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Friday, March 25, 2022

Scott Signs First New Gun Control Measure Since 2018

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2022 at 7:09 PM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott on Friday signed S.4, a bill that doesn't quite close the so-called "Charleston loophole" in mandated background checks of gun buyers, but narrows it.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden) initially sought to eliminate the loophole, which has allowed people to buy guns when their background check wasn’t completed in time. That's what enabled a 21-year-old white supremacist to buy the .45-caliber pistol that he used to murder nine Black members of a Bible study group at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.

Vermont had allowed sales to proceed when background checks weren’t completed within three days. The new measure extends that period to seven business days. Scott had earlier vetoed a bill that would have blocked firearms purchases altogether unless the background check was complete. But he told lawmakers he would favor extending the period to seven days.

The House and Senate approved that this week. The bill also blocks people who are not law enforcement officers from carrying guns in hospitals, and includes some other measures that gun safety advocates had sought.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Scott, Lawmakers in Stalemate Over Housing Proposals

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2022 at 7:32 PM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
A pair of widely supported spending proposals meant to bolster Vermont’s housing stock have become pawns in a legislative chess match between state lawmakers and Gov. Phil Scott, threatening to tie up tens of millions of dollars in federal relief aid in the process.

The clash centers around two consumer protection policies that would establish registries for both rental housing units and building contractors. Scott, a Republican, has vetoed both measures. But Democrats in the Vermont Senate have decided to push the issues again — this time, by attaching them to separate housing measures that Scott does support.

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Thursday, March 10, 2022

Map of New Legislative Districts Advances in the House

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2022 at 7:34 PM

House District Map - SCREENSHOT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Screenshot ©️ Seven Days
  • House District Map
A key committee signed off Thursday on a map redrawing the legislative districts for the 150 members of the House of Representatives, the latest milestone in the laborious, once-a-decade legislative rebalancing process known as reapportionment.

The House Government Operations Committee unanimously approved new boundaries for 109 legislative districts that will be in place for the upcoming primaries and November general election. The Senate is undergoing a similar process for its 30 members but is lagging behind the House.

Committee chair Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) thanked her colleagues for their patience while sorting through a complex process.

"I never appreciated before how frustrating it is to try to put together a puzzle in which two matching pieces say, 'Don’t put us together,'" she said.

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Monday, February 28, 2022

Scott Blocks Brattleboro's Bid to Lower the Voting Age

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2022 at 5:16 PM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott on Monday vetoed a bill that would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds in Brattleboro to vote in local elections and run for local office.

Scott said he worried the measure, H.361, would only exacerbate a pattern of inconsistent voting laws in the state. Last year, he also vetoed charter changes in Winooski and Montpelier that would have given noncitizens the right to vote, citing similar concerns. (The legislature later overrode the vetoes.)

“I do not support creating a patchwork of core election laws and policies that are different from town to town,” Scott wrote in his latest veto message. "The fundamentals of voting should be universal and implemented statewide.”

On Town Meeting Day in 2019, Brattleboro voters overwhelmingly approved changing the town charter to lower the voting age, with 68 percent approving the idea. Supporters argued that the change would help engage more young people in local issues and give them more of a say in the future of their community. It would also allow youths to serve on the town selectboard and as town meeting members in Brattleboro's representative form of the Vermont tradition.

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Scott Appointee Would Be First Woman of Color on Vermont Supreme Court

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2022 at 10:33 AM

Judge Nancy Waples - STATE OF VERMONT
  • State of Vermont
  • Judge Nancy Waples
Gov. Phil Scott has nominated Superior Court Judge Nancy Waples to the Vermont Supreme Court, the governor's office announced on Friday.

If confirmed by the Vermont Senate, Waples, a state judge since 2015, will be the first woman of color to serve on the state's high court.

Her appointment fills the seat held by Justice Beth Robinson, who President Joe Biden nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last year. Upon confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Robinson became the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve on a federal district court.
Waples' parents were Chinese immigrants who fled the communist revolution and settled in Toronto, Canada, because federal Chinese exclusion laws prevented them from resettling in the U.S. The family later moved to the New York City area, where Waples grew up working in a Chinese restaurant her parents ran.

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

House Committee Approves Bill That Takes Aim at Fossil Fuels

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2022 at 5:14 PM

Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford) on the House floor in 2020 - FILE: KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford) on the House floor in 2020
Vermont lawmakers advanced the centerpiece of their climate agenda on Thursday as a key committee approved a bill intended to sharply reduce pollution from fossil fuels used to heat homes and businesses.

