(Montpelier—April 22) “These houses provide the opportunity to build core relationships in college, they aren’t just a place to sleep” said University of Vermont junior Sarah Holmes about the pending revocation of tax exempt status for Greek housing in Burlington, VT. This morning Holmes, a sister of Delta Delta Delta at the University of Vermont, along with Jason Maulucci, Student Government Association and student body President, and Andrew Dazzo, a brother of Phi Gamma Delta and SGA Senator, spoke to the Senate Finance committee at the Vermont Legislature to propose a plan that would benefit both the State, the University and the Greek community. Current bill H.725 places a sunset clause on the Greek Houses in Burlington’s tax-exempt status, stating they will no longer be tax exempt come fiscal year 2017. This would mean the Greek organizations on campus would no longer be able to afford their homes with a property tax ranging from $20,000 to $50,000, and they would be forced to sell, likely to UVM or Champlain College. Holmes, Maulucci and Dazzo were accompanied by other members of Greek organizations, members of their Housing Corps and other lawmakers that have stake in the issue in order to try to save the homes of 200 students at UVM.
(April 6—Montpelier)—“I am afraid S.241, the way it stands now, is creating unintended criminals,” said Chair of the Vermont House Judiciary, Maxine Grad, Wednesday morning in Montpelier. This fear stems from the regulations in the current legislation regarding the legal limit for possession as it pertains to 21 year olds, or minors. Grad hopes to avoid creating felons with sloppiness of language in the current bill. Tensions ran high Wednesday morning as the House Judiciary Committee again looked at the bill regarding the legalization of marijuana. The committee analyzed the regulations currently standing around Vermont’s recent decriminalization of the drug.
(Montpelier, March 30)— “If marijuana is legalized, this will be viewed as an opportunity,” Commissioner Susan Donegan said during another joint committee meeting regarding the current bill on legalization on Wednesday morning. The House Judiciary Committee and the Government Operations Committee heard testimony on Wednesday from various representatives with regards to Vermont public safety and this bill. Susan Donegan, of the Vermont Department for Financial Regulation, spoke about the potential for insurance companies in the area. In Vermont, there are many dangerous markets in which insurance companies take risks: the logging industry, day cares, and other related industries in the rural state. Donegan points out that this market is working because our insurance companies are willing to take risks.
(Montpelier)—“If marijuana is legalized, we’re going to put more impaired drivers on the road,” said retired Burlington Chief of Police, Michael Schirling this morning in a crowded committee room of the Vermont House Judiciary. The fervent committee, and equally fervent witnesses, blasted questions, concerns and issues with the bill regarding the legalization of marijuana, S.241. Today the committee heard testimony from a range of advocates, mainly those for highway safety. Facts and statistics about legalization were spewed at the committee, hosting an array of usual suspects: various statistics from Colorado, Washington, and the Netherlands regarding their policy, the outcomes and the impact of legalization on their populations. Of these facts, it is apparent that the main concerns of both the committee and the witnesses are the manner in which roadside testing will be performed, and how the potential bill would affect the black market.
(Montpelier)—“Most of us do not believe prohibition is working,” said Representative from Burlington, Chris Pearson, in an opening statement today regarding the marijuana legalization bill that has just been opened by the Vermont House of Representatives. The Vermont Senate recently passed a draft of the bill regarding the legalization of marijuana, before crossing over this past week. This draft is now beginning its journey through the House. Today, the House Judiciary Committee, as well as the House Committee on Government Operations read through the bill for the first time with Legislative Counsel, Michele Childs. Childs summarized the passed House bill, while the cautious Judiciary committee members fired questions about the new legislation.
(Mar. 1—Essex Junction) A diverse group of Vermonters assembled at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction on Tuesday to support Bernie Sanders in his campaign for the Presidency. Bernie Sanders, Democratic Senator from Vermont, thrilled his constituents and the crowd on Tuesday after a series of performers and speakers. Despite his defeat against Hillary Clinton in most Super Tuesday states, the atmosphere was comfortable among the cohesive and excited crowd. The crowd slowly formed over the course of the afternoon, inclusive of college students, adults, children, families, and important public figures in Vermont, all in favor of Sanders’ “political revolution”.
Burlington (Feb. 22)—Bill Lofy and Kevin Ellis went head to head today in UVM’s Fundamentals of Public Communication class. Both Lofy and Ellis are lobbyists at Vermont’s statehouse, but fighting on opposite sides of the coin. The issue is the legalization of marijuana. Students grilled the lobbyists today with questions regarding their concerns and opinions on the topic.
Montpellier (Feb. 10)—“Somebody’s going to come out with that test,” Sen. Kevin Mullins answers witness John Connors Wednesday morning during his testimony regarding the legalization of marijuana. The main concerns in this ongoing debate in the Vermont Senate revolve around the lack of accurate testing for the presence of marijuana in the blood and what that means for workplace safety. The question is how do we regulate marijuana until someone does come out with an accurate test for this? John Connors, of Connors Contracting, expressed his concerns about this bill adding more liability to the employers, not the employees.
Montpellier (Feb. 3)—The Senate Committee for Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs heard testimonies today from various companies and employers looking to yield the bill S.241 for the legalization of marijuana from passing through the Vermont Senate. The Senate first heard from Dave Malloy, from Bellavance Trucking Co. Malloy expressed concerns regarding marijuana and the workplace—“how do we regulate liability?” Malloy presses the committee. Malloy and other testifiers, including Bill Driscoll, Associate Industries VT, Kendal Melvin, Government Affairs Specialist from the Chamber of Commerce, and Tori Ossola, VP of Tourism in the Chamber of Commerce, expressed concerns about the lack of an accurate testing device which would report the presence of marijuana in the body.
Montpellier (Jan 27) Just down stairs from the University of Vermont’s President Tim Sullivan’s testimony, Legislative Counsel, Michele Childs, assisted the Vermont Judiciary Committee in marking up Section 241 of the legislative bill on the legalization of marijuana this morning in Montpellier. The section touches upon many issues, which will keep the Judiciary Committee occupied for sessions to come. One of the major issues the Judiciary Committee visited during the mark-up of this bill was regarding the finances behind retail shops which would sell marijuana in Vermont, given the bill passes. The committee noted that they want these licensed retailers to be “Vermont based institutions,” with 51% ownership of the institution belonging to a Vermont resident, as James Pepper, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Policy Adviser, clarified. Senator Tim Ashe (D-Chittenden) expressed his concerns regarding the definition of “residencies” and “reside in”.