Gov. Phil Scott says he's pleased by the progress that's being made to draft a compromise marijuana legalization bill that lawmakers could consider in the upcoming veto session.
And if the governor strikes a deal with legislative leaders, Scott says he'll reach out to members of the House Republican caucus and encourage them not to block consideration of the bill.
Although Scott vetoed legislation legalizing the recreational use of marijuana last week, he also said he would back a new bill if it addressed his public safety concerns and if it expanded the scope of a new special commission.
That panel would be charged with researching the best way to implement a state regulatory system, with retail stores and the taxation of marijuana.
Scott says legislative leaders seem responsive to finding a compromise plan that all sides can support.
"We had a very productive meeting with those proponents last week,” said Scott. “We'll have more in the next couple of weeks.”
Backers of the bill are concerned that many members of the House Republican caucus could use some parliamentary procedures in the short veto session to block final consideration of the new bill.
Scott says he'll "reach out" to these GOP members if he's able to forge a compromise with supporters of the legislation.
"If we get to a point where we think we can agree, I certainly will reach out,” said Scott. “I'm not sure that I'll have the power to change minority leadership's mind on this, but I'll advocate for it."
And if House Republicans refuse to suspend rules to take up the marijuana bill, Scott says there are other ways to win legislative approval during the veto session.
“You could go an extra day, you could tack this onto a budget bill, you could put it on another bill,” said Scott. “I mean, there's other approaches if you really want to move forward on this."
House Minority leader Don Turner says his mind won't be changed by the governor's approach. But Turner says some members of his caucus might be receptive to Scott's message.
"The governor has taken a position, and that may persuade some of the members that they should suspend the rules. That doesn't mean you have to vote for the bill," said Turner.
Turner acknowledges that changes to the state's marijuana laws are coming, but he wants to put them off for as long as possible.
"I think the inevitable is marijuana will be less restricted in the future, whether it's legalized or further [decriminalized],” said Turner. “But if we watch what happens in these other states, it might prevent us from taking on problems that we don't need to necessarily do."
If lawmakers don't pass a marijuana bill during the veto session, the governor says he might create the special commission through an executive order so that the panel can begin its work this summer.