Statehouse | Off Message | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Statehouse

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Vermont Legislators Wary After Trump Signs Pipeline Orders

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 9:09 PM

Luke Martland, director of the Office of Legislative Council, testifies before the House Energy and Technology Committee Tuesday. - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Luke Martland, director of the Office of Legislative Council, testifies before the House Energy and Technology Committee Tuesday.
President Donald Trump’s two recent executive orders aimed at speeding up the construction of oil and gas pipelines have raised concerns among Vermont legislators who are considering a ban on such projects.

The orders, signed April 10, will make it easier for companies to build oil and gas pipeline projects, and harder for states to use the federal Clean Water Act to block them.

Meanwhile, local environmental groups want to see Vermont take bolder action to address climate change, including by restricting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the state.

The House Energy and Technology Committee is considering three bills that would do just that. H.51 would outright ban new fossil fuel infrastructure; H.175 would limit the use of eminent domain for pipeline projects; and H.214 would require the Public Utility Commission to consider potential fuel leaks in groundwater when approving new natural gas facilities.

A public hearing on the three bills is scheduled for April 23.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 12, 2019

Vermont Senate to Vote on Amending Slavery Clause in State Constitution

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 7:07 PM

The Senate Government Operations Committee - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • The Senate Government Operations Committee
The Vermont Senate will vote on a constitutional amendment to clarify a ban on slavery and officially prohibit indentured servitude in the state.

The proposed change would replace a portion of Article 1, Chapter 1 of the constitution. The section banned slavery in 1777, but it has an exception allowing minors to be indentured servants for the payment of debts.

“Although the original constitution did prohibit slavery, it did not prohibit indentured servitude,” Vermont Law School professor and constitutional scholar Peter Teachout told the Senate Government Operations Committee on Friday.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Springfield Rep. Robert Forguites Dies

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2019 at 11:12 AM

Rep. Robert Forguites (D-Springfield) - COURTESY OF THE VERMONT HOUSE
  • Courtesy of the Vermont House
  • Rep. Robert Forguites (D-Springfield)
Updated at 12:30 p.m.

Vermont Rep. Robert Forguites (D-Springfield) died in his sleep over the weekend, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) told her colleagues at the Statehouse Tuesday morning.

There was a collective gasp in the House chamber when Johnson announced Forguites' death. Her voice breaking with emotion, Johnson called on her colleagues to support each other as they remembered “a man that represented the best of Vermont.”

Johnson said Forguites was found dead on Monday. He was 80.

Forguites was born and raised in Brandon, Vt., then served in the Army, according to his legislative bio. He served as Springfield town manager for 16 years and was first elected in 2014 to represent that city in the House. He is survived by a son, Adam.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Vermont House Backs Paid Family Leave Bill

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 7:16 PM

Members of the House taking their oaths of office - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Members of the House taking their oaths of office
After a long debate Thursday, the Vermont House voted 92-52 to advance legislation that would create a mandatory, statewide paid family leave program. Though the bill won widespread support, it fell short of the two-thirds margin necessary to override a potential veto from Gov. Phil Scott.

The initiative would launch in October 2020 and allow up to 12 weeks of paid “bonding” leave for new parents and eight weeks of paid leave for workers who are sick or injured, or caring for a sick or injured spouse or relative.

During approved leave, workers would receive 90 percent of their normal pay up to $13.34 per hour, the current livable wage established by state economists. The benefit drops to 50 percent for wages above that amount.

To fund the program, businesses would be required to pay 0.1 percent of employees’ earnings beginning in April 2020. Starting in October 2020, that rate would go up to 0.55 percent, or 5.5 cents for every $10 paid to employees. Businesses would have the option to deduct those payments from employees’ checks, share the cost with workers or pay the entire cost.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Vermont Senate Advances Abortion Rights Constitutional Amendment

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 5:34 PM

Sen. Ginny Lyons speaks in favor of Proposition 5 Thursday on the Senate floor - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Ginny Lyons speaks in favor of Proposition 5 Thursday on the Senate floor
By a resounding vote of 28 to 2, the Vermont Senate on Thursday moved to enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution. The vote sets off a multiyear process that could culminate in a statewide referendum in the 2022 election.

