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Monday, June 10, 2019

Scott Vetoes Gun-Purchase Waiting Period, Signs Abortion Bill

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 8:58 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: JOSH KUCKENS
  • File: Josh Kuckens
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated on June 11, 2019.

Gov. Phil Scott on Monday vetoed a 24-hour waiting period for handgun sales in Vermont and signed a bill protecting a woman's right to an abortion.

The legislature passed S.169 to create a cooling-off period to reduce acts of impulsive gun violence, especially suicides. But Scott, citing a number of other gun restrictions he has signed, said he didn't think the new bill hit the mark.

“With these measures in place, we must now prioritize strategies that address the underlying causes of violence and suicide," Scott said in a statement. "I do not believe S.169 addresses these areas."

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Vermont to Enact Abortion Rights Law, Gov. Scott's Aide Says

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2019 at 10:37 PM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott intends to allow a sweeping abortion-rights bill to become law, spokesperson Rebecca Kelley said Monday night.

According to Kelley, the Republican governor "has ruled out a veto" of H.57, which codifies the right to an abortion and prohibits public entities from interfering with a woman's right to choose. "It will become law," Kelley said.

Scott has not, however, decided whether he will sign H.57 or let it become law without his signature. Though the Vermont House and Senate have both passed the measure, the legislature has not yet formally transmitted it to Scott's office.

"He plans to/wants to read the final bill in full and deliberate further from there," Kelley said in a written message. NBC5 reporter Stewart Ledbetter first reported the news earlier Monday evening.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Scott Signs Bill Hiking Legal Smoking Age to 21

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 5:07 PM

  • Luke Eastman
Gov. Phil Scott has signed into law a bill that will raise the legal age to purchase tobacco or e-cigarettes in Vermont from 18 to 21 — capping years of lobbying by health advocates.

The governor signed S.86 on Thursday, to the delight of groups such as the American Heart Association. Because most smokers pick up the harmful and addictive habit before they are 21, fewer people will start, health advocates reason.

The law takes effect September 1, 2019.

Similar legislation failed in 2016 and 2017. This year, lawmakers cited concerns about young people being exposed to more and more products.

"E-cigarettes, vaping, Juuling are taking over," Sen. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden), a sponsor of the bill, warned in February. Flavored smokes appeal to kids, she added, and raising the legal age to 21 would make it harder for teens to get around age restrictions.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Abortion Protections Advance in Vermont Statehouse

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 8:00 PM

The Vermont House of Representatives - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • The Vermont House of Representatives
Vermont’s House and Senate on Tuesday each approved new legal protections for women’s access to reproductive health care.

House lawmakers voted 106-38 to approve an amendment to the state’s constitution that originated in the Senate. The Senate, meanwhile, approved a bill, known as the Freedom of Choice Act, that originated in the House and was designed to ensure protections for abortion rights to Vermonters regardless of the outcome of the constitutional amendment, which won’t be decided until 2022.

Abortion has been a legally protected right in Vermont since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In response to the unpredictable nature of the federal government under President Donald Trump, lawmakers this year pursued a two-pronged approach to making those protections clear at the state level.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Minimum Wage Increase Could Trigger Costly Medicaid Shortfall

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2019 at 6:43 PM

Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury)
A bill to raise Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 an hour hit a setback Tuesday when a legislative economist informed members of a House committee that an amendment to the measure could cost the state about $28 million over the next five years.

The bulk of those costs are part of an effort to prevent “wage compression,” which happens when the lowest-paid employees at an organization receive a raise but employees making slightly more do not.

Analysts say wage compression can put businesses in a pinch as middle-level staff who aren’t subject to the minimum wage increase demand raises of their own or seek other jobs.

