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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 explains the sale of Dubois Construction

Gov. Phil Scott briefs reporters on the sale of his share in Dubois Construction, which does business with the state. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has sold his share of a construction business and will be paid $2.5 million by the firm over a 15-year period. Scott, pledging to be transparent and open about the sale, briefed reporters Friday on its terms. Scott had been a half partner in the company, Dubois Construction, which bids on state contracts, before the sale close on Dec. 30. “I signed a sales agreement and sold my shares back to Dubois Construction,” Scott said. Scott said he chose to sell his share back to the company and finance it himself. Continue Reading →

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Pomp and ceremony at the State House

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman is sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson on Thursday at the State House. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — The transition to Vermont’s new state government for the next two years was completed Thursday as Republican Gov. Phil Scott was sworn into office along with the state’s additional statewide officers. The State House on Thursday was filled to capacity for the inaugural ceremonies. It was also swarming with police and uniformed military personnel — one of the few days each legislative session where security is so visible. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive and Democrat, was sworn in Thursday morning in the Senate chamber. In his brief remarks he urged the Senators seated before him to consult with those closest to them as they conduct their business. Continue Reading →

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Scott promises a new era of state government

Surrounded by members of the Senate, Gov. Phil Scott acknowledges an ovation after delivering his Inaugural Address at the State House in Montpelier on Thursday. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Phillip B. Scott, Vermont’s 82nd governor, was sworn into office Thursday afternoon before promising in his inaugural address to bring a “centrist governing philosophy” to the office while focusing on making the state more affordable for its residents. Scott, 58, succeeded Peter Shumlin, the now former Democratic governor, who set the state on a course of bold action. Scott, in his 30-minute address, described a more subdued approach to governing. He said his administration would focus on four core issues — continuing the fight against opiate addiction, revitalizing the state’s approach to economic development, transforming the education system and building a sustainable state budget. But while he described the initial themes of his governorship, he offered few policy prescriptions to achieve them, promising more in the weeks to come. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin bids the state farewell

Gov. Peter Shumlin smiles after delivering his farewell address on Wednesday, Jan. 4. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin delivered his farewell address to lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, framing his six-year tenure as a success after recovering from the Great Recession, facing down an opiate addiction epidemic, delivering health care to more Vermonters and greatly expanding renewable energy across the state. Shumlin, who did not seek re-election, will leave office Thursday afternoon after Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott is sworn in. He used his nearly 30-minute farewell address to remind lawmakers — and the public — of what he sees as his administration’s good deeds as he prepares to leave office less popular than when he arrived. Shumlin began his remarks by congratulating Scott, who defeated Shumlin’s preferred candidate, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter, in last November’s general election. “I’ve known Phil for a long, long time. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court denies Shumlin’s appointment authority

House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, speaks to his attorney, state Rep. Janssen Willhoit, during oral arguments before the Vermont Supreme Court on Tuesday. Milton is challenging outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin's authority to name a replacement for Justice John Dooley, who is not seeking retention and will leave the bench on April 1. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court ruled unanimously against outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin Wednesday, barring him from appointing a new justice to join its ranks and delivering a stinging blow on his penultimate day in office. Shumlin, a Democrat, had hoped to appoint a replacement for Justice John Dooley, who revealed in September that he was not seeking retention on the court. Shumlin triggered the replacement process by calling upon the Judicial Nominating Board to send him the names of well qualified candidates to succeed Dooley, who will leave the bench when his term expires on April 1. But Rep. Donald Turner, the House minority leader, and Sen. Joe Benning, the Senate minority leader, petitioned the Supreme Court on Dec. 21 asking it to prevent Shumlin from making the appointment. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court hears appointment case, decision pending

Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley speaks during oral arguments Tuesday for a case that will determine whether outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin can replace him when his term expires April 1. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin can appoint a replacement for one of its members, Justice John Dooley, before Shumlin leaves office on Thursday. The hearing Tuesday, held in a packed Supreme Court chamber filled with media, lawmakers, statewide elected officials and other observers, was triggered by a petition filed by Rep. Donald Turner and Sen. Joe Benning just before Christmas challenging Shumlin’s authority to name Dooley’s replacement. The justices made no indication Tuesday afternoon before ending the court session when it would issue a ruling. However, the court is expected to rule imminently in order to settle the matter before Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott is sworn into office on Thursday afternoon. Should the justices rule in Shumlin’s favor he could then name a replacement for Dooley on Wednesday when the new Senate is sworn in. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin issues 192 pardons for pot possession

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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:35 a.m. to include additional information. MONTPELIER — Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin issued 192 pardons to Vermonters convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana, fulfilling a promise he made last month and setting a new record for pardons issued by a single governor in the state’s history. Shumlin, a Democrat, announced on Dec. 8 that he was offering pardons to as many as 17,000 Vermonters who were convicted of possessing marijuana before the state decriminalized the offense in 2013, making it a civil violation akin to a traffic ticket. He said the offer was intended to help create “a more sane drug policy.”

A total of 460 people applied for a pardon through a special application created by the Shumlin administration. Continue Reading →

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Scott not sold on exchange report, will outline plan in budget address

Gov. Phil Scott (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — Gov.-elect Phil Scott says a recent report recommending that the state stick with Vermont Health Connect has not necessarily changed his belief that the state should abandon the exchange as he prepares to outline his path forward later this month. Scott, a Republican who will be sworn in as Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s successor on Thursday, promised during his campaign against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter that he would seek to join the federal exchange or partner with other states, while shuddering Vermont Health Connect. The Strategic Solutions Group, an independent party hired by the Legislature to determine whether the state should stick with or abandon the exchange, released its report just before Christmas. The report noted the state’s exchange has “significant deficiencies” and more work is needed if it is to be sustainable. But it also asserted that sticking with Vermont Health Connect is preferable to the solutions Scott proposed during the campaign. Continue Reading →

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