State House

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Watch: Capital Beat with House leaders

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami speaks with House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski and House Minority Leader Don Turner. Topics include a revenue downgrade and the merits of raising the minimum wage. You can watch Capital Beat on Vermont PBS Plus on Monday nights at 7:30 p.m.

 
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Johnson, Ashe lead lawmakers forward

Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was elected speaker of the Vermont House on Wednesday, Jan. 4. She is the 3rd woman to serve as speaker in Vermont history. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers returned to the State House Wednesday for the 73rd biennial session, electing new leaders and embarking on a new era of state government. The 180 members of the General Assembly —150 in the House and 30 in the Senate — swore their oaths of office before electing their own leadership. Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was elected by the House on a 100 to 50 vote to serve as speaker. Johnson, who defeated Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex, became just the third woman to serve as speaker in Vermont history. In the Senate, Chittenden County Sen. Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, was unanimously elected president pro tem. Continue Reading →

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Recount leads to tie in Windsor-Orange House race

Rep. Sarah Buxton

MONTPELIER — A recount of the Windsor-Orange 1 House district between incumbent Democratic Rep. Sarah Buxton and Republican challenger David Ainsworth ended in a tie on Monday, according to Buxton. Buxton, of Tunbridge, said a recount Monday at the Windsor County Courthouse in Woodstock eliminated her narrow 1,003 to 1,000 margin over Ainsworth and resulted in a tie — 1,000 to 1,000. But Buxton said it is “questionable” whether that will stand as the final result.

In the original count of the two-town district there were eight write-in votes, two spoiled ballots and 51 blank ballots, according to Buxton. After the recount, there were nine write-in votes, three spoiled ballots and 56 blank ballots. “Somehow between the election night and the recount there are five more blank ballots, which seems kind of strange,” Buxton said. Continue Reading →

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Round up: Mixed bag for central Vermont House members

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Below are the results from several House races:

NORTHFIELD — Incumbent Republican Reps. Anne Donahue and Patti Lewis fended off two challengers to win re-election Tuesday. Donahue secured the most votes in the four-way race for two House seats, winning 2,171 votes, or about 36 percent of the votes cast. Lewis, meanwhile, came in second with 1,691 votes, about 28 percent of the votes cast in the Washington-1 House district, which includes the towns of Northfield and Berlin, according to results gathered by the Associated Press. The two Republicans faced challenges from Progressive Jeremy Hanson and Democrat Gordon Bock. Continue Reading →

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House GOP seeks shorter session, narrow focus on fiscal issues

Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex Jct., leaves the podium after speaking at a House GOP news conference highlighting the caucus' electoral and legislative goals. (Times Argus/Stefan  Hard)

MONTPELIER — Vermont House Republicans say they are gunning for a substantial pick up of seats and will be pursuing a two-year state budget process and a complete focus on fiscal issues rather than new policies. More than two dozen House Republicans and Republican candidates gathered for a State House news conference Tuesday to highlight their goals for the upcoming general election and legislative biennium. House Minority Leader Don Turner, of Milton, said he hopes to lead the House in a new direction after the election. “It’s time for a new direction and a new way of thinking in Vermont. I want to lead that change in the House and I want to be looking for support from all the Republican colleagues, across party lines — independents and Democrats — because I believe that we cannot sustain this pace of heavy spending and recklessly taxing Vermonters to no end,” Turner told reporters. Continue Reading →

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Trees to be removed from State House lawn

MONTPELIER — The State House will be a bit less shady this summer. On Saturday, the five large maple trees closest to the sidewalk along State Street will be cut down, a move prompted by the trees’ poor health and their effect on other nearby maples. For several years, Ira Moser, grounds supervisor at the State House, has advocated for the trees’ removal, a move that would follow the previous removal of some large maples from the lawn that were also located next to State Street, to the west of the large sidewalk that leads up to the front doors of the building. “What we’re fighting right now is soil compaction and salt,” Moser said of the trees slated to be removed early Saturday morning. All five of the trees were planted between 30 and 40 years ago. Continue Reading →

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House defeats efforts to legalize, further decriminalize pot

Law enforcement officers listen to debate in the House about marijuana legalization. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for the drug, and even fell short of decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of two marijuana plants. The House did manage to salvage a commission that will study the legalization of marijuana and report its findings back to the Legislature, likely setting up another push at legalization next year after the November election. The House first voted 121 to 28 Tuesday against the Senate’s proposal, which was strongly backed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. The Senate passed the bill on a 17 to 12 vote. Rep. Chris Pearson, a Progressive from Burlington, was among the slim minority of House members who supported the Senate’s language. Continue Reading →

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House delays marijuana vote

MONTPELIER — The House Democratic leadership backed away from a vote on legalizing marijuana Monday night as a more modest compromise plan was being drafted for consideration. House Speaker Shap Smith and other leaders worked over the weekend and throughout Monday to craft a proposal that could get through the House. The Senate, which passed a bill earlier this year to create a legal, regulated retail marijuana market, attached its plan to a House bill that was expected to be considered by the House Monday. Gov. Peter Shumlin has been calling publicly for the House to vote on the Senate bill, but the House has not been willing to act. Smith has been saying for weeks that his chamber did not have the votes to pass any legalization bill, but relented to a floor vote as he faced withering criticism for holding up the bill. Continue Reading →

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Independent contractor bill gets new lease on life

Rep. Bill Botzow

MONTPELIER — A bill seeking to clarify who can be classified as an independent contractor by employers was recalled to the House floor Thursday by Democrats after they got wind of a Republican effort to do the same. The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development passed the bill out of committee unanimously in March, but was it recommitted to the committee after House Speaker Shap Smith said the bill would face opposition on the House floor and had a slim chance of passing in the Senate. The issue has been brewing for several years, but legislation clarifying the difference between an employee and an independent contractor has never made it to the finish line. Representatives of labor and business groups have been unable to find common ground. On Thursday, Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, was preparing to make a motion to relieve the committee of the bill and return it to the House. Continue Reading →

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House Ways and Means amends pot bill, backs legalization

MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee has voted to approve an amendment to a marijuana bill that would allow for the legal possession of up to 1 ounce and cultivation of up to two marijuana plants. The amendment, which materialized in the committee Thursday, passed on a 7-4 vote Friday after a few minor changes. It would fundamentally alter the bill advanced by the House Judiciary Committee last week. The Judiciary Committee’s work stripped out the Senate’s language that legalized marijuana and created a regulatory structure for its retail sale. But support for that never materialized among Judiciary Committee members, so it was amended to create a commission to study the issue. Continue Reading →

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