The House Energy and Technology Committee approved the creation of a “clean heat standard” program by a vote of 7-2 after weeks of technical, and at times contentious, testimony.

Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford), chair of the committee, said the bill had been a "heavy lift" but would ensure the transition to lower-carbon fuels was "coordinated, sustained and predictable" for fuel buyers and sellers.

Waiting to act will only leave Vermonters with fewer options, he said.

"In 10 years, if we do nothing, we're going to be faced with things that are more costly, less equitable and more disruptive," Briglin told Seven Days.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Scott Vetoes Gun Bill, Offers Compromise to Close 'Charleston Loophole'

Posted By on Tue, Feb 22, 2022 at 1:23 PM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 6:45 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have ensured people couldn't buy firearms unless they passed a federal background check, but he signaled willingness to work with lawmakers on “a more reasonable standard.”

The legislation, S.30, sought to close the so-called “Charleston loophole" that allows people to buy guns if the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasn't finished a required background check within three days. The bill would have made someone wait until the background check was complete, regardless of how long it took.

In his veto message, Scott instead proposed a seven-day waiting period, which he said would better balance people's Second Amendment rights with the federal governments’ need to complete the required checks.

“I’m willing to work with the Legislature to find a path forward that gives the federal government more time to fulfill its obligations to complete background checks, without denying law-abiding citizens of their right to a fair and reasonable process,” Scott wrote in his veto message.

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Burlington's Just Cause Eviction Bill Clears House — With Changes

Posted By on Fri, Feb 18, 2022 at 1:17 PM

  • Kim Scafuro
The Vermont House on Friday gave preliminary approval to a charter change in Burlington that would ban no-cause evictions.

The chamber advanced the bill with a 98-49 vote. The legislation will have one final vote in the House next week before being sent to the Senate for consideration. Nine of 10 Burlington representatives voted in favor of the bill. House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) did not vote, as is custom.

"Just cause policies are intended to promote residential stability," Rep. Barbara Rachelson (D-Burlington) said. "Renters who are meeting all the requirements of their lease need assurance they can remain in their home."

Vermont law allows renters to be evicted from their units for no reason at all, or simply because their lease is ending. The bill, H.708, would ban these no-cause evictions in Burlington by requiring landlords to have a valid reason for displacing their tenants. The bill provides some examples — nonpayment of rent, breaking a lease — but the details would be fleshed out in a new city ordinance.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Secretary of State Jim Condos Won't Seek Reelection

Posted By on Tue, Feb 15, 2022 at 3:20 PM

Secretary of State Jim Condos - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Secretary of State Jim Condos
Updated 5:01 p.m.

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos announced Tuesday he will not seek reelection this fall, ending his 12-year term as the state’s top elections official.

The 71-year-old Democrat, a former South Burlington city councilor and state senator, said that after 35 years in public office, he was looking forward to retiring. Still, he did not rule out running for public office in the future.

“While I have enjoyed this job every day, I am looking forward to a new chapter next January at the conclusion of my current term,” Condos told reporters during a virtual press conference.

Condos said he has worked hard to ensure that his office was run in a nonpartisan manner, and he was proud that the state has been nationally recognized as a leader in elections, business registrations and records management.

“I am grateful to have been provided the opportunity to help protect, defend and enhance our democracy,” he said.

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Monday, February 14, 2022

Leaky Roofs, Moldy Windows: State Library Department Seeks $15.9M for Repairs

Posted By on Mon, Feb 14, 2022 at 6:05 PM

Whiting Free Library - FILE: CALEB KENNA ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Caleb Kenna ©️ Seven Days
  • Whiting Free Library
The state Department of Libraries is requesting $15.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to fix leaking roofs, disintegrating floors and other longstanding maintenance problems at some of Vermont’s historic public libraries.

During a hearing last Wednesday, Tom McMurdo, acting head of the department, showed the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions photos of disintegrating floor tiles, broken marble stair treads, moldy windows and other signs of decay at libraries around Vermont. It has been 25 years since the state's 183 public libraries got state or federal money for building maintenance, he told lawmakers.

“Libraries cannot thrive on goodwill alone,” said McMurdo, who had been filling in until the newly hired state librarian, Catherine Delneo started work on Monday, February 14. “Towns and library boards do their best to maintain these buildings, but they are literally falling apart in some cases.”

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