Friends from the Great North End,
We are hummin’ along in the legislature this session and a lot of things are on the front burner.
PLEASE contact me if you have thoughts on any of these issues!
The Family Leave Bill failed to override the VETO of the Governor by ONE vote last week. I was very disappointed by this because I think that insurance policy for all Vermonters would have helped MANY families in our community. It is billed as being focused upon families with new children, WHICH IS VERY IMPORTANT, but it also had a component that would have helped workers with elderly parents take time off to assist with surgical recovery or transition to more appropriate living situations. The cost for this policy was incredibly reasonable and also had an optional personal disability option available. Just like funding the firetruck IN CASE you need it, this bill would have covered people when the thing you LEAST expect or plan for happens, guaranteeing wages for you to weather that storm. With so many people just one medical treatment away from bankruptcy, this would have made life more secure and for only a couple of pennies on the dollar. I was very disappointed with members of the House who voted NO, saying they wanted something better!! Well, as of that veto, they are left with nothing. Not sure how that is in any way better.
We will soon take up the cannabis bill which will allow the recreational sale of this substance in Vermont. I am disappointed that the Ways and Means committee chose to take the local option tax out of the bill, substituting the directive that all funds go to the education fund for distribution to towns uniformly. While this sounds equitable-and it is, it ignores that not every town will take the “risk” of allowing the opening of a “pot store” in their jurisdiction. The local option tax would have made local funds available for those who take that step. BUT I see another problem and it deals with the “black market” that exists now and our intention of making that “go away”. One of the main reasons we considered this bill is that there already exists a huge market for pot in our state. However, just like the issues with vaping recently, the uncontrolled aspects of that market allow for anything to end up anywhere. In my day, the war on drugs was massive and it resulted in our government paying Mexico to spray a nasty herbicide on plants to control production. IT DIDN’T, but what it did was to allow black market weed into the country that had that poison mixed into it. People suffered, some died.
Our intention with this bill was to push that black market of potentially altered chemical laden cannabis products OUT of the market and replace them with items that were tested prior to retail sale for purity and potency. So you know what you are buying. IF DUE TO THE LACK OF THE LOCAL OPTION TAX some towns decide to not allow sales, that will simply be an opportunity for the black market to maintain a foothold in those areas, placing people at risk.
I am not really a cheerleader for selling pot. But I also do not ignore the fact that the market currently exists and there is danger associated with it. I think we will be better off if it is controlled, a position held by several neighboring states. YES, there will be a tax advantage to the coffers of the state-but 30% of that income will go to prevention education and information. Just like alcohol and tobacco and ??? the next big thing, moderation is a key. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS??
Last year I introduced a veterans bill that allowed a guy that had been sitting in a basement on a shelf for over 20 years to be interned in the Randolph Vets cemetery. That happened and I now have the flag that honored him here in my living room, awaiting for display in the Governor’s ceremonial office in the capital. A good thing!!!
This year, I introduced a bill that would allow our city, and other towns that have large tracts of land in tax free status, to reclaim some payment from the commercial buyer upon transfer. Think about the orphanage on North Ave. When it went to the hands of the commercial developer, the city would assess a fee for the century or so of time that that property contributed NO property tax to the city. No payment for maintaining the water lines, no payment for each flush of the toilet, no payment for the firetruck or ambulance that would come in case of an emergency. Transfer of property from non profit to non profit would be exempted but once it entered commercial hands, taxpayers get some well deserved RELIEF.
Please remember that I make a valiant effort to be at the Bagel on North Ave the second and fourth Saturdays from 8-9:00AM. I would love to hear your thoughts on these and any other issues.
Hooper#3- member of the Hooper caucus, the largest caucus in the statehouse!!! (if judged by name)