Statehouse

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Phil Scott Appoints Susanne Young, Al Gobeille to Top Admin Jobs

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 4:40 PM

Governor-elect Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Governor-elect Phil Scott
Nearly a month after Election Day, governor-elect Phil Scott on Tuesday named his first two cabinet appointees — both well-known public servants with experience in state government.

Scott, the Republican lieutenant governor, named Deputy Attorney General Susanne Young to serve as his secretary of administration — essentially his chief cabinet officer. Young spent a dozen years working for the last GOP governor, Jim Douglas, first as his deputy state treasurer and then as his legal counsel. The 60-year-old Northfield resident has spent the past five years as Attorney General Bill Sorrell's No. 2. Sorrell, a Democrat, is retiring.

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Vermont Health Commissioner Chen Will Not Seek Reappointment

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 1:10 PM

Dr. Harry Chen (center) at a 2015 press conference. - TERRI HALLENBEÇK
  • TERRI HALLENBEÇK
  • Dr. Harry Chen (center) at a 2015 press conference.
Dr. Harry Chen, who has served as state health commissioner for all six years of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s tenure, told his staff Tuesday that he will not seek reappointment when Phil Scott takes the governor's office.

Chen notified Department of Health staff by email that it was a difficult decision he made during the Thanksgiving holiday. “My six years as your commissioner have been without a doubt the best job of my career,” he wrote.

Chen said he would stay on until January 5, through the end of Shumlin’s tenure. He offered to stay on longer — if needed — during the transition to a new commissioner.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

House Democrats Put Mitzi Johnson on Path to Speaker’s Office

Posted By on Sat, Dec 3, 2016 at 8:02 PM

Reps. Mitzi Johnson, in purple, and Sarah Copeland Hanzas hug after Johnson won the vote to be the Democrats’ nominee for House speaker. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Reps. Mitzi Johnson, in purple, and Sarah Copeland Hanzas hug after Johnson won the vote to be the Democrats’ nominee for House speaker.
When Rep. Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) was a first-year legislator serving on the House Agriculture Committee in 2003, she learned how not to run a legislative committee, Rep. Bill Botzow (D-Pownal) told colleagues Saturday.

From there, Johnson grew as a legislator worthy of the House’s most powerful position, Botzow said as he seconded the nomination for Johnson to be the Democrats’ candidate for speaker.

Praising Johnson’s kindness, Botzow quoted former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough.”

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Weeks After Election, Two Vermont House Races Still Not Decided

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Vermont Statehouse - FILE
  • File
  • Vermont Statehouse
Lawmakers gathered Wednesday in Montpelier to prepare for the new legislative session that starts in January. Republicans David Ainsworth and Bob Frenier joined the briefing — even though their election results have yet to be settled.

“It appears I might’ve won,” Ainsworth said during a break from the briefing. “I’m just here to get up to speed.”

“Appears” and “might’ve” were the operative words, however.

Both Ainsworth and Frenier seem to have the edge, but their races are still in legal uncertainty three weeks after the election.

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Republican Linda Myers to Run for Speaker of Vermont House

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 5:09 PM

The House chamber - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The House chamber
Rep. Linda Myers (R-Essex), a 15-year member of the House, will be a candidate for the powerful speaker of the House position. She does it knowing she’s unlikely to win.

“It will be extremely difficult for me to win the speakership,” Myers said Thursday. “It’s an opportunity for people in the Hous
Linda Myers
  • Linda Myers
e of Representatives to know there is a choice.”

Myers said House Republicans gathered Wednesday morning at the Statehouse, and that Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) suggested Myers’ name.

The group unanimously agreed to support her when the full House votes in January on the speaker’s post. House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton) has been saying that he planned to field a speaker candidate regardless of the party’s chances of prevailing.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bill Doyle Concedes Defeat in Vermont Senate Race

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 3:39 PM

Sen. Bill Doyle in his Johnson State College office - TERRI HALLENBECK/FILE
  • TERRI HALLENBECK/File
  • Sen. Bill Doyle in his Johnson State College office
Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington) on Wednesday withdrew his request for a recount of the November 8 election ballots, conceding that his 48-year Senate career is over.

The 90-year-old Montpelier resident said advisers persuaded him that a recount would not change the outcome of the election. He trailed Democrat Francis Brooks by 191 votes.

