By Guy Page
H.636, a wildlife management bill that includes a ban on coyote-hunting competitions, passed the Vermont House Thursday, Feb. 22. It was sent to the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
No license to kill coyotes is required. Coyote hunting by individuals or groups of hunters is still legal. H636 would ban organized competitions. If it becomes law, violation may lead to a fine. It might have also led to 60 days in jail if not for a successful (75-64) floor amendment proposed by Rep. Janssen Wilhoit (St. Johnsbury). The roll call of who did, and didn’t vote to eliminate jail time as a sentencing option can be seen on pages 441-443 of the Vermont House Journal for Thursday, Feb. 22.
Sponsor David Deen (Westminster) reportedly told Vermont Public Radio that “We wanted to make what we thought was an egregious violation of the conservation model a major offense, a major Fish and Wildlife offense, and this was the easy way to do it.” Yet the wish to imprison coyote competition participants — including, possibly, those who had not actually killed a coyote — struck some legislators as contrary to an expressed desire to reduce incarceration. A Vermont ACLU plan to cut in half Vermont’s prison population has considerable support, and the House Judiciary Committee is studying bills aimed at reducing incarceration. A Northeast Kingdom representative said of the jail advocates on his committee: “my crew, they don’t want anyone to go to jail, but they voted for this one!”
Gun control talks heat up
Gov. Scott proposed swift action on S.221, also in Senate Judiciary, which “proposes to establish a procedure for a law enforcement officer to obtain an extreme risk protection order. The order would prohibit a person from possessing a firearm for up to one year if the Family Division of the Superior Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person poses a significant danger of causing injury to himself or herself or another person by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or by having a firearm within the person’s custody or control.”
Gov. Scott proposed legislation and more immediate measures following the attempted murder charge (and other charges) of an 18-year-old Poultney man for allegedly planning a mass shooting at a Vermont high school. Also, Sen. Pro Tem Tim Ashe (Chittenden) tweeted today that universal background legislation will be discussed in the Senate next week.
Following the Parkland, Fla., shooting and the arrest of the Poultney man, and before the publication of Gov. Scott’s memo to the Legislature, VT Traditions Coalition Firearms Policy Analyst William Moore of Johnson sent the following statement to Headliners. It is a thoughtful counterpoint to those who see reducing legal access to gun ownership as the main solution:
The tragedy in Florida is not a situation that would have been prevented by universal background checks. Nothing would have short of an intervention by family, friends, the church, law enforcement, and most especially peer to peer. It is a tragedy that begs us to re-evaluate how we are making sure our children, friends and neighbors are not left so isolated, desperate and spiritually bankrupt that they see only this type of ‘rampage’ as an option to escape their torment. As we saw last week in Fair Haven, Vermont the culture of a place can intervene effectively. Fair Haven succeeded in concert with law enforcement, schools, and neighbors to thwart these schemes. That intervention will hopefully provide an exit ramp to help, therapy, medication and family and peer support.
The standard gun control narrative of gun bans proposed by legislators and the advocates from Gun Sense VT and Every Town for Gun Safety fails to address any of the recent shootings in Las Vegas or Florida. The proponents of these schemes offer nothing to counter the failures of our national village that grow these young people who commit these ‘mass rampages,’ Las Vegas was a domestic terrorist attack not related to these deeper, more difficult questions. Questions that as of today we apparently are not prepared to ask. Hopefully, Governor Scott is the right man to force us to ask these questions and seek answers. We should be asking him and legislators into that room, not taking the rights of lawful gun owners.
New Vermont Electric Co-op CEO understands downside of too much NEK wind power
Vermont Electric Co-op (VEC) General Counsel Victoria J. Brown will become CEO on an interim basis March 2. She succeeds Christine Hallquist, who has resigned to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. Prior to her 2011 appointment as VEC’s chief lawyer, Ms. Brown was a private-practice energy and utility lawyer. Serving mostly rural, northern towns (see service map), VEC is Vermont’s second-largest utility, with 32,000 members and 39,546 meters, and $77 million annual revenue. Only Green Mountain Power (265,000 customers, $640 million revenue) is larger. Burlington Electric ($62 million) ranks third.
Whatever else her qualifications, Ms. Brown understands the financial downside of over-building wind power in the Northeast Kingdom. She intervened on behalf of VEC against the proposed construction of the 2.2 MW Dairy Air wind power project in the Northeast Kingdom border town of Holland. She said the area’s transmission grid was already congested with too much electricity 42 percent of the time due to the Lowell and Sheffield wind power projects. The congestion led to a $550,000 fine on VEC in 2017 from grid operator ISO-New England. Adding Dairy Air to the already clogged transmission system would just make matters worse, she said.
Bill authorizing up to $100,000 to study carbon tax options approved by House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee, now goes to Ways & Means Committee
The House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee Thursday, Feb. 22 approved H.763 to spend $100,000 to study carbon tax plans and options. Gov. Scott has said he does not support a carbon tax nor any bill to spend state money to study carbon taxation.
H.763 would “require the Joint Fiscal Office to conduct a study, with independent professional assistance, on the costs and benefits to Vermont of various approaches to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and submit a report of its findings to the General Assembly. It also proposes that the Governor have a duty to use existing avenues, such as the Coalition of Northeastern Governors, to advocate for regional and interstate solutions to GHG reduction.”
In particular, the bill requests a study of carbon taxation according to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI. This multi-state “incentive” initiative of northeastern U.S. states (including Vermont) collects money from states heavy on instate fossil fuel power generation (natural gas, oil) and distributes it to states heavy on emissions-free generation (hydro, nuclear, solar, wind). Vermont is a recipient of RGGI funds because we have very little fossil-fuel power generation. However, Vermont’s relatively heavy reliance on fossil fuels for home heat and transportation might make us a “paying” state relative to more urban states.
Today’s vote in the committee, chaired by Rep. David Deen (Westminster), proceeded among party lines, with Republicans in opposition, observers said.
Vermont State Veteran’s Flag bill approved by House
H.693, a bill to establish an official state flag for Vermont veterans, received final approval Feb. 21 in the House of Representatives.
H.693 “proposes to designate the Honor and Remember Flag as the State Veterans Flag,” according to the explanation of the bill on the Vermont State Legislative website. The bill was given preliminary approval by the full House Tuesday, Feb. 20 and was approved Feb. 21 on final reading. It now goes to the Vermont Senate for consideration.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Vicki Strong (Albany), the mother of U.S. Marine Jesse Strong (click here for photo) who died in Iraq defending the polls for the first democratic election after the end of the Sadaam Hussein regime. It received enthusiastic tri-partisan and independent legislator approval in deliberations in the General and Military Affairs Committee. Other sponsors were Rep. Patrick Brennan, Rep. Kevin “Coach” Christie, Rep. Lawrence Cupoli, Rep. Diana Gonzalez, Rep. Mary E. Howard, Rep. Mary A. Morrissey, Rep. Edward Read, Rep. Brian Smith, and Rep. Tommy Walz.
The Honor and Remember Flag has been created to recognize U.S. Armed Forces personnel who died in the defense of our nation. Its designation as the State Veterans Flag will create an official State symbol that recognizes the dedicated military service of those Vermonters who died in combat as members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
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.