Doctor-prescribed death decision pending / Carbon tax ‘dividend’ / Consultant says divestment doesn’t work / Mandates would limit needed clean energy development, author says / Westford letter about son and marijuana ‘moving’, in House record / Youth incarceration drops / 1,000 jobs/year from VY sale
STILL WAITING FOR FEDERAL JUDGE TO RULE ON DOCTOR-PRESCRIBED DEATH SUIT
– The Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare (VAEH) is waiting for a federal judge to rule about Act 39 forcing doctors to counsel patients about assisted suicide.
Steve Aden, of Alliance for Defending Freedom, sent this update to the VAEH last week:
“We are still awaiting a decision from the Vermont federal court in Rutland on our motion for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the state from enforcing Act 39 against our members, as well as the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. There is no way to know when it will rule, but we hope that it will be within the next few weeks.”
Alliance for Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit against the State of Vermont in July, 2016 on behalf of the VAEH and health care practitioners who wish to abide by their oath to “first do no harm.” As VAEH noted in a press statement last July, “the state agencies are construing Vermont’s assisted suicide law as requiring them, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option.”
Meanwhile assisted suicide opponent Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Berlin, Northfield) has introduced House Bill 320: “to specify that the patient’s bill of rights for palliative care and pain management does not impose on physicians an affirmative duty to offer information that has not been requested by a patient regarding patient choices at the end of life.” The bill is expected to languish in House Human Services Committee, whose chair supports doctor-prescribed death.
IT’A ‘DIVIDEND’, NOT A CARBON TAX! – Legislators planning to introduce a carbon tax next year want Vermonters to see it as a “dividend.” At last Thursday’s Statehouse Climate Caucus, a Burlington legislator said Vermont could take a lesson from the pro-carbon tax initiative of former Secretary of State James Baker and others entitled “A Conservative Answer to Climate Change.”
The plan would tax all carbon consumption and deliver a tax rebate or “dividend.” Sec. Baker and others met earlier this month with VP Mike Pence and senior administration officials. No comment from the Trump administration, but there is this from Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform: “Now that the GOP can repeal all the anti-energy, anti-job regs–the Left offers to trade those regs for a carbon tax. Nice try. No.”
The Burlington legislator didn’t say much about the Baker plan itself, but applauded the use of the word dividend: “keep changing the name to keep ‘tax’ out of it,” he advised others legislators. The carbon tax must be the main climate initiative for the 2017-2018 session, he said.
DIVESTMENT OF FOSSIL FUELS INEFFECTIVE – divestment of fossil fuels from the state pension plan took another hit last Thursday when consultant Elizabeth Bernstein, hired by Vermont Treasurer Beth Pearce at the advice of three pro-divestment groups to study the economic and environmental impact of divestment, reaffirmed that it does nothing to reduce greenhouse gases.
“Divestment doesn’t reduce any greenhouse gases, in my opinion. It transfers ownership from one owner to another. It can be a big symbolic gesture, but it doesn’t work on government policy or a corporate policy to transition to another [fossil-free] structure,” Ms. Bernstein of PCA told a subcommittee meeting of the Vermont Pension Investment Committee.
Treasurer Pearce added, “I’m gonna be blunt. We talked about divestment. It doesn’t work in this portfolio.” She plans to focus on climate-friendly investment tools and stockholder advocacy.
RENEWABLE ENERGY MANDATES PROVOKE CRITICAL LETTER TO THE EDITOR – Senate Bill 51, giving the State administrative power to enforce a mandate of 90% total energy by 2050, provoked a 2/15 letter to the editor to the weekly World by George Clain of Barre. Said Mr. Clain, a retired labor organizer who supports both clean power and economic development:
“We cannot attract, open and grow new businesses without using more energy, even with stringent conservation. We need more clean energy, not less. Deserts are low energy consumption, too, but I wouldn’t want to live in one.”
S.51 remains in Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. It was discussed briefly Monday February 13, and is not scheduled for discussion this week.
WESTFORD MAN’S LETTER ABOUT SON’S MARIJUANA USE ‘MOVING’ – After reading last week’s Statehouse Headliners, Ed Chase of Westford penned a letter to House Judiciary, now considering H.170, the legal possession and cultivation of two ounces of marijuana and two adult plants [estimated potential annual yield: 22 joints per day every day – editor].
“Marijuana was a gate-way drug for him and enticed him down the path to bigger and better drugs that killed his kidneys,” said Mr. Chase, who is a long-time town moderator and educator on parliamentary procedure. “With all the testimony from doctors and police regarding the harmful effects of marijuana, I find it hard to understand why you are considering recreational use.”
A legislator on Judiciary, Rep. Selene Colburn (Burlington), described the letter to me as “very moving.” The entire letter can be viewed here.
No less than 17 expert witnesses are scheduled to be heard Thursday afternoon February 23. Gov. Phil Scott reportedly opposes the bill, citing concerns about testing for driver impairment and overall health impact.
At present the committee vote appears to be in favor. To question or advise the representative from your district, leave a message at the Vermont Sgt. Of Arms at 828-2228 or email:
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YOUTH INCARCERATION DOWN – Vermont has fewer youthful offenders behind bars and in residential care.
According to a February 11 statement by the Vermont Department of Children and Families, the average daily number of youth at Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center went from 23 in June 2014 to 14 during the period of July to December 2016. Youth in residential care declined from 184 in June 2015 to 161 in June 2016.
The reduced numbers are due in part to an effort by DCF and the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure youth are placed in the least-restrictive settings possible, and DCF’s own initiative to reduce the overall use of residential facilities for youth, with of focus of those involved with the justice system.
The reduction mirrors a similar trend with the adult prisoner population, which will decrease due to the planned closure of the Windsor jail, the loss of the out-of-state contract with Michigan, and the Scott administration’s plan to reduce Corrections spending and increase use of electronic monitoring for releasees.
COMMENTS WELCOME ON JOBS-CREATING PLAN FOR VERMONT YANKEE – A plan to bring 1,000 jobs a year to Windham County and the rest of Vermont and decommission Vermont Yankee by 2030 is now before the Vermont Public Service Board. Vermont Yankee would sell the shutdown plant to NorthStar, which would decommission and restore the site in Vernon, allowing for the redevelopment of the site in as soon as 13 years. In addition to the powerful economic development stimulus, the project would remove all low-level radioactive materials from the site much more promptly than the former plan, which would have decommissioned the plant by about 2072.
Comments about the VY/NorthStar sale, docket 8880, may be entered by the general public at the ePSB comment link.
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. It also appears on www.medium.com and the Page Communications Facebook Page. To receive Statehouse Headliners or to stop receiving it, email email@example.com. Readers are encouraged to interact with legislators from their House and Senate districts.
Guy Page and/or Page Communications is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and the Church at Prison. Guy Page is a member of the coordinating committee for the Consumer Liaison Group of ISO-New England, the operators of the regional transmission grid. He is an occasional host on Common Sense Radio on WDEV, and a Medium.com blogger. A Burlington native raised in Colchester and a 1979 University of Vermont graduate with a career of Vermont journalism and government relations, he and his wife Colette live in Berlin, a 5K run/walk from State & Main in Montpelier.