Legislative Update – April 27, 2017

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Apr 27, 2017 No Comments ›› barb

My Committee Work: Judiciary

Vermont State House in SpringS.96: news media privilege. Vermont lacks appropriate protections for the news media. S.96 provides those protections. When I spoke in support of the bill during House floor consideration, I stated that a free media is vital to our democracy and public safety. Shield laws don’t just protect journalists. They protect sources, including whistleblowers, crime victims, the falsely accused and others whose safety or livelihood might be threatened by disclosure.  S.96 now goes to the Governor for his signature.

S.12: animal cruelty. The bill strengthens the law in response to the killing of a horse last fall by an individual who shot the animal with a bow and arrow, and addresses the fact that Vermont is one of few states that does not outlaw bestiality.

We also expect to pass bills relating to mental health providers’ duty to warn, students’ freedom of the press, juvenile offenders and pre-trial services and expanding access to diversion for substance abuse and mental health related offenses.

Other Committee Reports

Corrections & Institutions

Mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, and changing demographics have taken on an increasing importance within the Corrections system. The Committee took testimony on Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) and how the Dept. of Mental Health and the Dept. of Corrections can improve the programming and treatment of inmates. The Committee is reviewing S.61, dealing with mental health services for corrections inmates. The bill requires that those two departments produce an MOU (memorandum of understanding) between the two regarding the delivery of services to inmates with severe mental health needs.

Human Services

The Committee has focused on updating marijuana for symptom relief provisions. Current law allows for patients diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana for symptom relief.

The updates expand a number of provisions within the current law and remove others. It adds Parkinson’s, Crohn’s and most controversial, PTSD to the list of medical conditions. It allows patients who are referred to a specialist to forgo the mandatory waiting period, and removes the requirement that patients make prior efforts to relieve symptoms by other means. It streamlines the application process and increases the possession limit from 2oz to 3oz (mostly a concern around edibles and tinctures). It allows patients who choose to grow their own to do so outside and to also have access to dispensaries. It increases the number of dispensaries licensed from 4 to 8 and allows them to become for profit companies, with the ability to advertise. Lastly it adds provisions for testing within the Agency of Agriculture for THC levels.

House Natural Resources Committee

S.75: aquatic nuisance species control. If enacted it would be the responsibility of the boat owner to wash, dry and drain the boat when taking it between water bodies. As invasive species continue to invade Lake Champlain through the great lakes and the St. Lawrence it is very important that we both try to control them in Lake Champlain and contain them in smaller lakes around the state. When taking an unwashed boat from Lake Champlain to another, small lake in Vermont a boater runs the risk of introducing an invasive species into that lake.

S.10: PFOA. It places the liability for correcting the situation firmly with the polluter including the extension of the water line if that is determined to be the best solution.

S.103, an act related to the regulation of toxic substances and hazardous materials. It creates an intergovernmental committee on chemical management. This will give the state a much better handle on what toxic chemicals are in the state, where they are and what they are being used for. There will be close cooperation between this panel and the Commissioner of Health but will not impede the commissioner in any way from responding quickly to an emergency.


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