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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Walters: Degree Leaving Senate for Administration Post

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 8:33 AM

Dustin Degree - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Dustin Degree
Updated 6 p.m.

Vermont Sen. Dustin Degree (R-Franklin) is resigning from the state Senate to accept a position in Gov. Phil Scott's administration.

Degree will serve as special assistant to the governor and executive director of workforce expansion, the governor's office said in a Wednesday morning press release. Scott also appointed Sarah Buxton, a former Democratic House member from Tunbridge, to serve as director of workforce policy and performance within the Vermont Department of Labor.

Buxton lost her seat last November and has been working in the Labor Department since March. She'll start immediately.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Public Safety Commissioner Fears Legal Pot Will Increase Traffic Deaths

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 6:43 PM

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson
Vermont motor vehicle deaths are likely to increase if the state legalizes marijuana, Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson predicted Tuesday.

"You are going to see more fatalities on the roadways," Anderson said at a Statehouse meeting of the Marijuana Advisory Commission.

His conclusion came as part of a report he gave to the legislative panel in his role as chair of its highway safety subcommittee. Health Commissioner Mark Levine, another subcommittee chair, also presented Tuesday.

The commission is tasked with reporting back to the legislature with its findings in January.

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Walters: Vermont Democratic Party Chair Faisal Gill to Step Aside

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 3:43 PM

  • File: Robin Katrick
  • Faisal Gill
Vermont Democratic Party chair Faisal Gill has decided not to seek another term as party chair, and two others will compete for the post in an election Saturday.

Last week, Gill told Seven Days he was considering whether to run; now he's made up his mind.

"The big issue is I'm too interested in policy," he says. "As chair, I'm not supposed to be involved in policy."

Like the difference between an umpire and a ballplayer? "That’s a perfect way to put it," he says. "I want to be a player."

He adds that he "absolutely" plans to run for elective office "if the opportunity becomes available." Gill was a candidate for state Senate in 2016, when there were two vacancies among Chittenden County's six seats. He finished eighth in a hotly-contested Democratic primary.

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On Ice: Vermont Officials Reject Statehouse Skate Rink

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 1:10 PM

Vermont Statehouse - FILE
  • File
  • Vermont Statehouse
Volunteers consider the ice rink they set up on the Vermont Statehouse lawn last winter a “resounding success,” but it won't be making a repeat appearance.

The four-member Capitol Complex Commission, charged with overseeing the “architectural and aesthetic integrity” of the Vermont Statehouse and its grounds, last week chose not to approve another rink for the upcoming winter, citing aesthetic and technical concerns.

Commission member Jireh Billings of Woodstock said he loves the concept — "the idea of people skating in front of the Statehouse is quite a postcard," he noted — but the sloped lawn creates complications.

That postcard became a reality last January when a group of volunteers called the "Put a Rink on It Committee" got the go-ahead to set up a temporary rink in one corner of the snow-covered lawn. The committee had spent more than a year lobbying for the rink.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Storm Damage Tops $4.5 Million for Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 11:13 AM

A large tree crushed a car and took down power lines in Burlington's Lakeside neighborhood. - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • A large tree crushed a car and took down power lines in Burlington's Lakeside neighborhood.
The preliminary bill from last week's wind and rainstorm that left a third of Vermonters without power stands at $4.5 million, state officials announced Tuesday.

Wednesday, Vermont officials and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin traveling Vermont to verify the damage. Their preliminary assessment will determine if the state qualifies for a federal disaster declaration, which would bring money to fund recovery efforts.

For Vermont to qualify for aid, FEMA must verify more than $1 million of damage, which includes restoration costs for public utilities.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Court Rules Public Records on Personal Accounts Are Subject to Release

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 5:48 PM

Brady Toensing argues a public records case before the Vermont Supreme Court. - POOL: APRIL MCCULLUM
  • Pool: April McCullum
  • Brady Toensing argues a public records case before the Vermont Supreme Court.
State employees can be compelled to turn over public records stored on their personal email and phone accounts, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday.

In a 5-0 decision, justices reversed a lower court judge's ruling that documents stored on private accounts are not subject to public records requests. The high court said that its decision applied only to documents that meet the legal definition under the public records act, not private correspondence.

