State Senate

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PFOA liability bill clears the Senate

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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Battle of Bennington debate still rages

MONTPELIER — The Battle of Bennington was vigorously defended on the Senate floor Tuesday as the chamber sought to commemorate another Revolutionary War battle. Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, rose to amend a House resolution commemorating the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Hubbardton. It was the resolution’s final “whereas” clause that drew Sears’ ire. It states that “the Battle of Hubbardton was the only Revolutionary War military engagement fought in Vermont, as the Battle of Bennington, despite its name, occurred in nearby New York…”

Sears rose to amend the resolution by stripping out the clause. Historians seem to agree that the battle was fought across the border in Walloomsac, N.Y., on Aug. Continue Reading →

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Senate advances ethics bill

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation that will tweak ethics laws for some government officials and create a statewide ethics commission to review complaints. The measure, S.8, was passed on a voice vote without opposition. It will be up for final approval in the Senate Wednesday. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, the chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, told her colleagues that trust in government has been eroding for years. “This mistrust runs from the federal government down to local government,” she said. Continue Reading →

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House, Senate approve abortion resolutions

MONTPELIER — The House and Senate approved resolutions Tuesday celebrating the 44th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and Planned Parenthood’s 52 years of existence. The resolution was approved in the Senate on a unanimous voice vote — meaning no senators expressed opposition. In the House, the resolution was approved on a 103 to 31 roll call vote. The resolution “urges Congress and other state legislatures to preserve the rights protected in Roe v. Wade and to preserve access to essential health care services” and “reaffirms the right of every Vermont woman to privacy, autonomy, and safety in making personal decisions regarding reproduction and family planning and the right to continued access to safe and legal abortion.”

Hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters packed the House chamber Tuesday to show support for the group and the resolution. But the resolution generated some pointed comments from members of the House. Continue Reading →

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Rutland Senate delegation introduces Scott education plan

MONTPELIER — Rutland County’s three-person Senate delegation has introduced legislation that would codify into law the far-reaching education reforms Gov. Phil Scott proposed in his budget address Tuesday. The three Republican senators — Peg Flory, Kevin Mullin and Brian Collamore — were sought out by Scott ahead of his budget address, according to Flory. “Gov. Scott reached out to us … sometime last week and explained that he was going to be making a proposal that would need some legislation,” she said Wednesday. “So we had legislative counsel draft it and we agreed to sponsor it for him.”

Scott surprised many when he called Tuesday for lawmakers to pass legislation that would require teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care insurance premiums. That would put them on equal footing with state employees, and close to workers in the private sector. But health care costs are typically part of the collective bargaining process between local school boards and teachers’ unions. Continue Reading →

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Doyle honored by former colleagues

MONTPELIER — Former Sen. Bill Doyle was honored on the Senate floor Tuesday by some of his closest colleagues from his 48-year tenure in the body. Doyle, 90, ran for re-election in November for what would have been his 25th term in the Senate. He came in a close fourth-place, however, in the three-seat Washington County district, bringing to a close his illustrious political career that began when he first won in the 1968 election. On Tuesday, Doyle, a Republican, was lauded by a bipartisan group of colleagues as much for his Senate career as he was for his tenure as a professor at Lyndon State College. Two of Doyle’s former students were in the Senate chamber Tuesday as members — and many more have served in the General Assembly during his decades as a professor of government. Continue Reading →

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Ethics Committee is on the agenda in the State House

MONTPELIER — Washington County Sen. Anthony Pollina says he is optimistic the Legislature will pass an ethics bill and create a State Ethics Commission to review and act on ethics complaints for those involved in state government. Lawmakers have hemmed and hawed for years on passing a tough ethics bill that would provide strong oversight over themselves and the executive branch of government. The Senate passed a measure last year very late in the legislative session that the House did not take up. Pollina, a Progressive, plans to introduce a bill that is nearly identical to last year’s and push for early action so both chambers have time to consider it. “I do think this will be the year that we’ll be able to make this happen. Continue Reading →

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Johnson, Ashe lead lawmakers forward

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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With concession, Doyle’s storied Senate career to end

MONTPELIER — Longtime Washington County Sen. Bill Doyle withdrew his request for a recount on Wednesday, effectively ending his 48-year tenure in the Vermont State House. Doyle, a Republican who sought re-election earlier this month, finished behind Democrat Francis Brooks and the two other incumbent senators from Washington County. Brooks edged him out by just 191 votes. Doyle, 90, initially moved for a recount following the election, but on Wednesday he opted to forego that effort and concede defeat after consulting “advisors” who told him a recount was unlikely to close the gap. “In order to prevail in a recount, I would need 96 votes to change,” Doyle said in his statement. Continue Reading →

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Ashe locks down pro tem support

MONTPELIER — Chittenden County Sen. Tim Ashe is poised to become the next president pro tem of the Senate after the Democratic caucus unanimously nominated him for the post Monday. Ashe, 39, who serves as both a Progressive and Democratic in the Senate, will replace Democratic Windsor County Sen. John Campbell in the critical leadership post. Campbell, who now works as the executive director of the Department of State’s Attorneys & Sheriffs, did not seek re-election. “I’m, obviously, totally humbled to get the caucus support for the position. Many people outside the building don’t understand the role of the pro tem is really to be the shepherd of the entire Senate,” he said. Continue Reading →

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