State Government

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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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Lawmakers craft replacement language for vetoed energy siting bill

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MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have drafted replacement language for an energy siting bill vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday they hope will be passed during a legislative veto session on Thursday to fix issues he identified in his veto message. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking a fourth two-year term, vetoed S.230 Monday over concerns that language approved on the final day of the legislative session would have unintended consequences. He said the emergency rule-making process called for in the bill for new wind turbine sound standards unintentionally invokes a provision in statute that would make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy “without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up.”

Additionally, Shumlin said new temporary sound standards for wind turbines “unintentionally relies on a standard used in a small 150 kilowatt project as the standard for all wind” projects, which “could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher.” Another provision in the bill requires notice of certificates of public good for energy projects on parcels of land to be filed with land records. He said that “could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.”

The fourth concern deals with money. Under the bill, regional planning commissions are supposed to help municipalities develop local energy plans that conform to the state’s energy goals. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin vetoes energy siting bill

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin has vetoed a controversial energy siting bill, triggering a special legislative veto session on Thursday where lawmakers can try to override his rejection or look to fix the portions he finds unacceptable and send it back. The legislation, S.230, was passed by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session last month after last-minute wrangling by House and Senate negotiators and the Shumlin administration. It seeks to provide local communities with more say over the siting of renewable energy projects if they craft their own energy plans that are approved by the Department of Public Service. It also seeks to create sound restrictions for wind generation projects. The governor, a Democrat, said the bill would hurt the state’s renewable energy progress, which he said has created more than 17,000 jobs in Vermont. Continue Reading →

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VSEA’s legislative committee backs Galbraith, Zuckerman

Peter Galbraith announces his candidacy for governor Tuesday in the Cedar Creek Room of the State House in Montpelier. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith and Sen. David Zuckerman, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, have the early advantage in netting endorsements from the Vermont State Employees Association after the union’s legislative committee voted to recommend them to the Board of Trustees and the full membership. The union’s 23-member legislative committee voted Tuesday to recommend Galbraith, a former diplomat and state senator from Windham County, for governor in the Democratic primary over Matt Dunne and Sue Minter. Sen. David Zuckerman, who represents Chittenden County as a Progressive and Democrat, was selected by the panel for lieutenant governor over House Speaker Shap Smith and Burlington Rep. Kesha ram. The committee’s recommendation is the first step in the union’s new endorsement process. The VSEA’s full membership of about 5,500 state workers now has until June 6 to vote in a non-binding online straw poll, which will help the union’s Board of Trustees select candidates to be endorsed by the group, according to VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard. Continue Reading →

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Feliciano announces GOP bid for auditor

Dan Feliciano

MONTPELIER — Former gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano plans to run for state auditor as a Republican. Feliciano said Tuesday he is in the process of gathering the required signatures and plans to submit his petition to the Secretary of State’s Office by the Thursday deadline. Auditor Doug Hoffer, a Democrat and Progressive, has already filed for re-election. As a business consultant, Feliciano says he has the necessary background to help state government improve its operations and finances by finding improvements. He said he decided to seek the office after people told him his background was well-suited for the position. Continue Reading →

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Contraceptives bill signed into law

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. Shumlin, a third-term Democrat who is not seeking re-election, signed H.620, on the steps of the State House Monday with lawmakers and representatives of Planned Parenthood looking on. He said the legislation moves Vermont in the right direction while some parts of the country are heading backward. “When we look around us here in 2016, here in America, and we look at the issue of reproductive rights and women’s health, it’s pretty darn shocking to this governor of Vermont when I see what’s going on with the rest of the country,” the governor said. “We have the presumptive [presidential] nominee of the Republican Party who has literally suggested that women should be punished should they seek an abortion. Continue Reading →

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Wolffing to lead Smith’s LG bid

MONTPELIER — Erika Wolffing, the top aide to outgoing Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, will leave her post Friday to head Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith’s campaign for lieutenant governor. “I’ve known Erika for years and I’ve always had a great amount of respect for the work that she’s done and I’ve worked with her much more closely with her in the last two years as she worked in the Senate Pro Tem’s office,” Smith said Thursday. “I wanted somebody who I knew could do the job and I knew she was that person.”

Wolffing, 30, has worked in Campbell’s office since December 2014. She said Thursday her role as Smith’s campaign manager is not yet officially, but should be finalized “ideally on Friday” after she resigns her current position. Wolffing worked through two legislative sessions for Campbell, which his colleagues say were among his most effective as the pro tem. Continue Reading →

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Speaker joins race for lieutenant governor

House Speaker Shap Smith

MONTPELIER — Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith is entering the race for lieutenant governor, ending months of speculation about his political plans after he suspended his gubernatorial bid in November to help his wife wage a battle with breast cancer. Smith, 50, announced his candidacy in an emailed news release Wednesday morning after discussing his plans in an embargoed interview with the Vermont Press Bureau Tuesday afternoon. He joins Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman and Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram in a three-way Democratic primary for the state’s second-highest office. Smith said he called both Zuckerman and Ram to tell them he would be entering the race before making it public. The speaker, from Morrisville, announced his candidacy for governor last June, flanked by legions of House members backing his candidacy. Continue Reading →

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Bucknam launches bid for AG

Deborah Bucknam (courtesy photo)

MONTPELIER — Republican Deborah Bucknam has entered the race for attorney general and will challenge T.J. Donovan, the Democratic state’s attorney for Chittenden County, for the office. Bucknam, 69, from Walden, officially announced her candidacy Monday and plans to hold a formal kick-off in the near future where she will outline the themes of her campaign. On Monday, Bucknam said her experience as an attorney in Vermont spurred her desire to run. “I’ve been practicing law for 37 years and representing mostly individuals and some small businesses, and I just see the effect of the justice system and Vermont state government on individuals. In recent years I haven’t really liked what I’ve seen,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Energy siting bill passed without funding section

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MONTPELIER — Language providing funding for regional planning commissions that was left out of an energy siting bill passed by lawmakers in the waning hours of the legislative session will need to be restored when lawmakers return in January. Both House and Senate leaders agree that the funding — about $300,000 — was intended to be part of the final version of the legislation. The money will help regional planning commissions develop regional energy plans and assist municipalities with town-level energy plans. Those plans will be necessary under the law if local communities are to receive “substantial deference” from the Public Service Board when energy products are considered. House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, said the absence of the funding in the bill was a simple drafting error as the office of Legislative Counsel worked quickly to update the legislation ahead of adjournment. Continue Reading →

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