Statehouse Headliners: Pot for all diseases clears Senate, fossil fuel divestment is back, and race panel may have quotas

By Guy Page

S.216, expanding medical marijuana prescriptions to treat any condition and creating a state marijuana laboratory to test strength and quality of for-sale marijuana products, passed the Senate Tuesday March 13.

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. S.216 is now in the House Human Services Committee. Chair Ann Pugh told Headliners Thursday that “we have a lot of bills in our committee,” 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.

Human Services Committee members include: Ann Pugh, Chair; Sandy Haas, Vice Chair; Francis McFaun, Ranking Member; Marianna Gamache; Brian Keefe; Michael Mrowicki; Daniel Noyes; Kelly Pajala; Carl Rosenquist; Joseph “Chip” Troiano; and Theresa Wood, Clerk.

Fossil fuel divestment is back — 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. February 12 the VSC 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 full Board may vote as soon as next week.

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.

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.

Amtrak not leaving Vermont — That story you read in Vermont publications about Amtrak stopping service in Vermont? Not true. “That’s just a rumor,” a Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) board member said during a visit to the Legislature Thursday. “The new executive director got a little rambunctious while testifying and went over the top.” However Amtrak will conduct a study to improve Vermont rail safety and service.

Amtrak served 92,000 Vermont passengers last year, with a $63 average fare and 261 mile average trip. The most popular route is New York City – Rutland. The most popular of the 11 Vermont rail stations is Essex Junction, with 19,564 passengers.

Homeless bill of rights proceeds — H.412, the Homeless bill of rights, received permission to skip crossover and is scheduled to be voted out of the House General, Housing and Military Affairs committee Friday, March 16, lead sponsor Tom Stevens said Thursday. The bill strives to guarantee equal protection of housing and employment for homeless people, but 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? — S.281, establishing a Systemic Racism Mitigation Oversight and Equity Review Board, is facing criticism by Sen. Randy Brock for requiring three of five members to be people of color [Senate journal, pg. 142]. The State of Vermont must not impose a skin color test for any state-sponsored office, said Sen. Brock, who is African-American. One Senate leader said Sen. Brock’s concerns will be addressed.

Vermont loses 30 to 40 dairy farms per year — Four straight years of milk production costs exceeding income have taken their toll on the state’s dairy farms, Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said on the Dave Gram Show on WDEV Tuesday, March 13. On average, it costs $19 to produce 100 pounds of milk but farmers receive only $15 in return. This imbalance has persisted for four consecutive years, and the result is a steady loss of 30-40 farms per year, Tebbetts reported.

Carbon tax study could appear in state budget — H.763, the proposed $100,000 study of carbon taxation, 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 Thursday said it rests with Appropriations now. It is unclear whether the committee will include the controversial spending of $100,000 of taxpayer money on unpopular carbon taxation.

Changing faces — Franklin County Senator 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 chairs – David Sharpe (education) and David Deen (Natural Resources) have said they will not seek re-election.

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 Bruce Parker/TNR
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4 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: Pot for all diseases clears Senate, fossil fuel divestment is back, and race panel may have quotas

  1. ” establishing a Systemic Racism Mitigation Oversight and Equity Review Board, is facing criticism by Sen. Randy Brock for requiring three of five members to be people of color…”
    Seems the only one NOT FIXATED ON RACE is the only black!! The one who SHOULD be Governor, today, were it not for the very, very RACIST DEMOCRATS!!!!

  2. Fossil fuel ivestment? If these idiots want to shoot themseles in the foot, this is the way to go. As for the $100,000 to study the carbon tax issue, save the money because regardless of outcome, the bill willpass anyway.

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