Energy Siting Bill Questions Citizen Say

The Vermont House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources reviewed the controversial S.230 bill on Wednesday and heard arguments from the lead administrators of renewable energy citing in the state. James Sullivan, the Executive Director of the Bennington County Regional Planning Commission addressed his concerns that growing fines on fossil fuel utilities would be transferred to the tax payers. Other municipalities such as Franklin County held reservations about whether public opinion would be positive enough to carry through with the citing of renewably viable land. The bill addresses town roles in implementing new energy sources such as wind is part of a statewide effort to be 90% carbon free by mid-century. Because there is no single energy source that can provide services for the whole of Vermont, the lofty goals of state are designed to incorporate a number off different types of fossil free energy sources including solar, wind, and geothermal.

Opinions Clash as Lobbyist’s Discuss Legalization

Waterbury(April 13.) Sitting in a room just big enough for three people, two lobbyist on opposing sides of the marijuana debate faced off for the first time. Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MAP), a pro-legalization group, said he has only spoken to his opposing lobbyist, Kevin Ellis of Ellis Mills Public Affairs, for about 90 seconds. That was about to change on Wednesday, as both lobbyist were invited to debate marijuana on local radio station, WDEV’s Open Mike program with broadcaster and station owner, Ken Squire. Ellis, who represents Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM-VT) said he believes the legalization bill, as passed by the senate, to be a bad idea and that common ground needs to be found. “On issues of decriminalization, we shouldn’t be putting people in jail,” he said, “the criminal justice system hasn’t been doing a good job.”

Ellis said the bill will only work if millions of dollars are used to create a whole new infrastructure and that money would come from out-of-state corporations.

House Judiciary Passes Marijuana Bill, Removes Legalization

Montpelier (April 8) – Not having enough support for full legalization, a divided House Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 in favor of their overhaul of a bill passed by the senate to legalize and regulate marijuana in Vermont. This overhaul removes legalization and focuses on creating a bill that would help Vermont prepare for a future with legalized marijuana. The bill, which would provide framework and money for Vermont to start education and prevention programs throughout the state, as well as important training for law enforcement. The bill would also set up a commission to study the legalization of recreational marijuana. Proposed earlier in the day was a version this bill that included an easing of decriminalization laws and penalties.

Marijuana Legalization Bill Raises Concerns over Current Decriminalization Law

 
Montpelier (Apr 6) – “If I were to write these laws from scratch, would I write them the way the are? Definitely not,” Michelle Childs, from the Office of Legislative Council, said before the House Judiciary Committee. While discussing the marijuana legalization bill, S.241, the committee reviewed the current decriminalization laws in place – and some representatives became very concerned. In 2013, the Vermont legislature decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. This means that possession of marijuana of an ounce or less would result in a civil – not criminal – charge.

Obscurity in Green Energy Development Incites Conflict in House

 

Legislative Council Aaron Adler met with the House committee on Natural Resources and Energy wednesday to discuss proposed changes to the Vermont Energy Development and Improvement Act. The amendments, described as ‘technical’ by Mr. Adler met immediate backlash from Rep. Klein, committee chairman who sharply stated his disagreement with the council on the notion that the amendments are purely logistical.  The changes to the act would increase the scope of regional development plans in Vermont municipalities, in an effort to promote the development of green power such as wind and solar. Despite this, the bill acts more as an incentive for towns to adopt green energy technologies rather than a binding mandate. The vague wording and lack of enforcement measures provided by the bill brought into question whether the proposal can be not only effective but relevant in its implementation. A number of the representatives present, including committee Vice Chair Kesha Ram commented on the the unclear wording of the bill, noting that a law that is not precise in its choice of words opens the door to possible law suits.

Lawmaker’s Reject Bill

Montpelier (April.8) – The House Committee on Judiciary failed to pass a marijuana bill with a 5-6 vote. The proposed bill would have allowed for further education and study, before legalization. The bill would also have loosened the restrictions for current possession laws. “I have no respect for our current governor for his position on this,” Rep. Vicki Strong(R- Orleans-Caledonia) said. “It’s a mind altering drug and that has consequences,” Strong said, her voice breaking as she reached for a tissue.

Lawmaker’s Concerns Rise After Legalization Hearing

Montpelier (April. 6) – Lawmakers expressed concern over proposed marijuana bill not allowing Vermonters to grow their own weed. “They all come up to the microphone and say ‘I just want to grow one [marijuana]plant in my garden with my tomatoes,’”  Rep. William Jewett(D-Addison), vice chair for the House Committee on Judiciary said about last Thursday’s public hearing. The current bill, S.241 as passed by the Senate, does not allow for homegrown, but lawmakers said they hope to “phase it in” after a few years. Jewett said he would like to research the possibility of introducing homegrown weed into the bill.

House Judiciary Fears the Implications of Legalization

(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.

Public Voices Mixed Opinions on Marijuana Legalization

Montpelier (March 31) – Vermonters voiced strong and divided opinions on the legalization of marijuana at the public hearing held at the statehouse. Many testified in front of House Judiciary committee and Government Operations committee to get their voice heard in the debate to legalize.  Opinions were divided, and with close to 70 people testifying, themes in arguments emerged on both sides. Anti legalization advocates heavily emphasized the dangerous effects marijuana legalization could have on the youth. Many expressed a fear that it would encourage teens to use marijuana, which would lead to a derailment of their studies and personal lives.

Vermont citizens debate marijuana legalization

Montpelier (Mar 31) – Over 40 different Vermont citizens were able to share their stance on marijuana legalization with the House Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations this Thursday. Those speaking were given only two minutes to share their thoughts whether pro, con, or undecided about legalization though many took less than the allotted time. “Let’s start over and get it right” said one citizen who believes that the Vermont lawmakers need to slow down, throw out the current bill, and start over to create a better one that includes more of what the people want. Students presenting spoken word skit on the potential dangers of marijuana legalization and usage. Arguments against legalization ranged from public health concerns to protest over language that would exclude small farmers from being able to grow, and everything in between.