Statehouse

Thursday, July 21, 2016

With Focus on Guns, Minter Seeks to Separate Herself From the Pack

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 12:48 PM

minter.guns.jpg
Two years ago, Ann Braden wouldn't have predicted that a major candidate for governor of Vermont would run a television advertisement calling for gun control.

"But it often takes time for the state capital to catch up to public opinion," says Braden, who founded Gun Sense Vermont after the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Now, with less than three weeks remaining before Vermont's gubernatorial primary, one candidate is staking her candidacy on the controversial issue. In a television advertisement released Wednesday, Democrat Sue Minter ties firearms to domestic violence and pledges to take on "the gun lobby."

"We need to keep guns away from domestic abusers and require background checks on all gun sales," she says. 

It may not be the riskiest strategy in a Democratic primary. The Castleton Polling Institute found last February that 97 percent of Democrats support universal background checks. Even independents and Republicans overwhelmingly support the concept, the poll concluded.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Lisman Gives Own Campaign for Governor $1.6 Million

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 6:38 PM

Five gubernatorial candidates appeared at a forum last month in Burlington. From left-right: Matt Dunne, Peter Galbraith, Bruce Lisman, Sue Minter and Phil Scott. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Five gubernatorial candidates appeared at a forum last month in Burlington. From left-right: Matt Dunne, Peter Galbraith, Bruce Lisman, Sue Minter and Phil Scott.
Updated July 18, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. with information from the campaign finance reports of candidates Kesha Ram and H. Brooke Paige.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman has sunk $1.6 million of his own money into his campaign, providing nearly all of its funding, according to a campaign finance report filed Friday.

Lisman, 69, of Shelburne, a retired Wall Street executive, has raised $286,561 from other contributors, he reported.

He has spent nearly all of the money, racking up $1,660,564 in expenses, leaving his campaign account with $189,493, the report shows. Lisman has been running television ads regularly since early spring.

An underdog in the Republican primary, Lisman has far outspent his opponent, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Moulton to Leave Commerce Agency for Vermont Technical College

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 2:43 PM

Patricia Moulton speaks to the Senate Finance Committee in April. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Patricia Moulton speaks to the Senate Finance Committee in April.
Patricia Moulton, secretary of the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development, is leaving that job in September to become the interim president of Vermont Technical College.

Moulton will be the second of two administration officials who oversaw the controversial EB-5 economic development program to leave their jobs. Susan Donegan, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, announced in March she would resign in June. Donegan has been replaced by deputy commissioner Michael Pieciak.

The two state departments oversee Vermont’s EB-5 Regional Center. The center has been at the center of controversy since allegations made in April by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that Jay Peak developers Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger misused money invested for EB-5 projects.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is not seeking reelection, will have a replacement for Moulton before she leaves, spokesman Scott Coriell said. 

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Senate Advances GMO Bill That Would Preempt Vermont Law

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2016 at 6:59 PM

JOHN JAMES
  • John James
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill to set national standards for labeling food produced with GMOs — a measure that would preempt the more stringent Vermont law that took effect just last week.

Vermont’s congressional delegation opposes the bipartisan Senate bill. The bill would allow food manufacturers to disclose GMO ingredients by labeling products with codes that consumers could scan via smartphone. Critics say that would be insufficient to inform consumers.

The bill cleared the 60-vote threshold to advance on Wednesday, setting the stage for a formal Senate vote to pass it that could occur as early as Thursday.

It would supersede Vermont’s law, which requires food manufacturers and retailers to label products made with GMOs. The state’s law confused some local retailers.

The food industry is backing the Senate bill. Supporters argue that a national versus a state-by-state approach is preferable. Labeling advocates have criticized the Senate bill as too lax.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Know Your GMOs: Vermont’s Labeling Law Takes Effect

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 12:29 PM

JOHN JAMES
  • John James
Two years after the legislature approved it, Vermont’s much-ballyhooed, first-in-the-nation law requiring the labeling of food produced by genetic engineering goes into effect today.

Advocates say it is a signal achievement in consumer rights. Vermont Right to Know GMOs and other groups are planning a celebration on the Statehouse lawn this afternoon. 

But it’s not clear how much change the average consumer will immediately notice.

The Vermont Office of the Attorney General says that because many packaged foods have long shelf lives, regulators are essentially granting a six-month grace period. Until January 1, improperly labeled foods will be assumed to have been packaged and distributed before today, and manufacturers will not be held liable if the labels are not in compliance.
A bag of chips for sale in Burlington Friday - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • A bag of chips for sale in Burlington Friday
However, the attorney general’s office warned that no manufacturer, retailer or producer will be granted an extension beyond that, and manufacturers can be fined $1,000 per violation.

(Just what the heck is a GMO? Vermont Public Radio posted a good explainer last week.)

