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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Opinion
Walters: Another Hat for Don Turner

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 5:33 PM

House Minority Leader Don Turner confers with House Speaker Mitzi Johnson - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Minority Leader Don Turner confers with House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
Vermont House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton) has been hired as permanent town manager in Milton. He has no plans to leave the state legislature, despite rumors to the contrary. "I am not done in Montpelier," he says.

Turner, who is also a realtor, a partner in a family construction business, and Milton's fire and rescue chief, has been serving as interim town manager since March. In June, the selectboard named Turner as the sole finalist for the permanent job, but the arrangement wasn't finalized until this week.

Selectboard chair Darren Adams told the Milton Independent in June that Turner's "hat question" would be an issue. Turner acknowledges that being town manager and House Minority Leader "will be a lot of work," even for a guy accustomed to wearing multiple hats. But he will carry on — at least for now.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Scott Picks Democratic, Republican Lawyers to Lead Marijuana Panel

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 12:05 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • FIle: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott has appointed two lawyers, both of whom have long been involved in Vermont public policy, to head a new commission tasked with studying marijuana legalization.

Tom Little, a former Republican state representative from Shelburne, and Jake Perkinson, a former Democratic Party chairman from Burlington, will lead the 13-member panel.

Scott, a Republican, vetoed legalization legislation earlier this year. He pledged to appoint a commission that would look particularly at the impact of legalization on youths and highway safety, two concerns he cited as reasons for his veto.

Scott directed the commission to start meeting by October and to produce an initial report by January 15. Members are appointed to three-year terms to continue studying various aspects of legalization.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Vermont Judge Orders Google to Comply With Search Warrants

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 2:46 PM

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan
An Addison County judge has ordered Google to comply with search warrants seeking computer records in three child sex crime investigations, authorities announced Wednesday.

The internet giant refused to comply with the warrants because the information sought by Vermont prosecutors is stored on overseas servers, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said.

This legal issue is playing out in criminal courts across the country and could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Dogged Leftist Candidate Peter Diamondstone Dies

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 3:42 PM

Peter Diamondstone - FILE: ZACHARY STEPHENS
  • File: Zachary Stephens
  • Peter Diamondstone
Updated at 5:24 p.m.

Peter Diamondstone, a fiery socialist politician who founded the Liberty Union Party and was a mainstay on Election Day ballots in Vermont for four decades, died on Wednesday at his home in Dummerston, his wife confirmed to Seven Days. He was 82.

Diamondstone was suffering from a variety of ailments, Doris Lake said, including heart failure. He left the hospital several weeks ago to receive hospice care at home, Lake said. They had recently celebrated their 60th anniversary.

In recent years, Diamondstone was perhaps best known as a colorful character at debates and on the campaign trail for the various offices he sought. His name appeared on ballots in every statewide election since 1970, though he never came close to winning.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Vermont Leaders Fill $12.5 Million Budget Gap Without Dissent

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 3:53 PM

From left to right: Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington) and Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia), members of the Joint Fiscal Committee, on Thursday - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • From left to right: Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington) and Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia), members of the Joint Fiscal Committee, on Thursday
State legislators and Gov. Phil Scott’s administration solved a $12.5 million budget gap Thursday with virtually no dissent.

“I don’t think there’ll be a major impact felt,” Finance Commissioner Adam Greshin told reporters about the administration's plan. “That was part of the challenge of finding $12.5 million that won’t have a major impact on Vermonters, and I think we’ve done that.”

Lawmakers agreed. The 10-member Joint Fiscal Committee, which oversees state fiscal matters when the full legislature is not is session, unanimously signed off on the proposal Thursday afternoon at a Statehouse meeting.

Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), Joint Fiscal Committee chair, said she was grateful the decisions did not involve state employee layoffs. “I think it’s a thoughtful way to move forward,” she said.

No one spoke at a public hearing on the budget rescissions before lawmakers voted.

The largest single chunk of savings — $4.5 million — will come from an anticipated reduction in Medicaid expenses. Some smaller cuts were found across state government, while there’s a $3.5 million projected increase in revenue from brokers’ fees paid to the Department of Financial Regulation.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Senator Challenges Appointments to Vermont Act 250 Panel

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 4:32 PM

Sen. Dustin Degree - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Dustin Degree
Three senators who were appointed to review Vermont’s land-use law lack the political diversity that lawmakers required, according to Senate Minority Leader Dustin Degree (R-Franklin).

Lawmakers this year established the six-member commission to consider the future of Act 250, the 47-year-old law that governs development.

The House speaker and the Senate Committee on Committees were each directed to appoint three members. Legislation specified that in both cases, the appointees were not to be all from the same party.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Scott Plans Pot Commission to Examine Vermont Legalization

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 4:13 PM

LUKE EASTMAN
  • Luke Eastman
Gov. Phil Scott, who vetoed a marijuana legalization bill earlier this year, said on Monday that he will announce “in the next few days” the creation of a commission tasked with examining several issues surrounding legalization.

Scott, speaking to reporters after an unrelated event in Shelburne, declined to say who would lead or serve on the commission. Vermont legislators had hoped to create a panel that would make recommendations for how the state might tax and regulate marijuana. Scott said his focus, and the makeup of his panel, will be different.

The commission’s priority will be to look at highway safety, he said. Chief among his legalization concerns is that no convenient roadside test exists to measure a driver’s impairment from marijuana.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Opinion
Walters: Environmentalist James Ehlers to Run for Governor of Vermont

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 12:40 PM

James Ehlers testifies before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • James Ehlers testifies before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife.
Updated at 4:37 p.m.

Environmental activist James Ehlers is running for governor of Vermont.

The Winooski resident on Thursday registered as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate with the Secretary of State’s Office and confirmed his candidacy to Seven Days via text message. If he wins the party’s primary, he would presumably challenge first-term Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who is expected to seek reelection in 2018.

At his weekly press conference later Thursday, the governor delivered an ambiguous answer when asked about his political plans.

“I’m trying to get through this next term, so I’m not ready to acknowledge my candidacy today, but I’m intending to run in the future,” Scott said. “But I’m not announcing today.”

Got that?

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Vermont Officials Prepare for Lower Revenues, Budget Cuts

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Gov. Phil Scott and legislators who make up the Emergency Board meet Friday in Montpelier to discuss state revenues. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Gov. Phil Scott and legislators who make up the Emergency Board meet Friday in Montpelier to discuss state revenues.
Gov. Phil Scott and Vermont legislative leaders who make up the state’s Emergency Board agreed Friday afternoon to lower expectations for state revenues in the coming year and to plan for $12.5 million in budget cuts.

The action came after economists — one hired by the governor's administration and another hired by the legislature — warned that all is not rosy with the economy, nationally or in Vermont.

The state is expected to see $28.8 million less in general fund revenue this fiscal year, economists Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr said.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Attorney General Donovan: DMV Facial Recognition Program Illegal

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 12:50 PM

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan - FILE
  • File
  • Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan
Updated at 1:15 p.m.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles' facial recognition program violates state law and should remain suspended, Attorney General T.J. Donovan said Tuesday.

Donovan said the program, which includes 2.7 million images of license applicants and has previously been shared with police, violates a 2004 law barring the DMV from using "biometric identifiers" in granting identification cards.

The DMV suspended use of facial recognition in May after Seven Days, using documents uncovered by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, published a story on the program.

The DMV should not restart the program unless it gets legislative approval, Donovan said.

"This is about balancing public safety with the privacy rights of Vermonters," Donovan said.

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