Ann Cummings

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

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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Senate lawmakers address school district spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers are taking their own stab at revamping school district spending thresholds, setting up debate Friday on the House floor. With a voice vote, the Senate approved a proposal that would exempt school districts from spending thresholds if they are spending below the statewide per-pupil average for fiscal year 2017, and would repeal the thresholds altogether for 2018. The Senate proposal comes in response to action taken by House lawmakers Wednesday that would increase every district’s threshold by 0.9 percent and lower the penalty for exceeding the threshold from 1 dollar for every dollar over the threshold to 25 cents for every dollar over. The Senate proposal keeps the House plan to raise all thresholds by 0.9 percent, but raises the penalty to 40 cents for every dollar over the threshold, to make up for the districts who would be exempt from the thresholds because they are spending less than the statewide per-pupil average. The House proposal would bring in $1.8 million in penalty revenue; the Senate proposal would bring in $1.9 million. Continue Reading →

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Senate panel zeroes in on paid sick leave bill

MONTPELIER — A Senate panel is zeroing in on a paid sick leave bill that amends the version passed by the House last year to make it more palatable for the business community. The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs is expected to vote on the amended legislation Thursday morning after clarifying the expense it will have on the state as an employer. The bill is expected to easily clear the committee, according to Chairman Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland. The committee delayed a vote on Wednesday until the state Department of Human Resources could detail how much its bill would cost the state. The Senate bill looks to exempt the state from the mandate, except for temporary hourly workers. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers heading in different directions on school spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — As House and Senate lawmakers continue to move in different directions in the hopes of enacting swift change regarding school district spending thresholds, revised threshold numbers create additional uncertainty. Lawmakers on either side of the General Assembly are no closer to reaching consensus on what changes, if any, should be made regarding spending thresholds that are estimated to result in more than 120 school districts facing property tax penalties. If anything, lawmakers on both sides are doubling down on their parallel, but differing, proposals. Earlier this week, House Education Committee members passed a bill that would raise each district’s threshold by 0.9 percent. On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would repeal the thresholds altogether. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers vote to raise school spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have taken a step to address school district spending thresholds, but Senate lawmakers are looking at repealing the thresholds altogether. On Tuesday, by a unanimous vote, the House Education Committee approved a bill to raise every individual school district’s spending threshold by 0.9 percent for fiscal year 2017. “We have heard quite a bit of testimony and have heard from a lot of people back home who want to protect the cost control that was put into effect last session while recognizing every district is unique,” said Rep. Tim Jerman, D-Essex Junction. “This is a good compromise.” (more…) Continue Reading →

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Senate Dems leaning toward suspending McAllister

HARTLAND — Senate Democrats are moving toward seeking the suspension of a Republican member of the body accused of sexual crimes to avoid interfering with his criminal case. Fifteen members of the Democratic caucus met Saturday at the timber frame home of Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, and one on the phone, to discuss how the body should proceed regarding Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister. The 64-year-old McAllister was arrested at the State House in May and stands accused of sexually assaulting three women, including a legislative intern who allegedly lived with him in Montpelier at times. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and his criminal case is pending. McAllister has refused to resign, despite immense pressure from both Republicans and Democrats. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers discuss vaccine exemptions for children

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers are considering the elimination of the philosophical exemption for parents who wish to send their children to public school without being vaccinated. Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, introduced an amendment to a bill that modifies how the Department of Health handles information in its vaccine registries. 

Mullin said the amendment addresses concerns both immediate and long term. “We’re one plane ride away from measles hitting Vermont,” said Mullin, noting a measles outbreak in December in California that spread to 16 other states, including New York. Mullin’s other concern is the decline in the number of children who are being vaccinated in Vermont. By one measure, Vermont has one of the lowest rates of child vaccination of any state in the country. Continue Reading →

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Senate waits with bated breath for 2013 committee assignments

The palace intrigue continues today in the Senate, where a rumored shake-up in some key committee chairwomanships has set off a wave of speculation about who will end up where. Sen. Dick Mazza, one of three members on the powerful ” Committee on Committees,” said he, Senate Pro Tem John Campbell and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott are hoping to ink a final roster by Thursday. They’ll probably announce the decisions to members on Friday morning – “so they have assignments before they go home for the weekend,” Mazza said. The Friday news drop serves another key function: giving spurned senators 72 hours to ice their brusied egos before returning to Montpelier for the first full week of the session. “There are going to be some happy folks and some unhappy folks,” Mazza said this morning. Continue Reading →

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Campbell admits to past failures, then wins second term as Senate pro tem

Following a lengthy mea culpa in which he acknowledged his “deficiencies” as a leader, Sen. John Campbell was nominated by his Democratic colleagues Tuesday evening to a second term as pro tem of the Vermont Senate. Campbell had come under withering criticism during his first two years on the job, much of it from fellow Democrats who blamed the Windsor County lawmaker for a “chaotic” environment that at times resulted in dramatic procedural breakdowns on the Senate floor. Sen. Ann Cummings, the Washington County Democrat who mounted a challenge to Campbell Tuesday, lamented a “dysfunctional Senate” that had, under Campbell’s aegis, become a body of which she was embarrassed to be a member. “I was really hoping there was going to be a change in how things ran (after the first year with Campbell as pro tem),” Cummings said in a plea for votes Tuesday. “There wasn’t. Continue Reading →

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