Galbraith calls for universal background checks, ban of “assault-style” weapons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith called for a ban on "assault-style" weapons at a news conference Monday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith scrapped the planned announcement of his college plan for low-income Vermonters and instead called Monday for a ban on “assault-style” weapons following the massacre in Orlando on Sunday. Galbraith called for several new gun control measures at the state and federal level as authorities continued to investigate the shooting death of 49 people at a night club in Orlando, allegedly by Omar Mateen, who was killed by police. He told reporters at a news conference Monday at the Community College of Vermont there would be “a significant change in topic.”

“Today, with what’s happened in Orlando, I think that is the focus of attention in our state and it raises a broader issue for me, which I really go back to Robert Kennedy and his quote — “When in the face of evil good men do nothing, that is how evil triumphs,” he said. The former diplomat and Windham County state senator decried the lack of conversation in Vermont about new gun control measures. “We pretend that we are somehow immune from the national trends, when in fact, we’re not and when we face these tragedies we often go to a different issue. Continue Reading →

Lawmakers craft replacement language for vetoed energy siting bill

searsburg_wind_power_facility_in_searsburg_vt_ap_photo_tim_roske

MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have drafted replacement language for an energy siting bill vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday they hope will be passed during a legislative veto session on Thursday to fix issues he identified in his veto message. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking a fourth two-year term, vetoed S.230 Monday over concerns that language approved on the final day of the legislative session would have unintended consequences. He said the emergency rule-making process called for in the bill for new wind turbine sound standards unintentionally invokes a provision in statute that would make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy “without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up.”

Additionally, Shumlin said new temporary sound standards for wind turbines “unintentionally relies on a standard used in a small 150 kilowatt project as the standard for all wind” projects, which “could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher.” Another provision in the bill requires notice of certificates of public good for energy projects on parcels of land to be filed with land records. He said that “could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.”

The fourth concern deals with money. Under the bill, regional planning commissions are supposed to help municipalities develop local energy plans that conform to the state’s energy goals. Continue Reading →

Shumlin vetoes energy siting bill

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin has vetoed a controversial energy siting bill, triggering a special legislative veto session on Thursday where lawmakers can try to override his rejection or look to fix the portions he finds unacceptable and send it back. The legislation, S.230, was passed by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session last month after last-minute wrangling by House and Senate negotiators and the Shumlin administration. It seeks to provide local communities with more say over the siting of renewable energy projects if they craft their own energy plans that are approved by the Department of Public Service. It also seeks to create sound restrictions for wind generation projects. The governor, a Democrat, said the bill would hurt the state’s renewable energy progress, which he said has created more than 17,000 jobs in Vermont. Continue Reading →

JFO: 15 percent of Medicaid enrollees may be ineligible

Medicaid

Editor’s note: The headline and story were updated to include the state’s Medicaid population between the ages of 18 and 22. MONTPELIER — The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office has estimated that as many as 15 percent of the state’s Medicaid enrollees are not eligible for the program, but the Shumlin administration says that number is slightly higher than what they are finding as they review cases one-by-one. The state is grappling with higher-than-expected enrollment in its Medicaid program, which is funded by both state and federal dollars. A consensus estimate in 2014 projected that 46,738 adults would be enrolled in Medicaid during the 2015 state fiscal year and another 42,785 would be eligible for qualified health plans with subsidies on the state’s health care exchange. But the actual number of Medicaid enrollees came in higher, however, at 72,534. Continue Reading →

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 →

VSEA’s legislative committee backs Galbraith, Zuckerman

Peter Galbraith announces his candidacy for governor Tuesday in the Cedar Creek Room of the State House in Montpelier. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith and Sen. David Zuckerman, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, have the early advantage in netting endorsements from the Vermont State Employees Association after the union’s legislative committee voted to recommend them to the Board of Trustees and the full membership. The union’s 23-member legislative committee voted Tuesday to recommend Galbraith, a former diplomat and state senator from Windham County, for governor in the Democratic primary over Matt Dunne and Sue Minter. Sen. David Zuckerman, who represents Chittenden County as a Progressive and Democrat, was selected by the panel for lieutenant governor over House Speaker Shap Smith and Burlington Rep. Kesha ram. The committee’s recommendation is the first step in the union’s new endorsement process. The VSEA’s full membership of about 5,500 state workers now has until June 6 to vote in a non-binding online straw poll, which will help the union’s Board of Trustees select candidates to be endorsed by the group, according to VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard. Continue Reading →

Environmental activists attempt to “seize” commissioner’s property

RANDOLPH – Environmental activists came to the home of the commissioner of the state’s Public Service Department to demonstrate their displeasure the proposed natural gas pipeline running through the state. According to Henry Harris, a spokesman for a group calling itself the People’s Department of Environmental Justice, shortly after 6 a.m., he and others went to the home of Commissioner Chris Recchia and attempted to serve him paperwork to seize Recchia’s land on behalf of the organization. “We were there to serve Mr. Recchia notice that we were seizing his property,” said Harris, a 37-year-old carpenter from Plainfield. The action is the latest in a number of demonstrations condemning the Vermont Gas Systems Pipeline being constructed in Addison and Chittenden counties, which has resulted in a handful of private properties being seized in the name of eminent domain. In September, six people were arrested for blocking the entrance to Vermont Gas Systems in Williston. Continue Reading →

Feliciano announces GOP bid for auditor

Dan Feliciano

MONTPELIER — Former gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano plans to run for state auditor as a Republican. Feliciano said Tuesday he is in the process of gathering the required signatures and plans to submit his petition to the Secretary of State’s Office by the Thursday deadline. Auditor Doug Hoffer, a Democrat and Progressive, has already filed for re-election. As a business consultant, Feliciano says he has the necessary background to help state government improve its operations and finances by finding improvements. He said he decided to seek the office after people told him his background was well-suited for the position. Continue Reading →

Contraceptives bill signed into law

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. Shumlin, a third-term Democrat who is not seeking re-election, signed H.620, on the steps of the State House Monday with lawmakers and representatives of Planned Parenthood looking on. He said the legislation moves Vermont in the right direction while some parts of the country are heading backward. “When we look around us here in 2016, here in America, and we look at the issue of reproductive rights and women’s health, it’s pretty darn shocking to this governor of Vermont when I see what’s going on with the rest of the country,” the governor said. “We have the presumptive [presidential] nominee of the Republican Party who has literally suggested that women should be punished should they seek an abortion. Continue Reading →

Minter unveils economic development plan

BARRE — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter has unveiled her plan to stimulate economic growth in Vermont. Minter stood before the City Place building on Monday to share her plan to invest in downtowns such as Barre, while calling for investment in agriculture, manufacturing, energy efficiency and the tech sector. “Too many people are struggling in an economy that is stacked against them,” said Minter, who highlighted the public-private partnerships in Barre that have led to a revitalization of the downtown. The state has invested $19 million dollars in downtown Barre, resulting in $45 million in private investment, a move that led to the construction of the City Place building, which houses both state offices and private businesses. Minter said that, in her first year as governor, the state would award money to three communities, who will be chosen through a competitive process. Continue Reading →