State Government

Recent Posts

Senate passes paid sick leave bill, again

Kevin Mullin discusses paid sick leave on Wednesday.

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers once again approved a bill requiring employers to grant their workers paid sick leave. Wednesday afternoon, the Senate approved H.187, which will require all employers to offer three days of paid sick leave a year, beginning in 2018. “Tens of thousands of working Vermonters who have long lacked such basic protections as paid sick days eagerly await the bill being signed by Governor Shumlin to move us another step forward toward a society that protects health and human rights for all,” said Isaac Grimm, lead organizer at Rights and Democracy. The bill has had a long road, passing the House during the last legislative session before stalling in the Senate. This session, Senate lawmakers took up the bill, culminating with its passage last week. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

State start-up costs for legal pot: $2.2 million

Finance Commissioner Andy Pallito outlines the state's start-up costs to regulate legal marijuana.

MONTPELIER — State officials estimate the state’s start-up cost for legal marijuana to be $2.2 million dollars, paid for by future receipts, or what one lawmaker referred to as “deficit spending.”

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee took testimony on what would be needed for the state to implement legal cannabis, with a target legalization date of Jan. 1, 2018. At $920,000, the largest of the expenditures would be for the Vermont Department of Taxes, which would be charged with developing a system to collect excise taxes from distributors. Also included is $500,000 for the Department of Health to do educational outreach to teens, including specific efforts to reach out to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered teens. According to the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey, these populations are more likely to use marijuana than their peers. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Senate to reconsider small biz exemption for paid sick leave

WDoyle

MONTPELIER — A paid sick leave bill passed by the Senate Wednesday veered off course Thursday after a motion was made to reconsider a failed amendment seeking an exemption for small businesses. Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Washington, made the motion Thursday to reconsider his vote on the amendment introduced a day earlier by Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington. The amendment, which failed Wednesday on a 15 to 14 vote, seeks to exempt small employers with five or fewer full-time workers from the paid sick leave mandate. The Senate, after recessing to consider the matter, voted by voice to reconsider the amendment. A second voice vote postponed that action until Wednesday rather than face immediate consideration. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

House convenes midnight session to address spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers burned the midnight oil early Saturday morning to approve a bill that softens the impact of school district spending thresholds. In the sort of move normally reserved for the final days of the legislative session in May, House members convened a special session shortly after midnight Saturday morning, after reaching a deadlock the day before on a bill that would raise school district spending thresholds and lower the tax penalties for exceeding them. It was more than one week ago when House lawmakers passed a bill that would raise every spending threshold — which vary from district to district — by 0.9 percent, and lower the tax penalty for exceeding them from 1 dollar for every dollar over the threshold to 25 cents for every dollar over. The thresholds themselves are a provision of Act 46, the school district merger bill passed by lawmakers in 2015, which seeks to create larger districts to both promote equity for students and contain costs. The thresholds were intended as a two-year stop-gap measure to give relief to property tax owners while the mergers take place. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Senate Judiciary advances pot bill on 4 to 1 vote

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4 to 1 Friday to advance a bill that legalizes marijuana. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The legalization of marijuana in Vermont received its first affirmative votes from lawmakers Friday as the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced legislation on a 4 to 1 vote. The downsized legislation to allow the legal possession, consumption and sale of marijuana in the state is now headed to the Senate Finance Committee, which will attempt to determine how legalized marijuana will be taxed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, worked to amend a bill introduced by Sens. Jeanette White, D-Windham and Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, to create a bill that he would support and met the conditions laid out by Gov. Peter Shumlin. The governor called for the legalization of pot in his State of the State address earlier this month. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Senate lawmakers address school district spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers are taking their own stab at revamping school district spending thresholds, setting up debate Friday on the House floor. With a voice vote, the Senate approved a proposal that would exempt school districts from spending thresholds if they are spending below the statewide per-pupil average for fiscal year 2017, and would repeal the thresholds altogether for 2018. The Senate proposal comes in response to action taken by House lawmakers Wednesday that would increase every district’s threshold by 0.9 percent and lower the penalty for exceeding the threshold from 1 dollar for every dollar over the threshold to 25 cents for every dollar over. The Senate proposal keeps the House plan to raise all thresholds by 0.9 percent, but raises the penalty to 40 cents for every dollar over the threshold, to make up for the districts who would be exempt from the thresholds because they are spending less than the statewide per-pupil average. The House proposal would bring in $1.8 million in penalty revenue; the Senate proposal would bring in $1.9 million. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

State police to meet with feds Friday to consider criminal investigation of Sorrell

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell (Courtesy photo)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Police clarified Wednesday that Attorney General William Sorrell is not currently facing a criminal investigation for pay-to-play allegations, but may after state authorities consult with federal law enforcement officials on Friday. Sorrell was recently cleared of four alleged campaign finance violations after an investigation by independent counsel Thomas Little. But Little, who was appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, punted on two other allegations, including a potential criminal act, saying it was outside the scope of his authority. Vermont State Police spokesman Scott Waterman issued a statement Wednesday evening saying a panel of county state’s attorneys, for whom Little performed his investigation, referred the potential criminal action by Sorrell to the agency as a criminal complaint. “After a civil review of campaign finance activities by Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, the Vermont State Police received a complaint of alleged criminal misconduct from the state’s attorneys conducting the review,” Waterman said in his statement. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , ,

Senate panel zeroes in on paid sick leave bill

The Senate Committee on on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs works to finalize a paid sick leave bill. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — A Senate panel is zeroing in on a paid sick leave bill that amends the version passed by the House last year to make it more palatable for the business community. The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs is expected to vote on the amended legislation Thursday morning after clarifying the expense it will have on the state as an employer. The bill is expected to easily clear the committee, according to Chairman Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland. The committee delayed a vote on Wednesday until the state Department of Human Resources could detail how much its bill would cost the state. The Senate bill looks to exempt the state from the mandate, except for temporary hourly workers. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Education officials seek additional staff

(from left) State Board of Education members Krista Huling, William Mathis and Mark Perrin discuss the need for additional staff for both the board and the Agency of Education.

MONTPELIER — Education officials are calling on lawmakers to support the mandates they impose by adding additional staff to the Agency of Education and the State Board of Education. Members of the State Board of Education offered testimony before the House Education Committee on Monday calling for staff members to support the many educational initiatives imposed by the General Assembly, from school district mergers and universal Pre-K education to dual enrollment and personalized learning plans. “In our opinion, the Agency (of Education) is suffering with inadequate staff,” said Stephan Morse, chairman of the State Board of Education, who discussed the staff reductions the agency has faced during the past eight years. Since fiscal year 2008, the agency has lost 43 positions, falling from 213 to the current staffing level of 170. At the same time, 70 percent of agency staff are paid for with federal funds, which limits the scope of work they may perform, Morse said. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

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

141393-142333

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 →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,