While Democratic and Republican leaders continue to pass the buck on implementing progressive legislation to support the needs of ordinary Vermonters, our Progressive State Representatives Have been hard at work fighting for the needs of ordinary people and the planet. This week we have updates from Representative Sandy Haas from Rochester and Representative Brian Cina from Burlington.
Before you scroll down and read Sandy and Brian’s update, I would like to invite you to send a letter to the editor to your local newspaper in support of the State Senate restoring funding for the cold weather exemption. The cold weather exemption is a vital tool to ensure that homeless individuals do not freeze to death in winter. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for talking points and a sample LTE.
Rep. Sandy Haas – Rochester
Although the press has focused on the different proposals to legalize cannabis, the Senate has passed a bill to expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program. Under current law, a patient can obtain a card from the Dept. of Public Safety’s marijuana registry for certain conditions confirmed by a physician. That patient can then either grow marijuana or purchase it from one of four licensed dispensaries. S.16 would add three more diseases to the list of qualifying conditions: Crohn’s, Parkinson’s and PTSD. The Senate bill would also increase from four to eight the number of marijuana dispensaries that can be licensed. This provision will be hotly debated since the existing dispensaries are struggling under heavy debt and existing law requiring that they operate as nonprofits. S.16 is under consideration in House Human Services, which can be expected to offer an amended version of the bill.
Rep. Brian Cina – Burlington
As the first year of the 2017-2018 Legislative Biennium comes to a close, we find ourselves continuing to face great uncertainty. What cuts might be coming from the Federal level? How can we better support the needs of the People with our State resources? There has been talk of tax reform in Montpelier, but not too much action. Various smaller tax reform bills have been proposed, but we hear from many of our colleagues that such changes are “too risky.” A state bank, universal primary care, education funding reform, raise the minimum wage-all TOO RISKY! However, business as usual is not "too risky," even as current policy causes our ecosystems to fail, our climate to destabilize, and the disparity in the distribution of our society’s wealth to widen.
Despite reluctance to make bigger systemic changes, we have had some smaller victories in the State House. Some specific examples of achievements towards greater social justice include these bills that have passed the Vermont House of Representatives due to the hard work of your Progressive members:
H.492- forms a Racial Justice Advisory Board which empowers people to work together to identify specific challenges and to engage in creating solutions to institutional racism.
H.197- creates parity between mental health and other health conditions in workers’ compensation benefits.
H.233- allows minors to seek mental health treatment for sexuality issues without parental consent.
Hopefully, these bills and others will become law as the year comes to a close. Over the next year, the people of Vermont must come together and organize if we are going to create the bigger systemic changes needed to address the massive challenges facing our state and our planet at this time.
How can you get more involved?
Some upcoming opportunities for engagement:
April 20, 5:30 PM- Health Care for All Town Hall at Montpelier High School
May 5, 5 PM- People’s Commission for the State Bank of Vermont at State House Cafeteria
More information to follow about events around the state this summer!
Thank you to Sandy and Brian for fighting to pass legislation important to progressives and all Vermonters.
Executive Director, Vermont Progressive Party
PS: Want to support the only major Party in Vermont who’s elected members unanimously voted in favor of the cold weather exemption, a program that prevents our homeless from freezing to death in winter? Become a $10 monthly donor so we have the resources to continue fighting for the needs of all Vermonters.