Category Archives: State Senate

House passes minimum wage bill, on way to gov’s desk

MONTPELIER — The Senate version of a minimum wage bill was passed by the House Friday night and will become law after it emerged as the only feasible option for boosting the incomes of the state’s lowest-paid workers.

Republicans agreed to suspend House rules Friday evening, allowing the bill to be taken up a day ahead of schedule. The plan — approved by the Senate on Monday — was passed by the House on a 132-3 vote and is now on its way to the governor’s desk after a bumpy few days.

The legislation will raise the minimum hourly rate to $10.50 in 2018. In the interim, the minimum wage will go from its current $8.73 per hour to $9.15 on Jan. 1. The wage would then go to $9.60, $10 and $10.50, respectively, over the next three years. Annual cost-of-living increases based on the consumer price index will occur each year thereafter.

The Senate version was reluctantly adopted by some Democrats and Progressives after all other options to raise the wage sooner were exhausted.

“We know we can do better. The House voted for what we thought was a better bill, but after a long process, this is the bill that we have. But, it accomplishes what we need to do,” Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, said on the House floor Friday night, acknowledging the disappointment with the bill by some members.

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Scenes from the race to end the session

Technicality stalls minimum wage debate

MONTPELIER — A misprint in the House calendar discovered late Thursday night doomed consideration of a minimum wage bill until Saturday, just as Democratic leaders ramped up efforts to corral an unruly caucus.

House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, made a point of order around 10:30 p.m., hours after debate had begun. But House Speaker Shap Smith said minority Republicans were correct, and ruled that action must be postponed and placed back on the calendar, making Saturday the next day the bill will see action.

Democratic leaders were looking to pass a scaled back minimum wage bill from the more ambitious plan they previously passed. The new plan, hashed out following a day-long back-and-forth between the House, Senate and governor’s office, is much closer to one favored by Gov. Peter Shumlin. Continue reading

Mistakes may have contributed to 2-year-old’s death, committee finds

By Neal Goswami
MONTPELIER — A special Senate panel will seek subpoena power to obtain records and documents from the Rutland County Criminal Court and the Department of Children and Families in the course of its review of the Dezirae Sheldon case.
The Senate Review Panel on Child Protection was created following the February death of the 2-year-old Sheldon from severe head trauma, allegedly at the hands of her stepfather, Dennis Duby. Members said Wednesday they want to know if mistakes made more than five years ago — and revealed in recent days — could have contributed to Sheldon remaining in an unsafe environment.
Committee co-chairs Sens. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, and Claire Ayer, D-Addison, learned over the weekend of discrepancies in a previous criminal case involving Sheldon’s mother, 31-year-old Sandra Eastman. Sears, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it is possible that the errors may have influenced decisions made by DCF that allowed Eastman to keep custody of Sheldon despite convictions. Continue reading

GOP leaders seek federal investigation into exchange

MONTPELIER — Republican leaders in the Legislature are seeking a federal investigation into Vermont Health Connect based on an anonymous tip that a state contractor duped state officials last year.

House Minority Leader Don Turner of Milton and Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning of Caledonia County sent a letter Wednesday to Tristram Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, requesting the investigation. The request is based on “whistleblower allegations alleging a fraudulent software demonstration on July 26, 2013 by CGI Technologies & Solutions.”

Newsweek published an article earlier this month in which an anonymous source said a demonstration by CGI last July designed to show connectivity with the state’s online insurance marketplace with a federal data hub was faked.

The exchange site, for which CGI has an $84 million contract to build, is still not fully functional, the GOP leaders wrote in their letter.

“We believe the unexplained and extensive delay, coupled with evidence suggesting the company in charge of designing the system may have duped Vermont officials into incorrectly thinking that the software system was working and on schedule, constitutes sufficient legal and factual predicate to begin a federal investigation,” they wrote. “If true, such a fraud prevented state officials from performing proper contractual oversight, prevented corrective measures, and helped CGI retain its multi-million dollar contract with the state.”

Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, has maintained that the July demonstration did feature a live connection with the federal data hub.

Linda F. Odorisio, vice president of communications for CGI, said in an emailed statement Wednesday evening that the demonstration did connect the state site to the federal hub.

“CGI confirms that the demonstration conducted on July 26, 2013 included a live interface to the Federal Data Services Hub, with the real time sending and receiving of data,” she wrote.

Sen. Sally Fox loses battle with cancer

MONTPELIER — Chittenden County Sen. Sally Fox died early Friday morning after a prolonged battled with lung cancer.

Fox, 62, a Democrat from South Burlington, was in her second term in the Senate. She was serving on the Senate Health and Welfare and Appropriations Committees.

House Speaker Shap Smith announced her death Friday morning in the House chamber, saying she died peacefully, surrounded by family, around 3:15 a.m. Services will be held Sunday in South Burlington at Temple Sinai, according to Smith.

Later in the morning, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott gaveled the Senate to order by noting that Fox’s death was “bringing the first week of the session to a tragic close.” Fox’s desk was clear except for a single, white rose.

Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell said the recent news of Fox’s death made it “very difficult to compose our thoughts.” He said a resolution honoring Fox will be prepared for Tuesday, when senators will be able to provide their own remarks in her honor.

Fox’s colleagues in the Legislature said Friday that she was deeply respected for her work advocating for the poor and disabled through her work as an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid.

Fox was elected to the House in 1986 and served in that chamber for 14 years. She served as chairwoman of the House Appropriation and Judiciary Committees, and as House Assistant Majority Leader.

Sen. Sally Fox

Sen. Sally Fox

According to her Senate campaign website, Fox was most proud of her role in creating the Vermont Family Court system, which consolidated all family and child-related issues into a single venue.

Sen. Claire Ayer, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said a was placed outside the committee room to allow people to leave messages for Fox’s family.

“A lot of people who work in this building — lobbyists, students, pages, whatever — are grieving about Sen. Fox and … it’s surprising the number of constituents who come here … who are grieving and would like to say something to her family, so we have put some paper out there and a pen,” she said. said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who served on the House Judiciary Committee when first appointed to the House, said Fox served as a mentor to him, and will be remembered for her role as an advocate.

“Sally Fox was a relentless champion for kids and vulnerable Vermonters. Those who often lack a voice always had an advocate with Sally in the State House,” Shumlin said in a statement. “Sally took me under her wing and taught me a great deal about how to effectively serve Vermonters in the State House. She was a great friend, and I will miss her tremendously.”

Fox is survived by her husband and two adult sons.

Services will take place Sunday at Temple Sinai in South Burlington on Sunday, followed by a private burial.

Vermont’s state of the state address makes the New York Times

In the nightly news budget they send out the New York Times had the Vermont State of the State address listed as one story in consideration for the front page for today's paper. Instead of A1, Gov. Shumlin's single-minded focus on addiction landed on A12, but still, a nice write up from Katharine Q. Seelye from the State House yesterday:

In Annual Speech, Vermont Governor Shifts Focus to Drug Abuse

MONTPELIER, Vt. – In a sign of how drastic the epidemic of drug addiction here has become, Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday devoted his entire State of the State Message to what he said was a “full-blown heroin crisis” gripping Vermont.

 

Joint committee meeting to review energy projects

MONTPELIER — Suggestions for a new process for how to permit and site wind turbines and other electrical generation projects will be the topic when the House and Senate committees on natural resources and energy hold a joint hearing in Montpelier on Sept. 25.
The hearing is part of a review of how the state’s permit process balances state, local and other interests when it comes to wind, solar and other power projects. That review began with a siting policy commission report stemming from an executive order by Gov. Peter Shumlin last fall.
The joint committees will hear from several parties, including the siting commission’s director and several representatives of state agencies involved in the permit process. The meeting will start at 9:30 a.m. in Room 10 of the Statehouse. Time for public comment is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. For more information go to http://bit.ly/19b0EvY.

Dramatic vote in Senate proves game-changer for “death with dignity”

Stefan Hard / Staff Photo Stefan Hard / Staff Photo Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, introduces end-of-life bill S. 77 Tuesday in the Senate Chamber of the Statehouse in Montpelier. Ayer is flanked  on her right by Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, and Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham. Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington, is in the foreground right.

Stefan Hard / Staff Photo
Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, introduces end-of-life bill S. 77 Tuesday in the Senate Chamber of the Statehouse in Montpelier. Ayer is flanked on her right by Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, and Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham. Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington, is in the foreground right.

The Legislature may have 180 members, but the biggest votes in Vermont’s history often come down to a single individual. And in the Senate Wednesday evening, Sen. Peter Galbraith used his turn at the wheel to derail a decade-old push for a state-sanctioned process by which doctors could hasten the death of their terminally ill patients.

As one of four senators refusing to say publicly whether he supported “death with dignity,” the Windham County Democrat has been at the center of the intrigue since last month. On Tuesday, he broke his silence by voting in favor the bill. His support would prove fleeting.

The controversial legislation outlined a process by which physicians could prescribe lethal doses of medication to mentally competent, terminally ill patients with less than six months to live. Galbraith said he supports the intent of the bill – to allow suffering individuals to bow out on their own terms, surrounded by friends and family. But he said the “state-sponsored process” constituted undue government intervention in what should be a sacred exchange between doctor and patient.

