Monthly Archives: November 2012

Legislators mourn loss of Greg Clark

By Peter Hirschfeld | Bureau Chief

MONTPELIER – Elected officials of all political stripes are mourning the death of Rep. Gregory Clark, the five-term Republican from Vergennes killed in a traffic accident Friday morning. Police say Clark was killed on Route 7 in Waltham early Friday morning after stepping out his car to clear his windshield and being struck by another vehicle. As law enforcement officials pieced together the circumstances surrounding the deadly incident, Clark’s House colleagues recalled his compassion for his constituents, and the humor with which he often advocated on their behalf. “He was a great guy who really cared about Vermonters, and in particular young Vermonters, and making sure they had the tools they needed to be successful,” said Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith. Rep. Johanna Leddy Donovan, chairwoman of the House Education Committee on which Clark served, called him one of the “most popular” members of the entire body. Continue Reading →

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Campbell admits to past failures, then wins second term as Senate pro tem

Following a lengthy mea culpa in which he acknowledged his “deficiencies” as a leader, Sen. John Campbell was nominated by his Democratic colleagues Tuesday evening to a second term as pro tem of the Vermont Senate. Campbell had come under withering criticism during his first two years on the job, much of it from fellow Democrats who blamed the Windsor County lawmaker for a “chaotic” environment that at times resulted in dramatic procedural breakdowns on the Senate floor. Sen. Ann Cummings, the Washington County Democrat who mounted a challenge to Campbell Tuesday, lamented a “dysfunctional Senate” that had, under Campbell’s aegis, become a body of which she was embarrassed to be a member. “I was really hoping there was going to be a change in how things ran (after the first year with Campbell as pro tem),” Cummings said in a plea for votes Tuesday. “There wasn’t. Continue Reading →

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Pot decrim and death with dignity? According to Shumlin, “we’re going to get them done.”

From death with dignity to marijuana decriminalization, Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday said he aims to seal the deal on several notable pieces of unfinished business from the last legislative biennium. Shumlin in his first term was unable to deliver on some of his highest-profile legislative initiatives, including union rights for child care workers. At a morning press conference Tuesday, Shumlin said he’s confident lawmakers will send those bills to his desk in 2013. “I’m confident that regardless of who leads the various bodies in the Legislature, that we can pass decriminalization of marijuana, death with dignity and the (unionization) bill for childcare workers,” Shumlin said. “We’re going to get them done.”

Key lawmakers aren’t so sure. Continue Reading →

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Pollina to push state bank idea

Anthony Pollina, a Washington County Progressive, Democrat and Working Families senator, wants the state to try again at looking at the possibility of a state bank. Currently, the vast majority of incoming tax money or federal money the state receives goes to TD Bank, which earns a profit and charges fees, Pollina says. Through a state bank, which would use existing local banks or a state agency like the Vermont Economic Development Authority, the state could earn interest and use the money to re-invest in businesses or student loans, advocates say. In 2010, a preliminary analysis by the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office wrote the system has a number of potential long-term benefits, but it would likely have a complicated and controversial transition. Committee hearings have gathered testimony about the possibility, but banking representatives have opposed the measure. Continue Reading →

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Taylor, Ellis to run for assistant majority leader

Waterbury Rep. Rebecca Ellis, and Barre Rep. Therese “Tess” Taylor are seeking a Democratic caucus vacancy in the Statehouse as the assistant majority leader, a position that helps facilitate communication between legislators and party leadership. “I think in that process it’s really important for the individual legislators to know that they’re being heard and have an opportunity to speak and have an opportunity to discuss ideas and priorities,” Ellis said. Ellis was appointed as a state representative by Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2011, and was recently elected to a full term. She has also served on the Waterbury Select Board for seven years, including four years as chairwoman. She also served on the Waterbury Planning Commission from 2001 to 2006. Continue Reading →

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Waterbury state office complex project plugging along

Updates from the Legislative Joint Fiscal Committee on Thursday:

-WATERBURY – The Legislative Joint Fiscal Committee signed off on the Modified Option B plan for the Waterbury state office complex Thursday. The current project cost presented Thursday was $124,655,000, and it will provide space for 974 occupants. -REIMBURSEMENT – The state learned last week that the Brooks Building and an annex at the Waterbury state office complex is eligible for repairs by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the 500-year floodplain level, not just the 100-year floodplain, Agency of Administration Deputy Secretary Michael Clasen said. The state plans to demolish both buildings, but the increased threshold means more money for the state. -COMMISSIONER – Department of Mental Health Commissioner Patrick Flood, who plans to pursue other options, will have his last day Friday. Continue Reading →

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Gov. Shumlin announces second-term staffing changes

Gov. Shumlin announced the following second-term staffing changes in a press release today:

Chief of Staff Bill Lofy will leave the administration to take a position with the Democratic Governors Association, which Gov. Shumlin is expected to chair in 2013. Lofy will step down as chief of staff at the end of the year; he will work for the DGA primarily from Vermont. Lofy formerly worked for U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and held senior positions at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Alex MacLean, Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs, will leave the administration in early 2013 to take a position in the private sector. MacLean staffed Gov. Shumlin during his tenure as President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate, and has run his two successful gubernatorial campaigns. Continue Reading →

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State budget talks: Input wanted

State budget talks begin tomorrow, and the state wants your input. A draft copy of the presentation is available here, and an edited press release follows:

The first of two public forums occurs tonight to discuss the state budget process, revenues and expenditures. As required by state legislation, public participation is required in the development of budget goals and general prioritizing and evaluation of spending and revenue initiatives. “We hope to engage the public in a discussion about the goals, opportunities and complexities of putting together the State budget,” Finance & Management Commissioner Jim Reardon said in a statement. “We’ll discuss revenues and expenditures and conduct a budget exercise about priorities for how state funds might be directed.” Continue Reading →

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Welch, Sanders to discuss budget and deficit

BURLINGTON — Vermont’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives is going to be talking about his priorities for the lame-duck session of Congress. Rep. Peter Welch is planning to discuss the issues in his Burlington office on Monday before he returns to Washington. The Norwich Democrat will outline his efforts to pass a farm bill and the need to avoid what is being called the looming fiscal cliff of tax increases and dramatic budget cuts. Sen. Bernie Sanders, fresh off reelection, will also be holding a press conference at his Church Street office at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the budget deficits. Sanders as well will return to Washington in time for the start of ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations between both houses of Congress and the White House, which are expected to start  Tuesday. Continue Reading →

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Middlesex couple resists state psychiatric home

MIDDLESEX — State officials trying to resolve the psychiatric patient housing shortage have come into conflict with a Middlesex couple seeking to protect their children and avoid depreciation of their property. The state is seeking to construct a seven-bed secure residential facility near a State Police barracks and state archives and records offices on Route 2, but a neighboring couple has turned to the state’s environmental court to intervene. The state has gone so far as to consider buying the couple’s property in order to move the project forward, but legislators rejected the proposal. The state believes it will prevail, but the court could take months to resolve the issue. The state is trying to expedite the matter, citing the emergency need of housing for patients after Tropical Storm Irene flooded the Vermont State Hospital. Continue Reading →

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