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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Baruth to Propose Waiting Period for Gun Purchases

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2018 at 7:32 PM

Sen. Phil Baruth - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Phil Baruth
In the wake of a young Vermonter's suicide, Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden) said he will introduce a package of gun safety measures in the 2019 legislative session that includes a mandatory 48-hour waiting period before purchasing a firearm.

Baruth announced his intention on Facebook Wednesday, and he referred to the death of 23-year-old Andrew Black, an Essex resident who died in his home on December 6. Black's mother, Alyssa Hughes Black, told WPTZ-TV that her son bought a gun late that morning and shot himself within a few hours.

In Black's obituary, his parents urged people to "work for legislation that imposes a reasonable waiting period between firearm purchase and possession to provide a cooling off period to guard against impulsive acts of violence."

California, Illinois and Rhode Island are among the states that have established waiting periods in law.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Welch Ends Holdout, Backs Pelosi for Speaker

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 9:09 PM

Rep. Peter Welch - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Rep. Peter Welch
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) held out until the last possible moment before publicly announcing his support for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) bid for House speaker.

The House Democratic Caucus met Wednesday to choose its leaders for the congressional session that begins in January. Welch had refused to declare his position until just before that meeting. According to Welch, Pelosi got 203 votes, more than enough to secure the caucus' nomination. She will need at least 218 votes in January when the full House elects a speaker.

Welch had sought changes in how the House is governed, claiming that too much authority has migrated to its leadership. In a statement released before the vote, Welch said that Pelosi "has personally committed to me that she will reform the legislative process, make it more transparent, and allow the diverse ideas of all members to be considered."

Welch elaborated in a phone interview following the caucus. During the speakership of retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Welch said, "power was concentrated in the speaker's office. The committees were completely bypassed." He said that major pieces of legislation were written by leadership and rushed through with little or no review or testimony. Restoring committee power, he added, would "produce better legislation."

When asked whether Pelosi might be weakened by having to negotiate for support, Welch demurred. "She ended up with 203 votes," he said. "That's a pretty solid majority." Thirty-two caucus members voted "no" on Pelosi, while three returned blank ballots, and one member — a Pelosi supporter — was absent.

Pelosi will need at least 218 votes in January, when the full House will elect a speaker. Welch doesn't see that as a problem. "She would need 14 votes out of the 35 who didn't vote for her [Wednesday]," Welch said. "That's very doable when the choice is between Pelosi and the Republican nominee. It's one thing for a Democrat to vote no in caucus. It's another to vote yes for a Republican."

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Democrats Gain Ground in Vermont Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 3:31 AM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
Vermont Democrats appear to have won a veto-proof majority in the state House on Tuesday and bolstered their existing supermajority in the Senate, according to preliminary results from the Secretary of State's Office.

Among the victims of a surge in Democratic enthusiasm was Rep. Kurt Wright (R-Burlington), who was ousted Tuesday by New North End voters. He was the last remaining Republican to represent the Queen City in the House.

A few districts remained unsettled as of early Wednesday morning, but unofficial returns indicated that Democrats picked up 12 seats held by Republicans, plus two seats occupied by independents. The Dems also lost two seats to Republicans, while Progressives held on to all seven of theirs.

If the current tallies hold, a net gain of 12 seats for Democrats and Progressives would push their combined caucuses to 102 — two more than the two-thirds majority required to override gubernatorial vetoes. The House Republican caucus would be reduced to a mere 43.

In his victory speech Tuesday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Burlington, Republican Gov. Phil Scott hinted at the daunting opposition he will face in his second term.

"By electing a governor of one party and a legislature [of] another, the message Vermonters have sent to us tonight is clear: 'Work together,'" Scott said. That may signal a new approach, after a first term that saw 14 gubernatorial vetoes.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Scott, Hallquist Continue Modest Fundraising Pace

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 8:30 PM

Gov. Phil Scott (left) and Christine Hallquist - GLENN RUSSELL | JAMES BUCK
  • Glenn Russell | James Buck
  • Gov. Phil Scott (left) and Christine Hallquist
In their final pre-election campaign finance reports, Republican Gov. Phil Scott continued to outpace Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist. As has been true throughout the campaign, both candidates raised money at a relatively modest pace compared to gubernatorial campaigns in recent years.

Hallquist did raise enough money to underwrite a limited TV ad buy in the closing days of the race — her first foray into television. According to campaign manager Cameron Russell, her ads will feature endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), former vice president Joe Biden and others.

Scott reported raising nearly $127,000 between October 15 and November 2, bringing his fundraising total to $688,521. At the same point in the 2016 campaign, Scott had raised close to $1.5 million.

Hallquist reported financial contributions of $94,049 in the most recent period, bringing her campaign total to $507,451. At the same point in 2016, Democratic candidate Sue Minter had raised slightly less than $2 million.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Final Debate Between Scott and Hallquist a Lively, Testy Affair

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 10:09 PM

Christine Hallquist and Gov. Phil Scott at Thursday's debate. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Christine Hallquist and Gov. Phil Scott at Thursday's debate.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist held their final debate Thursday night, and it was marked by a lively pace and frequent clashes between the two candidates. The event took place at Saint Michael's College in Colchester before a student audience, and was broadcast live on WPTZ-TV.

