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Monday, September 10, 2018

Vermont Rep. Bissonnette to Resign, Opening Seat in Winooski

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 8:12 PM

Clem Bissonnette - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Clem Bissonnette
State Rep. Clem Bissonnette (D-Winooski) will submit his resignation Tuesday after 12 years in the Vermont Statehouse. His departure will shake up what otherwise would have been a predictable race in Winooski's two-seat district.

Bissonnette, an Onion City native, and his wife are moving to her hometown, Guildhall, in the Northeast Kingdom. They're making the move earlier than they expected because "a house that we love came up for sale," he explained.

Since Bissonnette missed the deadline for Democrats to replace him with another candidate, his name will still appear on the November 6 ballot alongside that of his seatmate, Rep. Diana González (P/D-Winooski). The two were running unopposed.

The outgoing lawmaker is encouraging voters to write in former Winooski mayor Michael O'Brien. Hal Colston, who won a write-in bid for the Winooski City Council last March, announced via Twitter Monday night that he also plans to run. WPTZ-TV reporter Stewart Ledbetter first reported news of Bissonnette's plans earlier Monday.

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Commission Discusses a Taxed-and-Regulated Cannabis Market for Vermont

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 7:16 PM

  • Luke Eastman
Officials in states that have legalized recreational cannabis think Vermont misstepped by not implementing a taxed-and-regulated market, Health Commissioner Mark Levine told a panel tasked with studying the issue.

He spoke Monday during a Statehouse meeting of the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission, which Gov. Phil Scott created by executive order in 2017 shortly after he vetoed a cannabis legalization measure. In January, Scott signed into law a bill that allows Vermonters to grow up to six plants at home and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It did not legalize the sale or distribution of cannabis.

The commission has continued its work, which one of its cochairs, Tom Little, said was to determine what a taxed-and-regulated system in the state should look like if the legislature chooses to create one. Its final report, due in December, will not include a recommendation as to whether Vermont should — or should not — create such a market, according to Little.

The eight other states that have legalized cannabis allow, or will allow, licensed stores to sell the drug. And Levine, as chair of the commission’s education and prevention subcommittee, said he’d heard from officials in Colorado and Washington state who thought Vermont’s half-measure was a mistake.

“They’re kind of saying, the home-grow route did not allow the degree of surveillance, the degree of monitoring, the degree of regulating that a different environment would have provided,” Levine said. “So their hopes were that we would learn from them and actually graduate from that to another structure.”

He added: "Their recommendation was: Go to tax and regulate."

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ACLU Slams Plan to Send Vermont Inmates to Mississippi Prison

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 3:18 PM

  • Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
  • Camp Hill prison
Updated 7:51 p.m.

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union slammed the Department of Corrections on Monday for preparing to send state inmates to a privately run prison in Mississippi.

Following reports of abuse and multiple deaths, more than 200 Vermont inmates currently living in a Pennsylvania prison will be moved next month to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi, reported on Sunday. The Mississippi facility is owned by CoreCivic, the company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.

Vermont had contracted with CCA to house inmates in Kentucky and Arizona from 2004 to 2015.

Critics such as the ACLU say Vermont should focus on reducing its inmate population through criminal justice reform measures so that the state would not have to enter into pricey contracts to send inmates out of state, where it is more difficult to monitor conditions.

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Authorities Say Investigating St. Joseph's Orphanage Abuse Won't Be Easy

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 2:42 PM

The former orphanage - NATALIE WILLIAMS
  • Natalie Williams
  • The former orphanage
Even as Vermont law enforcement officials announced Monday the formation of a task force to investigate claims of abuse at the long-shuttered St. Joseph's Catholic Orphanage, they acknowledged the challenges that it will face.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan suggested that the probe, prompted by a recent Buzzfeed story detailing decades of abuse suffered by children, could focus more on fact-finding than legal action. The story includes claims that children died at the hands of nuns.

Many of the victims and alleged perpetrators are dead or elderly, and the statutes of limitation have expired for many acts at the North Avenue orphanage, which closed in 1974.

"While there may be challenges given the current state of our laws ... there should be no challenge to bringing truth and reconciliation and closure and justice for victims," Donovan said. He added, "Justice doesn't always occur in a courtroom."

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