State Government

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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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Online sales costing Vermont millions in tax revenue

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MONTPELIER — The state will take in another $8 million or so in annual sales tax revenue now that Amazon has agreed to collect and remit it, but the state will continue to miss out on about $13 million more from online purchases and mail orders, according to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office. Vermont’s sale tax must be collected from retailers who have a presence, or what is known as nexus, in the state. The state has tried without success in recent years to collect the sales tax for online purchases from retailers who do not have a presence in Vermont. Amazon, the nation’s largest online retailer, began voluntarily collecting Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax this month. But plenty of other online retailers continue to sell goods to Vermonters without collecting the tax. 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 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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Lawmakers seek reworked budget

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson

MONTPELIER — Leaders of the House and Senate are delicately rejecting the governor’s budget proposal as they hunker down on crafting a spending plan of their own that is likely to include budget cuts and, perhaps, some new revenue. Gov. Phil Scott released his budget proposal last month, which addressed the state’s projected $70 million budget hole in the 2018 fiscal year by moving some general fund obligations to the education fund. The proposal relies on local school districts level-funding their 2018 fiscal year budgets to avoid a massive increase in property taxes. But lawmakers have already rejected one key portion of Scott’s proposal — moving school budget votes from Town Meeting Day to May 23. The Senate Education Committee and the full House held votes rejecting the change in the voting date. Continue Reading →

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PFOA liability bill clears the Senate

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MONTPELIER — The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that will force those responsible for contaminating water supplies with a specific chemical to cover the cost of extending municipal water lines to impacted areas. The bill, S.10, was passed unanimously on a voice vote Tuesday and will now head to the House. It requires those who release perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, into the air, groundwater, surface water or soil to be liable for the costs of extending water supply lines from a public water system to impacted properties. The secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources would have to determine a potable water supply on a property contains perfluorooctanoic acid or is likely to become contaminated. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dick Sears and Sen. Brian Campion of Bennington County after PFOA was found in Bennington and North Bennington around a former factory now owned by Saint- Gobain Performance Plastics. Continue Reading →

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