Daily Archives: April 8, 2016

Erasing the line at the Freeploid

So I visited the Burlington Free Press’ website, just to see if they had anything new to report.

And there, in the prime spot on the homepage, the location for its biggest story, I saw this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 5.41.59 PM

Hmm, I thought. Strange time to be putting a feature article about Q Burke on the homepage, After all, the resort has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately — thanks to Bill Stenger’s continued struggles with state regulators over his EB-5 investment scheme.

And then I thought, well, they’ve got to fill that “Freshies” section somehow, so I guess they’re filling their news hole with a dual-purpose soft feature. Advertiser-friendly, but not outrageous.

But then I clicked on the link and scrolled down through the story. Which is, in fact, a very soft feature about Q Burke. And at the bottom was this note about the writer:

Jessica B. Sechler is marketing manager at Q Burke Mountain Resort.

Aww, jeezus. Really, Free Press? Advertiser-provided content occupying the best real estate on your homepage? Formatted as if it was actual journalism?

I guess their Church/State wall has been reduced to rubble. Hey, advertisers, c’mon down! It’s all for sale at the Burlington Free Press!


Two steps back for legalized pot

Well, a pair of House committees got out their carving knives and turned S.241, the marijuana-legalization bill, into an unrecognizable mess.

This is a significant setback for legalization. The best hope is that the House passes the bill and then a House/Senate conference committee comes down firmly on the Senate’s side. After that, perhaps the bill could pass muster in the full House. But the outlook is definitely worse than it was a couple days ago.

Earlier this week, House Judiciary Chair Maxine Grad proposed, well, a Bizarro World version of S.241. She slashed out the legalization stuff, opting instead for a mild extension of decriminalization that would allow for personal cultivation of up to two marijuana plants. That idea was specifically rejected by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears, the primary gatekeeper on the Senate side.

Oh, and she also attached the House’s favorite Action Evasion Tactic — a study commission! Yay!

That was bad enough. But even that bill couldn’t pass the full committee. After Grad’s version failed on a 5-6 vote, the grow-your-own provision got the ax. The study commission, naturally, was spared. The bill also creates a penalty for driving under the influence if a driver has a BAC of 0.05 or higher PLUS any trace of psychoactive chemicals in their system, plus a new crime of making hash oil from marijuana.

VTDigger’s headline calls it a “hollowed-out pot bill,” and that’s pretty much dead on.

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A useless program gets a little better

Raise a glass, boys, to Janet Ancel, hardworking chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. For it was she who ignored the express wishes of the Shumlin administration and added some oversight to a program that sorely needs it.

I’m talking Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI), the slush fund economic development program that gives public funds to private employers promising to grow their workforce. VEGI was up for renewal this year, and the administration wanted a permanent extension (or at least five years) with no strings attached.

What it got instead, thanks largely to Rep. Ancel, was a three-year extension with legislative oversight added. She also inserted a mandated “cost-benefit analysis” to determine whether VEGI is actually accomplishing what it’s supposed to. And yesterday, the full House approved an omnibus economic-development bill including her VEGI provisions. A noteworthy accomplishment, given the administration’s active resistance.

After the jump: the unprovable merit of VEGI. 

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