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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opinion
Walters: State Data Breach Much Larger Than First Thought

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 8:20 PM

Gov. Phil Scott and Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Gov. Phil Scott and Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle
Gov. Phil Scott announced Thursday that a data breach at a state contractor affects far more Vermonters than initially thought.

The breach happened at a private firm called America’s Joblink Alliance, which contracts with Vermont and nine other states to provide a database for job seekers and employers. Under state law, anyone who applies for unemployment benefits — unless they have a firm return-to-work date within 10 weeks — is required to register with Joblink and regularly use the site to search for work.

Scott said the personal data — name, address, birthdate, Social Security number — of all applicants may have been compromised, going all the way back to the year 2003, when the state began contracting with AJLA. That's a total of 180,000 applicants in Vermont.

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A Wife Vows to Fight Her Husband's Deportation

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 7:26 PM

Cesar Alex Carrillo, left, with his young daughter, Solmarie, and wife, Lymarie Deida, leading a 2016 march to urge the release of an immigrant worker - COURTESY: MIGRANT JUSTICE
  • Courtesy: Migrant Justice
  • Cesar Alex Carrillo, left, with his young daughter, Solmarie, and wife, Lymarie Deida, leading a 2016 march to urge the release of an immigrant worker
Cesar Alex Carrillo pulled up at the McDonald's in Colchester early on March 15. Carrillo, 23, and his wife, Lymarie Deida, 21, were on their way to the Chittenden County courthouse. Carrillo faced a DUI case, but they weren't worried. The couple already knew from a previous hearing that Carrillo's misdemeanor DUI charge would be dismissed.

They ate a leisurely meal as snow fell outside. Carrillo paid for a homeless man's breakfast, Deida said. Afterward, Deida lay her head on her husband's chest as they sat in the car. The previous Sunday, they had found out that Deida was pregnant.

"He said, 'This year's going to be a good year,'" she recounted in an interview Wednesday with Seven Days.

Just hours later, at 9 a.m., Carrillo was pulled over by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and arrested.

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Opinion
Walters: Nothing to See Here, Say Senators

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 3:21 PM

Sen. Dick Mazza - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Sen. Dick Mazza
These are uncomfortable days in the Vermont Senate, after its most senior and powerful member became tangentially involved in a major drug bust.

Last weekend, federal agents arrested two suspected drug dealers and seized more than a kilo of heroin — street value as high as half a million dollars —outside Almighty Peaks Painting, a business located in a Colchester strip mall owned by Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle).

The mall is across the street from Mazza’s renowned general store, and includes nine storefronts. Mazza told VTDigger.org that business owner Darrick Holmes, who has also been arrested by the feds, had been his tenant for about seven years.

Word hit the Senate like a big ol’ blanket drenched in cold water. Mazza’s colleagues were uniformly discomfited by the news. They clearly sought to minimize Mazza’s responsibility, and wanted the story to just go away.

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Scott Supreme Court Appointment Makes Court Majority Women

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 12:30 PM

Vermont Supreme Court - FILE
  • File
  • Vermont Supreme Court
Gov. Phil Scott appointed Karen Carroll to fill a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court, meaning the state's highest court will be majority women for the first time in state history.

Carroll, who has been a state Superior Court judge since 2000, will replace retiring Justice John Dooley when she takes her seat April 1. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

Scott chose Carroll from a pool of eight candidates nominated by the Judicial Nominating Board, according to the governor's office.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) served on the Judicial Nominating Board. He anticipated no problem with confirming Carroll.

"The process at the Judicial Nominating Board is nonpartisan, thoughtful, really trying to cull from the list the very best," he said. "She wouldn't have advanced if there were reservations."

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Judge: McAllister Can Withdraw Plea in Sexual Assault Case

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 12:21 PM

Norm McAllister, right, is shown with his former attorney Brooks McArthur in court. - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Norm McAllister, right, is shown with his former attorney Brooks McArthur in court.
A Vermont Superior Court judge approved former state senator Norm McAllister’s request to withdraw from a plea agreement in his sexual assault case.

The decision, issued Thursday morning by Judge Martin Maley in St. Albans, means McAllister will stand trial on two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts and one felony charge of sexual assault.

