Author Archives: Thatcher Moats

McKibben endorses Zuckerman

David Zuckerman, farmer and former House member who is running for the Senate in Chittenden County, has won the support of Vermont’s best-known environmentalist, the campaign announced Monday.

Bill McKibben, resident scholar at Middlebury College and founder of 350.org, says Zuckerman would be a “real asset in the Vermont Senate.”

“I have known David Zuckerman for a number of years and he is one of the most promising environmental political figures I know,” McKibben said in a written statement.

Zuckerman’s running in the Democratic primary, but the long-time Progressive hopes to run in the general election as a D/P fusion candidate.

Here’s the full news release:

HINESBURG, VT – In the crowded democratic primary for the Chittenden County State Senate race former State Representative David Zuckerman has received the endorsement from Vermont’s most famous environmental activist.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and resident scholar at Middlebury College lent his name to Zuckerman’s campaign saying, “I have known David Zuckerman for a number of years and he is one of the most promising environmental political figures I know. He will be a real asset in the Vermont Senate.”

While serving in the legislature, Zuckerman was influential promoting renewable energy including geothermal, solar and wind energy development. During the debate on tax rates for wind power Zuckerman was key to keeping the rates low by leading a tri-partisan coalition to fend off the highest rates in the nation. Zuckerman also regularly earned 100% voting records in scorecards from VPIRG and the VT League of Conservation Voters.

McKibben’s support comes with a call for action, “We do not have time to wait. Electing David Zuckerman to the Vermont Senate will help spur more active environmental, sustainable agriculture and other important legislation. Please support David.”

Zuckerman says this endorsement means a lot so early in the campaign. “I was an Environmental Studies Major at UVM. I learned how critical our energy policy is to our future. I have successfully worked on these issues for years and have looked to Bill for ideas and solutions. I am honored to have his support, it is a clear signal to Vermonters who have strong environmental convictions.”

Donovan wins backing of state workers’ union

Labor is lining up for TJ Donovan.

Adding to a list of earlier union endorsements, the Vermont State Employees Association is backing Donovan, the campaign announced Thursday afternoon.

The state workers’ union represents over 6,000 employees.

“For too long Vermonters have gone without an Attorney General who understands what working and middle class Vermonters go through day in and day out, and who appreciates the essential role state workers play in our state,” said John Reese, President of VSEA, in a written statement. “The men and women of VSEA are supporting TJ in the Democratic Primary for Attorney General because we’re confident he’ll be an unflinching supporter of worker’s rights; an active watchdog of government contractors; and a vocal advocate for the labor movement in an era of nationwide attacks on public employees and unions.”

Donovan has also picked up endorsements from the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont, the Vermont AFL-CIO, the Vermont Troopers Association, the Vermont Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Vermont Sheriff’s Association.

According to the Donovan campaign, the groups represent about 15,000 members statewide.

Donovan, the Chittenden County State’s Attorney, is trying to unseat 15-year incumbent Bill Sorrell in the Democratic primary in late August.

In a primary that could draw fewer than 40,000 voters, unions could play a decisive role in the outcome if they come out in force for Donovan.

 

 

Donovan’s stat on opiate addiction ‘not accurate’

MONTPELIER — Democratic candidate for state attorney general TJ Donovan dropped a shocking statistic during a radio interview last week.

As Donovan discussed the problem of prescription drug abuse in Vermont — a centerpiece of his primary campaign — he told Vermont Public Radio listeners: “One in seven babies born at Rutland Regional Medical Center are born opiate addicted.”

That is far from correct, say health officials.

“That’s not accurate,” said Dr. Daniel Foley, the chief of the obstetrics and gynecology department at RRMC. “That would be really something.”

The Vermont Department of Health also says it has no data that suggest anything close to a 14 percent opiate addiction rate among newborns in Rutland.

Instead, the most recent Health Department data suggest a less than 1 percent addiction rate for newborns at Rutland Regional Medical Center, which is lower than the statewide average.

This is not the first time the one-in-seven statistic Donovan used has emerged in the last year, and it’s not the first time data used to support what politicians from across the political spectrum call an epidemic of prescription drug abuse have been questioned.

For the full story, click on the Rutland Herald link at http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120628/NEWS03/706289895

Leriche lands (for now) at Green Mountain Power

When Rep. Lucy Leriche, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, announced last month she would not seek re-election, she cited the need to earn more money and get back to an “income producing life.”

