Monthly Archives: May 2012

Shumlin, Brock reveal tax returns

From the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus today:

MONTPELIER — He’s still in the 1 percent, but a weak commercial real estate market has dealt a blow to the personal fortunes of Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has watched his income drop by nearly half since winning election to the office in 2010.

And though Shumlin’s presumptive Republican challenger isn’t in the same income bracket as the Democratic incumbent, Randy Brock pulled down a healthy $268,000 last year, the vast majority of which came from investment income.

According to tax returns provided to the Vermont Press Bureau Wednesday, Shumlin pulled down slightly more than $500,000 in 2011, a far cry from the approximately $950,000 he and his wife, Deborah Holway, earned in 2009.

Read the full story by clicking here >>>

Sorrell: “Let the campaign officially begin”

Bill Sorrell convened a press conference earlier today to “officially” kickoff his campaign for attorney general. The seven-term incumbent Democrat is looking to fend off a primary challenge from political upstart TJ Donovan, who racked up a key endorsement from the Vermont Troopers Association earlier this week. 
Sorrell address a crowd of supporters at the Cedar Creek room in the Statehouse. Here’s what he had to say (sorry in advance for the caps - this is from a Sorrell release)
 
CAMPAIGN KICKOFF REMARKS
 
MAY 30, 2012
 
THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME HERE TODAY.
 
IT HAS BEEN MY GREAT HONOR AND PLEASURE TO SERVE
ALL VERMONTERS AS THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE PAST
15 YEARS. I AM PROUD OF MY RECORD IN THIS IMPORTANT
OFFICE. I WANT TO CONTINUE TO BE OF SERVICE TO THE
RESIDENTS OF THIS GREAT STATE.
 
I HAVE BEEN CALLED A “TWO-FISTED ATTORNEY GENERAL”. AND
THERE’S A REASON FOR THAT. I HAVE NEVER BACKED AWAY
FROM AGGRESSIVELY BUT FAIRLY ENFORCING OUR LAWS, EVEN
WHEN CONFRONTING WEALTHY AND POWERFUL OPPONENTS.
 
FOUR WEEKS TO THE DAY AFTER TAKING THE OATH OF
OFFICE, I SUED BIG TOBACCO. AS A RESULT OF THAT SUIT,
VERMONT HAS RECEIVED OVER $300 MILLION. AND UNLESS
AMERICANS STOP THEIR ADDICTION TO CIGARETTES AND
THEREBY CONQUER WHAT REMAINS THE GREATEST AVOIDABLE
PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM CONFRONTING THIS STATE AND THIS
NATION, VERMONT WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE AT LEAST $25
MILLION EVERY YEAR -FOREVER.
 
THE AUTO INDUSTRY FOUGHT VERMONT’S ADOPTION OF MORE
RESTRICTIVE EMISSIONS STANDARDS FOR MOTOR VEHICLES.
BUT MY OFFICE SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDED THE INDUSTRY
ATTACKS IN FEDERAL COURT HERE IN VERMONT. OUR VICTORY
IS ONE OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE IN THE EFFORT TO HAVE
CLEANER, MORE FUEL EFFICIENT CARS AND TRUCKS ON THE
ROADWAYS OF AMERICA. THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS A VICTORY FOR
A CLEANER ENVIRONMENT.
 
AS A RESULT OF ENFORCING OUR CONSUMER PROTECTION
AND ANTITRUST LAWS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS HAVE BEEN
RETURNED TO VERMONT CONSUMERS’ WALLETS. AND SINCE
PREVENTION IS SO VITALLY IMPORTANT, OUR EFFECTIVE
EFFORTS TO EDUCATE VERMONTERS ON THE DANGERS OF
IDENTITY THIEVES AND SCAM ARTISTS HAVE ALLOWED MANY
MORE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO REMAIN IN VERMONTERS’
POCKETS AND NOT BE LOST TO CRIMINALS, BOTH DOMESTIC
AND FOREIGN.
 
IN THE CRIMINAL ARENA, MY OFFICE HAS WORKED EFFICIENTLY
AND PRODUCTIVELY WITH ALL LEVELS OF POLICE IN MANY OF
VERMONT’S MOST NOTORIOUS CASES. WE HAVE SUCCESSFULLY
PROSECUTED MURDERERS, RAPISTS AND THOSE WHO PREY
ON OUR MOST VULNERABLE. WE LEAD THE FIGHT AGAINST
TRAFFICKING IN DANGEROUS DRUGS.
 
