Scott explains the sale of Dubois Construction

Gov. Phil Scott briefs reporters on the sale of his share in Dubois Construction, which does business with the state. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has sold his share of a construction business and will be paid $2.5 million by the firm over a 15-year period. Scott, pledging to be transparent and open about the sale, briefed reporters Friday on its terms. Scott had been a half partner in the company, Dubois Construction, which bids on state contracts, before the sale close on Dec. 30. “I signed a sales agreement and sold my shares back to Dubois Construction,” Scott said. Scott said he chose to sell his share back to the company and finance it himself. Continue Reading →

State to pay Blue Cross $3.5 million to settle billing discrepancies

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MONTPELIER — State officials have agreed to pay Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont $3.5 million to close out the insurer’s line of business through the state’s online insurance marketplace in 2015. The additional payment to Blue Cross comes after a months-long reconciliation process that was required to help settle discrepancies within the billing and enrollment system of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance exchange set up through the federal Affordable Care Act. The agreement between the state and Blue Cross was finalized late last year by the administration of former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who left office last week as Republican Gov. Phil Scott was sworn in. Cory Gustafson, Scott’s Department of Vermont Health Access commissioner, confirmed the $3.5 million settlement Thursday. Gustafson worked as the director of government and public relations for Blue Cross at the time of the settlement before being tapped to served in Scott’s administration. Continue Reading →

Scott administration prepares for revenue downgrade

MONTPELIER — General fund revenues are lagging halfway through the state fiscal year and the administration of new Republican Gov. Phil Scott is preparing for state economists to project a revenue downgrade later this month for the second half of the fiscal year. New Secretary of Administration Susanne Young released revenue figures for December on Wednesday, which showed the general fund coming in $2.78 million below its monthly target set. Total general fund revenues last month were $127.33 million. The state Emergency Board, compromised of the governor and the chairs of the four money committees in Legislature, last set revenue targets in July 2016. State economists will present a new revenue forecast to the Emergency Board later this month. Continue Reading →

Former lawmaker reaches plea deal as sex-assault trial set to start

Sen. Norm McAllister

ST. ALBANS, Vt. (AP) — A former state lawmaker accused of trying to extract sexual favors in exchange for rent agreed to a plea deal on the eve of trial and faces possible prison time. Republican former state Sen. Norman McAllister was charged with sexual assault. He pleaded no contest to prohibited acts and lewd and lascivious conduct. He faces up to seven years in prison. Continue Reading →

Doyle honored by former colleagues

Bill Doyle, a former senator from Washington County, smiles as his former colleagues honored him Tuesday for his 48 years of service. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

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 →

Gun Sense renews push for universal background checks

Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden, speaks at a news conference about his legislation for universal background checks on all gun sales in Vermont. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Proponents of a law to require background checks on all gun sales in Vermont launched a renewed effort Tuesday to achieve their goal, but roadblocks in their way in previous legislative sessions remain. Gun Sense Vermont, a group pushing for universal background checks, hosted a State House news conference Tuesday to rally supporters. They promised to keep pushing for such a law despite stiff opposition from guns rights groups and even Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden, introduced S.6, a bill that again calls for universal background checks and has several co-sponsors. Baruth submitted similar legislation in recent years but has been rebuffed. Continue Reading →

School Choice Matters for Vermont Families

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n our country, we love to customize, whether it’s a new addition to the house or the colors and fonts surrounding our text messages. We choose everything, from our line of work to our preferred place to grab lunch (where we probably customize our lunch order). So it’s easy to understand why parents want more choices in their children’s education. Parents understand that education options open doors for their children. Every child is unique, with distinct interests and learning styles. Continue Reading →

Ethics Committee is on the agenda in the State House

Sen. Anthony Pollina

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 →

Jeff Sessions Was Too Extreme For Republicans In 1986. Is He Too Extreme For Republicans Now?

Sen. Patrick Leahy

his week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet in a legendary room that has been the site of such historic events as the Watergate hearings, and Senator John Kennedy’s presidential campaign announcement. This ornate room has since been named for my friend, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and more recently senators have met in this room for the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Attorney General Eric Holder. As senators prepare to gather in the Kennedy Caucus Room next week for the confirmation hearings of Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States, I cannot help but wonder what Ted would think. Thirty years ago he said this about the current nominee who then was a nominee to be a district court judge:

“Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a U.S. Federal judge. Continue Reading →