Her first stop? Green Mountain Power.

Leriche has landed a contract gig with the politically connected electric utility that she expects will last three or four months.

Leriche, an eight-year veteran of the House who served as House Majority Leader the last two years, will be doing community outreach for the company, which just won approval to buy out Central Vermont Public Service and become the largest utility in the state.

The Hardwick resident said much of her work will likely be up in the Northeast Kingdom working with communities involved in the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell, a highly controversial wind development that will be the biggest in the state when it’s done.

As the windmills are shipped in, said Leriche, she will be “working with towns to coordinate transportation routes and make sure transportation of the equipment goes smoothly and if anything should arise be there to help get problems solved and make sure things get ironed out.”

Leriche made it clear the job is temporary and that she is still looking for something permanent.

Green Mountain Power has made itself into something of a landing pad for former politicians and executive branch officials.

Leriche said she is replacing David Coriell, who was former Gov. James Douglas’ spokesman at the end of his tenure. Neale Lunderville, who was Douglas’ administration secretary also ended up at GMP.

Robert Dostis, who chaired the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee that deals directly with utility issues, was hired in 2008 and has been a frequent spokesman for the corporation.

In fight over $21 million, PSB hands utilities a victory

The Public Service Board on Friday approved the merger of the state’s two largest electric utilities, Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power.

In approving the deal the three-member board approved a plan put forth by the utilities – and backed by the Shumlin administration – for repaying $21 million to ratepayers as a result of CVPS being bailed out by ratepayers in 2001.

The plan includes making investments that are expected to achieve savings for ratepayers rather than repaying ratepayers in cash directly.

The proposal for the $21 million the board approved Friday was the focus of an explosive debate in the Statehouse this year as many lawmakers wanted the utilities to pay the $21 million directly to ratepayers.

In reaching its decision about the $21 million, the board said requiring direct cash payment risked sinking the deal and scuttling the potential benefits of the merger.

They wrote in the decision that “any such a condition would put at risk the entire transaction, including the far greater benefits for ratepayers of both companies expected from the merger (both the $144 million of benefits that will be guaranteed by the Combined Company and the prospect of $500 million in ratepayer savings over 20 years).”

They also explained: “After reviewing all the evidence and Board precedent, we conclude that the CEED Fund as proposed in the DPS MOU represents an acceptable mechanism for providing the windfall-recovery amounts… notwithstanding that the CEED Fund investments are recoverable in rates — a fact that some may argue is not ideal.

“We reach this decision for two primary reasons. First, as articulated earlier in this Order, the merger of CVPS and GMP has tremendous benefits for ratepayers of both companies. These benefits cannot be achieved if any other entity were to purchase CVPS. The Petitioners have filed a comprehensive acquisition and merger proposal with us; a change to this aspect of the proposal such that the cost to Gaz Métro of acquiring CVPS were to materially increase could induce Gaz Métro to withdraw its offer and then Vermonters would lose all the benefits from the Proposed Transaction. Second, as explained more fully below, the CEED Fund is substantially similar to the GMP Efficiency Fund, which we previously determined was an acceptable mechanism for providing the windfall-recovery amounts set forth in Docket 6107. Thus, the proposal before us in the DPS MOU is consistent with Board precedent.”

AARP fought hard to have the $21 million sent directly to ratepayers, and the group was disappointed with the outcome.

“Today was a great day for Gaz Metro and CVPS shareholders and a lousy day for the ratepayers that bailed this CVPS out when it was in financial crisis,” said Greg Marchildon, AARP Vermont State Director, in a written statement.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who took some political heat for backing the merger and reaching a memorandum of understanding with the utilities that the board approved Friday, said the ruling “affirms that the merger between Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power will bring tremendous benefits to ratepayers and is in the best interest of Vermont.”

“I continue to believe, and this ruling reflects, that the terms as approved by the Board will produce extraordinary benefits for consumers and the state,” Shumlin said in a prepared statement. “This merger will result in dramatic cost savings of $144 million over the next decade and $500 million over 20 years, improve efficiency and lower energy costs for more homes, and ensure that the public interest will be represented in the oversight of our state transmission system. This ruling is great news for Vermont ratepayers.”

More to come on this….

 

 

BREAKING: Shumlin plans to seek re-election

Gov. Peter Shumlin today announced what everyone knew but the governor declined numerous times to plainly state: that he’s seeking re-election to a second term. Here’s the Democratic governor’s statement on his re-election bid.

“I am pleased to announce today that I plan to seek reelection for the office of Governor. It has been a privilege to serve the people of Vermont over the past 16 months. I am proud of what we have accomplished together. Yet there is more work to do and I look forward to continuing our jobs agenda: creating jobs and more economic opportunities for Vermonters, containing the skyrocketing cost of health care, continuing Irene recovery, expanding broadband and cell service across our state, and investing in our renewable energy future and children’s education. I will continue to focus on these initiatives and will make a more formal announcement of my candidacy around Labor Day.”

 

Shumlin performs ceremonial electrical work

You’ve heard of ceremonial ribbon cuttings with giant scissors, smashing champagne bottles on boats prior to maiden voyages, but Gov. Peter Shumlin tried out a new one Wednesday: screwing a cover onto a plastic box of electrical wiring and then taking a photo of a communications tower with a smartphone.

Dramatic, no?

The ceremonial electrical work by the Democratic governor took place in picturesque Plainfield below a new 100-foot tower where administration officials and lawmakers announced the launch of a broadband project that can serve about 4,000 businesses and households in rural central Vermont towns.

It’s all part of Shumlin’s goal of making broadband available to all Vermonters by the end of 2013.

At first, Shumlin – with screwdriver in hand – said he would use the tool to “connect” the towers that were part of the project together.

As he started screwing a cover over a box of electrical wiring attached to the side of a small building, however, it became clear it was more of a ceremonial “connection,” and Shumlin later acknowledged his role-playing as handyman was “a little drama.”

But Michael Birnbaum, the general manager of a Cloud Alliance — a company involved in the project — played along.

“Once we put this box together our connection will be complete, is that fair to say Michael?” Shumlin said.

“Sure,” said Birnbaum. “You’re the governor.”

 

Donovan gets labor endorsement

T.J. Donovan, who hopes to unseat incumbent attorney general Bill Sorrell, picked up a labor endorsement, the campaign announced today.
Below is the press release:
TJ DONOVAN RECEIVES SUPPORT OF VERMONT STATE LABOR COUNCIL, AFL-CIO
Labor Leaders Say Fighting for Working Families and Economic Justice a Must for Next Attorney General

BURLINGTON, VT – TJ Donovan, candidate for Vermont Attorney General, received key support today from the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The coalition of unions, which represents nearly 10,000 members in numerous unions throughout the state, cited TJ’s understanding of the demands on working families, engagement with the labor community, and commitment to protecting Vermont workers for their support of Donovan’s campaign.

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Shollenberger joins Team T.J.

Montpelier lobbyist and organizer Amy Shollenberger has been hired to help T.J. Donovan in his Democratic primary race against longtime incumbent Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

Shollenberger has worked on Vermont House races and was Doug Racine’s campaign manager during the Democratic primary for governor in 2010. Racine came in a close  second to Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Shollenberger said she’ll perform general consulting for the Donovan campaign, which means campaign strategy, planning and helping Donovan hone his message and presentation.

“I think it’s going to be the most exciting statewide race,” said Shollenberger. “I think that Bill Sorrell is a formidable candidate, a strong incumbent, but I think T.J. has a good chance, a good platform. He’s working hard, and I think he’s really committed to public service, and I think that will show when people meet him.”

Shollenberger said she is also negotiating a contract to work for the Vermont Democratic House Campaign, a political action committee, for the 2012 cycle.

State tax credits for Vermont veterans going mostly unused

State tax credits designed to help veterans land jobs after returning from the war in Afghanistan appear to be doing little to help the former soldiers find employment, according to figures from state and federal agencies.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Legislature passed a law more than a year ago that created a $2,000 tax credit for businesses that hire Vermont veterans who were recently discharged from the military. Under the law, veterans who start businesses that turn a $3,000 profit also are eligible for a $2,000 tax break.

The legislation targeted the 1,500 Vermont National Guard soldiers who returned 18 months ago from the guard’s largest deployment since World War II.

Amid dire predictions that nearly 500 former soldiers could be looking for work in a bleak job market, lawmakers and the governor passed the tax credit legislation in hopes it would put the veterans at the front of the employment line.

But it appears the tax credit is playing little if any role in hiring.

For the full story read today’s Times Argus or Rutland Herald:

http://bit.ly/LqmTpn

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.”

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.

 

 

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.