VERMONTERS WANT, EXPECT AND ARE ENTITLED TO EVEN-
HANDED JUSTICE. I TAKE THIS VERY SERIOUSLY. WE DON’T’
PLAY FAVORITES. THERE IS NO DOUBLE STANDARD WHEN IT
COMES TO WRONGDOING BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
AND PUBLIC OFFICIALS. JUST ASK THE DOZENS OF FORMER
COUNTY SHERIFFS, STATE AND LOCAL POLICE AND MUNICIPAL
OFFICIALS WHOM WE HAVE CONVICTED OF VIOLATING
VERMONT’S CRIMINAL STATUTES.
 
WE HAVE WORKED EFFECTIVELY IN THE LEGISLATURE AND
 
HAVE SUCCESSFULLY SEEN THE PASSAGE OF NEW LAWS
TO OUTLAW THE POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY,
HAZING IN OUR SCHOOLS – FROM OUR EARLIEST GRADES
THROUGH COLLEGE, AND TO REQUIRE MEMBERS OF RELIGIOUS
ORGANIZATIONS TO REPORT SUSPECTED INSTANCES OF CHILD
ABUSE. I HAVE CHAMPIONED THE AVAILABILITY OF SPECIAL
INVESTIGATIVE UNITS FOR SEX CRIMES THROUGHOUT THE
STATE.
 
BUT MUCH REMAINS TO BE DONE. AND THAT IS WHY TODAY
I FORMALLY DECLARE MY CANDIDACY FOR RE-ELECTION AS
VERMONT’S ATTORNEY GENERAL.
 
I LOOK FORWARD TO CAMPAIGNING ALL OVER THIS STATE TO
HELP VERMONTERS BETTER UNDERSTAND THE ROLE OF THE
ATTORNEY GENERAL, MY RECORD IN THIS OFFICE AND MY
PRIORITIES FOR MY NEXT TERM.
 
THANKS TO MY INITIATIVE, THE LEGISLATURE HAS JUST
APPROPRIATED $2OO THOUSAND TO ENHANCE LAW
ENFORCEMENT’S BATTLES AGAINST THE ONLINE SHARING OF
IDENTIFIED CHILD PORNOGRAPHY. A NEWLY-AUTHORIZED
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR IN MY OFFICE WILL BE DEDICATED TO
THIS FIGHT. WITH THE HELP OF OTHERS, WE WILL INCREASE
OUR EFFORTS TO GO AFTER THE HUNDREDS OF INDIVIDUAL
COMPUTER USERS IN THIS STATE WHO VIOLATE OUR CHILD
PORNOGRAPHY LAWS AND POSE SUCH REAL RISK OF SEXUAL
PREDATION ON VERMONT’S CHILDREN.
 
I WILL REDOUBLE OUR EFFORTS TO SEE THAT THERE IS
 
RESPONSIBLE AND SAFE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA, LIKE
FACEBOOK. VERMONTERS WILL BE BETTER INFORMED AS TO
HOW TO PROTECT THEIR PERSONAL PRIVACY IN THE ONLINE
WORLD. AND WE WILL RESPOND AGGRESSIVELY TO CYBER
BULLYING AND UNLAWFUL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION.
 
ZEALOUS AND IMPARTIAL ENFORCEMENT OF OUR CAMPAIGN
FINANCE LAWS WILL REMAIN A PRIORITY. AND THIS TWO-
FISTED ATTORNEY GENERAL WILL FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT TO
UPHOLD VERMONT’S LAWS GIVING VERMONTERS A REAL SAY AS
TO THE FUTURE OF ENTERGY’S OPERATIONS IN THIS STATE.
 
IT SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING, I CANNOT DO ALL OF THIS
AND MORE WITHOUT THE VERY ABLE ASSISTANCE OF THE
HARD-WORKING MEMBERS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S
OFFICE. MY THANKS TO MY STAFF FOR THEIR SUPPORT AND
FOR THEIR DEDICATION TO ENHANCING THE HEALTH AND
SAFETY OF ALL VERMONTERS, PARTICULARLY THOSE MOST IN
NEED.
 
