann Pugh said last Thursday, implying it may not receive immediate attention. She said people who wish to testify should contact committee staffer Julie Tucker at jtucker@leg.state.vt.us.

Fossil fuel divestment returns

Forced divestment of fossil fuel stocks is back. Rejected as too costly by state government last year and at the University of Vermont in 2013, it has resurfaced in the Vermont State Colleges. On Feb. 12, the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees Subcommittee on Finance voted 5-2 to forward to the full Board of Trustees a proposal to eliminate fossil fuel stocks from 20 percent of the VSC investment portfolio.

The latest push to eliminate fossil fuel investment comes from Fossil-Free VSC, an outreach of 350.org, the climate change organization founded by author Bill McKibben of Ripton.

Homeless Bill of Rights proceeds

The Homeless Bill of Rights (H412) was scheduled to be voted out of the House General, Housing and Military Affairs committee last Friday. The bill strives to guarantee equal protection of housing and employment for homeless people. Some business and local government groups are concerned it may empower homeless people to be a nuisance in downtown business districts.

Skin color test for state racism panel?

A bill establishing a Systemic Racism Mitigation Oversight and Equity Review Board (S281), is facing criticism from Sen. Randy Brock for requiring three of five members to be people of color. The State of Vermont must not impose a skin color test for any state-sponsored office, said Brock, who is African-American. One Senate leader said Brock’s concerns will be addressed.

Carbon tax study could appear in state budget

A proposed $100,000 study of carbon taxation (H763) won’t go to the full House for approval. Instead, its funding may be included in the state budget by the House Appropriations Committee, a bill sponsor said Thursday. Carbon taxation remains unpopular, and it’s unclear whether the committee will attempt to study it with taxpayer funds.

Changing faces

Franklin County Sen. Carolyn Branagan announced last week she will not run for re-election. Rep. Corey Parent (St. Albans) announced he will seek one of the two Franklin County Senate seats. Sen. Randy Brock, the other sitting senator from Franklin County, said yesterday he will seek re-election. Also, two House committee chairs, David Sharpe (education) and David Deen (natural resources), have said they will not seek re-election.

Burlington native Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

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