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Arizona Attorney to Take Charge of Vermont ACLU

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 7:04 PM

Allen Gilbert is retiring after 12 years leading the ACLU of Vermont. - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Allen Gilbert is retiring after 12 years leading the ACLU of Vermont.
An attorney from the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will take charge of the Vermont chapter this summer, the organization announced Monday.

James Duff Lyall, of Tuscon, Ariz., will replace Allen Gilbert as executive director of the ACLU of Vermont on July 25. The state chapter is based in Montpelier.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Senate Leaders Stand by Decision to Suspend McAllister

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 8:35 PM

Sen. Norm McAllister, left, and attorney Brooks McArthur Thursday outside Franklin County Superior Court. - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Norm McAllister, left, and attorney Brooks McArthur Thursday outside Franklin County Superior Court.
After state prosecutors dismissed two sexual assault charges against Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin) Thursday, leaders of the Vermont Senate said they stood by their January decision to suspend him from the body.

"In a word, yes, absolutely we did the right thing," said Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden), the Democratic majority leader.

"The approach the Senate took was not to prejudge McAllister in any way," he said. "It was to say: Without a look at the state's case, we can say that there are multiple serious sexual assault charges pending, and we don't believe he should be wielding powers as a senator while it's pending."

Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), the Republican minority leader, agreed. 

"Based on the information we had at the time, it was clear the Senate was going to be in a state of dysfunction," he said. "It was never about Norm McAllister's guilt or innocence. This was about the Senate's ability to function, and my opinion at the time was it would not."

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State Drops Charges in First McAllister Trial

Posted By and on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 10:23 AM

Sen. Norm McAllister outside the Franklin County Criminal Court Thursday morning after the state dropped two sexual assault charges. - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Norm McAllister outside the Franklin County Criminal Court Thursday morning after the state dropped two sexual assault charges.
Updated at 1 p.m.

State prosecutors abruptly dismissed sexual assault charges Thursday morning against Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin), a day after his accuser struggled on the stand with discrepancies in her story.

“The state is in a position to have to dismiss,” Franklin County Deputy State’s Attorney Diane Wheeler told Vermont Superior Court Judge Robert Mello at about 9:45 a.m.

“Something came to light during [Wednesday] evening that warranted the state to have to dismiss the matter,” Wheeler said outside the courtroom afterward, adding that doing so was her “ethical obligation.”

Her boss, State’s Attorney Jim Hughes, said in an interview that an issue arose in his office after trial testimony on Wednesday, prompting the need to dismiss the case. “I can’t tell you specifics or details of the ethical dilemma, because we still have charges pending against Mr. McAllister.”

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

McAllister Accuser Details Allegations and Faces Tough Cross-Examination

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2016 at 10:22 PM

Sen. Norm McAllister (left) listens in court Wednesday with Brooks McArthur, one of his attorneys. - POOL PHOTO/GREGORY J. LAMOUREUX/COUNTY COURIER
  • Pool Photo/Gregory J. Lamoureux/County Courier
  • Sen. Norm McAllister (left) listens in court Wednesday with Brooks McArthur, one of his attorneys.
The 21-year-old woman who has accused Sen. Norm McAllister of sexual assault spent several hours on the witness stand Wednesday describing in graphic detail incidents in which she said he forced himself on her in a barn, his house and at his apartment in Montpelier.

“When I wouldn’t give up, he threw me over his shoulder,” the slight, 4-foot-11-inch woman said, describing an alleged incident at McAllister’s Franklin County farmhouse. Asked what she was thinking as he forced her to have sex, she said: “That I was in hell. I didn’t want it happening.”

For most of the afternoon, however, the woman faced a bristly exchange with one of McAllister’s lawyers as he laid out numerous differences in the accounts she had told to the jury, lawyers and police, each time under oath.

“Would you agree that what you told me under oath just a few weeks ago is different than what you just told the jury?” David Williams asked. 

“I guess so,” she mumbled. Dressed in a green plaid shirt and jeans, with her hair in a ponytail, the woman was visibly uncomfortable throughout her testimony, at times sitting with arms crossed, impatient with questions from both the prosecution and defense.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jury of Seven Men, Five Women Picked for McAllister Trial

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 6:30 PM

Defense attorneys David Williams (standing) and Brooks McArthur (left) argue motions Tuesday for Sen. Norm McAllister (right), a day before his sexual assault trial begins. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Defense attorneys David Williams (standing) and Brooks McArthur (left) argue motions Tuesday for Sen. Norm McAllister (right), a day before his sexual assault trial begins.
A jury of seven men and five women will file into Vermont Superior Court on Wednesday morning to decide whether Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin) sexually assaulted a young woman who worked for him.

Charges against the 64-year-old McAllister will focus on alleged incidents in the barn of his Highgate Center farm sometime between January 2010 and May 2015, according to court documents released Tuesday.

Exactly when those alleged incidents happened could become a point of contention during what is expected to be a two-day trial.

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