I LOOK FORWARD TO DEBATE WITH MY OPPONENT, TO
COMPARING OUR RECORDS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT AND OUR
PRIORITIES FOR THE FUTURE.
 
I THANK THE MANY THOUSANDS OF VERMONT VOTERS WHO, IN
SO MANY PAST ELECTIONS, HAVE PLACED THEIR TRUST IN ME
AS THE STATE’S CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER. I SEEK
THAT STRONG SUPPORT AGAIN IN THE PRIMARY ELECTION IN
AUGUST AND THEN IN THE GENERAL ELECTION IN NOVEMBER.
 
BUT FOR NOW, I CLOSE BY SAYING: LET THE CAMPAIGN
OFFICIALLY BEGIN!
 
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Donovan wins troopers’ endorsement

Democratic candidate for attorney general TJ Donovan has snagged a key endorsement from the Vermont Troopers Association. A nod from the state’s largest police union is a nice feather in the cap of any political candidate, but even more so for one running to be the state’s top law-enforcement officer.

The endorsement marks the first ever in the AG’s race by the nearly 300-member union. In a release fired off this morning by the Donovan campaign, VTA president Michael O’Neil said his members “know that TJ will be an energetic and engaged Attorney General who understands that justice and fairness apply to all Vermonters.  We look forward to working closely with TJ asVermont’s next Attorney General to protect Vermonters throughout our state.”

Donovan called the endorsement an “honor” and said he looked forward “to developing a close relationship with the hard-working men and women of this union and our state police more broadly.”

“I am committed to being an engaged Attorney General working with the VTA and law enforcement statewide to develop a consistent, transparent and fair criminal justice system,” Donovan said.

Republicans for TJ?

For a guy looking to steal a victory in a Democratic primary for attorney general, TJ Donovan sure is locking up a lot of Republican endorsements.

Well, maybe not ‘a lot.’ But two so far, now that Barre City Mayor Tom Lauzon has decided to throw his GOP weight behind Donovan’s bid to unseat incumbent Bill Sorrell.

Rutland City Mayor Chris Louras, also a Republican, gave Donovan the nod earlier this month. In a press release fired off by the Donovan campaign a few minutes ago, Lauzon said Donovan’s focus on drug abuse make the Chittenden County State’s Attorney the right choice to become Vermont’s top prosecutor.

“As a mayor, I witness the harsh impacts of drug abuse and a fractured criminal justice system each day,” Lauzon said. “I would welcome a stronger partnership with the office of the Attorney General to begin making our communities whole again. I know TJ will work hard to build these partnerships, providing an opportunity to make real and lasting progress for the people of Barre and all Vermonters.” 
Winooski Mayor Michael O’Brien also endorsed Donovan Thursday, giving him the backing of mayors in three of the state’s six most populous cities.
Interesting to see Republican mayors backing a Democrat before waiting to see whether a fellow GOPer steps up – Sen. Vince Illuzzi is weighing a run.
Also interesting: though he’s embroiled in a hotly contested Democratic primary that could be decided by the more progressive wing of the party, Donovan sure isn’t running to the left.
 

Salmon will not run for reelection as Auditor

We just got the following note from State Auditor Tom Salmon:

Salmon grateful for service to state; not running for re-election

Dear Editor,

I have decided not to run for the office of state auditor this November.

I have achieved the goal set when I took office in January 2007 to transform the Vermont State Auditor’s Office into a first-rate performance auditing shop.  It is time for me to move on to new challenges.

I have a number of options presented to me, and some still out there, in God’s hands. It is most likely I will land in federal service in the IG or CFO communities as my passion continues to be improving government performance and better federal-state-local intergovernmental collaboration.  I have an offer from a CPA firm as well.

I want to thank those I have worked with and the people of Vermont who elected me. It has been an honor to serve you with the talented staff at the auditor’s office. Because of them, our office has been able to transform to a high quality performance audit office, adding value to the state.

I also thank the Legislature and other partners that worked hard to bring embezzlement prevention tools to fruition. I am grateful for the many joint efforts of collaboration to improve Vermont (government) performance. I appreciate everything very much.

I expect to finish out my term and begin a new job in January, and continue to serve Vermont with great honor.