Peter Galbraith

Peter Galbraith

Instead of a defining a lengthy and highly regulated procedure by which patients of sound mind can seek a fatal dose of barbituates from their consenting doctors, Galbraith said, the state ought to simply indemnify any physician who agrees to prescribe the medication.

Under normal circumstances, Galbraith’s proposal wouldn’t have stood a chance. But Wednesday wasn’t a normal day.

The vote on the bill Tuesday passed by a 17-13 margin, and Galbraith wasn’t the only ‘aye’ to register  concerns with the bill. Sen. Bob Hartwell, a Bennington County Democrat, also dislikes the legislation, and said his ‘yes’ vote Tuesday was only to give its supporters a chance to make it more palatable before a final vote Thursday.

Galbraith’s amendment sought to strike entirely the underlying bill, which was modeled after a 15-year-old statute in Oregon and has been years in the making here. He then replaced the 22-page bill with a five-paragraph amendment that insulates from civil and criminal liability a doctor who prescribes a “lethal dosage” to a terminally ill person. The amendment also protects from liability any friend or family member who is in the presence of the person when they ingest the medication.

The amendment gave opponents of the original bill the opening they’d been looking for. By voting in favor of Galbraith’s bill – a measure most wouldn’t support generally – they could effectively kill off the legislation it sought to replace. Sure enough, all 13 people who voted against the bill Tuesday voted in favor of Galbraith’s amendment today. They were joined by Galbraith and Hartwell, which led to a 15-15 tie on the floor of the Senate. That left the tie-breaking vote to Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, an avowed opponent of “physician assisted suicide.” He voted ‘yes’ for Galbraith’s amendment.

It was a dramatic moment that took even jaded Statehouse veterans by surprise.

It isn’t the end of the road for the original bill. Sen. Claire Ayer, an Addison County Democrat, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, has spent the last six weeks shepherding the Oregon-style bill through the Senate. “As much as I detest” the Galbraith amendment, Ayer said, she encouraged her colleagues to vote in favor of it.

By getting it through the Senate and over to the House, she said, lawmakers can bring the bill back to its original form and get a second chance to pass it as-is. Sen. Dick McCormack agreed, saying there are procedural reasons to pass the bill, “even in its presently grotesque form.”

Galbraith said his amendment differs philosophically from the bill it replaces in only one area.

“And that is as to what safeguards are built in,” Galbraith said. “The other bill leaves it to the state to decide who can do what under what circumstances. I believe the best safeguard is the close relationship between a doctor and their patient.”

He seemed taken aback by the intensity of the hostility to his amendment.

“It’s not grotesque. It’s not a travesty,” he said. “It isn’t exactly what they wanted, but it delivers the result they were looking for.”

Ayer said the underlying legislation sought to end precisely the kind of ill-defined, poorly overseen, under-the-table process that Galbraith’s bill would legalize. She said the legislation sought to engender deeper conversations between doctors and patients about the dying process, and make sure terminally ill people understand the range of palliative care options available. Ayer said she worries the Galbraith amendment may also create some new legal loopholes ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous doctors or caregivers.

Dick Walters, head of Patient Choices Vermont, an advocacy group pushing the bill, said Galbraith’s amendment “strips all of the carefully crafted and well-tested safeguards from the bill and instead gives physicians full immunity when prescribing lethal doses of medication.”

The bill comes up for final reading Thursday, creating another potentially interesting vote. A number of senators who supported the underlying bill voted against Galbraith’s amendment today. The amendment carried only because of unanimous support from opponents of the underlying bill. But the original bill is dead now, in the Senate at least, and can’t be resuscitated regardless of the fate of the Galbraith amendment. That means the same people who wanted to see the bill killed off entirely can now vote against the Galbraith amendment without consequence. And if senators who supported the original version don’t come around to Galbraith’s language, the legislation, in all its forms, could die for good.

Walters said he hopes senators who support the underlying bill will hold their noses and vote ‘yes’ for the amendment.

Baruth withdraws proposed assault weapons ban, but gun-control debate lives on

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff  Photo                           Tim Griswold of Rutland wraps himself in a flag during a rally in support of gun rights at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Saturday afternoon.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Tim Griswold of Rutland wraps himself in a flag during a rally in support of gun rights at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Saturday afternoon.

Reported first by Green Mountain Daily’s Ed Garcia and confirmed first by Paul Heintz at Seven Days, Sen. Philip Baruth says he’ll withdraw a proposed ban on assault weapons.

