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Contraceptives bill signed into law

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. Shumlin, a third-term Democrat who is not seeking re-election, signed H.620, on the steps of the State House Monday with lawmakers and representatives of Planned Parenthood looking on. He said the legislation moves Vermont in the right direction while some parts of the country are heading backward. “When we look around us here in 2016, here in America, and we look at the issue of reproductive rights and women’s health, it’s pretty darn shocking to this governor of Vermont when I see what’s going on with the rest of the country,” the governor said. “We have the presumptive [presidential] nominee of the Republican Party who has literally suggested that women should be punished should they seek an abortion. Continue Reading →

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House defeats efforts to legalize, further decriminalize pot

Law enforcement officers listen to debate in the House about marijuana legalization. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for the drug, and even fell short of decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of two marijuana plants. The House did manage to salvage a commission that will study the legalization of marijuana and report its findings back to the Legislature, likely setting up another push at legalization next year after the November election. The House first voted 121 to 28 Tuesday against the Senate’s proposal, which was strongly backed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. The Senate passed the bill on a 17 to 12 vote. Rep. Chris Pearson, a Progressive from Burlington, was among the slim minority of House members who supported the Senate’s language. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration to require payment for release of remaining emails

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MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration has asked the Vermont Press Bureau to withdraw its standing public records request for tens of thousands of emails the administration sought to delete, citing the cost and time required to fulfill it. Scott Coriell, spokesman for Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Darren Springer, the governor’s chief of staff, made the request Monday. The administration released the first batch of about 5,500 pages of emails last week that were sent and received by five former staff members. The first release of emails required about 200 hours of staff time to complete. Coriell said the cost of releasing the first batch of emails amounted to $5,300, but the administration is not seeking payment. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration releases emails it sought to delete

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MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration has released the first batch of emails sent and received by five former staffers that it sought to destroy last month, a request that drew heavy criticism because it came just days before state and federal fraud charges against two Northeast Kingdom developers were revealed. The first batch of emails — about 5,500 — that were slated for deletion was released to the Vermont Press Bureau Friday as part of a public records request. The administration agreed to release the emails after they were reviewed to redact protected and privileged information. Scott Coriell, spokesman for Gov. Peter Shumlin, said all members of the governor’s staff, excluding the governor, have spent the past week completing the request, which required about 200 staff hours. There are tens of thousands of emails that are subject to the records request, according to Coriell, and the administration has no precise timeline for when the remaining records will be released. Continue Reading →

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VSEA, Democratic candidates call for funding labor contract

Vermont State Employees Association Executive Director Steve Howard calls for lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract at a State House news conference. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association and the three Democratic candidates for governor are calling on lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract for state workers recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board, but Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says it is too costly. The VSEA and the candidates — Matt Dunne, Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith — held a State House news conference Wednesday calling on the Legislature to include a 2 percent salary increase for state workers in the 2017 fiscal year state budget and a 2.25 percent increase in the 2018 fiscal year budget. That increase was recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board Tuesday in a 3 to 2 split decision over the Shumlin administration’s proposal for a 1 percent increase in 2017 and a 1.25 percent increase in 2018. VSEA President Dave Bellini said Wednesday the union has been seeking a fair contract through collective bargaining since last August that respects state employees. “You show respect and support by putting your money where your mouth is — funding our contracts, our retirements, making investments in safety for the hardworking Vermonters who are state employees,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Story & Video: Gubernatorial candidates pounce on alleged EB-5 fraud, call for transparency and release of documents

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith calls for an independent commission to investigate the state's role in EB-5 projects that are the subject of civil fraud litigation. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

https://youtu.be/1W3BtbhRw4c

MONTPELIER — Candidates seeking to succeed Gov. Peter Shumlin are calling for transparency and one is seeking an independent commission to review the state’s involvement as a federal and state fraud case against two Northeast Kingdom developers proceeds. Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith, a former Windham County state senator, held a State House news conference Monday to call for an independent commission appointed by the chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court to investigate the state’s role in the fraud case against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. The two men are facing civil litigation filed by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the state for allegedly misusing $200 million in investor funds they raised through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Quiros is accused of using $50 million of investor funds for his own personal gain. Galbraith said the two men have contributed significant amounts of money to Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Democratic Party and it should be determined if those contributions resulted in any favorable treatment for the EB-5 projects led by Quiros and Stenger at the Jay Peak and Q Burke Mountain resorts, and other projects in Newport. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration defends its request to delete emails

Darren Springer, chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin, briefs reporters on the administration's request to delete the emails of former members of the governor's staff. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration sought Monday to disassociate its request to delete the emails of five former staffers from a major civil fraud case revealed last week against two developers in the Northeast Kingdom who used a foreign investor program overseen by the state to raise capital. Top administration officials briefed reporters on its request made prior to the public revelation of fraud charges against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros to delete the emails of former administration staff members that are more than three years old. The request to delete emails came under fire over the weekend after it was revealed in a VTDigger.org article. “To conflate them is absolutely incorrect and inaccurate,” Darren Springer, chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin, told reporters Monday. One of the former staffers in question, Alexandra MacLean, left the governor’s office for a job at Jay Peak, where many of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program development projects headed by Stenger and Quiros took place. Continue Reading →

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Potential dam purchase gets bipartisan support

The Wilder dam on the Connecticut River is among the 13 hydroelectric facilities put on the market by TransCanada. (Len Emery)

MONTPELIER — State officials are mobilizing to explore the potential purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, but plenty of obstacles remain in the way to complete a purchase the state passed on just over a decade ago. TransCanada put the 13 dams on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. The move has prompted a bipartisan group of state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, to express interest in purchasing the dams through a state-owned power authority. A similar effort under former Gov. Jim Douglas was made in 2005, but TransCanada outbid the state with its $505 million offer. Continue Reading →

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Story + Video: Galbraith launches Democratic bid for governor

Peter Galbraith announces his candidacy for governor Tuesday in the Cedar Creek Room of the State House in Montpelier. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

https://youtu.be/Vj5E8T4btGM

MONTPELIER — Peter Galbraith, a former Democratic state senator from Windham County, launched a campaign for governor Tuesday, promising to change a system of government that favors special interests over regular Vermonters. “I am a candidate for governor of Vermont,” Galbraith said at a State House news conference Tuesday morning. “This is a remarkable state, but that doesn’t mean we should continue to do things as we have.”

Galbraith, 65, served two terms in the Senate before announcing in 2014 that he would not seek re-election. The former diplomat was appointed United Nations’ Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan in 2009, and served as the first U.S. ambassador to Croatia under former President Bill Clinton. The Townsend resident, who will join a Democratic gubernatorial primary that already includes Matt Dunne, a former Windsor County state senator, and Sue Minter, a former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, promised he would run the state differently than others. Continue Reading →

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Peter Galbraith plans Tuesday announcement

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MONTPELIER — Former Democratic Windham County Sen. Peter Galbraith has registered as a candidate for governor and will announce his political plans at a State House news conference Tuesday. Galbraith, who served two terms in the Senate, decided not to seek re-election in 2014. He registered with the Secretary of State’s office Monday and updated his political Facebook page to “Peter Galbraith for VT Governor.”

Galbraith has been mulling a bid for governor for several months. He recently participated in a news conference by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne to denounce corporate donations to political campaigns. Galbraith, 65, is a resident of Townsend. Continue Reading →

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