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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Vermont House OKs Changes to Education Finance System

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 7:39 PM

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, right - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, right
The Vermont House passed modest changes to the education finance system Wednesday, despite calls for more drastic reform and opposition from Gov. Phil Scott.

The bill, which passed 85-54, would shift $59 million in education funding from the property tax to the income tax. It would also cause tax rates to increase faster in school districts that spend more than about $12,000 per student, with the goal of discouraging high spending in future years.

Calling on her colleagues to be bolder, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) proposed an amendment that would have dramatically expanded the proposal, shifting about $120 million from the property tax to the income tax, among other changes.

“This is our chance to do something meaningful,” Scheuermann said. While many lawmakers complain that the current system is convoluted and contributes to high education spending, attempts to overhaul it have invariably failed.

Scheuermann's proposal, which was defeated on a 51-90 vote, closely resembled an early version of the bill that the Ways and Means Committee had previously ditched because it would have increased tax bills for low- and middle-income residents in high-spending districts.

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Walters: Leahy Letter on Sessions May Have Sparked FBI Probe

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 7:21 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy - RON SACHS / CNP VIA AP
  • Ron Sachs / CNP via AP
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy
Members of Congress write a lot of letters. Often, they make a big show of it. Usually, nothing more is ever heard.

But according to ABC News, a letter coauthored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and then-senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) may have touched off a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied during his January 2017 confirmation hearing.

Leahy and Franken sent the letter in March 2017 to then-FBI director James Comey, asserting that Sessions had provided testimony that "appears to be discernibly false" regarding his contacts with the Russian government or its officials, which may have constituted perjury.

The senators asked Comey to "investigate all contacts the Russian ambassador, or other Russian officials, may have had with Attorney General Sessions or with his staff, and whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred."

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Walters: Vermont Dead Last in Sending a Woman to Congress

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 1:47 PM

Vermont's all-male congressional delegation at a 2017 rally in Hardwick - FILE: JOHN WALTERS
  • File: John Walters
  • Vermont's all-male congressional delegation at a 2017 rally in Hardwick
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. When she takes office on April 1, Vermont will become the only state in the union to have never sent a woman to Congress.

Hyde-Smith is Mississippi's GOP agriculture and commerce commissioner. She's set to replace Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who announced his retirement earlier this month due to continuing health issues.

Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics keeps track of female representation and reports that Vermont and Mississippi were, until now, the only states to never send a woman to Congress.

"It's sad that we're last. We should be embarrassed to be last," said Ruth Hardy, executive director of Emerge Vermont, a nonprofit that trains and promotes Democratic women considering running for office. "I appreciate the work of our congressional delegation, but it's past time for us to send a woman to Washington."

"This is exactly why we started Emerge Vermont," said Rep. Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington), "to build a strong bench of women in politics."

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Weinberger Raised Record $125K During Burlington Mayoral Race

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 1:16 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger, Infinite Culcleasure and Carina Driscoll - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger, Infinite Culcleasure and Carina Driscoll
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger set a new fundraising record during his successful reelection campaign this year, collecting $125,577 en route to a third term in office, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday. The effort surpassed the city record $118,000 Weinberger raised during his first run for mayor in 2012.

Weinberger, a Democrat, earned 48 percent of the vote on Election Day. Independent Carina Driscoll won 35 percent and Infinite Culcleasure, who also ran as an independent, tallied 16 percent.

Driscoll, who eschewed corporate campaign contributions, raised $58,400 and spent $52,800. Culcleasure pulled in more than $11,700 and spent $7,700.

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Vermont House Panel Passes Landmark Gun Legislation

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 1:16 PM

Vermont's House Judiciary Committee - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Vermont's House Judiciary Committee
The House Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a major piece of gun legislation Wednesday. The bill would mandate background checks for all private gun sales, raise the gun purchasing age to 21, ban bump stocks that speed up the firing rate of guns and put a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.

It passed the committee in a 6-5 vote, with all four Republicans on the panel and Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury) opposing the legislation.

After the vote, Conquest explained that he supports parts of the bill, such as raising the gun buying age to 21 and a ban on bump stocks like those used in the Las Vegas shooting last year.

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