- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - In a story May 5 about in the Vermont Legislature, The Associated Press erroneously reported that a forestry-related bill gave landowners some protection from neighbors’ nuisance lawsuits when they do logging on their land. That provision was pulled from the bill before passage.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Vermont lawmakers pass forestry bill, mull marijuana vote

Vermont lawmakers are gearing up for a planned Saturday adjournment

By DAVE GRAM

Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - State lawmakers, gearing up for a planned Saturday adjournment, approved updates to forestry laws, declared saliva testing for drugged driving a dead issue and decided against calling for a nonbinding referendum on legalizing marijuana.

Meanwhile, conference committees on must-pass tax and spending bills toiled into the evening Thursday to try to reach an agreement on a budget they could make available to lawmakers within the customary 24 hours left before close of business for 2016. Failing that, lawmakers would be expected to return next week.

In the House, members approved the last of a trio of bills on forestry, a catch-all bill including provisions restricting towns from regulating forest operations as long as they comply with state rules. Earlier, lawmakers agreed to make timber theft a crime for the first time. Until now, landowners aggrieved by unapproved cutting of trees have had to go to civil court to seek redress.

Also Thursday, House lawmakers conceded they were not going to be able to persuade the Senate to pass a House-passed measure calling for saliva testing of drivers suspected of using marijuana and other drugs. Critics pointed to a state-commissioned report from a lab in Pennsylvania, saying the scientific basis for tying a certain level of drugs in saliva to impairment is insufficient.

Later in the day, attention turned again to marijuana and the push to legalize it, which the House quashed earlier this week with a 121-28 vote.

The House also voted against a statewide nonbinding advisory vote to be held in conjunction with the August primary for state offices. When the Senate took up the bill containing marijuana provisions, Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, offered an amendment again calling for the statewide vote but on Election Day in November.

Vermont has no mechanism for a binding referendum, and senators cautioned that any vote should be called an advisory vote, rather than a referendum, saying the latter term implied it would be binding. But the word catching on in Statehouse hallways Thursday was “reefer-endum.”

That effort, too, failed. Supporters didn’t garner the two-thirds majority they needed to take the referendum plan to a vote.

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