Statehouse Headliners: Gov. Scott might order marijuana legalization study

By Guy Page

Gov. Phil Scott might issue an executive order creating a marijuana legalization study commission if no new legalization bill emerges from this month’s special session of the Legislature, he said at a May 31 press conference.

Gov. Scott vetoed S22 last month but left the door open for new legislation that addresses his concerns about youth access, education, and driver impairment.

It is unclear whether the June 21–22 session to pass a 2017–2018 budget would leave time for a new marijuana bill. Gov. Scott said the Legislature could choose to stay longer, or could attach marijuana legalization to the budget. He did not appear to endorse either action, but rather was citing options open to the Legislature. The executive order about the commission was mentioned as a possibility, not a preference or promise.

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And speaking of study commissions: the Vermont Legislature ordered 68 studies or reports in 2017, Seven Days reported June 1. Lawmakers are paid $141 per day plus $73 in expenses for summer study. For example, the six lawmakers assigned to study the minimum wage will meet five times, for a total cost of $6,420. And of the 68 studies, 64 require further work by fulltime state employees.

Gov. Scott last week appointed a new Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) chair: 79-year-old Springfield environmental attorney Anthony Roisman. The new PSB chair opposes ridgeline wind power, Gov. Scott said at the May 31 press conference.

Roisman graduated from Harvard Law School in 1963, practiced in New York and Washington DC, and was admitted to the Vermont Bar in 1999. He is on the advisory board of the Vermont Law School Environmental Law Center, was a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and was a lawyer in the 1986 landmark environmental case that became the subject of the popular book and movie, “A Civil Action.”

Roisman has litigated and testified against nuclear power, including Vermont Yankee. He said in this March 6, 2012 Center for Investigative Reporting online story entitled ‘Danger Zone: Aging Nuclear Reactors’: “There is a growing recognition, not just among crazies who wear headbands and play bongs, but a large body of people liked elected officials and states, who are beginning to get nervous about the adequacy of nuclear power to be run safely in this country, not whether it could be, but whether it will be.” The PSB is now considering a plan to decommission Vermont Yankee.

Gov. Scott also named Karen Glitman to direct Efficiency Vermont, the state’s energy conservation utility. The former Burlington Democratic representative has also served in leadership roles in the Agency of Transportation and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. Efficiency Vermont (EV) is funded through a seven percent surcharge on electric bills. According to the Ethan Allen Institute spring newsletter, the Vermont power rate, when the EV surcharge is included, is 19.24 cents per kilowatt/hour, fourth-highest in the nation and second highest in New England (Connecticut is #1). Fortunately for ratepayers, EV announced last month it would seek a multi-year rate decrease.

Corrections Commissioner praises Church at Prison — Lisa Menard, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections, wrote an encouraging letter May 23 to the Church at Prison (CAP), Vermont’s ministry to the incarcerated:

“To those of you who have made this [prison ministry] your calling, I express my sincere gratitude. The contribution of your time and talent cannot be understated…Each hour is a precious gift to those who received it.” Commissioner Menard also recognized CAP founder Pete Fiske for “countless hours of service to the inmates….Thank you, Pastor Pete!”

The letter was read at the CAP annual conference June 2.

Other Corrections news:

· The Windsor jail is scheduled to close November 1, and may be converted into a training facility for teaching transitional skills;

· Vermont also has contracted with the State of Pennsylvania to house Vermont inmates, replacing a contract with a Michigan prison that offered fewer services;

· DOC will expand its electronic monitoring program beginning July 1. For the first time the monitoring will be real-time/all-the-time, a legislator with Corrections oversight reported June 3;

· Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille is scheduled to study operations and recommendations at the Woodside youth lockdown facility in Essex Junction.

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.