March 25, 2016

Lobbyist Unsure of Judiciary Vote

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Montpelier (Mar. 25) – “Wells River, Middlebury and Underhill,” Kevin Ellis ,lobbyist for Ellis Mills Public Affairs said as he pointed to various members of the House Committee on Judiciary. He knows all their names, where they are from, whether they are Republican or Democrat and, most importantly,  how all that information might influence them in voting for or against the marijuana legalization bill.

Ellis said he has been a lobbyist for 25 years and his firm is representing SAM-VT, a anti-marijuana legalization group.

While everyone’s focus is on the lawmakers hearing testimony on the  bill, not much public attention is given to those hard at work for their clients from inside the meeting room.

Ellis points out “his people”, who are all testifying against the bill, including Jon Porter, director of health and wellbeing, John Hughes, professor of psychiatry and David Rettew, child psychiatrist.

“Most of the work is done before this [committee meeting],” Ellis said.

 He said phone calls and emails have already been sent out to the nine members of Judiciary and he’s sure only three have made up their minds on their vote. The others are all undecided, he said.

Ellis isn’t the only lobbyist in the room, he points out two others, one of them is his opponent, Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Ellis said that the real problem isn’t with impact on public health, but what lawmakers are really concerned about is whether or not marijuana usage has increased or decreased in states like Colorado and Washington.

Ellis points to Representatives’ Chip Conquest and Betty Nuovo, “he’s undecided and she’s a definite no,” he said.

He said that Vermont lawmakers have an interesting split between urban and rural and that this can mean  many lawmakers may vote more conservative on issues such as legalization.

Even though he said he is sure of a few decisions, he is still in the dark on the others and is hesitant to guess.

“When you make assumptions, you’re usually wrong,” he said.


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