Baruth’s proposal fueled a groundswell of opposition that erupted Saturday in Montpelier, when about 250 Vermonters rallied on the steps of the Statehouse in support of the Second Amendment. In a statement provided to Heintz, Baruth said “it is painfully clear to me now that little support exists in the Vermont Statehouse for this sort of bill.”

“It’s equally clear that focusing the debate on the banning of a certain class of weapons may already be overshadowing measures with greater consensus, like tightening background checks, stopping the exchange of guns for drugs, and closing gun show loopholes,” Baruth said.

Elected last month to serve as majority leader of the 23-member Senate Democratic caucus, Baruth also said “I owe it to my caucus to remove an issue that seems increasingly likely to complicate our shared agenda this biennium.”

Baruth’s decision to withdraw S32, however, won’t table the gun-control issue in Montpelier this year. Over in the House, Reps. Linda Waite-Simpson, an Essex Junction Democrat, and Adam Greshin, a Warren Independent, are dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on a piece of legislation that will, most controversially, seek to ban ammunition clips containing more than 10 rounds.

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Sanborn Partridge, one of the “Young Turks”, passes away at 97

Sanborn Partridge

Sanborn Partridge

Sanborn Partridge, 97, one of the “Young Turks” of the Vermont House has passed away. He had a varied and full life, but the part that pertains to politics is summed up this way in his obituary:

From 1961 to 1970, he served in the Vermont General Assembly, and 1970 to 1981 in the Senate. He was a part of the “Young Turks,” a group of Republicans and Democrats who worked together on many projects for the good of Vermont including the highway sign bill, and reapportionment. He was a member of the executive board of the University of Vermont, serving as Chairman for one year. He also served on the boards for the Proctor, Rutland and Vermont Historical Societies, several library boards, the Rutland Hospital, the Red Cross and the Union Church of Proctor.

Partridge, a Republican, recalled his membership in the “Young Turks” for a Vermont Folklife Center interview:

The gang that the newspapers tagged as the Young Turks were eleven. One of them had been there the year before, but ten of them were freshman Legislators. And we used to get together, I think it was Thursday evenings, or after five o’clock and our house rule was no drinks for the first hour. And we traded information about the committees on which we served. I think we were windows into something like seventeen committees out of twenty, maybe. And so we could clue each other on what was coming up. It was simply a felt need to learn that we were working on.

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Senate committee assignments shake up the Statehouse

What do the Senate committee assignment shake-ups mean for the legislative session ahead? Pete got into this in his story on the subject in today’s Times Argus and Rutland Herald, but one key post, the Natural Resources committee chair, was given to a vocal critic of mountaintop wind projects, signaling action in that quarter:

In by far the highest-profile snub, Chittenden County Democrat Ginny Lyons was stripped of her post as chairwoman of the Committee on Natural Resources. She will be replaced by Hartwell, who will lead the fight this year for a three-year moratorium on mountaintop wind development.

Hartwell is also a vocal critic of the Public Service Board. He wants to radically alter the regulatory process for some major energy projects — a sentiment he says some of his new committee-mates share.

“Right now there are a lot of people who get to make a statement (in the Act 248 regulatory process) and then just get ushered out of the process rather than having their position truly heard,” Hartwell said. “It’s kind of an antiquated system that we’d like to bring up to date.”

Another key assignment was the posting of Progressive Tim Ashe to lead the Senate Finance Committee, a premier post.

 

Senate Committee assignments announced

The Senate committee lineups were announced today, and there were some shakeups. Pete Hirschfeld is reporting on this right now and we’ll have an update with the fallout for the blog and tomorrow’s newspaper. Obviously, one of these assignments will change when Gov. Shumlin announces a replacement for Bill Carris of Rutland, who is stepping down.

From the release by Nancy Driscoll, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Phil Scott:

Montpelier, VT  – Lt. Governor Phil Scott, Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, and Senator Dick Mazza, members of the Senate Committee on Committees, announced the Senate committee assignments for the 2013-2014 legislative session.
Those committee assignments are:
MORNING COMMITTEES
Agriculture
Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex-Orleans), Chair
Sen. David Zuckerman (P-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison)
Sen. Bill Carris (D-Rutland)
Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)

Economic Development
Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), Chair
Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Don Collins (D-Franklin)
Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington)
Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington)

Health & Welfare
Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison), Chair
Sen. Sally Fox (D-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor)
Sen. Anthony Pollina (D-Washington)

Judiciary
Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), Chair
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), Vice Chair
Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor)
Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham)
Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden)

Natural Resources
Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington), Chair
Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)
Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange)
Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans)

