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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 4.27.17

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Freelance journalist and VTDigger columnist Jon Margolis joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld this week. Topics include accomplishments of Gov. Phil Scott and the Legislature in their first 100 days and lingering disagreements over the state budget. Subscribe to the Capital Beat Podcast on iTunes for the latest episodes. Continue Reading →

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Senate advances budget and tax bills unanimously

MONTPELIER — The Senate advanced its version of the 2018 fiscal year state budget and a corresponding tax bill Wednesday on unanimous votes. The Senate’s spending plan, passed on a 30 to 0 vote, includes a $1.56 billion General Fund, which is 1.7 percent higher than the current 2017 fiscal year budget. It is slightly lower than the House-passed version, however, which grew 1.8 percent over the current year. Overall, the Senate’s total state budget including all state and federal funds totals $5.83 billion — slight more than the House’s $5.815 billion in total spending. The Senate version spends more than $13 million in ways that differ from the House proposal, which cleared the House on a 143 to 1 vote. Continue Reading →

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Scott seeks teacher health care overhaul as Dems, union balk

MONTPELIER — With the legislative session winding down, Gov. Phil Scott is pushing a proposal for a major overhaul of the way Vermont teachers negotiate their health care benefits, leaving Democrats puzzled as to why he did not present a detailed proposal sooner. Scott held a State House news conference Tuesday, surrounded by superintendents and school board members, to tout his proposal to have teachers across the state negotiate their health care benefits with his administration, rather than with local school boards. He said the state is in a unique position this year to save Vermont’s property taxpayers $26 million. That’s because the health care plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative are changing as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. As a result, all local school boards across the state are negotiating new health care benefits with teachers. Continue Reading →

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Senate rejects raising the legal age for tobacco products

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate rejected legislation Tuesday that would have raised the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. The legislation, S.88, was sidelined by its supporters several weeks ago when it became apparent that it lacked the votes to pass the chamber. But Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairwoman Claire Ayer, D-Addison, brought the bill back to the floor Tuesday where it was defeated on a 13 to 16 vote. Ayer said before the vote that she thought it was “possible” it would pass, but interest groups seeking to raise the legal age to purchase and possess tobacco products to 21 said it still lacked the votes. Ayer, and Sen. Debbie Ingram, D-Chittenden, a strong proponent of the bill, said they were willing to risk its defeat. Continue Reading →

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Senate passes marijuana legalization bill with tax-and-regulate language

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate, frustrated by inaction in the House and hoping to apply pressure on the chamber down the hall, advanced a seed-to-sale marijuana legalization bill Friday by a veto-proof margin. The action in the Senate Friday was no surprise — members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday a plan to amend a House bill to include language creating a tax-and-regulate legal marijuana market in Vermont. After clearing procedural hurdles, the effort prevailed on a 21 to 9 vote — large enough to override a potential veto by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, was the lead sponsor of the amendment that mimics legislation passed last year by the Senate, but failed spectacularly in the House. Members of the Senate were expecting the House to pass its own version of marijuana legalization this year, but that effort stalled when the bill made it to the House only to be jettisoned by Democratic leaders in the House back to committee because it lacked the votes to pass. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 4.19.17

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Stewart Ledbetter, an anchor and the senior reporter at WPTZ, joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld on the podcast. Topics include the Scott administration’s concern about an appointment to the Green Mountain Care Board by the previous governor, Gov. Phil Scott’s first 100 days in office and the latest wrinkle in the effort to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the Vermont Lottery Commission. Subscribe on iTunes for the latest episodes of the Capital Beat Podcast. Continue Reading →

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Scott: Nomination flawed but acceptable if confirmed

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he will accept an appointee to the Green Mountain Care Board made by the previous governor if the Senate votes to confirm her, even as his administration continues to voice concerns about whether she should be confirmed. Robin Lunge was appointed to a six- year term on the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body, by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in mid- November before he left office in early January. She began serving in an interim capacity as a board member on Nov. 28 because the Senate was not in session and could not immediately act to confirm the nomination. But as Vermont Public Radio reported Monday, the paperwork that i s typically filed when such an appointment is made could not be located when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee recently tried to act to confirm Lunge’s appointment. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers push for Liquor-Lottery merger

MONTPELIER — Two lawmakers are proposing an amendment to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the state’s Lottery Commission in January as the House prepares to debate legislation Tuesday that creates a working group to study the issue. The legislation up for debate Tuesday comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the House last week that nullified an executive order from Republican Gov. Phil Scott that would have merged the two entities beginning this week. Scott signed the executive order in January, but state law allows either the House or Senate to nix such a restructuring of the executive branch with a resolution. While the Scott administration has questioned whether that de facto veto power of the executive branch is constitutional, it has not yet moved to challenge it. On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Chittenden, who was appointed to the House by Scott last week to fill a vacancy, is sponsoring an amendment along with Rep. Jim Condon, D-Colchester, to merge the Department of Liquor Control and Lottery Commission beginning Jan. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Jason Gibbs and Rep. Helen Head

Rep. Helen Head, D-South Burlington, the chairwoman of the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, and Jason Gibbs, chief of staff for Gov. Phil Scott, discuss a proposed merger of the Department of Liquor Control and the Lottery Commission. The House voted this week to reject an executive order signed by Scott that seeks such a merger. Continue Reading →

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Ashe: Legalizing pot this year will take a ‘miracle’

MONTPELIER — The prospect of legalizing marijuana this year is likely over, “barring a miracle,” according to Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe. Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, made that comment in a briefing for reporters Tuesday on legislation the Senate still hopes to pass this year. Ashe, and Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they are hoping to find some way to make progress on legalization this year as the House continues to see its bill languish in committee. But progress means passing something “that reflects the Senate’s interests,” according to Ashe. He said he is not inclined to support any legislation that does not at least include a commission tasked with creating a legal market, he said. Continue Reading →

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