Liquor-Lottery merger shelved

MONTPELIER — The House sidelined a bill Tuesday that would have created a working group to study a merger of the Department of Liquor Control and the state’s Lottery Commission. The Democrat-led House was set to debate and vote on legislation Tuesday to create a group to study the merger sought by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. The governor signed an executive order in January to merge the two entities, but the House passed a resolution last week that nullified it. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, said the House is also interested in a merger, but wants more details on what it would look like. The legislation up for debate Tuesday, H. 525, was a compromise, she said, that would have continued the conversation with potential action by the Legislature next year. Continue Reading →

Scott: Nomination flawed but acceptable if confirmed

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he will accept an appointee to the Green Mountain Care Board made by the previous governor if the Senate votes to confirm her, even as his administration continues to voice concerns about whether she should be confirmed. Robin Lunge was appointed to a six- year term on the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body, by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in mid- November before he left office in early January. She began serving in an interim capacity as a board member on Nov. 28 because the Senate was not in session and could not immediately act to confirm the nomination. But as Vermont Public Radio reported Monday, the paperwork that i s typically filed when such an appointment is made could not be located when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee recently tried to act to confirm Lunge’s appointment. Continue Reading →

Lawmakers push for Liquor-Lottery merger

MONTPELIER — Two lawmakers are proposing an amendment to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the state’s Lottery Commission in January as the House prepares to debate legislation Tuesday that creates a working group to study the issue. The legislation up for debate Tuesday comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the House last week that nullified an executive order from Republican Gov. Phil Scott that would have merged the two entities beginning this week. Scott signed the executive order in January, but state law allows either the House or Senate to nix such a restructuring of the executive branch with a resolution. While the Scott administration has questioned whether that de facto veto power of the executive branch is constitutional, it has not yet moved to challenge it. On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Chittenden, who was appointed to the House by Scott last week to fill a vacancy, is sponsoring an amendment along with Rep. Jim Condon, D-Colchester, to merge the Department of Liquor Control and Lottery Commission beginning Jan. Continue Reading →

Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 4.12.17

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Boston Globe reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize with the Globe’s Spotlight team for coverage of a clergy sex abuse scandal, joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld to discuss media issues. Pfeiffer will be speaking at the Barre Opera House on Saturday, April 15 at 7 p.m. Subscribers of the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus or Rutland Herald can attend for free. The cost is $10 for non-subscribers and $5 for seniors. Copies of her book will be available, along with a highlight reel from the movie Spotlight. She’ll also take questions from the audience. Continue Reading →

Ashe: Legalizing pot this year will take a ‘miracle’

MONTPELIER — The prospect of legalizing marijuana this year is likely over, “barring a miracle,” according to Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe. Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, made that comment in a briefing for reporters Tuesday on legislation the Senate still hopes to pass this year. Ashe, and Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they are hoping to find some way to make progress on legalization this year as the House continues to see its bill languish in committee. But progress means passing something “that reflects the Senate’s interests,” according to Ashe. He said he is not inclined to support any legislation that does not at least include a commission tasked with creating a legal market, he said. Continue Reading →

Gov. Scott picks Harrison for House seat

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has chosen former Vermont Retail and Grocers Association President Jim Harrison to fill the remainder of former Republican Rep. Job Tate’s term in the Vermont House. Harrison, 63, of North Chittenden, retired from VRGA at the end of 2016 after nearly 30 years leading the organization. Tate, who was serving his second term representing the Rutland-Windsor 1 House district, resigned Friday as he prepares for a lengthy overseas deployment with the Navy Seabees. Harrison said he received a call from Scott Monday evening and was told he would be appointed to replace Tate. “I am very, very honored and flattered to be appointed to fulfill Job’s House seat. Continue Reading →

Lawmakers pitch carbon tax proposals

BARRE — A group of lawmakers plan to introduce legislation Tuesday that would tax carbon pollution and use the revenue to cut various taxes for Vermonters. Four bills were announced at news conferences Monday as part of a coordinated campaign to begin a conversation about a so-called carbon tax. Lawmakers say they plan to introduce four separate bills focused on reforming different taxes. At Capstone Community Action in Barre, Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington, said the legislation she will introduce will cut income taxes for Vermonters, small business and will double the Earned Income Tax Credit used by 43,000 low-income residents. “This bill cuts the tax rate for the bottom income bracket in half from 3.55 percent to 1.75 percent,” she said. Continue Reading →

Watch: Capital Beat with Sen. Jane Kitchel and Rep. Kitty Toll

Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, are on the program this week to discuss the 2018 fiscal year state budget. The two sisters are charged with ushering a nearly $6 billion budget through the Legislature. Capital Beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →