Vermont House Committee Seeks Advice on Regenerative Agriculture

Testimony from three experienced farmers for their expertise on regenerative agriculture was heard by Vermont’s Agriculture and Forest Products committee in the State House, yesterday. “Farming can be a tool we can use to repair the environment,” farmer Lindsay Harris said. This statement contrasts many views people have of the agricultural system, especially when raising cattle. Harris brought butter from her farm for the committee to enjoy before sharing her knowledge on the economic and environmental benefits of raising grass fed livestock. She told the story of her friend who raises their beef on grass alone and his comment that this decision was an economic one, not philosophical.

Is the Carbon Pollution Tax the “Vermont Way”?

A tax on carbon pollution is looking like one of Vermont’s best options if the state wants to meet their goal to reduce energy consumption and have 90% of its energy be renewable, by 2050, according to Chris Granda. Senior researcher at the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, Grenada spoke to the committee of Natural Resources and Energy yesterday about the “Vermont Total Energy Study,” highlighting the benefits a carbon pollution tax would have for the state in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the previously mentioned goals. One chart shown during his presentation mapped the progress of carbon reductions as the tax increases. Representative Kesha Ram questioned why the reductions decreased drastically as the price taxed reached its maximum cost. Granda pointed out that when taxed at its highest cost, the state as a whole would be much less dependent on fossil fuels so there would be less carbon to be reduced.

Religious Freedom Threatened by Proposed Health Act H. 620

An act relating to health insurance and Medicaid, recently introduced in Montpelier, would mandate the coverage of contraceptives by all insurance providers in Vermont. It fails to exempt institutions and individuals whose religious views oppose those methods of family planning, as they would be mandated to cover those procedures. Known in the State House as H. 620, this act was discussed in the House Committee on Health Care yesterday and Carry Handy, representative of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, spoke to the lawmakers about her stance on this problem. “The issue is the protection of religious freedom,” Handy said. She then went on to explain in more detail how some of the specific contraceptives included in the act are seen as morally objectionable to the church.

For-Profit Prisons in Vermont Will Likely See a Contract Renewal

Vermont is currently in a three-year contract with some for-profit prisons and this week in the legislature, Burlington legislator Barbara Rachaelson argued that we should work towards not renewing that contract. However, the Committee on Corrections and Institutions was hesitant to jump on board with this proposal. There is a serious space shortage in Vermont when it comes to finding a bed for each prisoner in the state. This ongoing issue has pressured officials to find available beds and to find them quickly. New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts have all refused to accept Vermont prisoners into their jails though they do have sufficient space for them.

Vermont Legislature Searches for Solutions to Combat Opioid Abuse and Addiction

The senate committee on health and welfare met recently to discuss S. 201, an act relating to limitations on prescriptions for opioids and S. 243, an act relating to combating opioid abuse in Vermont. With testimonies from four doctors and one retired Vermont state police officer, the council sought out suggestions for improvements on the proposed bills in order to address the state’s ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic. Dr. Patti Fisher, Medical Director for Case Management & Medical Staff Affairs at the University of Vermont Medical Center, suggested more consistent check-ins with patients on potentially addictive prescriptions. She advised that patients must have a phone number that their doctor can reach them at, pill counts and urine screenings at least quarterly, and stricter protocols and contracts, among other things. Another issue brought up was that patients often feel dependent on their prescriptions and therefore do not want to get off of them even if enough time may have passed to where they should be feeling better or able to reduce their dosage.

Vermont’s Voice on Cannabis Legalization

After a quick introduction of the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee, a group of strongly opinionated individuals stood at the front of the Grand Maple Ballroom in the Davis Center at UVM to share some thoughts, facts, and stories regarding their experiences with cannabis. Done so in the hopes of influencing the council either for or against its legalization in Vermont, this public hearing was held in a room filled with advocates, concerned citizens, observers, and cameras. The backgrounds of those who spoke ranged from high school guidance counselors to public health professionals to UVM professors and a wide variety of stances came from all sides. One recurring theme throughout the evening was a public safety concern, especially for our youth. Many people in favor of legalization argued that it would be less available to those who are underage if controlled.