State Senate

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With concession, Doyle’s storied Senate career to end

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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

Sen. Tim Ashe

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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Doyle loses re-election bid to Brooks, knocked out after serving since 1969

Francis Brooks (VPR photo)

MONTPELIER — Francis Brooks, with 15.52 percent of the vote, took one of Washington County’s three senate seats away from longtime Republican Sen. Bill Doyle Tuesday. Bill Doyle, who has served in the state Senate without interruption since 1969, narrowly fell into fourth place in the district with 15.3 percent of the vote according to the Secretary of State’s Office, with all districts reporting. With fellow incumbents Ann Cummings, D-Montpelier, and Anthony Pollina, D-Middlesex, pacing the six-candidate field, the race was for third place as midnight approached and Doyle’s bid for a 25th consecutive two-year term was on life support. Cummings was comfortably ahead with 16,742, and Pollina was a safe second with 14,950 votes, but Brooks was pushing for the first partisan sweep in the county’s Senate race in more than three decades and perhaps the first Democratic sweep ever. With Woodbury left to report its results Tuesday night, Brooks was in third place with 13,479 votes and Doyle was a hair behind with 13,343 votes. Continue Reading →

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VSEA prevails with the Vermont Labor Relations Board

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MONTPELIER — The Vermont Labor Relations Board ruled in a split decision Tuesday in favor of the Vermont State Employees Association in its contract dispute with the Shumlin administration. Both parties agreed to seek a two-year labor contract to succeed the current deal that is set to expire on June 30. The two sides had difficulty agreeing to terms, however, and reached in impasse. A deal was still elusive after mediation efforts, resulting in the appointment of a mutually agreed upon fact finder who held two hearings in January. Both sides submitted their last best offers to the Vermont Labor Relations Board last month and it was tasked with choosing between them. Continue Reading →

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Senate president pro-tem stepping down

Senate Pro Tem John Campbell

MONTPELIER — No matter what happens during the November elections, there will be new leadership at the State House. Senate President Pro-Tem John Campbell announced Monday he will join House Speaker Shap Smith and Gov. Peter Shumlin in not seeking re-election, choosing instead to head the state association that represents sheriffs and prosecutors. Upon completion of the 2016 legislative session in early May, Campbell will take the position of executive director of the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, a job that reflects his work, past and present. “It’s not often that jobs open up in a field in which you have passion for,” Campbell said. “Law enforcement and being a prosecutor are things that are very important to me.”

The eight-term Democrat is a deputy state’s attorney in Windsor County, which he has represented since 2001. Continue Reading →

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Snelling resigns from Senate to head Natural Resources Board

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MONTPELIER — Chittenden County Republican Sen. Diane Snelling is resigning from the body to become chairwoman of the Natural Resources Board, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Tuesday morning. Snelling, who has served in the Senate since being appointed in 2002 to replace a seat vacated by her mother, will replace Jon Groveman on the board. “I am proud to appoint Senator Snelling to this position,” Shumlin said. “Her deep policy knowledge of Act 250 as well as her well-deserved reputation for being thoughtful and non-partisan make her an ideal candidate for this position.”

Snelling’s work in the Senate has involved work on clean water initiatives and shore land protection. She has served on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Continue Reading →

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Senate approves marijuana legalization

MONTPELIER — Senators made it easier for the little guy to break into the cultivation business when they gave their final approval to marijuana legalization. By a vote of 17 to 12 Thursday afternoon, the Senate approved what has been arguably been the most debated bill of this legislative session, and in doing so, sends it on to House for further discussion. “It’s a relief for me to have it out of the Senate,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and someone who became an unlikely advocate for legalization. Sears thanked his fellow lawmakers, including colleagues such as Sens. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, and Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, both of whom voted for the bill while in committee despite their opposition, which allowed the bill to come to the Senate floor for debate. Continue Reading →

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Senate pot vote came down to the wire

Sen. Becca Balint

MONTPELIER — An unknown outcome is a rare occurrence when debate begins in the Vermont Senate, but it remained unclear Wednesday afternoon as senators took to the floor to consider legalizing marijuana if they would, in fact, vote to advance it. “I honestly don’t know,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears said ahead of the vote. “We’ve got a few squishy people.”

In the end, 16 senators prevailed over 13 members who opposed legalization. The preliminary vote Wednesday to advance the legislation to a final vote came after a flurry of activity in the State House by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and others who were trying to win every potential vote. Shumlin hunkered down in his ceremonial office Wednesday morning just down the hallway from the Senate Chamber. Continue Reading →

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Senate gives preliminary approval to marijuana legalization

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MONTPELIER — The question of allowing anyone to grow marijuana dominated a discussion Wednesday in which the Senate gave preliminary approval to legalization. By a vote of 16 to 13, Senate lawmakers gave the initial go-ahead to a bill that would allow for commercial cultivation and the sale of marijuana, setting the possibility for full Senate approval Thursday. On the floor, the bill had the support of someone who, months ago, would have seemed an unlikely legalization advocate: Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “If you had told me, even three months ago, that not only would I be voting yes, but speaking on the floor to defend the bill, I would have told you you were crazy,” said Sears, who said he was persuaded to support legalization following nearly a month of testimony and a series of public forums held around the state. Under the terms of the bill, starting in January 2018, it will be legal to grow and sell marijuana, provided you are licensed by the Department of Public Safety. Continue Reading →

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Marijuana bill limps out of committee

Sen. Jane Kitchel discusses the marijuana legalization bill Monday at the State House.

MONTPELIER — The Senate’s marijuana legalization bill limped out of its final committee and will come up for a full vote this week. By a 4 to 3 vote Monday afternoon, The Senate Appropriations Committee gave its approval to S.241, which would permit the legal sale of marijuana in 2018. Vermont is looking at becoming the fifth state to legalize marijuana — following Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — and would be the first state to do so through the legislative process rather than though a ballot initiative. To even get out of the committee — the third Senate Committee to review the bill since the start of the legislative session — required the affirmative vote of a Senator who said she will oppose the bill when it comes to the floor Wednesday. “I will vote yes to bring it to the floor, with a clear vote of no on the floor,” said Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden. Continue Reading →

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