Scott chides ‘polarizing’ politics in Washington

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SOUTH BURLINGTON — Gov. Phil Scott tackled Twitter etiquette yesterday with his very own version of the Golden Rule for the social media age.

“Tweet others the way you want to be tweeted,” Scott said in a not-so-veiled reference to the Republican president’s Twitter habit.

In his remarks to about 200 lawmakers, business leaders and other decision-makers at the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast, Scott warned Vermonters to avoid the kind of “polarizing” politics that are the norm in Washington, D.C., in reference to the coinciding events of the now-temporarily-resolved government shutdown and the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Asked what advice he had for avoiding another government shutdown, Scott said politicians should simply talk to each other instead of focusing on the next election.

“Once you’re elected, become a public servant. Do what’s right for the people, and let the chips fall where they may,” Scott said. He praised many Vermont officials who have transitioned effectively from campaign mode into government service.

“Don’t do it for ego, don’t do it for power,” he said.

Scott also reiterated his 6-3-1 rule, a touchstone that drives his policy proposals. The numbers are statistics. Every day, Vermont loses six workers, three children leave Vermont’s educational system and one child is born to a mother addicted to drugs. The numeric is emblazoned on a license plate in the governor’s ceremonial office at the Statehouse.

“I’m going to keep reading [those statistics] until we start reversing them,” Scott said.

Hotel staff circulated during Scott’s opening remarks, collecting written questions from people seated in the conference room at the Trader Duke’s hotel. Scott spent about a half hour answering questions about education funding, mental health, marijuana legalization, advice for national politicians and funding a Lake Champlain cleanup effort.

Scott hinted that he would reveal a “little bit of something” on the Lake Champlain cleanup during his budget address to be delivered today. “Maybe we can turn lemons into lemonade on this one,” he said.

Responding to a question about how the state would protect Vermonters from federal prosecution for possession of marijuana, Scott said the new Vermont law is more limited than similar laws passed in other states that have legalized marijuana and created a tax-and-regulate system.

Vermont’s bill, which Scott signed Monday, allows for the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and for limited grow-your-own, but does not legalize its sale.

“What you do in your own home, as long as it isn’t affecting anyone else adversely, is your own business,” Scott said.

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently rescinded an Obama-era directive discouraging federal prosecution of marijuana-related crimes, some worried that federal crackdowns were imminent.

Federal action against people in states that have legalized marijuana would likely come from U.S. attorneys, and Scott pointed out that Vermont’s U.S. Attorney, Christina Nolan, has said she is unlikely to change her office’s priorities, which include addressing the opiate crisis and pursuing drug cases that involve methamphetamine and crack cocaine.

Other states that have more expansive marijuana legalization laws are “probably more in jeopardy than we are,” Scott said.

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