The former Franklin County legislator could face up to life in prison if convicted of the sexual assault charge.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Safe Injection Site Commission Acknowledges Political Difficulties

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 5:58 PM

Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George at a press conference Wednesday - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George at a press conference Wednesday
Chittenden County officials on Wednesday launched an initiative to study the creation of safe drug injection sites by acknowledging the resistance the idea could face.

State's Attorney Sarah George, who created the study commission, urged skeptics to keep an open mind, and stressed that current, less controversial practices have left hundreds of Vermonters struggling with addiction.

"They don't want to be committing crimes; they want to be reliable and trustworthy," George said.

She hopes the commission makes a recommendation in the next few months on whether the county should open an injection site where street drug users would have medical supervision and be exempt from arrest, she said.

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Vermont Senate Unanimously Passes Media Shield Bill

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 4:35 PM

Freelance journalist Hilary Niles testifies in favor of a shield law in the Senate Government Operations Committee. - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Freelance journalist Hilary Niles testifies in favor of a shield law in the Senate Government Operations Committee.
The Vermont Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to provide protections for local journalists — and their sources.

Under the media shield bill, journalists could not be compelled to reveal confidential sources or the information that those sources provide.

S.96 also limits when a reporter can be forced to disclose information provided by a nonconfidential source to situations in which the material is highly relevant to a significant court case, unattainable by other means and when there's a "compelling need for disclosure."

"Lately, as we have seen, the press has come under assault like never before," said Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), who cosponsored the bill. "It is therefore timely that we review their role and how to protect it."

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Legal Pot Bill Clears Key Committee in Vermont House

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 3:27 PM

House Judiciary Committee chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), flanked by Reps. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury), left, and Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland) in committee Wednesday - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • House Judiciary Committee chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), flanked by Reps. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury), left, and Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland) in committee Wednesday
A bill that would legalize marijuana in Vermont is headed to the House floor next week, where leaders expect it will pass.

The House Judiciary Committee voted out the bill, H.170, by an 8-3 vote on Wednesday.

The action was delayed because House leaders feared the bill lacked the votes to pass the full chamber. That appears to have changed in the past few days.

“It sounds like we do have the votes ,” said Rep. Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Opinion
Walters: The Leahy-Gorsuch Two-Step

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 10:49 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy questions Judge Neil Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. - RON SACHS / CNP VIA AP
  • Ron Sachs / CNP via AP
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy questions Judge Neil Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearings are a tightly choreographed dance. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee deliver lengthy orations with questions dangling precariously at the end, and nominees try their best not to say anything that might reveal the slightest hint of an opinion.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has performed this dance more than probably any other human being who’s ever walked the earth, as the Senate’s longest currently serving member and the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. On Tuesday, he took a new partner for a spin: Appellate Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee. It was the second day of Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings but the first time the nominee was questioned under oath.

As in a dance, each partner plays a well-rehearsed role and is fully aware of the other’s moves. The one big difference: Astaire tries to step on his partner’s toes and provoke a reaction, while Rogers’ face maintains a resolute smile.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Leahy sometimes provoked a visible clench from the witness and a response best described as obsequious condescension. Gorsuch isn’t quite a skilled enough Rogers to completely hide his political differences with Leahy and his impatience with the senator’s tactics.

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Liberal Legislators Call for New Taxes to Counter State Budget Cuts

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:54 PM

Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury) advocates for a paid family leave bill Tuesday. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury) advocates for a paid family leave bill Tuesday.
Some of the Vermont legislature’s most liberal members have a message for their colleagues: Don’t bow to Gov. Phil Scott’s vow to veto tax increases.

The appeal came as the House Appropriations Committee prepares to finish its budget bill by the end of the week. As the panel pared a $73 million budget gap down to $6.4 million, complaints about budget cuts began to mount this week.

The committee is building a budget based on $5 million in new revenue that would be generated by cracking down on tax-law compliance, but has otherwise avoided raising taxes or fees.

That’s not sitting well with some members of the legislature.

“We have said, ‘Don’t take the liberal wing for granted,’” Rep. Paul Poirier (I-Barre) said Tuesday, flanked by other members of the Legislative Working Vermonters’ Caucus during a Statehouse press conference. “The workers caucus is not interested in cutting the human services budget.”

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