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Amazon to collect state sales tax

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Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include comments from the governor’s office. MONTPELIER — Online retail giant Amazon has agreed to begin collecting and remitting the state’s sales tax, providing a boost in revenue as the state faces another gap between revenues and spending in the 2018 fiscal year budget. News of Amazon’s decision to collect and remit Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax beginning Feb. 1 emerged on Friday. It is expected to provide a significant boost to state revenue. Continue Reading →

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Scott proposes changes to the executive branch

Gov. Phil Scott, right, and Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Michael Schirling discuss proposed changes to the executive branch. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott Scott is looking to consolidate some areas of state government in a bid to create operational efficiencies and some potential cost savings, but critics say it could weaken enforcement in a key area of government. Scott, who took office earlier this month, signed three executive orders Sunday and briefed reporters at the State House Tuesday on how they will reorganize the executive branch. One will combine the Department of Liquor and the Lottery Commission into the Department of Liquor and Lottery. Another will reconfigure the state’s Department of Information and Innovation into a new Agency of Digital Services. The third order combines the Department of Labor and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development into a single Agency of Economic Opportunity. Continue Reading →

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Scott rolls back proposed capital gains tax cut

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MONTPELIER — Republican gubernatorial nominee Phil Scott is scaling back a proposal to cut taxes on capitals gains in the economic plan he rolled out two weeks ago after it was based on incorrect information. Scott, the incumbent lieutenant governor, distributed a glossy pamphlet at a news conference in Colchester on Sept. 15 that included a number of proposals he intends to enact as governor. Included in the pamphlet was a plan to restore a 40 percent exclusion on capital gains earnings that was reduced in 2009. But Scott spokesman Ethan Latour said the campaign made a mistake when crafting the proposal and based it on wrong information. Continue Reading →

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Scott releases economic plan, seeks tax cuts and credits

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, discusses his economic plan at Firetech Sprinkler in Colchester. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

COLCHESTER — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, released an economic plan Thursday that he says will focus on major fiscal issues and lead to a more vibrant economy. Scott, who co-owns Dubois Construction with a cousin, released the plan at a news conference at Firetech Sprinkler, saying it will lead to job creation and help lift wages for Vermonters. He chose to hold the press conference Thursday morning rather than attend a debate hosted by WDEV radio at the Tunbridge World’s Fair with his Democratic opponent, Sue Minter. “As a small business owner myself, I put my faith in the skills, work ethic and ingenuity of working Vermonters every single day. That’s why Vermonters can count on me to lead a state government that leverages our talented work force and our commitment to hard work and innovation,” he said. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers look to “ban the box”

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given their overwhelming endorsement to a bill intended to make it easier for people with criminal histories to find employment. By a vote of 138 to 5, the House give preliminary approval to a bill that would — for the most part — prohibit employers from inquiring of a prospective employee’s criminal background on an application form. “The House’s vote to ban the box is a vote for compassion, redemption and opportunity,” House Speaker Shap Smith said after the vote. “The current policy of screening for criminal histories in preliminary job applications puts a barrier in the way of successfully finding employment. By removing this wall, Vermonters will have more opportunities to succeed.”

The bill still has a ways to go, pending a final vote of House lawmakers today and approval by the Senate. Continue Reading →

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Paid sick leave mandate heads to Gov. Shumlin’s desk

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MONTPELIER — The House on Wednesday passed the Senate’s amended version of a paid sick leave bill a year after passing its own, sending it to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s desk to be signed into law — a dream that many on the left side of the political spectrum have waited years to achieve. The bill, H.187, had a relatively easy path to passage Wednesday after five separate amendments were withdrawn. All five amendments — including one from Rep. Alyson Eastman, an independent from Orwell, to include an exemption for small businesses — had already been rejected by the House General, Housing & Military Affairs Committee. Reps. Oliver Olsen, an independent from Londonderry, and Paul Dame, a Republican from Essex, also withdrew amendments, noting they were unlikely to pass. Continue Reading →

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Senate passes paid sick leave bill, again

Kevin Mullin discusses paid sick leave on Wednesday.

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers once again approved a bill requiring employers to grant their workers paid sick leave. Wednesday afternoon, the Senate approved H.187, which will require all employers to offer three days of paid sick leave a year, beginning in 2018. “Tens of thousands of working Vermonters who have long lacked such basic protections as paid sick days eagerly await the bill being signed by Governor Shumlin to move us another step forward toward a society that protects health and human rights for all,” said Isaac Grimm, lead organizer at Rights and Democracy. The bill has had a long road, passing the House during the last legislative session before stalling in the Senate. This session, Senate lawmakers took up the bill, culminating with its passage last week. Continue Reading →

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Senate panel zeroes in on paid sick leave bill

The Senate Committee on on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs works to finalize a paid sick leave bill. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — A Senate panel is zeroing in on a paid sick leave bill that amends the version passed by the House last year to make it more palatable for the business community. The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs is expected to vote on the amended legislation Thursday morning after clarifying the expense it will have on the state as an employer. The bill is expected to easily clear the committee, according to Chairman Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland. The committee delayed a vote on Wednesday until the state Department of Human Resources could detail how much its bill would cost the state. The Senate bill looks to exempt the state from the mandate, except for temporary hourly workers. Continue Reading →

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Donegan: Legal pot market will have difficulties with banking, insurance

Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan

MONTPELIER — Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan says banking services will be limited if Vermont legalizes marijuana for businesses in the market but it could also present some opportunities for institutions in Vermont. Donegan provided testimony Thursday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is reviewing two bills that would legalize marijuana. The federal government still considers the drug to be illegal, however, which has created issues for Colorado and Washington where marijuana has been legalized at the state level. Businesses selling marijuana in the those states have not been able to access the federally insured banking system. How Vermont businesses would fare in a legal marijuana market in the state was immediately raised by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, on Thursday. Continue Reading →

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Story + Video: Legal pot discussion commences, but support is in question

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https://youtu.be/4DN0PvMdnmc

MONTPELIER — Advocates of legalizing marijuana in Vermont are touting new supporters and the potential benefit to Vermont’s economy as State House discussions on legalization commence. The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana held a State House news conference Tuesday to tout the support of former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney’s support for legalizing pot this year. The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing two bills that would do just that. The effort to legalize marijuana received a boost from Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin last week when he announced in his State of the State address last week his willingness to sign a legalization bill this year. Shumlin said he would sign a bill if it ensures pot would stay out of the hands of underage people, has tax rates low enough to scuttle the black market, considers road safety and uses revenue for drug use prevention and addiction treatment. Continue Reading →

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