STATEHOUSE HEADLINERS

Guy Page

Lawmakers consider animal cruelty bills;
energy, pot bills likely to move forward
This week, the Legislature goes home for the traditional Town Meeting break. Voters and the representatives and senators they elected get a chance to speak face-to-face about pending legislation.
 

Next week, the session reconvenes Tuesday March 14 for “Crossover Week.” Bills not approved by a committee by day’s end Friday March 17 will not advance further this year. Therefore during Crossover Week most committees hold hearings, discussions and votes on the bills they wish to advance.   
 
 Two bills predicted to survive Crossover include:Senate Bill 51, mandating 90% total renewable energy by 2050 – but it will likely only survive in revised form. It will reportedly be stripped of language that would give the State enforcement power to mandate progress towards the goal. Senate Energy Chair Chris Bray said last week he will redraft the S.51 and bring it to his committee for a vote. 

House Bill 170, legalization of possessing an ounce of marijuana, two mature plants, and five immature plants. At present this bill is an 8-3 “yes” in House Judiciary and a vote by March 17 is a near-certainty. At least one member of House Judiciary and some other observers worry a House-approved bill could be amended in a more Progressive Senate to resemble the commercialization bill passed in the Senate and killed in the House last year. If that happens, an override-proof veto by Gov. Phil Scott is believed to be likely.
 
Vermonters shouldn’t expect increased intervention from a Trump Department of Justice – at least not yet. Tom Anderson, newly appointed head of the Vermont Department of Public Safety, has just returned from meetings at DOJ in Washington, DC. He said Friday he saw no indication the DOJ led by AG Jeff Sessions will depart from the 2013 Cole memo, which directs the federal law enforcement to intervene only in legalizing states that lack robust regulation.

H.394, the carbon tax study, seems less likely to survive Crossover in its current committee of jurisdiction, Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife. However, carbon tax supporter and Energy & Technology Vice Chair Curt McCormack wants the bill referred to his committee. Co-sponsor Jim (wrong name in last week’s newsletter – sorry, Jim!) Masland said last week he supports the study but not the $100,000 authorized to study it, which won’t be spent “if I have anything to do with it.”
 
Some Vermonters wonder why some legislators seem so insistent on supporting a carbon tax. Consider this 1/24/2017 quote from the blog of former NASA climatologist and climate change expert James Hansen: “The undergirding of the ultimate climate solution will be a rising carbon fee….that’s the most effective way to stop foolish fossil-fuel expansion.”
 
Animal cruelty legislation
S.12, the “Bunny Bill,” to lengthen prison terms for convictions of aggravated animal cruelty, has passed the Vermont Senate. Bunny was a Barre quarterhorse slain Oct. 5 by a man with a bow and arrow. The killer has since been convicted to a six month sentence.  
 
Thursday, dozens of Humane Society supporters visited the Statehouse to support several bills, including:
 

  •  H.325, to prohibit bestiality, a/k/a sexual contact between a human and an animal. McCormack and Clem Bissonnette (Winooski) are co-sponsors. According to Humane Society representatives, Vermont is one of only eight U.S. states still permitting bestiality. Since New Hampshire’s ban last year, the closest legal state is West Virginia. Pro-bestiality websites purportedly direct practitioners from the Northeast to Vermont, H.325 supporters said. The law proposes jail terms for convictions.
  • H.220 would ban trafficking of rhinoceros horn or ivory.
  • H. 60 would require a study of coyote hunting in Vermont. At present coyote hunting is virtually unregulated.
In other state news, VT Digger reported last week the Vermont Dept. of Corrections is considering construction of an 800 bed, $140 million state prison– location To Be Determined. Funding would be from state, federal and private sources, and would require approval by the Legislature.  This idea is in the very early stages of discussion.
 
Also, the Vermont Public Service Board will hold a public hearing about the proposed Vermont Yankee – NorthStar sale March 14 at 7 pm at Vernon Elementary School. The sale as proposed would add about 1,000 jobs to the area economy almost immediately and would remove in about 13 years all low-level radioactive waste from the site of the shuttered nuclear power plant. Comments about the VY/NorthStar sale, docket 8880, may be entered by the general public at the ePSB comment link.
 
A 65 MW, 400-acre solar farm is planned across the Connecticut River from Vermont Yankee. Ranger Solar is proposing the largest solar project in New England in the town across the Connecticut River from Vermont Yankee. The project would mean construction jobs and $500,000 in taxes for Hinsdale, which is located directly across the river from Vernon, home of Vermont Yankee.
 
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. To receive Statehouse Headliners or to stop receiving it, email pagecommunications4vt@gmail.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.