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Friday, March 8, 2019

Opinion
Media Note: VTDigger Scores a Small Win on EB-5 Documents

Posted By on Fri, Mar 8, 2019 at 6:18 PM

VTDigger founder and editor, Anne Galloway - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • VTDigger founder and editor, Anne Galloway
Gov. Phil Scott, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan and VTDigger.org founder and editor Anne Galloway issued a press release Friday afternoon touting a settlement in Digger's lengthy battle for access to documents in the EB-5 scandal.

Digger is seeking a total of 1.5 million pages of relevant documents. The state has refused to release them, citing ongoing litigation.

At first glance, Friday's press release appeared to signal a major step in the legal battle — but in actual fact, according to Galloway, it only included 100 or so pages.

She called the document release "minuscule," and added that, "We worked really hard to get them. We had a team of lawyers at work for at least four months." Galloway called it an "outrage that it takes so much effort to get so little."

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Opinion
Media Note: Kurt Wright to Take Over WVMT Morning Show

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Rep. Kurt Wright - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Rep. Kurt Wright
After only two months on the air, the "Pete and Sarah in the Morning" show on WVMT (620 AM) has come to an end. Cohosts Pete Belair and Sarah Mitiguy were informed after their Friday broadcast that they were being fired, Belair said. A new local talk show featuring Burlington City Council President Kurt Wright and DJ/podcaster Marcus Certa will take over the 6 to 9 a.m. broadcast on Monday.

Belair and Mitiguy had been cohosts of a morning music show on WXXX-FM (95 Triple X) until late last year. They moved to WVMT at the beginning of January, taking the place of longtime morning hosts Charlie Papillo and Ernie Farrar, who both retired. Now, with their new show coming to an abrupt end and their Triple X time slot filled by a nationally syndicated show, Belair and Mitiguy are looking for work.

Marcus Certa - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Marcus Certa
"They told me how good I was at music but [that] I didn't have the chops for political talk," Belair said. Perhaps, but what did WVMT management expect? Belair is a veteran music host who'd never done talk radio before, and Mitiguy's radio experience was all music, as well. If they were going to make a successful transition, two months was hardly enough time.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Opinion
Walters: Welch Grills Cohen on WikiLeaks Email Dump

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 6:50 PM

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Michael Cohen
  • U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen told U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) Wednesday that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump knew in advance of the July 2016 WikiLeaks release of internal emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee's computer system.

Welch, a member of the U.S. House Oversight Committee, got five minutes to question Cohen during a hearing that riveted the nation. Welch focused on the emails and Trump's foreknowledge of their release. Cohen testified that on July 18 or 19, 2016, he was in Trump's office when Trump's assistant said, "Roger is on line one."

She meant Roger Stone, longtime conservative operative and dirty trickster. Trump put the call on speakerphone, Cohen testified.

"[Stone] said, 'Mr. Trump, I just want to let you know that I just got off the phone with [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange, and in a couple of days there's going to be a massive dump of emails that's going to severely hurt the Clinton campaign,'" Cohen said.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Opinion
Walters: Republicans Offer Flurry of Amendments to Vermont Abortion Bill

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 5:45 PM

House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy
Facing certain House passage of a bill establishing abortion rights in Vermont law, minority Republicans forced an extended debate Wednesday by offering 10 separate amendments and demanding roll call votes on each one. In the end, the bill received preliminary approval by a 104-40 tally.

"It's democracy at work," House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy (R-Poultney) said in explaining the demand for roll calls. "I think our members wanted [roll call votes]. It's a very personal and emotional issue."

Vermont has had no restrictions on abortion since 1972. Supporters of H.57 say that abortion rights must now be protected in law, given the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1972 decision establishing abortion rights.

Rep. Carl Rosenquist (R-Georgia) proposed an amendment establishing legal rights for fetuses developed enough to survive outside the womb. "The most underrepresented person or thing in Vermont is a viable fetus," he said in floor debate. "It feels pain, it feels love."

The amendment was defeated on a 106-41 vote, largely along party lines.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Opinion
Walters: Abortion Rights Bill Headed for Floor Vote in the Vermont House

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 3:29 PM

House Judiciary Committee discussing H.57 - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • House Judiciary Committee discussing H.57
The House Judiciary Committee has approved legislation to protect abortion rights in Vermont law. The Friday morning vote to send the bill to the full House was 9-2. Rep. Tom Burditt (R-Rutland) was the only Republican to vote in favor of it.

The bill, H.57, had previously been approved by the House Human Services Committee. Judiciary made a number of changes in an effort to clarify its intent.

Supporters say the bill is necessary in case the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the decision that established a legal right to abortion.

Opponents have claimed that H.57 would open the door to unlimited abortion rights — even for late-term abortions. Not so, said legislative counsel Brynn Hare. "Any procedure prohibited under federal law would continue to be prohibited under H.57," she told the committee.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Opinion
Walters: One Year Later, Fair Haven Still Resonates

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 4:42 PM

Brooke Olsen-Farrell, superintendent of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, with Gov. Phil Scott - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Brooke Olsen-Farrell, superintendent of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, with Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott began his weekly press conference Thursday by recalling a tragedy and a near-tragedy that occurred the same week in February 2018. He cited the one-year anniversary of the "senseless, tragic and horrific" school shooting on February 14 in Parkland, Fla. — and the apparent plan by a Vermont teenager to commit a mass shooting at Fair Haven Union High School, which was thwarted just a day after Parkland.

