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

Statehouse

Friday, May 26, 2017

Work Begins on Crafting New Vermont Marijuana Bill

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 4:32 PM

potbill.1.jpg
Days after Gov. Phil Scott vetoed marijuana legalization legislation, the work of making adjustments to the bill is already under way.

Key legislators and marijuana legalization advocates met Thursday and Friday with Scott's staff to discuss changes he asked for when he vetoed the measure Wednesday.

As now written, the bill would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. It would also allow adults to grow at home two mature plants. The legislation, which would go into effect July 2018, would not legalize marijuana sales.

In announcing the veto, Scott said he's seeking a few revisions, like beefing up penalties for using marijuana around children and extending the deadline for a commission to study full pot legalization in Vermont. Those changes could be made in time for the legislature's planned June 21 veto session.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, May 25, 2017

DMV Suspends Facial-Recognition Program Pending Legal Review

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 4:18 PM

lawenforcement1-1-c04b1bfb63563fda.jpg
The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles suspended its facial-recognition program on Thursday pending a review of its legality by Attorney General T.J. Donovan.

As reported by Seven Days this week, the program, which was launched in 2012, may run afoul of a 2004 law that forbids the DMV from implementing "processes for identifying applicants for licenses ... that involve the use of biometric identifiers."

Additionally, documents obtained by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union suggest that the database of 2.7 million images has been widely shared with federal and local law enforcement — despite prior assurances from the DMV that it would not be.

"The ACLU raises good concerns," Donovan said in a brief interview Thursday. "The privacy concerns are, in addition to the legal question, the most pressing matter."

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Scott Vetoes Marijuana Legalization in Vermont

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 12:04 PM

LUKE EASTMAN
  • Luke Eastman
Updated at 4:17 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday vetoed pending legislation that would legalize marijuana in Vermont. But he promised to work with lawmakers to fashion a new bill that might win his support next month.

“I am not philosophically opposed to ending the prohibition on marijuana,” Scott said at a highly anticipated press conference in his Montpelier office. “However … we must get this right.”

The legislation would have allowed adults over age 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow as many as two mature plants per household, starting in July 2018. It also would have created a commission to report back by November with a plan to tax and regulate marijuana sales, as other states have done.

The Republican governor said Wednesday that he would provide legislators with “explicit” recommendations to craft a bill that might meet his approval. He suggested that lawmakers tackle them when they reconvene July 21 for an expected two-day veto session.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, May 19, 2017

Opinion
Walters: Did the Governor Just Wave the White Flag?

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 9:35 PM

Governor Phil Scott at his Friday press conference - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Governor Phil Scott at his Friday press conference
After the Vermont legislature adjourned early Friday morning, passing budget and property tax bills that Gov. Phil Scott had promised to veto, the stage was set for a high-stakes confrontation. The House and Senate are scheduled for a two-day session June 21 and 22, less than ten days before the start of a new fiscal year.

And if there is no agreement by July 1, the state government could shut down.

The governor seemed to have the upper hand. The single unresolved issue was how to negotiate public school teacher health insurance: at the school board level, at the state level, or in some other way? The governor had seized the political high ground by repeatedly emphasizing the potential taxpayer savings — the fabled $26 million — that could be realized by changing the system.

And then, at a Friday afternoon press conference, he strongly defended his position — but also acknowledged that he would rather lose on the issue than risk a government shutdown.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Vermont Legislature Adjourns Without Fanfare as Scott Promises Veto

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 12:54 AM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Majority Leader Jill Krowinski at a House Democratic caucus meeting late Thursday at the Vermont Statehouse - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Majority Leader Jill Krowinski at a House Democratic caucus meeting late Thursday at the Vermont Statehouse
Vermont’s 2017 legislative session came to an abrupt and unceremonious end early Friday morning after the House and Senate passed a state budget with broad support and a teachers’ health insurance savings proposal that thrilled nobody. Least of all Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who declared late Thursday night that he would veto both bills approved by the Democratic legislature.

“Please understand it gives me no satisfaction to say so,” Scott told the Senate in a brief adjournment speech to the chamber. “But I truly believe we can eventually find common ground.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

As Scott Threatens Veto, Vermont Budget Faces Uncertain Future

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 6:58 PM

Gov. Phil Scott addresses reporters in his ceremonial office last week. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Gov. Phil Scott addresses reporters in his ceremonial office last week.
With a gubernatorial veto becoming more likely — and with the current budget set to expire in 44 days — Vermont officials face a question they’ve never before had to answer: What if the state doesn’t have a new budget in place by June 30, the last day of the fiscal year?

Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, has repeatedly said he’ll only sign a budget that includes a plan to reduce teachers’ health insurance costs. Scott, though, wants to realize the savings by bringing collective bargaining to the state level while most Democrats do not.

After several weeks of negotiations, legislative leaders announced Wednesday that they would go ahead and pass the budget on their terms, with or without the governor’s blessing. A vote could come as soon as Thursday.

If Scott follows through on his veto threat, the Democrat-controlled legislature would break and then return to hold a “special session,” likely in mid-June.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

To Veto Budget, Scott May Have to Kill His Own Housing Plan

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 6:46 PM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson confers with House Minority Leader Don Turner on Wednesday over the House's schedule. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson confers with House Minority Leader Don Turner on Wednesday over the House's schedule.
Vermont lawmakers locked in a showdown with Gov. Phil Scott appear intent to make it harder for him to make good on his threat to veto the budget bill.

Legislators plan to fold an affordable-housing bond that Scott strongly favors into the budget bill. If he vetoes the budget, he essentially kills his own puppy.

The move came hours after legislative leaders pulled the plug on stalled negotiations with the governor over what to do with savings from less expensive teacher health insurance. Lawmakers expect to hash out their own teacher health care solution and sign off on the budget bill as early as Thursday.

Rep. Sam Young (D-Glover) said he and fellow House and Senate conferees on the housing bill settled final differences Wednesday afternoon over how to fund debt service for a $35 million housing bond. In the process, they agreed to fold the bill into the budget bill that the governor is threatening to veto, he said.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Legislative Leaders Declare Budget Impasse With Governor

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 1:33 PM

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson confer before Wednesday's press conference as Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint (center) looks on. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson confer before Wednesday's press conference as Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint (center) looks on.
After more than a dozen meetings and multiple counterproposals, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) announced Wednesday that they’re done trying to win Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s support for a compromise plan to save money on teachers’ health insurance.

“We have reached an impasse,” Johnson said at a Statehouse press conference. “We’ve really worked to bring as many ideas and compromises to the table as possible, and we don’t have much of a negotiating partner, and that’s unfortunate.”

The announcement came less than two hours after Scott, Johnson and Ashe met privately in the speaker’s office.

After saying he was open to any proposal that would lead to health insurance savings, Scott has rejected several legislative plans that met that goal but didn’t do so through a statewide contract, as he originally proposed.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Opinion
Walters: A Shield for Vermont Media

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Gov. Phil Scott, surrounded by journalists, signs the shield bill into law. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott, surrounded by journalists, signs the shield bill into law.
Here's a valuable lesson for politicians: The best way to get maximum media coverage for a bill signing is to sign a bill that affects the media. The governor's ceremonial office was unusually crowded Wednesday morning as Gov. Phil Scott signed S.96, the media shield bill, into law.

The bill, which sailed through the legislature with very little opposition, will protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources or release unpublished material. Vermont becomes the 41st state to afford such protections to reporters.

"[The bill] creates a new statutory privilege protecting journalists from the compelled disclosure of confidential sources or other information received in confidence," Scott said. "This protection enables sources, from whistleblowers to victims of a crime, to feel confident in their ability to speak freely to the press."

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Opinion
Walters: House Speaker, Union Leaders Very Publicly Air Grievances

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 12:51 PM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson meets with labor leaders at the Statehouse cafeteria. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson meets with labor leaders at the Statehouse cafeteria.
Tuesday morning brought an extraordinary moment in the Vermont legislature's end-of-session drama: House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) met publicly with a couple dozen labor leaders in the Statehouse cafeteria to air their differences on how to end the standoff between the Democratic legislature and Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

At issue is Scott's demand that negotiations for teacher health care benefits be done on a statewide basis — the best way, he says, to maximize taxpayer savings from pending changes in health insurance due to the federal Affordable Care Act. Democrats have pushed back on Scott's idea as an encroachment on the collective bargaining process between teachers and local school boards. House and Senate leaders have sought common ground with the governor, so far without success.

Johnson's plan has not been made public, but its outline has been widely circulated. It would leave negotiations at the local level while establishing statewide parameters for health care bargaining.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2017 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation