Statehouse Headliners: Members of Congress take Alzheimer’s meds, taxes and GMP rates set to rise

By Guy Page

A Washington, D.C. pharmacy fills prescriptions for drugs treating Alzheimer’s disease for members of Congress, the Boston Globe reported Oct. 11, 2017. The story names no names but quotes pharmacy owner Mike Kim: “It makes you kind of sit back and say, ‘Wow, they’re making the highest laws of the land and they might not even remember what happened yesterday.’” Term limits, anyone?

Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlebury author opposes Big Marijuana

The only literary awards writer Ron Powers of Middlebury has won are a Colby (for co-authoring “Flag of Our Fathers”), an Emmy, and a Pulitzer, so why should we pay attention? Answer: his terrific Nov. 24 op-ed opposing marijuana legalization: “Are You Ready for Big Marijuana,” for the website No-one Cares About Crazy People.

Pot law not inevitable: Act II

Despite media reports to the contrary, Gov. Phil Scott is still concerned about the impact of marijuana legalization on highway safety. At a press conference last week, he was asked by a Fox 44 reporter to comment on reports of THC found in the blood of the driver arrested in connection with the death of five Harwood teens last year. “I’m very concerned about highway safety … and impaired driving,” Gov. Scott said. “I hope we can determine how we can detect that. … In the future, we’re going to have to find a way [to determine impairment]. We have a ways to go.”

Doesn’t sound to me like someone ready to sign a bill into law, just yet. Maybe he heard that his top cop, Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson, told his advisory commission that legalization will lead to more highway fatalities.

4′ x 4′ pot cultivation needs as much electricity as 24 Vermont homes

Last week Statehouse Headliners reported how a Colorado-scale regulated cultivation and sale pot legalization would require electricity consumption equal to about 29 percent of all electricity saved by energy efficiency efforts in Vermont. This week I emailed Marijuana Advisory Commission Co-Chair Tom Little last week’s column, along with these additional facts:

  • As early as 2012, marijuana cultivation accounted for 1 percent of all U.S. electricity consumption.
  • A 4’ x 4’ x 8’ growing module, with an annual yield of five pounds of marijuana, requires as much electricity as 24 average Vermont homes consume in a year.
  • Indoor marijuana cultivators often inject CO2 into the greenhouse atmosphere, to help plants grow better. The CO2-producing machines usually are powered by fossil fuels.

Will a Legislature and governor so committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions give energy-hogging pot cultivation a pass? Will the State of Vermont keep its promises to its citizens, and to the world community? And will Vermonters take climate change action seriously if the State of Vermont does not?

Bad news for family budget … school taxes, electricity costs to rise

Green Mountain Power rates will rise 5 percent in 2018, thanks to the increased cost in renewable power and electricity transmission. As predicted, the high growth rate of subsidized “net-metered” solar power is now a significant driver in the cost of electricity. This upwards pressure has been masked for several years by two factors – the unprecedented low cost of natural-gas fired electricity, and the relatively small amount of renewable power on the grid. What has changed? The cost of natural gas-power is still very low – for now. But as Vermont’s legislatively-mandated preferential pricing for large-scale solar projects has contributed to a build-out that is the envy of the nation, the cumulative effect of those 18-cent per kilowatt hour wholesale prices is starting to show in ratepayers’ monthly bills.

Meanwhile, Tax Commissioner Kaj Samson announced Nov. 30 a projected 7 percent increase in the statewide property tax. The increase is driven mostly by voters’ decisions at the local level, he said. As one state official said last week, Vermont is supporting a school system built for 120,000 students, but only actually educating 76,000.

State Revenues down, although unemployment still low

Vermont not only has too few students for its current school system, it has too few workers for its revenue needs. Although Vermont’s unemployment rate is still below three percent, total employment tax revenue is way down. The problem, state officials say, is too few workers. In Governor Scott’s policy mantra is 6-3-1, the six stands for six fewer workers in the state’s workforce every day. Or as one state official told a group of lawmakers last Thursday: Six fewer employees means six fewer checks with state withholdings.

Congrats to Sen. Brian Collamore (Rutland County) for induction Dec. 2 to Vermont Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Collamore started his radio career in 1968 at WRMC and WFAD while at Middlebury College. He joined WSYB in Rutland in 1974 and has been on the air and in sales ever since. (He also was an ice hockey official for 40 years.) Good job Rep. Jim Condon of Colchester for emceeing the VAB awards dinner at the Hilton in Burlington. Congrats also to Londonderry Town Clerk Kelly MacLaury Pajala, appointed to replace resigning Rep. Oliver Olsen (Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall). Ms. Pajala is described by VT Digger as a political independent, small businessperson, and mother of two.

Congratulations magna cum laude to Rep. Anne Donahue, editor of the newspaper for psychiatric survivors, Counterpoint. In the latest issue, she reports on VOSHA fining the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital $7000 for not requiring staff to wear arm, chin, chest and mouth guards when dealing with patients with assaultive behavior. Patient advocates say it is harmful to patients to be “treated as dangerous animals.” VT Occupational Safety & Health Administration says state employees require this level of protection. Rep. Donahue, herself a psychiatric survivor, has journalism in the blood – she is the daughter of John Donahue, longtime editor/publisher of the Northfield News.

And finally — according to a handout circulated at the Statehouse last Thursday, McDonald’s, operators of 28 restaurants and employer of 1,673 people in Vermont, bought 199,500 gallons of milk from Vermont milk suppliers in 2016. FYI.

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

2 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: Members of Congress take Alzheimer’s meds, taxes and GMP rates set to rise

  1. Does anybody doubt that Leaky Leahy has dementia? Why the hell doesn’t he retire, since he doesn’t appear to know where he is half the time.

  2. Energy efficiency is not how little energy you use, it’s the ratio of energy used to benefit derived. The success of an economy could reasonably be measured by how much energy it consumes. I haven’t any idea of what benefit the businesses and the state derive from marijuana cultivation, but that benefit has to be measured against the cost of energy consumed to derive its efficiency – e.g. Smelters consume vast amounts of electricity – but they produce steel, a marketable commodity.

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