Thursday, August 25, 2016

Did Shumlin Swing Senate Race After Leaving Washington County?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 5:50 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin and Health Commissioner Harry Chen Thursday in Burlington - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin and Health Commissioner Harry Chen Thursday in Burlington
Four days before Vermont's primary election, Gov. Peter Shumlin sold his East Montpelier abode and returned to his hometown of Putney. But even though he'd moved to Windham County by Election Day, he may have altered the outcome of a state Senate race in Washington County.

In that contest, former Statehouse sergeant-at-arms Francis Brooks led Montpelier attorney Ashley Hill in the Democratic primary by just one vote after a recount earlier this week: 3,709 to 3,708. Vermont Superior Court Judge Timothy Tomasi is set to rule on the status of four contested ballots at a Friday hearing. Whoever prevails will win one of three Democratic slots on the general-election ballot for three Senate seats.

At an unrelated press conference Thursday in Burlington, an unusually chatty Shumlin revealed who he had voted for in several primary races. He said he'd cast ballots for gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter, who prevailed in her bid for the Democratic nomination, and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Shap Smith, who did not. Asked about the hotly contested Senate race, Shumlin had to think for a second.

"I gotta go back and dig into my memory on that," he said. "I had three votes. And I know they were — I wanna say the one I knew the least was Ashley Hill. So I think I voted for the other three."

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Rep. Chip Conquest to Run for Vermont House Speaker

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 2:12 PM

Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury), center, plans to run for House speaker. - TERRI HALLENBECK/FILE
  • Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury), center, plans to run for House speaker.
Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury) announced this week he will run for House speaker if he wins reelection to his House seat in November.

Conquest, a 54-year-old farmer and carpenter who has never served in House leadership, said lawmakers could do a better job of listening to and including disparate points of view.

"We haven't done enough to build public support for big policy changes," he said, citing Act 46, the state's new school district consolidation law as one example. "Some of the resistance to Act 46 is a result of that."

Conquest, who has served eight years in the House, is likely to be one of several candidates competing for the powerful position overseeing the 150-member chamber. Current House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown), who has held the job for eight years, is running for lieutenant governor.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Shumlin Fills Vacancies in His Administration From Within

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2016 at 4:25 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin at the Statehouse in March - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin at the Statehouse in March

A veteran of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration will take over as state secretary of commerce and community development, the governor’s office announced Wednesday.

Current Deputy Secretary Lucy Leriche replaces outgoing Secretary Pat Moulton, who leaves her post to serve as interim president of Vermont Technical College.

Leriche previously spent about seven years in the state legislature representing Hardwick, including a stint as Democratic House majority leader.

Shumlin also announced that Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein will oversee the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center. The appointment comes two weeks after Gene Fullam resigned from the post. Fullam served just one year that saw scandal as the feds charged Ariel Quiros and Bill Stenger with longtime fraud related to EB-5 projects in the Northeast Kingdom.

Scott Coriell, Sue Allen and Liz Miller. - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Scott Coriell, Sue Allen and Liz Miller.
The changes come as Shumlin’s deputy chief of staff and spokesman, Scott Coriell, embarks on a two-month unpaid leave to travel. Coriell returns October 1. In the interim, Sue Allen, also a deputy chief of staff, will take over press duties, Coriell said.

Shumlin’s tenure as governor is in its final months. He’ll retire and be replaced by one of five candidates vying for the position. The primary election is Tuesday.

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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

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
  • 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
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
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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