Brooks finished third in the race for three Senate seats, behind incumbents Ann Cummings (D-Washington) and Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington).

“I have decided to stand aside and let the initial results be certified as the final ones,” Doyle said in a statement.

Doyle said that he wanted to give Brooks, who taught his children science at Montpelier High School, time to gear up for the legislative session that starts in January.

Doyle was matter-of-fact about the end of his political career. “It’s a remarkable opportunity to serve even one term in the legislature,” he said. “To serve that many is a real honor.”

Doyle continues to work as a political science professor at Johnson State College. He said he will still be back in the Statehouse in January, leading his students in his annual two-week course.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Mitzi Johnson Prevails in the Race for Speaker of the House

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 10:38 AM

Rep. Mitzi Johnson - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Rep. Mitzi Johnson
Rep. Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) will be the next speaker of the House.

Johnson, 46, clinched the role by the end of last week, securing enough pledged votes from House Democrats to nudge House Majority Leader Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) out of the race. Copeland Hanzas sent colleagues an email Saturday withdrawing her candidacy, which she confirmed Monday morning to Seven Days.

The two women were competing to replace House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown), who has held the seat for eight years but did not seek reelection to his House seat for the legislative session that starts January 4.

Johnson has served the last two years as chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and has been a member of that panel since 2007.

Members said Johnson’s vision for the budget process and her ability to reach consensus with all parties won colleagues over. Johnson ran for the speaker’s job saying she wants all committees to use data to evaluate the effectiveness of state programs and prioritize those that work best.

“I really kept all my comments focused on my track record in Appropriations — of building a lot of unanimity and of being able to work across the aisle,” Johnson said Monday.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Phil Scott Names Several Staffers to Posts in New Administration

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 4:36 PM

Jason Gibbs will serve as chief of staff when governor-elect Phil Scott takes office in January. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Jason Gibbs will serve as chief of staff when governor-elect Phil Scott takes office in January.
Governor-elect Phil Scott made his first administrative appointments Wednesday, naming some members of his campaign staff to jobs with the governor’s office.

Jason Gibbs, who volunteered as a senior adviser to Scott’s campaign, will be his chief of staff when Scott takes office in January. Gibbs, 40, of Waterbury, served as communications director for former Republican governor Jim Douglas before serving as commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Gibbs ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2010 and most recently has been a communications and project management consultant.

Brittney Wilson, who was Scott’s campaign coordinator, will serve as his secretary of civil and military affairs. Wilson, 30, of Groton, formerly worked in the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the state Auditor’s Office and the state Department of Libraries. Her new position is a constitutionally established post that traditionally serves as a policy adviser to the governor.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Senate Democrats Nominate Tim Ashe for President Pro Tempore

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 9:11 PM

Sen. Tim Ashe, center, on Monday at a caucus of Senate Democrats - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Tim Ashe, center, on Monday at a caucus of Senate Democrats
Updated November 15, 2016, at 12:14 a.m.

Vermont’s Senate Democratic caucus unanimously nominated Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) to serve as president pro tempore Monday evening, all but ensuring his election in January as the next leader of the state Senate.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Scott Claims Mandate, Turns to Douglas Aides to Lead Transition

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 6:44 PM

Governor-elect Phil Scott Wednesday at the Statehouse - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Governor-elect Phil Scott Wednesday at the Statehouse
Governor-elect Phil Scott has named several alumni of former Republican governor Jim Douglas’ administration to guide his transition to office. Speaking Wednesday afternoon at his first press conference since winning the state’s top office, Scott said the new team would immediately get started writing a state budget guided by his campaign promise to slow state spending.

“The people of Vermont have given us a mandate for fiscal responsibility,” the Berlin Republican said, standing in the Statehouse lobby in front of a bust of Abraham Lincoln. “I am putting together a very capable team to make sure we have a strong budget in place, that the transition is smooth for Vermonters and that we accomplish the goals we set during the election.”

Scott, a six-year lieutenant governor and co-owner of a Middlesex excavation company, defeated Democrat Sue Minter 52 to 43 percent in Tuesday’s election. He will replace retiring Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin on January 5.

Though several of Scott’s initial picks come from the Douglas administration, he said he would look “outside the box” as he fills out his cabinet and staff. “Being a Republican isn’t a litmus test,” he said.

“What I’m looking for is talent — people who understand the economy is important,” he added.

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