The one-sentence constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 5, would guarantee that "an individual's right to personal reproductive autonomy ... shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means."

Supporters of the measure argued Thursday that while abortion remains legal in Vermont and throughout the country, that may not always be the case.

"For nearly 50 years, Vermonters have relied on the protections offered by Supreme Court case law to support how we value personal autonomy and reproductive health decisions," Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden) told her colleagues on the Senate floor.

But those protections could be overturned by "a very conservative U.S. Supreme Court," she said. "It's time to put the question to the voters in this state."

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 29, 2019

Vermont Senate Backs Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags, Foam Containers

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 2:35 PM

Sen. Ann Cummings questioning Sen. Chris Bray about a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Sen. Ann Cummings questioning Sen. Chris Bray about a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags.
The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to legislation that would ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags, foam containers and plastic straws, with some exceptions.

The 27-3 vote followed a short debate that largely focused on a 10-cent fee on single-use paper bags included in the bill. Some senators voiced concern that the fee would be a hardship for low-income Vermonters.

Mostly, though, senators spoke in support of the bill, S.113, which would also establish a study committee to examine the effects of plastic on Vermont’s waste stream and other policies that might help reduce plastic waste.

Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison), the bill’s lead sponsor, said Vermont needs to address plastic waste “without being the street sweeper following the parade — always cleaning up.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 28, 2019

House of Landlords: Property-Owning Senators Mull Tenant Protections

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 9:35 PM

Sens. Jeanette White, left, and Alison Clarkson. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Sens. Jeanette White, left, and Alison Clarkson.
After Sen. Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) on Thursday pitched her colleagues on legislation designed to protect tenants in Vermont’s 78,000 rental units, two senators argued against it — not on the grounds that the bill would hurt the economy or be ineffective, but because it would affect their personal finances.

The bill, S.163, includes the creation of a statewide database of all rental units, state funding for a new Department of Health staffer to oversee rental housing conditions and a requirement that residential building contractors register with the state in order to reduce home improvement fraud. Clarkson described it as a consumer protection bill.

Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) objected to some of the policies. She said a statewide list of rental units would include an apartment in her home that she rents out.

“I do not want my apartment listed,” White said during a debate on the Senate floor. “My apartment is in my house, and I choose who I rent it to.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Montpeculiar: Hammer Time in the Vermont House

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 5:44 PM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) cleaned off her podium after accidentally smashing a glass lampshade with a gavel. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) cleaned off her podium after accidentally smashing a glass lampshade with a gavel.
Updated March 28, 2019 at 12 p.m.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) learned an important lesson Wednesday when she picked up her gavel and smashed the glass top of an antique lamp that’s been in the Statehouse for more than a century.

She'd been aiming for a small piece of wood that serves as the target for the gavel (and protects the podium underneath).

“Note to self: Do not put the gavel square too close to the lamp,” Johnson said, after cleaning up shards of glass from around the speaker’s podium.
montpeculiar2.jpg

Johnson, the former chair of the House Appropriations Committee, quipped that she might have to propose an amendment to this year's capital bill, which pays for the maintenance of state government properties.

Johnson was using the gavel to open proceedings in the House chamber just before a vote on controversial weatherization legislation, which would double the tax for home heating fuels. Her right-handed swing brought the head of the gavel into contact with one of two lamps that stand on either side of the podium at the front of the House chamber.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Following Accusations of Sexism, Vermont Judge Wins Six-Year Term

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Sen. Alice Nitka, center, meeting with colleagues - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Sen. Alice Nitka, center, meeting with colleagues
The Vermont legislature on Wednesday gave eight superior court judges six more years on the job, including Judge Samuel Hoar, who has faced criticism over his alleged treatment of women who have appeared before him or work in the court system.

During a joint assembly of the state House and Senate, legislators voted 129 to 36 to keep Hoar on the bench. Each of the other judges up for a vote Wednesday were approved by even larger margins. Five were approved unanimously.

At a late February meeting of the legislature's Joint Committee on Judicial Retention, two female attorneys testified that Hoar had treated them in a sexist and condescending way, as VTDigger.org and the Burlington Free Press reported at the time. The lawyers, a deputy state's attorney and a former law clerk of Hoar's, said the judge had acted aggressively and dismissively toward women in the courtroom.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2019 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation