Statehouse Headliners: Pot commission update, court rules on assisted suicide, and new Milton rep fills vacant seat

By Guy Page

Jake Perkinson, former investor and board member of a medical marijuana dispensary, has been named co-chair of the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission.

The other co-chair is Tom Little, moderator of the Federalist Society panel discussion on legalization, as reported by State House Headliners Aug. 21. Both are lawyers with strong political party affiliations. Little served as a GOP legislator from Shelburne 1992-2002. Perkinson is former chair of the Vermont Democratic Party. A Sept. 7 press release from the governor’s office describes the co-chair appointments as bi-partisan.

The Legislature, state agencies, and law enforcement will appoint the other 11 members. The commission is “charged with recommending a comprehensive approach to addressing health, safety, regulatory and infrastructure needs when considering legalized marijuana use,” the press release said. The commission will meet next month for the first time and will issue an initial report by Jan. 15.

Re: highway safety, the Aug. 25 2017 Denver Post reports: “The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time, federal and state data show.”

Assisted suicide unconstitutional, NY Supreme Court rules

The New York Supreme Court ruled Sept. 7 there is no constitutional right to “aid in dying” and that the New York law prohibiting assisted suicide has a legitimate purpose. The decision follows a string of other similar rulings at the state level.

In Vermont, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare sued the State of Vermont over its assisted death law and won an agreement from a federal judge that doctors are not required to tell terminally-ill patients about the lethal dosage “option.” VAEH will pursue amendments to other parts of the law in the next session of the Legislature.

Vermont Yankee buyer to speak Sept, 28 in Brattleboro

Scott State, CEO of NorthStar, the company planning to buy and decommission Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, is scheduled to discuss the project at the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel Sept. 28, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brattleboro Middle School.

A decision by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on NorthStar’s plan is expected by mid-2018. Anti-nuclear groups continue to question NorthStar’s financial position, despite a $75 million surplus in the decommissioning trust fund, a detailed plan with multiple levels of financial coverage in the event of unforeseen costs, and NorthStar’s recent purchase by a Wall Street investment firm committed to full capitalization of its goal of being the nation’s premier nuclear power plant decommissioning company.

Apply Golden Rule to social media use, Gov. Scott says

Speaking Sept. 7 at the ISO-New England Consumer Liaison Group at the Woodstock Inn, Gov. Scott drew a good laugh when he encouraged social media users to obey the Golden Rule: “Tweet others the way you would like to be tweeted.” FYI – the governor’s Twitter handle is @GovPhilScott.

Stock car racer, real estate agent named to Milton seat in Legislature

29-year-old Chris Mattos – Vermont native, UVM grad, stock car racer, real estate agent, and financial specialist at UVM Medical Center – was named Sept. 1 by Gov. Phil Scott to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Ron Hubert, according to Vermont Business Magazine. According to the Milton Independent, Mattos and Rep. Don Turner (House Minority Leader) work at the same real estate office. Mattos, like Hubert, is a Republican.

Gov. Scott also appointed Ed Read, a 1989 UVM grad and CEO of Mad River Property Management in Waitsfield, to fill the legislative seat vacated by Adam Greshin, who was appointed to a senior finance post in the administration. Both are listed as independents.

Raising minimum wage would harm low-income families with children

From Aug. 15 VT Digger: “Vermonters with incomes near the federal poverty line stand to lose more in benefits than they would gain from an increased minimum wage if they have young children, experts told the Minimum Wage Study Committee” Thursday, Aug. 10.

Real wage growth in Vermont has been slow, even negative at times, economist Tom Kavet told the committee. In addition to the potential loss of benefits, the increase to $15 could eliminate an estimated 3,000 low-income jobs due to automation and other employer belt-tightening. Sen. Michael Sirotkin reportedly told the panel the $15 minimum is “not set in stone.”

State wants lower rate hike

The Vermont Public Service Dept. would limit next year’s Green Mountain Power rate hike to 1.68 percent. State officials say they found $21 million in potential ratepayer savings in GMP’s case for a 5 percent increase. GMP cited the high cost of net-metered renewable power as one of the factors in the planned increase. The PUC decision is due by year’s end. The new rate will take effect in January.

Act 250 Study Committee set to meet Sept. 20

The first meeting of the study committee to update Act 250 will convene 10 a.m. Sept. 20 in Room 11 of the Vermont State House. Electing a chair and co-chair will be the first order of business. This year the Legislature approved the study to recommend updates or revisions, if any, to the state’s 50-year-old land use law.

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.

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