Legislative panel approves hiring consultant on energy

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A legislative committee is recommending that Vermont House and Senate leaders hire a special consultant to help lawmakers draft new energy legislation.

The seven-zero vote, with one member absent by the Joint Energy Committee comes over the objections of the Douglas administration, which maintains that state government has the needed expertise and doesn’t need a new consultant.

But Rich Smith — deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service — acknowledges that some lawmakers may not view his department as the best source of energy conservation and efficiency legislation.

The department represents the administration of Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, and he’s been at odds with Democratic legislative leaders on energy issues all year.

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