First Week of the 2018 Session

The first week of the second half of the biennium mostly focused on a holdover from last year, namely a bill to legalize personal use of marijuana. Effective July 1, 2018, the bill would remove all civil and criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and for the growing of two mature and four immature marijuana plants, so long as certain conditions related to growing those plants are followed. The bill takes an appropriate next step, building on the legislature’s previous decriminalization of possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. The bill continues to impose penalties on the possession of marijuana by individuals under 21 years of age and increases the penalties on those who enable minors to consume marijuana.

On the first day of the session, two bills that I am sponsoring were introduced. One, H.557, would reform the collective bargaining process between school boards and teachers. I will describe that bill in more detail in a future post.

The second bill, H.556, would ban noncompete clauses in Vermont. Noncompete clauses can suppress wages and keep would-be job seekers unemployed. If you are unable to threaten to leave one job for a better job, then you have less ability to earn better wages. Also, with a noncompete clause, a worker is forced to stay longer at one job – their mobility is reduced and their ability to earn a living is reduced.

This bill favors open competition and employee mobility, both of which are undermined by noncompete clauses. In short, eliminating noncompete clauses helps to keep residents gainfully employed, able to provide for themselves and their families, and off the welfare and social service rolls.

The bill is modeled after a California law. Barring noncompete clauses in California has not limited the innovation and economic growth in that State. Worker mobility creates knowledge spillovers across firms and industries, which in turn produces more innovation.

There is one objection to eliminating noncompete clauses that is frequently heard: if employees can just up and leave, then employers will have less incentive to invest in their training. Perhaps. But, if you can switch jobs, that would guarantee that you would get paid wages reflecting your value to the firm. That, in turn, would encourage you to develop your own skills.