Rep. Tom Bock: Early action on marijuana, more pressing issues await

This is the first of my periodic notes on happenings in the Vermont Statehouse during the 2018 legislative session. As a representative to the Vermont House for Windsor 3-1, I want to keep all of you abreast of the issues discussed and bills proposed and give you a sense of Vermont’s legislative process including how ideas become law and opportunities for citizen involvement in the process.

It was great to get back to the state capitol where the place was abuzz with activity: greeting colleagues, discussing issues and then quickly settling in for a busy session. As is tradition, the session opened with remarks from Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson and the State of the State Address delivered by Gov. Phil Scott on Day 2.

Speaker Johnson welcomed representatives back to the Statehouse and outlined her vision to continue to create a strong healthy future for Vermont. She emphasized prioritizing legislation that addresses and enables our working families to meet their basic needs while creating an economy that works for all Vermonters. She went on to note that this would require continued, reliable and workable investments in Vermont’s healthcare, education, workforce development and environment.

Gov. Scott’s  State of the State highlighted progress made in 2017, and recommitted to an agenda focused on economic growth and affordability, while protecting the vulnerable. The governor re-emphasized that Vermont needs to address the looming issues of declining population and economic trends.

He reminded us that our cost of living remains among the highest in the United States and is not sustainable. He emphasized that Vermonters cannot afford higher fees or taxes – including property taxes – any more this year than last year. He noted that last year the state limited budget growth to 1 percent, while wages grew by 2 percent.

Within the first two weeks, both the House and Senate took care of some unfinished business by voting (my vote included) to pass House Bill 511 on recreational marijuana legalization. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Scott to take effect on July 1 and allows an adult, 21 years of age or older, to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and to cultivate no more than two mature and four immature plants. The legislature is expecting a report – due this December – from the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission. The report will examine the impact on Vermont’s economy of a “tax and regulate” form of legalization to be considered in 2019.

I hope to fill you in on recent happenings in the legislature and give you a closer look at pressing issues such as education funding, water quality and rural economic development.

I welcome any questions, opinions, thoughts or concerns you may have on any legislative issues. You can contact me at tbock@leg.state.vt.us or tmbock@vermontel.net or feel free to call me at home at (802) 875-2222.

I also encourage you to visit the Statehouse. The public is welcome to watch the proceedings in both the House and Senate chambers. If you let me know beforehand, I would enjoy the opportunity to meet with you for lunch in the Statehouse cafeteria. I look forward to hearing from you.

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