"The notion that state employees have a privacy interest in records that are by law public records — those produced or acquired in the course of agency business — is incongruous," Justice Beth Robinson said in the 20-page decision.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Walters: Judge Orders ‘Limited’ Sorrell Deposition

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 5:54 PM

Former attorney general Bill Sorrell - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Former attorney general Bill Sorrell
Former Vermont attorney general Bill Sorrell must submit to a sworn deposition in a legal case regarding his use of a private email account for official business. On Wednesday, Chittenden County Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout ordered Sorrell’s participation, but she set limits on the scope of the deposition.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that often represents the interests of the fossil fuel industry, is seeking Sorrell’s records and communications as part of its lawsuit against multiple attorneys general, alleging that they engaged in a legal conspiracy against the industry.

Sorrell had failed to show up for a previous court-ordered deposition on the advice of current Attorney General T.J. Donovan. The limited deposition is to take place on Monday, and, according to Donovan, “We have every indication that Bill Sorrell will appear and be deposed.”

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

McAllister Gets Probation, Not Prison, for Prostitution-Related Charge

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 1:50 PM

Norm McAllister after his sentencing - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Norm McAllister after his sentencing
Former state senator Norm McAllister got no prison time but was sentenced to serve one year of probation during a hearing Tuesday in Franklin Superior Court.

Judge Martin Maley rejected prosectors' request to send McAllister to prison for nine to 12 months. The judge said it would not be "proportionate" to the misdemeanor crime of prohibited acts.

A jury in July convicted McAllister of arranging for a friend to have sex with a woman who lived in a trailer on his Franklin County farm, but acquitted him of another charge of prohibited acts and of felony sexual assault, which carried a potential life sentence. The charges involved the same woman.

Maley sentenced McAllister, 66, to probation and 25 days on a work crew, and ordered him to undergo sex offense therapy as ordered by probation officers. McAllister was also ordered to stay away from the woman. A suspended sentence of nine to 12 months could be imposed if McAllister violates any probation conditions.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Walters: Oliver Olsen to Resign From House

Posted By on Sun, Oct 15, 2017 at 10:35 PM

Rep. Oliver Olsen (I-Londonderry) taking part in a legislative debate - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Rep. Oliver Olsen (I-Londonderry) taking part in a legislative debate
Vermont Rep. Oliver Olsen (I-Londonderry) announced he will resign his seat before the new session begins in January. In a message posted on his Facebook page Sunday, he cited a successful and demanding career as the primary reason for his departure.

"With responsibility at work that is now global in scope, I have already clocked more than 100,000 air miles this year," he wrote, "and have come to the realization that it would be a logistical impossibility for me to spend a meaningful amount of time in Montpelier this winter."

This has apparently been building for some time, as Olsen wrote that he has been sounding out potential successors "over the past year." Taken literally, that would have begun before he was reelected to the House last November.

"More recently, I have had substantive discussions with two well-respected and very capable women who have given serious thought to serving," he wrote, and added his belief that "at least one will come forward and seek an appointment from the governor."

Gov. Phil Scott will choose a new representative for Olsen's district; by tradition, that person will be a political independent like Olsen. Indeed, Olsen expressed hope that his successor will be "an independent thinker who understands the unique needs of our region."

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Friday, October 13, 2017

State Sen. Debbie Ingram Arrested for DUI in Williston

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 9:51 AM

Sen. Debbie Ingram - WILLISTON POLICE
  • Williston Police
  • Sen. Debbie Ingram
Updated at 10:20 a.m.

State Sen. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden) was arrested Thursday night and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after allegedly steering her car into a ditch, Williston police said.

Around 8 p.m., Williston police responded to a crash on South Road. Police said that Ingram, an ordained minister and a freshman senator, had gone off the road, struck a "fixed object," continued on and then veered off the road again.

She was cited to appear in Chittenden Superior Court on November 2 on a charge of driving under the influence.

Ingram released a statement Friday morning through her attorney, Ted Kenney:

Last night I was arrested near my home in Williston and charged with a DUI. I
am grateful that no one was injured as a result of my irresponsible behavior. I
suffer from a disease for which I have been getting treatment through a 12-Step
program. I had a temporary setback last night and will continue to seek treatment to ensure that something like this never happens again. I accept full responsibility for the consequences of my actions. 
Ingram, 55, a Democrat who first won election to the state Senate in 2016, is the executive director of Vermont Interfaith Action, a nonprofit alliance of religious groups. She previously served on the Williston Selectboard.
Sen. Debbie Ingram speaking in favor of raising the legal smoking age to 21 - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Sen. Debbie Ingram speaking in favor of raising the legal smoking age to 21

She lives on South Road in Williston, according to publicly available records. Earlier this year, she pushed for a failed bill that would have raised the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

Ingram is a graduate of Stanford University and Fuller Theological Seminary, and completed a fellowship at Cambridge University in England, according to her legislative biography.

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