John Rodgers

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Senate passes marijuana legalization bill with tax-and-regulate language

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate, frustrated by inaction in the House and hoping to apply pressure on the chamber down the hall, advanced a seed-to-sale marijuana legalization bill Friday by a veto-proof margin. The action in the Senate Friday was no surprise — members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday a plan to amend a House bill to include language creating a tax-and-regulate legal marijuana market in Vermont. After clearing procedural hurdles, the effort prevailed on a 21 to 9 vote — large enough to override a potential veto by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, was the lead sponsor of the amendment that mimics legislation passed last year by the Senate, but failed spectacularly in the House. Members of the Senate were expecting the House to pass its own version of marijuana legalization this year, but that effort stalled when the bill made it to the House only to be jettisoned by Democratic leaders in the House back to committee because it lacked the votes to pass. Continue Reading →

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Senate advances ethics bill

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation that will tweak ethics laws for some government officials and create a statewide ethics commission to review complaints. The measure, S.8, was passed on a voice vote without opposition. It will be up for final approval in the Senate Wednesday. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, the chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, told her colleagues that trust in government has been eroding for years. “This mistrust runs from the federal government down to local government,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Senate approves changes to the state’s public campaign financing law

MONTPELIER — The Senate has given its approval to a bill intended to make publicly financed political campaigns more viable. By a vote of 19 to 6, Senate lawmakers Friday approved S.220, a bill that moves up the date a candidate seeking public financing can start a campaign, which supporters say will allow these candidates to better compete with those who are privately financed. “My feeling is, we shouldn’t privilege publicly financed candidates, but we shouldn’t punish them, either,” said Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, the lead sponsor of the bill. The punishment Baruth is referring to is the amount of lead time a privately financed candidate has over one seeking public financing. While a privately funded candidate may declare his or her intent to run for office and begin raising money at any time, a candidate seeking public financing must wait until the Feb. Continue Reading →

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Sen. John Rodgers considering LG bid

MONTPELIER — Democratic Sen. John Rodgers is considering jumping into the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor to offer voters a moderate voice focused on affordability, energy and the state’s working landscape. The 50-year-old Glover resident who represents the Essex-Orleans Senate district, told the Vermont Press Bureau Thursday he plans to make his decision near the end of the legislative session. “I am still considering it,” Rodgers said. “I’m still on the fence for several reasons. It’s something I’m interested in and have sort of been interested in for some time.”

Rodgers would join Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, and Marlboro businessman Brandon Riker in a Democratic primary if he launches a campaign. Continue Reading →

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Senate approves marijuana legalization

MONTPELIER — Senators made it easier for the little guy to break into the cultivation business when they gave their final approval to marijuana legalization. By a vote of 17 to 12 Thursday afternoon, the Senate approved what has been arguably been the most debated bill of this legislative session, and in doing so, sends it on to House for further discussion. “It’s a relief for me to have it out of the Senate,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and someone who became an unlikely advocate for legalization. Sears thanked his fellow lawmakers, including colleagues such as Sens. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, and Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, both of whom voted for the bill while in committee despite their opposition, which allowed the bill to come to the Senate floor for debate. Continue Reading →

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Senate gives preliminary approval to marijuana legalization

MONTPELIER — The question of allowing anyone to grow marijuana dominated a discussion Wednesday in which the Senate gave preliminary approval to legalization. By a vote of 16 to 13, Senate lawmakers gave the initial go-ahead to a bill that would allow for commercial cultivation and the sale of marijuana, setting the possibility for full Senate approval Thursday. On the floor, the bill had the support of someone who, months ago, would have seemed an unlikely legalization advocate: Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “If you had told me, even three months ago, that not only would I be voting yes, but speaking on the floor to defend the bill, I would have told you you were crazy,” said Sears, who said he was persuaded to support legalization following nearly a month of testimony and a series of public forums held around the state. Under the terms of the bill, starting in January 2018, it will be legal to grow and sell marijuana, provided you are licensed by the Department of Public Safety. Continue Reading →

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Rally for greater local voice in renewable energy projects

MONTPELIER — Local residents are calling for a greater voice in the siting of renewable energy projects in their communities, and one Senate lawmaker is looking to ban industrial-scale wind projects altogether. More than 100 people packed into the Cedar Creek Room at the State House on Wednesday to protest the current method used by the state to approve renewable energy projects. “Our energy-siting policies and processes have become anti-environmental and anti-democratic,” said Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, a remark that drew 20 seconds of applause from the gathered crowd. Rodgers argued that renewable energy projects should be treated the same way as any other form of development and should be subject to the provisions of Act 250, which includes a host of criteria such the overall impact a development would have to the aesthetics of the environment. “The process we use to site energy in Vermont is broken and it’s long past time to fix it,” Rodgers said. Continue Reading →

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Senate supports climate-change resolution

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a resolution that acknowledges both climate change and impact caused by fossil fuel use. By a vote of 23 to 5, Senate lawmakers Tuesday approved a resolution that “recognizes that climate change is a real and present danger to health and well-being of all Vermonters,” and “that human activities make a substantive contribution to climate change.”

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, who serves on the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. The Committee approved the resolution by a vote of 4-0-1. “It recognizes that the warming in the climate system is unequivocal and the human influence on the climate system is clear and substantive,” Campion said. “It acknowledges the state of Vermont recognizes climate change is a real and present danger to the health and well-being of all Vermonters.”

Vermont has a goal of reducing its carbon foot print by 50 percent — compared with 1990 levels — by the year 2028, and reduce carbon output by 75 percent by 2050. Continue Reading →

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