The governor praised the Fair Haven community for its "courage in supporting each other."

The arrest of 18-year-old Jack Sawyer and the revelation of his detailed plans to shoot "as many as I can get" proved to be a turning point for Scott. In the aftermath, the governor reversed his longstanding opposition to gun-safety legislation. In April, he signed a package of gun bills into law.
Brooke Olsen-Farrell, superintendent of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, spoke of the "tremendously resilient community" at the high school. "Everyone has banded together to really support one another," she added.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Opinion
Walters: House Panel Approves Abortion Rights Bill

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 12:59 PM

Lawmakers listen to testimony Wednesday - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Lawmakers listen to testimony Wednesday
Less than 24 hours after an emotional public hearing, the Vermont House Committee on Human Services approved a bill establishing abortion rights in state law.

The Thursday morning vote on H.57 was 8-3, with all three Republican members voting no. The yes votes came from the panel's six Democrats plus Reps. Sandy Haas (P-Rochester) and Kelly Pajala (I-Londonderry).

The bill was amended in an effort to clarify its intent. Opponents had claimed that H.57 would open the door to unlimited abortion rights. Supporters argued that the bill would not supersede federal laws, and that state law has contained no limits on abortion access since 1972 without any nightmare scenarios coming to pass.
The new version of H.57 eliminates a provision declaring that fetuses have no rights. It also adds language specifying that the bill would not supersede the federal ban on late-term dilation and extraction procedures, which abortion opponents refer to as "partial-birth abortions."

Fetuses currently have no rights in Vermont law due to the 1989 Vermont Supreme Court decision in State v. Oliver. The case involved a traffic crash resulting in the death of a fetus. The court ruled that there was no legal basis to charge the offending driver with negligent operation of a vehicle resulting in death.

The House Judiciary Committee will take up the bill next week.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Opinion
Walters: Vermont Abortion Bill Hearing Features Emotional Testimony

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 8:59 PM

An observer and her baby at the Statehouse Wednesday - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • An observer and her baby at the Statehouse Wednesday
Several hundred people swarmed the Vermont Statehouse Wednesday afternoon for a public hearing on an abortion rights bill. Members of two House committees — Human Services and Judiciary — sat around tables in the well of the House. Those who wanted to testify, or simply be present, filled almost every other seat in the chamber.

Anti-abortion groups and the Vermont Republican Party had urged members to attend the hearing and speak out against H.57, a bill that would establish reproductive rights in state law. “This is a watershed moment,” VTGOP chair Deb Billado said. “We wanted to urge people to be there and express their opinions.”

Opponents say the bill would go beyond current legal protections and create an absolute right to abortion — including late-term abortion. “The bill implies that at eight months and 30 days, you can abort a baby,” Billado said. “I find this to be a horrific thing.”

Supporters say that federal law supersedes state law and would prevent any expansion of abortion rights beyond current practice.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Opinion
Walters: Krowinski Feted at Democratic Fundraiser

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 3:19 PM

Rep. Jill Krowinski - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Rep. Jill Krowinski
Democratic lawmakers, party leaders and Statehouse lobbyists gathered Wednesday night at the Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center in Montpelier for a fundraiser carefully crafted to avoid violating legislative rules.

The guest of honor was House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington). Multiple Democrats praised her work as a party builder — and talked of her as a future candidate for U.S. Congress. Clearly, Krowinski is seen as a rising star in Vermont Democratic circles.

Proceeds from the "Speaker's Soiree" went to the state party, not to lawmakers or their political action committee.

In 2015, the legislature passed a bill prohibiting lawmakers from seeking lobbyist contributions during sessions. The following year, House Democrats dissolved their political action committee. Their fundraising events continued, but the proceeds went to the Vermont Democratic Party.

The invitation to the ninth-annual soiree included a small-print disclaimer to display compliance with the law: "House Democrats are not soliciting funds from lobbyists or lobbyist employers for this event."

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Opinion
Walters: Scott Doesn't Support Trump's Reelection

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 5:11 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday declined an opportunity to endorse Republican President Donald Trump for reelection in 2020. During his weekly press conference, Scott did not utter the name "Donald Trump." But in a series of brief answers to press inquiries, he implicitly rejected Trump as his party's 2020 standard-bearer.

When asked if he had a preference in the next election, Scott replied, "I do not have a candidate I favor for 2020."

Asked if he would like to see a competitive Republican primary, Scott said, "It wouldn't bother me." When asked if a contested primary would be a good thing, he said, "From my standpoint, I think it would be." He would not suggest any alternative candidates.

Scott refused to endorse Trump in 2016. Since then, Scott has repeatedly distanced himself from the president, sometimes drawing the ire of VTGOP loyalists for doing so.

Scott's criticism has often focused on Trump's style. "Leaders should unite, not divide," Scott said, during the final debate of his reelection campaign. He has drawn a contrast between the rough-and-tumble of national politics and his own efforts to maintain an atmosphere of civility in Montpelier. He has differed with Trump on numerous issues as well.

In 2017, Scott signed a bill that set limits on state or local law enforcement agencies' participation in federal immigration-enforcement actions. He has been critical of Trump's hard line on the issue and opposed the separation of immigrant families at the border with Mexico. He also slammed Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords. And he refused to sign a Republican Governors Association letter endorsing Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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