State Senate

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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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Possession, edibles top legalization debate

Sen Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, studies marijuana legalization

MONTPELIER — Possession limits and edibles topped a discussion Thursday on how the state might go about marijuana legalization. The Senate Government Operations Committee spent most of the day mulling how, not if, pot would be legalized during the upcoming legislative session, with an eye toward everything from the way Vermonters would be allowed to cultivate to the items that would be available at shops selling pot products. Numerous bills related to legalization are pending, including one from Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden – who is running for lieutenant governor – calling for legalization, to another from Rep. David Potter, D-West Rutland, whose bill calls for a saliva test to determine if a motorist is driving while stoned. All of these bills are set against the backdrop of a state-commissioned study from the Rand Corporation released in January stating the taxation of marijuana could generate as much as $70 million in revenue, an attractive proposition for some lawmakers as the state is looking at a projected $66 million deficit. In some ways, the committee’s take on marijuana mirrors existing laws governing alcohol. Continue Reading →

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Resolution to oust McAllister drafted

Sen. Joe Benning

MONTPELIER — A resolution seeking to oust Sen. Norm McAllister from the Senate has been drafted by a fellow Republican member of the body and is ready to be filed when officials determine how to conduct the process. Caledonia County Sen. Joe Benning, the Senate minority leader, said he has drafted a resolution to expel McAllister, the Franklin County senator who has been charged with several sex crimes. The 64-year-old McAllister was arrested at the State House in May and stands accused of sexually assaulting three women, including a legislative intern who allegedly lived with him in Montpelier at times. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and his criminal case is pending. Benning has been publicly voiced his support for ousting McAllister. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers mull how, not if, to legalize marijuana

Sen. Jeanette White

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers are taking up a central question surrounding marijuana legalization, and that is not whether to legalize, but how to do it. The Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony Tuesday from a very one-sided selection of members of the public who touched on questions surrounding licensing, distribution and retail sales, but not if cannabis should be legalized in the first place. During the last legislative session, the committee spent its Friday afternoons combing through a 150-page study from the Rand Corp. — commissioned by the state and released in January — that looked at legalization, from the number of users in the state to potential revenue and the impact on tourism. Committee Chairwoman Jeanette White, D-Windham, acknowledged from the start of Tuesday’s hearings that the question of whether marijuana should be legalized will not rest with her committee, but with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Continue Reading →

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Senate crafts plan to oust McAllister

John Bloomer (VPR photo)

MONTPELIER — State Senate officials are developing a process to oust embattled Franklin County Republican Sen. Norm McAllister in case he does not resign before the legislative session starts in January. McAllister, 64, was arrested at the State House in May and stands accused of sexually assaulting three women, including a legislative intern who was allegedly as young as 16 at the time. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and his criminal case is pending. In an interview published last week in Seven Days, McAllister adamantly denied the charges and indicated he will not resign. That entrenched position is not sitting well with Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning. 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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McAllister’s future unclear, but resignation expected soon

This story was updated at 5:55 p.m.

MONTPELIER — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott said Monday that embattled Sen. Norm McAllister, who faces multiple sex crime charges, intends to resign within 24 hours. The announcement came as Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislators leaders all called for him to step down Monday morning. But in a bizarre twist, McAllister, R-Franklin, reached by phone at his home Monday afternoon, said he was not aware that anyone had reached out to Scott to promise his resignation. McAllister said he has made no determination about his future and planned to meet with his lawyer Tuesday. He declined to discuss the case any further, but said he has “had better days.”

“My lawyer has told me not to talk to anybody about any of this,” McAllister said. Continue Reading →

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Capitol Beat 5-11-15


Barre-Montpelier Times Argus Editor Steve Pappas and Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami discuss the sexual assault case against Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, the last week of the session and Bernie Sanders. Continue Reading →

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Sen. Norm McAllister arrested on sex charges

MONTPELIER — Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister was arrested Thursday evening on sex charges, according to the Vermont State Police. McAllister, a 63-year-old Republican from Highgate, has served in the Vermont Legislature since 2003, including four terms in the House. State police spokesman Scott Waterman issued a release late Thursday saying VSP detectives assigned to the Northwest Unit for Special Investigations arrested had McAllister and charged him with sexual assault, prohibited acts and human trafficking. The charges stem from an investigation into complaints made against McAllister, according to police. McAllister is being held at the Northwest Regional Correctional Center in St. Continue Reading →

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RFK Jr. and Vermont moms make their cases on vaccines

MONTPELIER — A prominent member of the country’s most storied political family testified against the elimination of the state’s philosophical exemption for vaccines Tuesday, accusing the Centers for Disease Control of corruption as he made his case to lawmakers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the slain former U.S. senator, attorney general and presidential candidate, told members of the House Health Care Committee that he supports vaccination. But he said some vaccines that contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound in some vaccines, can cause harm in children. The CDC, Kennedy said, which determines which vaccines children should receive, has not done a proper job of protecting them and has bowed to pressure from pharmaceutical companies. He said the trillion dollar industry spends twice as much on lobbying as any other industry. Continue Reading →

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