Transportation
Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle), Chair
Sen. Rich Westman (R-Lamoille), Vice Chair
Sen. John Campbell (D-Windsor)
Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland)
Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia)

AFTERNOON COMMITTEES
Appropriations
Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia), Chair
Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor), Vice Chair
Sen. Sally Fox (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington)
Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden)
Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex-Orleans)
Sen. Rich Westman (R-Lamoille)

Education
Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor), Chair
Sen. Don Collins (D-Franklin), Vice Chair
Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington)
Sen. David Zuckerman (P-Chittenden)

Finance
Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), Chair
Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange), Vice Chair
Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison)
Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)
Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington)
Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland)

Government Operations
Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), Chair
Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D/W-Washington), Vice Chair
Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison)
Sen. Bill Carris (D-Rutland)
Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)

Institutions
Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland), Chair
Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington), Vice Chair
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia)
Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle)
Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans)

Montpelier, VT  – Lt. Governor Phil Scott, Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, and Senator Dick Mazza, members of the Senate Committee on Committees, announced the Senate committee assignments for the 2013-2014 legislative session.

 

Those committee assignments are:

 

MORNING COMMITTEES

 

Agriculture

 

Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex-Orleans), Chair

Sen. David Zuckerman (P-Chittenden), Vice Chair

Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison)

Sen. Bill Carris (D-Rutland)

Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)

 

Economic Development

 

Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), Chair
Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden), Vice Chair

Sen. Don Collins (D-Franklin)

Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington)
Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington)

 

Health & Welfare

 

Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison), Chair
Sen. Sally Fox (D-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)

Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor)

Sen. Anthony Pollina (D-Washington)

 

Judiciary

 

Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), Chair
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), Vice Chair

Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor)
Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham)
Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden)

 

Natural Resources

 

Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington), Chair
Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden), Vice Chair

Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)
Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange)
Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans)

 

Transportation

 

Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle), Chair
Sen. Rich Westman (R-Lamoille), Vice Chair

Sen. John Campbell (D-Windsor)

Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland)

Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia)

 

 

AFTERNOON COMMITTEES

 

Appropriations

 

Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia), Chair
Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor), Vice Chair

Sen. Sally Fox (D-Chittenden)

Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington)

Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden)
Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex-Orleans)
Sen. Rich Westman (R-Lamoille)

 

Education

 

Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor), Chair
Sen. Don Collins (D-Franklin), Vice Chair

Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden)

Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington)

Sen. David Zuckerman (P-Chittenden)

 

Finance

 

Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), Chair
Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange), Vice Chair
Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison)

Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)

Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington)

Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)

Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland)

Government Operations

 

Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), Chair
Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D/W-Washington), Vice Chair

Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison)

Sen. Bill Carris (D-Rutland)

Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)

 

Institutions

 

Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland), Chair
Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington), Vice Chair

Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia)

Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle)
Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans)

Campbell wins uncontested race for pro tem

John Campbell, D-Windsor

John Campbell, D-Windsor

John Campbell’s biggest adversary just turned into his best friend.

In a surprise move moments ago, Chittenden County Republican Diane Snelling withdrew her candidacy for Senate President Pro Tem and instead nominated her would-be rival John Campbell.

“This may seem surprising to some, however I have been promised nothing more and nothing less than a fair and accountable process and productive Senate,” Snelling said on the floor of a packed Senate chamber.

Snelling last year made little effort to veil her contempt for the chaotic scheduling and procedure blamed for casting the body into disarray.

Campbell has apparently convinced her it won’t happen again. More on his victory speech coming soon.

House, Senate getting ready to kick off 2013

This year will feature plenty of contentious debates over things like the budget, health care, renewable energy and drug policy.

But today will be more style than substance as lawmakers settle in for the rituals of the new biennium.

The House chamber is already beginning to fill up in anticipation of the election of Shap Smith to a third term as Speaker of the House. Smith will then deliver a speech to the 150-person body before presiding over the swearing in of new members.

The Senate ceremonies will go down in much the same way, though Senate President John Campbell faces a challenge for pro tem in the form of Republican Diane Snelling.

Advocates will try to make an early mark on elected officials. A coalition of environmental groups convened a press conference earlier this morning to seek assurances from lawmakers to improve the quality of Vermont’s waterways. The Vermont Workers Center is holding a rally at 11:30 this morning telling lawmakers to “Put people first.” The group tends to come out in large numbers, and will be seeking a budget geared toward the interests of low- and working-class Vermonters.

A couple unions – 1199SEIU and AFSCME – are on hand today in advance of their legisaltive push to organize about 6,000 home-care workers in the state.

Stay tuned here at www.vermontpressbureau.com for live updates from the festivities.