Statehouse Headliners: More opposition to pot and assisted suicide, Vermont has about 1,680 solar jobs

By Guy Page

Four-term Gov. James Douglas told an Orange County crowd Nov. 1 he opposes marijuana legalization. Three days later, Vermont physicians voted as a group to officially oppose marijuana legalization. Still, pot lobbyists and some lawmakers want action on a marijuana personal cultivation and possession law when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

According to an eyewitness account published in the Nov. 7 Rutland Herald, Douglas said legalization “is not consistent with our Vermont values,” which he said was also the reason for former Gov. Howard Dean’s opposition to legalized casinos. On Nov. 4, the Vermont Medical Society approved a resolution opposing legalization at its annual meeting in Woodstock. Plans to push a legalization bill anyway are described in the Nov. 7 Seven Days, which says the decision for now rests in the hands of House Speaker Mitzi Johnson.

Vermonters concerned about marijuana legalization may identify and contact their House representatives, and House leadership, at the Vermont General Assembly contact information page.

Gov. Phil Scott has said he will sign a personal cultivation and possession bill only if his concerns about drugged driving and protection of youth are addressed. Lacking any satisfactory test for marijuana drugged driving, the state of Vermont has hired an additional 15 Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) trained to identify impairment by the questioning and observation of drivers. Lt. John Flannigan, the head of the Vermont State Police DRE program, said the adequacy of DRE staffing numbers will be evaluated in 2018, with data being sent to the state’s marijuana commission.

Of 19,081 total ‘clean energy’ jobs, estimated solar industry FTE is 1,680

The solar power industry in Vermont employs about 1,680 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) workers, based on calculations derived from statistics in a 2017 report. The FTE for all renewable power jobs is about 4,500.

Total full-time and part-time renewable energy jobs (6,529) are down from an all-time high of 6,965 in 2016.

According to the 2017 Vermont Clean Energy Industry Report, issued by the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, about 70 percent of renewable energy workers work fulltime. The report noted that while the total number of jobs fell, the average worker had a higher percentage of FTE than in 2016.

The total number of all 2017 part-time and full-time “clean energy” jobs is over 19,081. “The 19,081 figure represents all workers that spend any portion of their time on clean-energy business activities,” the report said. The highest percentage of jobs is in the energy efficiency sector (56 percent), followed by renewable power (34 percent), and clean transportation (7 percent).

The solar power industry remains the largest employer within the 6,529 renewable power sector, with almost 2,400 workers. When the 70 percent ratio is applied, the number of FTE solar power jobs this year is 1680.

The overall decline of renewable power employment was attributed to job losses in biofuels: “both woody and non-woody biomass fuels respectively declined by about 270 and 160 jobs.” The report cited as a reason the continued decline in the price of fossil fuels.

Education Secretary: Increase student/teacher ratio to save $$

Vermont schools now employ one adult for every 4.25 students, and should move that ratio closer to 1:5, said Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, according to a the Nov. 2 News & Citizen. Vermont had the lowest student/teacher ratio in the nation at 10.5:1 in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. Most states have 12-13 students per teacher.

The Agency of Education must fill a $50 million shortfall in the state education fund. Increasing the student-teacher ratio would require elimination of teachers at the district level.

State’s doctors refuse ‘assisted death is ethical’ resolution

A resolution endorsing physician-assisted death under Act 39 as an “ethical choice” for the state’s physicians has been refused by the Vermont Medical Society. The resolution, adopted by members at the VMA annual meeting in Woodstock Nov. 4, was amended to say that assisted death is a legal option, and that doctors disagree on whether it is ethical. As the VMA told the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare this week, “it changes the whole gist of the original resolution.”

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Church at Prison.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR