By Guy Page
When the Vermont Senate reconvenes 10 a.m. Wednesday, the first item on the calendar is a question to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of S.22, the marijuana personal possession bill.
Says the Senate Calendar: “S. 22, An act relating to eliminating penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older. Pending Question: Shall the bill pass, notwithstanding the Governor’s refusal to approve the bill? (Two-thirds of the members present required to override the Governor’s veto.)”
Drug Recognition Evaluation not ‘silver bullet’ to stop marijuana-impaired drivers
In the constitutionally-required written explanation of his veto of S.22, Gov. Scott said “we need to know how we will detect and measure impairment on our roadways.” Legalization supporters concede there is no marijuana test comparable to the alcohol “breathalyzer.” Instead they express faith in Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE) by police officers. Vermont’s lead DRE expert and trainer explained to me this week that a thorough, correctly-performed evaluation can determine impairment. But there are concerns:
· No one has been convicted in a Vermont trial court due to DRE evidence.
· A complete evaluation requires the suspect’s willing participation.
· Vermont prosecutors and judges (as a whole) are still learning how DREs work.
To learn more about the pros and cons of DRE, see my December 27 medium.com blog post, “DRE not silver bullet.”
Substance abuse leads to child abuse, DCF says; Pot use leads to opiate abuse, researcher says
The Dec. 21 News & Citizen reports an all-time high number of child abuse calls reported to Vermont DCF last year — an increase driven in part by more substance abuse.
Marijuana use “more than doubles the risk of opiate use disorder 3 to 4 years later, even after controlling for other factors,” Burlington pediatric psychiatrist and researcher Dr. David Rettew said at a Dec. 22 Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont press conference at the Statehouse.
Agreement on doctors’ refusal to prescribe death to remain, judge says
An agreement protecting Vermont doctors’ right to not prescribe lethal drugs will stay in the court record, Federal judge Geoffrey Crawford ruled Dec. 18.
Earlier this year, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare (and others) and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office formally agreed that Act 39, Vermont’s 2013 assisted death law, permits Vermont doctors opposed to assisted death to refer patients’ questions about it to other physicians. In August, Compassion & Choices, a group supporting patients’ “right to die” but not doctors’ right to not kill — asked that the agreement be struck from the court record. But Judge Crawford answered C&C with a flat “no”, saying in part:
The agreement does represent the position of Vermont’s executive branch which is of great interest to Vermont medical professionals concerned about these issues as well as patients. The consent agreement is a purely private agreement-not a judicial ruling-and not subject to review on appeal. But it is far from inconsequential and maintaining it on the court’s docket has value in informing the public of the terms of the settlement struck by the parties.
A Dec. 20 Compassion & Choices press release calls the agreement “unnecessary” and complains it was filed without giving them a chance to comment.
Economic recovery focus at Jan. 4 Vermont Yankee public hearing
Vermonters concerned about the economic development of the southeastern corner of the state will be traveling to Brattleboro Jan. 4 to support the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar. The Vermont Public Utilities Commission will hold a public hearing 7 pm at Brattleboro Union High School.
NorthStar’s proposed purchase of Vermont’s shuttered nuclear power plant would speed decommissioning and site restoration by about 50 years over current owner Entergy’s plan. Officials from host town Vernon and Windham County are urging support for the prompt, safe decommissioning, after which the site will be available for redevelopment.
Randy Brock appointed to Franklin County Senate seat
Gov. Scott on Dec. 27 announced the appointment of Randy Brock, of Swanton, to represent the Franklin District in the Vermont State Senate. Brock, a Republican, will replace Dustin Degree, who stepped down from the Senate last month to serve in the Scott administration as special assistant to the governor and director of workforce expansion.
Brock was elected as Vermont’s 28th State Auditor and previously served two terms in the Vermont Senate. As the communications director of his 2016 campaign for lieutenant governor in which he nearly upset pollsters’ favorite David Zuckerman, I’m probably biased; but it was my up-close-and-personal observation that Randy is a deep, creative thinker with a yen to help Vermont become a prosperous, jobs-creating state.
Antlerless deer kill, whiskey tax adjustment, wind turbine setbacks proposed, and more
The second year of the 2017–2018 biennium of the Vermont Legislature will begin in both houses 10 a.m. Wednesday. These bills are among the many that have been released for introduction into the Vermont Legislature:
H.546 (Rep. David Deen, Westminster) would allow the taking of antlerless deer during the first three days of rifle season.
S.292 (Sen. Richard Westman, Lamoille) would collect 5% tax of gross revenue for distilleries selling less than $1.25 million per year, and 25% for distilleries selling more than $1.25 million.
S.287 (Sen. John Rodgers, Essex-Orleans) would remove glass bottles and containers from the definition of mandated recyclables, and would increase the scope of the beverage container redemption system to include wine and other alcoholic beverages, and make other changes to recycling and solid waste law.
S.171 (Sen. Rodgers) would require, for wind generation projects exceeding 150 kW, a setback of 10 times the turbine height and a nighttime interior sound limit of 30 dBA.
H.558 (Rep. Mary Sullivan, Burlington) proposes to display the economic benefits of the energy efficiency charge on ratepayer power bills.
S.288 (Sen. Chris Bray, Addison) — This bill proposes to require an electric company to provide third-party access to customer energy use data.
S.274 (Sen. Bray) would clarify that utility lines in Lake Champlain are subject to taxation by towns that adjoin the portion of the lake in which the utility lines are located.
S.268 (Sens. Baruth, Ingram, Pearson, and Sirotkin) proposes to recognize in state statute the right to have an abortion. The Statement of Purpose notes: “In the event that Justice Kennedy, Ginsburg, or Breyer is replaced during the presidency of Donald Trump, it is probable that there would be five votes to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 14 (1973), which recognizes the legality of an individual’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some constitutional scholars have stipulated that such a shift in the composition of the Court would likely result in Roe being overturned.”
Vermont legislative leaders are discussing requiring all Vermonters to buy health care insurance, after the federal tax reform law restored that choice to Americans — Vermont Public Radio Dec. 27 report.
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.