The legislation, S.23, doesn’t require private-sector employers to take measures to avoid wage compression, but a proposed amendment would require home health agencies and other Medicaid-funded employers to do so.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Saint-Gobain to Pay Millions for Water Lines in Bennington

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 4:32 PM

Gov. Phil Scott with (from left) Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke and Bennington County Senators Dick Sears and Brian Campion. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Gov. Phil Scott with (from left) Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke and Bennington County Senators Dick Sears and Brian Campion.
Vermont officials announced a deal Wednesday that will bring clean water to hundreds of Bennington-area homes that have had their wells poisoned by perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA.

The toxins in the groundwater were discovered in early 2016 in private drinking wells near a defunct manufacturing plant once operated by the company Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. Gov. Phil Scott announced Wednesday that the company has agreed to pay millions of dollars to extend municipal water lines to 245 homes on the east side of Bennington.

State taxpayers will pay about $4.7 million to extend municipal water lines up sparsely populated roads on the outskirts of town, officials said, but Saint-Gobain’s contribution could be as much as $20 million.

Agency of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Peter Walke said the company has also agreed to pay for ongoing PFOA monitoring in Bennington-area drinking water and to pay for treatment systems and new wells for about 20 residences where municipal water lines won’t reach.

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Monday, March 25, 2019

House and Senate at Odds on Lead Limit for Vermont Schools

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 4:58 PM

  • File: Michael Tonn
Lawmakers are moving quickly to address lead in drinking water at Vermont’s schools and childcare centers, but the House and Senate disagree on how strict the state’s standards should be.

The Senate has approved legislation that would require lead testing at all schools and childcare facilities and would mandate plumbing work at any schools with lead levels higher than three parts per billion. The Senate also approved $2.5 million to fund the tests and half the costs of replacing any faucets.

The legislature's urgency is due in part to a 2018 Agency of Education pilot program that tested water at 16 schools. Of the 900 faucets and fountains checked, 27 had lead levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit of 15 parts per billion. In response, Gov. Phil Scott called on the legislature to act quickly to expand the program statewide.

House Education chair Kate Webb (D-Shelburne) said Monday that her committee fully supports lead reduction, but its members have concerns about the Senate plan. The House panel is working this week on the bill that the Senate passed and could make significant changes.

“What we’re finding in hearing from facilities managers is that some of the assumptions that [Senators] made … are not always accurate,” Webb said.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Vermont Senate Approves Raising Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 3:52 PM

  • Mbr Images |
The Vermont Senate advanced legislation Thursday that would raise the legal age for tobacco purchases, including e-cigarettes, to 21.

Sen. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden) said the bill was designed to reduce smoking rates, noting that most people don’t take up smoking after their 21st birthday.

“Only 5 percent of smokers smoking now started smoking after the age of 21,” Ingram said.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Vermont U.S. Attorney Reaches $57 Million Settlement With Health Records Company

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 3:02 PM

  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • Christina Nolan
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Vermont has reached another large settlement with a health care company accused of defrauding Medicare of millions.

Tampa, Fla.-based company Greenway Health will forfeit $57.25 million to the U.S. government, the second-largest monetary recovery ever in the District of Vermont, U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan said Wednesday during a press conference announcing the settlement.

Greenway's alleged fraud is very similar to a 2017 case prosecuted by the district against another electronic health records provider, eClinicalWorks, that was resolved through the largest-ever recovery, a $155 million settlement.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Turning Point Center Celebrates Its New Digs in Burlington

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 4:16 PM

Gary De Carolis and Mayor Miro Weinberger - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Gary De Carolis and Mayor Miro Weinberger
The Turning Point Center of Chittenden County unveiled its permanent new space Tuesday with plenty of fanfare during a celebratory open house.

The nonprofit organization provides support for those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. It's in the process of purchasing the building, at the intersection of King Street and South Winooski Avenue, from the Champlain Housing Trust for $850,000, according to the center's executive director, Gary De Carolis.

It's about 60 percent larger than the former location above Phoenix Books on Bank Street, De Carolis said. The center has already completed $350,000 worth of renovations, building an art studio, spaces for yoga and meetings, offices, and a kitchen. Turning Point's 14 staff and roughly 30 volunteers moved into the space last month.

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