By Rep. Jessica Brumsted
There is always a tension between individual rights or local control and what’s best for the entire state. This inherent tension plays out in Montpelier on an almost daily basis as we legislators wrestle with local decision making vs. decisions that are made in law by the legislature and in rules promulgated by state agencies. An example of this tension is playing out around control of the siting of telecommunication equipment such as antennae, Wi-Fi transmitters, and cell towers.
Current law provides a process for getting a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board (PSB) requiring at least a 60-day notice with a final decision made by the PSB after public hearings in which the towns, individuals, and the Public Service Department do participate. This law is scheduled to sunset on July 1, 2017.
Working on H.50, the House Energy and Technology Committee originally proposed repealing the sunset entirely rather than extending it to July 1, 2020. After much debate in committee with input from many of us house members, the House Energy & Technology Committee has amended the bill a second time to include a three-year extension. Additionally, the new version will make it very clear how towns and individuals can be informed about and participate in the siting process. This provision seems to be preferred by many Vermont towns. My thanks to each of you who contacted me with your concerns about H.50.
Another issue being debated in the State House is limited “possession and cultivation of marijuana by a person 21 years of age or older,” as stated in H.170. The challenge for Vermont is that neighboring states and countries are legalizing marijuana use. This past November, both Massachusetts and Maine passed ballot initiatives to legalize, and Canada will implement legalization later this year.
H.170, currently being discussed in the House Judiciary Committee, focuses on legalization of limited adult personal possession, with the ability to grow your own modest supply shifting the emphasis and not allowing any sale of the drug except for medical uses. The Senate has passed S.16, a bill dealing with expanding patient access to the Medical Marijuana Registry and increasing the number of dispensaries where Vermonters on the registry can obtain medical marijuana. That bill is now in the House Human Services Committee.
These bills represent a couple of issues being debated in the State House. As always, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and opinions on these and other issues you hear about being discussed in Montpelier. The best way to contact me is by e-mail at email@example.com. I will also be at the Shelburne Library from 6 till 7pm on the second and fourth Tuesdays every month and am always willing to meet by appointment either in town Saturdays and Mondays or in Montpelier, Tuesdays through Fridays. My home phone is 802-985-9588.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.