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Welch to bring Iraqi interpreter to Trump’s address to Congress

Rep. Peter Welch

MONTPELIER — U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is planning to bring an Iraqi national who served as an interpreter for the U.S. military to Republican President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday. Trump will deliver his first address to Congress — and the nation — inside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday night as his immigration policies continue to reverberate in Washington and across the country. Welch, a Democrat, has invited Ahmed Alsaeedi, an Iraqi from Baghdad who served as an interpreter for the U.S Army and now lives in Burlington, to be his personal guest at the speech. Many of Welch’s colleagues in Congress are also extending invitations to former interpreters and others who assisted the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welch said he thought to invite Alsaeedi after a recent meeting they had and “my horror at the executive order, including in its original form, that it would have cut off access to safety” for people like Alsaeedi. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers unfazed by White House comments on marijuana

White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

MONTPELIER — A White House official warned last week of a possible crackdown on federal marijuana policy but officials in Vermont say the discussion about whether to legalize the drug here will continue. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to questions at the White House’s daily briefing last Thursday with vague warnings about potential enforcement of the federal government’s policy. “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” he told reporters. Former Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration’s policy was to largely look the other way as states moved forward with state-level legalization. But Republican President Donald Trump may change all of that, putting states like Colorado, where there is a large, regulated marijuana retail market, in the Trump administration’s bullseye. Continue Reading →

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Scott: Trump looking to tone down immigration rhetoric

Host President Donald Trump, makes a toast during a dinner reception for the governors during the annual National Governor’s Association winter meeting, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said he believes Republican President Donald Trump is looking to walk back his rhetoric on immigration after attending meetings with the president on Sunday and Monday. Scott was in Washington, D.C., over the weekend and into Monday for a National Governors Association meeting. Scott attended the annual Governor’s Ball at the White House on Sunday evening, as well as a meeting at the White House with the president Monday morning. The White House events were a first for Scott, who told reporters last week that he had never before visited the famed building, even as a tourist. Scott has emerged as one of the president’s most vocal critics when it comes to immigration policy among the Republican governors. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat podcast 2.24.17

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Seven Days reporter Alicia Freese joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld this week. Topics include the canceling of a much-anticipated legislative recount of the Orange-1 House district race, the role of Gov. Phil Scott’s chief of staff and more. Continue Reading →

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Senate passes bill to limit Trump’s executive orders

Gov. Phil Scott, left, and Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, right, discuss proposed legislation in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate advanced a bill on a unanimous vote Thursday that aims to keep state, county and local law enforcement agencies from helping federal authorities enforce immigration laws. All 30 senators — including seven Republicans — voted in favor of the legislation, sending it to a final vote Friday. The bill was crafted by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and lawmakers in response to a series of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump regarding immigration enforcement and border security. The bill grants the governor sole authority to approve agreements that would, in effect, deputize state, county or local police officers to enforce federal immigration law. One of the president’s executive orders calls for such agreements to help federal authorities. Continue Reading →

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How A Recount In The Vermont House Turned Into A ‘Comedy Of Errors’

Republican Rep. Robert Frenier said the process used to conduct the recount in his Orange County House race was a 'three-ring circus.' (VPR/Peter Hirschfeld)

here was some drama in Montpelier Wednesday morning as lawmakers prepared to launch a two-day recount process for the results of the November vote on the representatives for the Orange -1 district. A ballot bag had been previously unsealed, which meant the recount —which would have actually been the second recount for this particular race — was called off. This meant that Republican Bob Frenier prevailed. It’s been a complicated and politically-charged process. Here’s what happened:
The Election
In November, voters in the towns of Orange, Williamstown, Washington, Corinth, Chelsea and Vershire had to choose two of four candidates to represent them in the Vermont House of Representatives. Continue Reading →

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House to conduct Orange recount Wednesday

Rep. Robert Frenier

MONTPELIER — A panel of House members will conduct a recount in the Orange-1 House district on Wednesday after approving the rules and procedures governing the recount last week. Republican Rep. Bob Frenier, of Chelsea, defeated incumbent Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, P-Washington, in November’s general election by eight votes. A recount conducted after Election Day narrowed Frenier’s victory to seven votes, but his win was certified and he was sworn in last month as the duly elected representative of the district. But Davis petitioned the House to review the election. After a fivehour debate earlier this month, the House passed a resolution calling for a legislative recount with strenuous objections from Republicans. Continue Reading →

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House member surveys federal threats to funding, policy

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas

MONTPELIER — As the administration of President Donald Trump settles in, one Vermont lawmaker is attempting to survey the landscape and determine where the state could be harmed by changes in federal policy and funding. Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, a former House majority leader, is attempting to create a rapid response plan if the president’s policies have a significant impact on Vermont. So far, however, there are still many question marks about what the Trump administration is planning. “There’s nothing rapid about it so far because right now a lot of what I’m doing is trying to get a handle on the landscape — what do we hear might be coming down from Congress, what do we hear might be coming in the form of executive orders,” she told the Vermont Press Bureau. Copeland Hanzas is keeping in touch with the state’s congressional delegation to stay abreast of what could be coming. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 2.10.17

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VTDigger’s Mark Johnson joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld on the Capital Beat Podcast. Topics this week include legislation aimed at standing up to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump and Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed budget. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Secretary of State Condos and Sen. Jeanette White

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami discusses an ethics bill passed by the Senate with Secretary of State Jim Condos and Sen. Jeanette White, the chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. Capital Beat airs Mondays at 7:30 p.m. on Vermont PBS Plus. Continue Reading →

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