Sincerely,

Tom Salmon, CPA, CFE

The Rundown – Campaign Finance

This week, Pete talks about the state’s lawsuit against Dubie and the RGA.

Shumlin vetoes Adult Protective Services bill

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced today he vetoed a bill that would have required a study related to Adult Protective Services.
The administration is embroiled in a lawsuit with advocates for vulnerable adults, who say Adult Protective Services has failed to investigate reports of abuse cases as quickly as state law requires.
More to come on this in the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, but here’s the governor’s statement:
“Coming from a private sector background, I have always been frustrated by unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork that exists in state government. Instead of focusing on outcomes, these impediments to progress cost taxpayers too much money and deliver little by way of results.

This bill, H. 290, is an example of misplaced good intentions. By requiring expensive, time-consuming, and duplicative reports by the Agency of Human Services to the legislature, this bill distracts AHS from doing its job: protecting our most vulnerable Vermonters. I am vetoing this bill because it does nothing to advance the goal of protecting those vulnerable Vermonters, adds yet another layer of bureaucracy to state government, and wastes taxpayer dollars.”

The Rundown – How elections are shaping up

Now that the legislative session has come to an end, Thatcher Moats looks ahead to the upcoming campaign season.

The Rundown – How elections are shaping up from 802 Live on Vimeo.

Hoffer, Salmon rematch?

Doug Hoffer, who lost to Republican Tom Salmon in the 2010 race for state auditor, is considering taking another crack at Salmon and will ask for the Vermont Democratic Party’s endorsement Saturday during a meeting of the party’s state committee.

Hoffer, a self-employed policy analyst, won endorsements from the Democratic and Progressive parties two years ago, but couldn’t unseat Salmon, who has been auditor since 2006.

Hoffer said Thursday that if he wins the endorsement from the Democrats at their meeting in Randolph “then I’m likely to run.”

But he noted the Democrats can endorse more than one candidate for auditor and he’s reluctant to wade into a primary as he did in 2010 against Ed Flanagan.

Hoffer hadn’t heard of any other potential Democratic candidates for auditor.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan will ask for the Democratic Party’s endorsement Saturday. He is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

Kittell won’t seek re-election

Sen. Sara Kittell, a Franklin County Democrat, won’t seek re-election this year, joining at least two other state senators who won’t be returning to the Legislature in 2013.

“You know, I thought 17 years? Time for a change,” Kittell said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Former Gov. Howard Dean appointed Kittell to her seat in 1995, and she has won re-election in the years since.

Kittell, a Fairfield resident who said she has chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee for the past 15 years, comes from a long line of dairy farmers and Vermont politicians.

Her grandfather served in the Vermont House in the 1940s, the Vermont Senate in the 1950s, and ran for governor unsuccessfully in 1954 and 1956, said Kittell.

Kittell’s father also served in the Vermont Senate in the 1970s, said Kittell.

Franklin County will be represented by two new senators when the Legislature reconvenes next year.

Sen. Randy Brock, a Franklin County Republican, is running for governor, so he won’t be in the Senate next year either.

Joe Sinagra, who has been a lobbyist for the housing industry in Montpelier, has announced he is running for Franklin County senator as a Republican.

Sen. Hinda Miller, a Chittenden County Democrat, also won’t be running for re-election.

The St. Albans Messenger first reported Kittell’s decision.

 

 

The Rundown – Gov. Shumlin recaps the legislative session

As the legislature is rapping up, Gov. Peter Shumlin sits down with Pete Hirschfeld and Thatcher Moats to discuss the highlights and challenges of the session.

The Rundown – Gov. Shumlin recaps legislative session from 802 Live on Vimeo.

Stay tuned to this space for more updates throughout the day today and tomorrow as the session comes to a close.

Turner accepts Leriche apology, but fallout continues

Twelve hours after a late-night rhetorical slip, House Majority Leader Lucy Leriche took her apology tour to the Mark Johnson Show this morning, where she expressed her regrets, again, at calling House Minority Leader Don Turner a “terrorist.”

The gasp-inducing moment came during a Democratic caucus convened after Turner, a Milton Republican, ensnared Leriche and House Speaker Shap Smith in a well-hidden procedural trap.

