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« on: January 05, 2018, 02:16:19 PM »

News from Montpelier 2018 Week 1
In the second year of the biennium there is less ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ to open the session but there is still a bit of formality. On Wednesday the House was opened with an address from the Speaker before the members dispersed to their committee work. The Transportation committee spent the afternoon with a member of legislative council reviewing the status of bills passed out of the House last session.
House bill 511, titled Highway Safety was offered on the House floor at the end of March 2017 after occupying substantial committee attention. Upon receipt of the bill the Senate assigned it to the Judiciary committee and did a strike all which erased the language and inserted new language to allow the private use and possession of personal amounts of marijuana by adults. This became the bill that the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tempore worked to find a compromise position on after it was vetoed by the Governor. The House voted to not consider the bill during the June veto session that was convened to address the Budget veto and so it was on the Notice calendar, to be considered Thursday. Some of the original highway safety sections were inserted into other bills and passed into law but those that were left on the sidelines, the committee intends to readdress.
H511 came to the House floor and several hours were spent addressing it and the fourteen amendments offered on it. The first vote taken was on a motion to delay action on the bill until January 18, 2018 in order to allow the report of the Governor’s commission to be received and reviewed. This vote failed on a count of 66 in favor and 83 against. The bill passed with two amendments, (1) to require consent of the person in lawful possession of property which is used to cultivate the permitted plants be in writing, and (2) removing the language that set up a Marijuana Regulatory Commission, inserting language referencing The Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission, as provided in Executive Order No. 15-17, and its report, on a count of 81 yeas, 63 nays. The majority of the amendments failed, several on roll call votes which are on record at https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2018/H.511 The bill returned to the Senate and will be titled “An act relating to eliminating penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older.” after passage; a title more appropriate than the current “Highway Safety” moniker.
The action on H511 was recessed in order for the Joint Assembly to receive the Governors State-of-the-State message at 2:00 P.M.  It seemed timely when the Governor said, “Imagine how it must seem to a family who’s struggling to get by, who can’t afford to pay their property tax bill, to turn on the news and hear that the marijuana debate was ranked Vermont’s number one news story of 2017.” Governor Scott’s message was one of support for getting to work on the hard issues; to listen, look for consensus, and be willing to compromise. With H511 dealt with the House can now move on to that work.
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