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Story & Video: Shumlin and Sears outline bill to “cautiously and deliberately” legalize pot

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https://youtu.be/Vx5grntvLI8

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears announced legislation Tuesday to “cautiously and deliberately legalize marijuana in Vermont.”

Shumlin said the “war on drugs” had failed when it came to marijuana prohibition. “The black market is failing Vermont. When you have 80,000 Vermonters who admitted to buying pot … every single month in the last year, and you can assume that since it’s illegal that number is higher, you know we’ve got a problem to solve,” the governor said a State House news conference Tuesday, flanked by Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn and Sears, D-Bennington. Shumlin called for the legalization of marijuana in his State of the State address earlier this month, with some conditions, including:
— A legal market must keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids. With 83 percent of Vermont youth saying that marijuana is easy or somewhat easy to obtain, the current system doesn’t do this. Continue Reading →

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Speaker: House to explore exchange options

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MONTPELIER — The House Health Care Committee will hold hearings next week to examine the state’s options for Vermont Health Connect as the exchange faces new challenges and unrest grows in the Legislature, according to House Speaker Shap Smith. The Shumlin administration revealed last week that a new backlog of exchange users waiting for changes to their accounts has emerged and includes more than 3,000 people. According to a Vermont Public Radio report, the Shumlin administration blamed the new backlog on a software upgrade that was not yet ready to be deployed. The administration reported last fall that it had dealt with a backlog of requested changes that at one time had numbered more than 10,000. Smith told the Vermont Press Bureau Tuesday the Shumlin administration needs to show quick progress on fixing the so-called change of circumstance function and reducing the backlog. Continue Reading →

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Vermont proposes all-payer health care model

Al Gobeille, right, discusses the all-payer model.

MONTPELIER — Vermont has taken the first step toward a radical change in the way health care providers are paid for their services. On Monday, state officials submitted a proposal to the federal government that would see doctors paid for the health outcomes of their patients, rather than for the services they provide. “I think anyone in the health care industry knows that fee-for-service results in duplication and inefficiency,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin, a statement he has made in one form or another during his five years in office. Rather than pay for every visit to the doctor’s office or every test a patient takes, the proposed all-payer model would allow Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers to pay health care providers based upon the heath outcomes of their patients. The Shumlin Administration submitted its proposal Monday to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, seeking permission to employ an all-payer model in Vermont for five years, beginning in January 2017 and continuing through December 2021. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin scraps Medicaid change after one day

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday he will scrap a $4.9 million budget-savings initiative he proposed just one day earlier that would have changed Medicaid eligibility requirements for pregnant women. Shumlin, who delivered his final budget address to the Legislature Thursday, had planed to raise the income level at which pregnant women qualify for the Medicaid from 138 percent of the federal poverty level to 213 percent. That equates to about $16,000 and $25,000, respectively. Women who no longer qualified for Medicaid under the governor’s proposal would have been eligible for subsidized health plans on Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. A change in state law would be required, however, to allow pregnant women to enroll in a health plan outside of the open enrollment period. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin seeks 3.1 percent boost in FY2017 budget, expansion of provider assessment

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers the final budget address of his governorship inside the House chamber. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is looking to address a deficit in the state’s Medicaid program by expanding a tax on health care providers in the $1.537 billion 2017 fiscal year budget proposal he revealed Thursday. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, delivered the final budget proposal of his tenure to lawmakers Thursday. His proposal, outlined in his 30-minute address inside the House Chamber, would boost spending by 3.1 percent over the current fiscal year — after mid-year adjustments are put in place. Shumlin touted his budget as responsible and necessary, noting he closed a projected $68 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending without the use of one-time funding for ongoing expenses for the first time since before the Great Recession. The 3.1 percent spending increase matches projected revenues, he said. Continue Reading →

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State revenues get slight downgrade

Economists Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr deliver an updated revenue forecast to the Emergency Board. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Economists for the Shumlin administration and the Legislature have revised projected state revenues downward for the remainder of the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year for the general and education funds. The new consensus forecast was delivered to the Emergency Board Tuesday by Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr, consulting economists for the administration and lawmakers. The general fund is now expected to see $4.7 million less revenue in the current 2016 fiscal year and $9.1 million less in the 2017 fiscal year. The education fund, meanwhile, is expected to see $1 million less in the current fiscal year and $500,000 less in the 2017 fiscal year. The transportation fund is now expected to grow by $900,000 more in the current fiscal year and $1.1 million more in the 2017 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Vermont Should Divest from Coal and ExxonMobil Stocks

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n Christmas Day, I burned brush on my farm in Putney — in a t-shirt. My experience was not unlike that of many Vermonters as we all lived through Vermont’s most tropical Christmas in memory, capping off the world’s warmest year on record. Climate change is here, and it is affecting the Vermont that we love, from our ski areas to our lakes. Now is the time to take every sensible action to combat it if we’re to have a shot at preserving a livable planet for our kids and grandkids. At home, we’ve done a lot; from increasing by ten and 20 times the amount of solar and wind in Vermont, respectively, to investing in energy efficiency to help Vermonters use less energy and save money. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capitol Beat with the Governor 1.15.16

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin discuss his trip to Iowa this week to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the use of the Enterprise Fund and potential changes to Act 46, the education reform bill passed last year. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin to stump for Clinton in Iowa

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Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign announced Tuesday that Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin will make several appearances in the Hawkeye State on her behalf this week. According to the campaign, Shumlin, who endorsed Clinton in May over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, will make appearances at Hillary for Iowa offices in Burlington, Keokuk, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Grinnell and Newton. (more…) 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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