Turner had vowed to suspend rules earlier this session so long as his caucus had 24 hours to review bills before they went to the floor. On Thursday, he took it back, saying his willingness to cooperate now hinged on capitulation to a new list of legislative demands.

He’s issued some pretty lofty requests, including: a merger amendment that would prevent GMP from recouping in rates a $21 million payout to CVPS customers; an indefinite moratorium on a new software tax (know around here as the “cloud” tax); scrapping the standard offer increases in the energy bill; making biomass facilities eligible for renewable-energy subsidies; and a host of labor-related provisions.

Turner has hostages. His unwillingness to suspend rules could make it impossible to get a number of second-tier bills across the finish line in time for a Saturday adjournment. By refusing to suspend parliamentary rules, Turner could stretch out for days things that could otherwise happen in minutes.

“We went in said we’re all done suspending rules unless we get something,” Turner said. “On some of these issues we’ve been talking about, we haven’t gotten anywhere. Rules are the only thing we have as a minority to make our voice heard.”

Leriche said Democrat leaders wouldn’t allow Turner’s maneuver to push back the May 5 adjournment.

“In true hostage form – it was really kind of funny – he presented us with a list of demands,” Leriche told her Democratic caucus at about8:45 p.m.Thursday. “He whipped out this list … I was not impressed with his little list of demands and from my perspective it’s not consistent with good leadership. As far as I’m concerned we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Democratic members seemed to realize immediately their leader’s misstep, casting a collective, nervous gaze at the reporter taking notes.

They encouraged her maybe to clarify that last remark, to explain perhaps that she doesn’t think Turner is an actual terrorist.

She obliged, first in caucus:

“After I said it I realized that was a little harsh. I do not mean that literally of course. This is a democracy and they have every right to that.”

And later when they returned to the House floor:

“I think I got carried away just now in Democratic caucus and was exaggerating beyond reason in my description of my perception of what was happening with the minority party. I have no excuse, unfortunately, and I really am truly sorry.”

Turner said it’s unfortunate to see Democrats resort to nasty name-calling.

“I’m concerned that when leadership has to finally negotiate, that that’s their response,” Turner said. “The only negotiating tool they left us is the rules, so that’s what I’ll use. It’s a shame to see them react the way they did.”

Turner, however, said he accepts Leriche’s apology, as well as ones he received from other members of the Democratic caucus.

“Many of the Democrats I respect came over and apologized and gave me a hug and said we understand you’re trying to represent your constituents and your caucus and we’re sorry that happened,” Turner said. “So me I can move on. (Leriche) doesn’t like me. I don’t think we’ll be getting a beer tomorrow. But it’ll be okay.”

All the must-have bills of 2012 – things like the budget, miscellaneous tax bill, capital bill, reapportionment – are on track for passage by tomorrow without rules suspensions.

But a number of nice-to-haves could become legislative casualties of the partisan standoff. They include legislation that would force private insurance companies to disclose claims-denial data, as well as a bill that would allow the families of servicemen and women killed in non-combat operations to qualify for Gold Star license plates.

Politically, Leriche’s mistake has at least temporarily cost Democrats the upper ground in the late-session messaging battle. Instead of castigating the GOP for undoing months of hard work by committed legislators, Democrats are stuck saying ‘sorry.’

For political observers wondering where House Republicans have been this year, their emergence from hibernation Thursday came as something of a surprise. Turner said the timing wasn’t an accident. By waiting until the House and Senate closed a deal on the budget to spring the trap, he made sure Democrats couldn’t pile onto the appropriations bill all the leftover legislation they hoped to have out before Saturday.

Negotiations between Turner and Democrats will continue today.

In case you missed it – late-night partisan flare up in Montpelier

Partisan bickering turned uncharacteristically nasty Thursday night after a procedural trap sprung by House Republicans spawned a harshly worded recrimination from a key Democratic leader.

House Minority Leader Don Turner submitted a letter to House Speaker Shap Smith earlier this session outlining in advance the terms under which he’d acquiesce to rules suspensions. So long as his GOP caucus had 24 hours to review bills before they went to the floor, Turner told Smith, he’d allow a bypassing of parliamentary rules.