Both candidates pivoted quickly to their preferred talking points, and each took numerous opportunities to poke at each other. At times, they even talked over each other at some length, each seeking to get in the last word.

Hallquist repeatedly characterized Scott's first term as a repeated "failure of leadership" and accused him of lacking a long-term vision. The governor, meanwhile, strongly defended his record, criticized Hallquist for going negative and repeatedly called for civility in political life.

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Opinion
Walters: Republican Mailer Slams Hallquist on Taxes

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 4:50 PM

The mailer - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • The mailer
Vermont households are receiving mailers from a national Republican organization that support Gov. Phil Scott and slam Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist as a tax-and-spender.

The mailer, obtained by Seven Days, was sent by A Stronger Vermont, which is operated by the national Republican Governors Association. The price tag for the flyer, according to campaign finance reports: nearly $60,000.

Hallquist is not pictured at all; instead, there's a stark image of the Statehouse in weather conditions that are either highly unusual or, frankly, Photoshopped. A bright sun shines down on the iconic building, but the skies behind are dark and threatening. The reverse side features a rather unflattering picture of Scott that would seem more appropriate in an attack ad.

Hallquist spokesperson David Glidden offered a recursive response to the mailer. "If they feel the only way they can win is these negative tactics, then that's the only way they feel they can win," he said.

The mailer's focus is entirely on taxes, and its claims are misleading and exaggerated but not entirely untrue. Scott is credited with championing an income tax cut. True, but leaders of the Democratic legislature were equally enthusiastic about the measure, which was a corrective to unintended consequences of President Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts.

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Opinion
Walters: VTGOP Donor Gives Big Bucks to Anti-Trans Massachusetts Initiative

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 11:17 AM

The logo of the 'Keep MA Safe' organization in Massachusetts - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The logo of the 'Keep MA Safe' organization in Massachusetts
Carol Breuer, a notably generous donor to Vermont Republicans, has given $110,000 to a Massachusetts ballot initiative that would roll back civil rights protections for transgender people. The campaign leans heavily on scare tactics, as seen in the above logo and its TV ad campaign.

Breuer and her husband Tom are residents of Winchester, Mass. They bought a second home in Stowe five years ago. In each of the three election cycles since then, they have given tens of thousands of dollars to Vermont Republican candidates and to the party itself. (They have not given any money to Gov. Phil Scott, who may be too moderate for their tastes.)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Opinion
Walters: National Republican Groups Ramp Up Vermont Spending

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 8:21 PM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
Updated at 4:10 p.m. on October 24, 2018.

Two Republican super PACs have begun investing big money in Vermont’s general election campaign.

The Republican State Leadership Committee Vermont PAC is spending $186,000 for advertising against left-leaning Vermont politicians: House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero), Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive and Democrat. It's the single largest expenditure by an outside group in this year's general election campaign.

The super PAC filed its spending report late Tuesday with the Vermont Secretary of State's Office. Expenditures include $116,800 on television ads, $7,500 on radio and $61,700 on postcards.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Vermont Political Rivals' Duet Goes National

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 11:54 AM

Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers
Two candidates for a rural Vermont House seat are hitting the big time: They'll be featured this weekend on CBS News.

Democrat Lucy Rogers and Republican Zac Mayo, the two under-30 candidates for the seat representing Cambridge, Jeffersonville and Waterville, held a candidates' forum on October 10 at the Varnum Memorial Library in Jeffersonville. They ended the event with a song: "Society" by Eddie Vedder, whose lyrics are a scathing rebuke of materialism and greed.

On Monday, the candidates got calls from CBS News. Two days later, they found themselves being shadowed for a day by "On the Road" correspondent Steve Hartman and his camera crew. "It all happened lightning-fast," said Mayo.

"My understanding is that a person who attended the forum got in touch with them," Rogers said. "The CBS producer told me, 'You have to do this story because there's no other story like this anywhere!'"

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Vermont Political Debate Ends in Harmony ... Literally

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2018 at 6:42 PM

Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers
On Wednesday night, two candidates for Vermont House held a forum in the local library that had a very unusual ending. After a thorough debate of the issues, the two joined together to perform a song.

The setting was the Varnum Memorial Library in Jeffersonville. The candidates are Democrat Lucy Rogers and Republican Zac Mayo, who are vying for the seat representing Cambridge, Jeffersonville and Waterville now held by retiring Republican Rep. Bernie Juskiewicz. The song they chose was "Society" by Eddie Vedder. The lyrics condemn materialism and greed, and end with a farewell to society. Mayo strummed a guitar while Rogers played cello.

Both sang the melancholy chorus:
Society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me
"It’s always been a personal favorite of mine," said Mayo. "It's always resonated with me."

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