State House

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Concern raised with off session legislative work

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann

MONTPELIER — Vermont has always had a part-time Legislature comprised of ordinary, civic-minded Vermonters, but one representative says that characteristic is threatened by the growing level of engagement outside of the regular legislative sessions. Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, a Republican, took to social media Friday to lament the extensive work performed by some legislative committees since the official session ended in mid-May. “Is anybody else as frustrated as I with the amount of legislative activity that has happened since our May 16th adjournment? Report, after report, after report has legislative committees meeting and conducting legislative work just about full-time,” Scheuermann wrote. “While there have always been some summer study committees during the off session, I have never seen the amount of legislative work being conducted as I am seeing this year.”

Is anybody else as frustrated as I with the amount of legislative activity that has happened since our May 16th… Continue Reading →

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School spending thresholds might undergo “tweaking”

Jeff Francis and Nicole Mace address the House Education Committee.

MONTPELIER – Spending thresholds for school budgets might undergo some “tweaking,” but a repeal seems unlikely. Members of the House Education Committee on Wednesday expressed reservations in repealing a provision of the state’s school district merger law intended to curb spending, but were open to making changes to the threshold formula. The committee – which, during the last legislative session crafted Act 46, which seeks to merge school districts with the goals of reducing costs and expanding educational opportunities – took testimony from a host of education experts who spoke in opposition to a provision intended to cap education spending statewide at 2 percent for the next two years. “The provision was put in because of the widespread agreement that property taxes are burdensome to Vermonters,” said Committee Chairman David Sharpe, D-Bristol. “I’ve heard widespread concern that it won’t put downward pressure on property taxes because they (the districts) will be forced to spend above the threshold and will be forced to spend more in property taxes.”

The spending threshold formula looks at a district’s per-pupil spending and compares it to the current fiscal year’s statewide average of $14,096. Continue Reading →

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Barbara Snelling remembered

Members of the Snelling family share a laugh during a reminiscence from family friend Charles Kittredge at celebration of the life of Barbara Snelling at the State House in Montpelier on Friday afternoon.

MONTPELIER – She left Vermont a better place than she found it. This was the overarching message offered at the State House on Friday during a celebration of the life of lieutenant governor, state senator and first lady Barbara Snelling, whose impact on Vermont can be felt not just in the field of politics, but also in education and philanthropy. “Today, I’m filled more with gratitude than sadness,” said Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, one of Barbara Snelling’s four children, all of whom were at the memorial service. “She demonstrated that living life to the fullest involves risk, courage and grace.”

Snelling, who died Nov. 2 at the age of 87 at her home in South Burlington, was the wife of Richard Snelling, who was Vermont’s governor from 1977 to 1985, and again in 1991. Continue Reading →

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Barbara Snelling, former lieutenant governor, dies at 87

Barbara Snelling (File photo/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Former Republican Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling, who was also a state senator and first lady of Vermont, died at the age of 87 on Monday at her home in South Burlington, surrounded by her family, according to her son. Snelling, who served as lieutenant governor from 1993 to 1997, was the state’s 76th lieutenant governor. She was also elected twice to the Vermont Senate beginning in 1998. Snelling, born Barbara Tuttle Weil in Fall River, Mass., on March 22, 1928, was married to former Republican Gov. Richard Snelling, who died in 1991, making Snelling Vermont’s First Lady from 1977 to 1985, and again in 1991 until her husband died later that year. She is the mother of Chittenden County Sen. Diane Snelling, and Mark Snelling, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2010. Continue Reading →

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Ram launches bid for lieutenant governor

Burlington Democratic Rep. Kesha Ram speaks to Pownal Rep. Bill Botzow at her campaign kick-off event. (VPB/Josh O'Gorman)

BURLINGTON — Kesha Ram is making a bid to be Vermont’s first millennial lieutenant governor. The 29-year-old Democratic representative faced a crowd of cheering supporters when she formally kicked off her campaign for the second-highest office in the state Monday night in downtown Burlington. “Eight years ago, so many of you began this journey with me,” Ram said, recalling the start of the Great Recession in 2007. “We were a generation in need of a voice in the Legislature.”

The California native and magna cum laude graduate of the University of Vermont with degrees in political science and natural resource planning has been a rising star in the state Democratic Party since first winning the Chittenden 6-4 district seat in the Vermont House at the age of 22. Now in the middle of her fourth term, she is the clerk of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. Continue Reading →

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Podcast: Capitol Beat with Speaker Shap Smith 10-16-15

House Speaker Shap Smith on the Capitol Beat podcast.

Democratic House Speaker Shap, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, sits down with Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami to discuss budget challenges with Medicaid and the general fund.  






  Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers take on privacy issues


MONTPELIER — How much privacy should Vermonters expect in a world brimming with new technology? The Senate Judiciary Committee is trying to determine exactly that. The committee held the first of four pre-session hearings Tuesday to consider an omnibus privacy bill that addresses four major privacy concerns and could include more by the time lawmakers finish their work. The bill, S.18, looks to regulate the use of drones and license plate readers by law enforcement, and to require police to obtain warrants before a company can release electronic data. It also looks to establish “a private right of action” for people whose health care records are improperly released. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin claims exchange victory

WINOOSKI — Gov. Peter Shumlin and his health care reform team said Monday they have met a key deadline in implementing a core function to Vermont Health Connect and plan to continue improving the online health insurance marketplace through the fall. “Having Vermont Health Connect work as it was designed to is the best possible outcome for Vermont. There’s no question that the biggest challenge that we’ve faced since we launched is change-of-circumstance,” Shumlin said at a news conference Monday. “We set a deadline of today … and I’m pleased to announce that this team behind me and some who aren’t here have delivered.”

Shumlin said the upgrade of the site to include change-of-circumstance, the ability for customers to have their personal information changed online, meets the first of two self-imposed deadlines he laid out in March as he faced mounting pressure about the exchange’s performance. The upgrade, which is still being phased in by the administration, will allow customer service representatives to make changes to consumers’ accounts in an automated way. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers strike tax deal without gov’s approval

MONTPELIER — House and Senate negotiators were nearing a deal on a $30 million revenue package early Saturday morning that will help balance the 2016 fiscal year budget and close a projected $113 million gap — but includes provisions Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he does not support. The bulk of the new revenue comes from changes to the income tax code. Both the House and Senate have agreed with the governor to raise $15 million by eliminating taxpayers’ ability to deduct their prior year local and state taxes on their state returns. But the House and Senate are also looking to raise about $10.5 million by making changes to how much taxpayers can deduct. Under the plan lawmakers were nearing agreement on, income tax deductions would be capped at two times the standard deduction — about $25,000 for a couple. Continue Reading →

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House GOP will support veto of tax bill

MONTPELIER — House Republicans voted in caucus Thursday afternoon to help sustain a veto of a revenue bill — if Gov. Peter Shumlin elects to veto the legislation — as House and Senate negotiators look to finalize how they will raise money to support the state budget. GOP Leader Don Turner, of Milton, asked his caucus to take a position Thursday as negotiators continued to work. “It’s my feeling that if the governor is going to step up and help us … then I think that’s a good thing,” Turner said. Shumlin is opposed to how lawmakers have chosen to raise revenue. The House plan caps income tax deductions at 2.5 times the standard deduction. Continue Reading →

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