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Galbraith calls for universal background checks, ban of “assault-style” weapons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith called for a ban on "assault-style" weapons at a news conference Monday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith scrapped the planned announcement of his college plan for low-income Vermonters and instead called Monday for a ban on “assault-style” weapons following the massacre in Orlando on Sunday. Galbraith called for several new gun control measures at the state and federal level as authorities continued to investigate the shooting death of 49 people at a night club in Orlando, allegedly by Omar Mateen, who was killed by police. He told reporters at a news conference Monday at the Community College of Vermont there would be “a significant change in topic.”

“Today, with what’s happened in Orlando, I think that is the focus of attention in our state and it raises a broader issue for me, which I really go back to Robert Kennedy and his quote — “When in the face of evil good men do nothing, that is how evil triumphs,” he said. The former diplomat and Windham County state senator decried the lack of conversation in Vermont about new gun control measures. “We pretend that we are somehow immune from the national trends, when in fact, we’re not and when we face these tragedies we often go to a different issue. 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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Lawmakers address police body cameras

MONTPELIER — Law enforcement will create rules governing the use of body cameras, but a last-minute amendment means those rules will be reviewed and approved by the General Assembly. On Thursday, House lawmakers gave final approval to a bill to create a statewide standard for the way police use body cameras, and the way that information will be used and shared with the public. Senate Bill 174 calls for the Law Enforcement Advisory Board — which is part of the state Department of Public Safety — to create a model policy for the use of body cameras by Dec. 15 of this year. Law enforcement agencies will have until July 1, 2017, to either adopt the model policy or create their own policies that meet the minimum standards established by the board. Continue Reading →

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Senate gives preliminary approval to privacy bill

Sen. Tim Ashe

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers offered a ringing endorsement Wednesday for a bill intended to protect personal privacy in the face of technological advances. With a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill intended to limit the way law enforcement can use technology ranging from drones and license plate readers to cell phones and computers to gather information on people. “Together, they do a thing we think is important, which is reinvigorate the conversation about how to protect individuals personal and private lives at a time of rapidly expanding technology,” said Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden of the provisions within the bill. Ashe noted how the concept of privacy has changed during the last 25 years, recalling when a person sending a letter would be “almost guaranteed” nobody would read it aside from the intended recipient, compared with privacy breaches today that lead to disclosure of email. Ashe also noted high-tech companies that are using satellites to photograph every inch of the planet. 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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Lawmakers mull electronic privacy

David Cahill

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers are mulling ways to protect personal privacy in the face of technological advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing an omnibus privacy bill that seeks to limit the ways law enforcement can gather and use electronic data on the public. “The goal is clearly to prescript law enforcement access to electronic communications, and what time will they need a warrant, and what time they could call AT&T and say, we want all of Sears’ phone records,” said Sen. Richard Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which took up the bill Wednesday. Sears said the bill is one the three most-important bills expected to come through his committee this session, along with marijuana legalization and increased protections for Department for Children and Families workers. Already, there is agreement among the committee members on some facets of the bill, such as requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using an unmanned aerial device — or drone — to gather information on an individual. Continue Reading →

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