But in a meeting Thursday, Turner backed away from his commitment, unveiling a list of new demands. Unless Smith capitulated, Turner said, Democrats wouldn’t get the rules suspensions they’ll need if Smith wants to fulfill his legislative agenda and meet his Saturday adjournment deadline.

The unexpected development brought tensions between the parties to new heights. But thing would only intensify when the Democratic caucus met at8:30 p.m.to discuss the developments.

Microphone in hand, House Majority Leader Lucy Leriche stood before her members and unleashed a diatribe against the Republican leader, taking Turner to task for reneging on his commitment. If lawmakers are to adjourn Saturday, Leriche said, then the inability to suspend rules would likely force lawmakers to abandon hopes for passing a number of bills.

“In true hostage form – it was really kind of funny – he presented us with a list of demands,” Leriche told her Democratic caucus. “He whipped out this list … I was not impressed with his little list of demands and from my perspective it’s not consistent with good leadership. As far as I’m concerned we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Recognizing a reporter was in the room, Democratic members sought immediately to throw Leriche a shovel. She took the cue.

“After I said it I realized that was a little harsh,” she said. “I do not mean that literally of course. This is a democracy and they have every right to that.”

But House Republicans, who had convened a simultaneous caucus in the room next door, quickly condemned the “terrorist” rhetoric.

“It’s obvious tensions are running high on both sides, but I think it’s absolutely outrageous to categorize a minority party standing up for what it thinks is right as terrorists,” said Rep. Dustin Degree, a St. Albans Republican. “This is really appalling. In a post-9/11 world, you can’t say that.”

Leriche offered a more formal apology when the full body reconvened on the House floor minutes later.

“I think I got carried away just now in Democratic caucus and was exaggerating beyond reason in my description of my perception of what was happening with the minority party,” said Leriche, a Hardwick Democrat. “I have no excuse, unfortunately, and I really am truly sorry.”

Turner’s change of heart, combined with Smith’s commitment to a Saturday adjournment, throws in doubt passage of several bills. Among the potential casualties: legislation that would force insurance companies to disclose information on claims denials, and a miscellaneous motor vehicles bill that would expand the number of Vermont military families eligible for Gold Star license plates.

House holds fast on prescription drug bill

Late this afternoon, Rep. Ann Pugh looked across a table in the Statehouse and told three senators thanks but no thanks on their proposed compromise on legislation that tries to tackle prescription drug abuse in Vermont.

Pugh and two other House lawmakers rejected the Senate proposal a few hours after Gov. Peter Shumlin and the three senators on the conference committee held a press conference to try to move the House lawmakers off their position.

The House hasn’t budged.

The House wants police to get a warrant before getting patient and prescriber data from the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System, and the Senate and the governor say a warrant is too high a threshold.

“Law enforcement is really familiar with getting warrants,” Pugh told the three senators. “They’ve been doing that for 200 years.”

Sen. Dick Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was highly disappointed the House didn’t agree with the latest proposal and said it might be better to scrap the controversial section of the bill and try again next year.

The conference committee is set to meet again at 5:30.

Shumlin calls House ‘irresponsible’ on prescription drug bill

With the House and Senate in tense negotiations over whether to allow police to get information from the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System without a warrant, Gov. Peter Shumlin held a press conference Thursday to pressure the House to bend to his will.

The House passed a bill that required police to get a warrant. The Senate passed a bill that required no warrant.

Shumlin sides with the Senate, and with time running out in the legislative session, he repeated his refrain that prescription drug addiction is an epidemic that needs to be solved and urged the House to allow warrant-less access.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Shumlin said of prescription drug abuse. “It’s breaking up families. It’s killing Vermonters, and it’s something that is an epidemic in the state.”

Shumlin said the House version of the bill that requires a warrant is useless and said the House was being “irresponsible on this issue.”

“The House bill does absolutely nothing to solve the problem at hand,” said Shumlin.

Shumlin was joined by several Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the press conference.

Moments after the press conference, the conference committee met.

In a tense exchange, Rep. Ann Pugh — who has been defending the House position in the conference committee – looked across the table at the three senators and said the House bill does make progress on the issue.

“There are many parts that both bodies have added that will enable us to address the problem,” said Pugh. “This is a health care tool, it was created as a health care tool, not as an investigative tool, with all due respect.”

The issue remains unresolved, and the conference committee is expected to meet again this afternoon.