Tag Archives: Bill Sorrell

T.J. Donovan to run for AG

MONTPELIER — Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan says he will run for attorney general regardless of whether longtime incumbent Bill Sorrell decides to seek re-election.

Donovan, 41, came close to knocking off Sorrell in a 2012 Democratic primary for the state’s top law enforcement position. Donovan lost to Sorrell, who was appointed to the position in 1997 by former Gov. Howard Dean and has won re-election each cycle since, by just 714 votes.

Donovan opted to sit out the 2014 race and instead concentrated on his work in Chittenden County. That work has garnered plenty of attention statewide and has served, in some cases, as pilot projects for the state.

Donovan was honored Friday evening at the Vermont Democratic Party’s annual awards dinner. He did not reveal his plans at the time, however. Instead, Donovan said Monday that he “finalized in my mind over the course of the weekend” that he would run for attorney general again.

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan. (Photo courtesy of VPR)

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan. (Photo courtesy of VPR)

“It just makes sense for me to put it out there and end the speculation,” he said. “I received a lot of support on Friday night. I see no reason to be coy. I figured I would put it out there that I’m running.”

Seven Days was first to report Donovan’s decision to run.

Speculation had been running wild for Donovan, and other potential candidates for various statewide offices, since Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin announced earlier this month that he would not seek a fourth term in 2016. Many political observers wondered if Donovan would opt to run for governor. Continue reading

Sorrell outlines state’s GMO case for lawmakers

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell told the Senate Agriculture Committee Wednesday that he expects a judge to rule on dueling motions in the GMO labeling case within the next three months, which will help lay out a path for the rest of the case.

A host of food industry groups filed suit last year against the state’s GMO labeling law, set to take effect July 1, 2016, claiming it is unconstitutional. Sorrell briefed the committee Wednesday on the status of the case.

The plaintiffs have asked the judge for a summary judgment, claiming the state is restricting their free speech rights by forcing them to label products that contain GMOs. They also claim the state cannot prevent them from calling a product natural if it contains GMOs.

The state has filed a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit. Oral arguments have already been heard, and Sorrell said the state “attacked each count of the plaintiffs’ complaint.”

In some cases, restricting the right to speech can be unconstitutional, according to Sorrell.

“In first amendment free speech arena, there’s the freedom to speak or the freedom to remain silent. So, restricting speech can be a violation of free speech rights,” Sorrell said.

Attorney General William Sorrell testifies before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Attorney General William Sorrell testifies before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Under the state’s GMO labeling law, the state is compelling food manufacturers to state whether or not food products have GMO ingredients. “They’re objecting, saying, ‘You are forcing us to speak on labels and we don’t want to,’” Sorrell said.

In this case, Sorrell said the state has argued that it is not unconstitutional, and courts have found such compelled speech to be constitutional in similar cases.

“On the compelled speech issue we suggest that there are legitimate governmental concerns about environmental issues and public health issues as it relates to genetically engineered products, and legitimate governmental interest to accommodate religious considerations for a segment of the population,” he said.

The state’s motion to dismiss cited a case from an appeals court in Washington, D.C., one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the appeals court ruled that meat must be labeled with the country of origin. The court applied a lenient standard for the government to overcome, according to Sorrell.

“We suggest in our argument that this is very much akin to the country of origin required disclosure on meat products that we’re talking about here,” he said. “We should win on the compelled speech piece.”

And, unlike products that contain alcohol or tobacco and require health warnings, the required labeling requires facts to be disclosed, much like nutrition labels.

“Unlike those kinds of warnings, what our statute requires are simply factual assertions without sort of the taint or flavor, if you will, of saying, ‘Caution, these are hazardous to your health,’” Sorrell said. “These are akin to the … kinds of closures that you typically see on products for calories, fat content, salt and sugar and the like. The standard to which we should be held shouldn’t be a higher standard because it is just a factual assertion as opposed to a warning.”

Sorrell said he is also confident in the state’s argument for prohibiting the use of the term “natural” for GMO products.

“There is no first amendment right to make either false or misleading statements,” he said.

The state’s case points to a posting on the website of Monsanto, a biotechnology company that is part of the suit against the state, that describes GMOs as “plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.”

“We say, ‘Listen, there’s no way you can say that this is natural,” Sorrell said.

Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Starr, D-Essex/Orleans, indicated he believes that posting will harm the plaintiffs’ case.

“They kind of shot themselves in the foot with that post,” Starr said.

The suit also claims an undue burden on interstate commerce. Sorrell told the committee that the law provided more than two years notice to food manufacturers of the pending labeling requirement.

“The state was very accommodating there,” he said.

And GMO labeling is already required in more than 60 countries and two other states, Connecticut and Maine, have passed labeling requirements, but those have yet to take effect.

“This is not Vermont as some island in the world that’s requiring labeling,” Sorrell said.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss is expected to issue a ruling on the initial motions within the next several months, according to Sorrell. That will inform both sides how the rest of the case will proceed, he said.

“I think we’re hoping to be on a track where whatever evidentiary proceeding we’re going to need to do will be done some time by late fall. Hopefully, a decision at the trial court [will happen], if not within this calendar year, then very early into the next calendar year,” he said.


Vermont calls more GMO hearings, extends comment deadline

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Attorney General’s office is calling a second public hearing on the state’s rules to implement the ban on genetically modified organisms.

In addition to the second hearing scheduled for Feb. 4 at the Vermont Statehouse, the state has extended by two weeks the deadline for submitting written comments on the proposed rules.

The new deadline for written comments is Feb. 12.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says officials are worried interested parties wouldn’t be able to get their comments in before the original deadline.

Last year the Vermont Legislature passed the nation’s first law to require the labeling of food made with GMOs.

A number of groups have filed suit to block the law, due to take effect in the summer of 2016.

Vermont to add enforcement to Lake Champlain cleanup tools

ST. ALBANS, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s top officials say legal enforcement of water quality rules on the state’s farmers is going to be one of the tools that will be used to help clean up Lake Champlain.

The enforcement could include civil fines, a loss of tax breaks for agricultural lands and the ability to limit livestock.

Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross, Attorney General Bill Sorrell and others outlined the steps Monday during a meeting in St. Albans.

State officials say they need to zero in on a relatively small number of sources of pollution flowing into rivers that feed into the lake.

While enforcement is a possibility, Ross and Sorrell both say penalties would be used as a last resort on farms that refuse to comply with water quality efforts.

Shumlin, Milne and Sorrell secure nominations

MONTPELIER — Tuesday’s primary was marked by low voter turnout and slow, tedious counting by election officials as they sorted through many ballots with write in votes.

Few Vermonters exercised their right to vote in the state’s primary Tuesday in which candidates looked to secure their party’s nominations for the general election in November. Clerks around the state reported a paltry showing from voters.

Most town and city clerks were expected to be counting and tallying results late into the night, well past deadline, thanks to aggressive write in campaigns waged by Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano and Dean Corren, a Progressive running for lieutenant governor.

On the GOP ballot, gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne was declared the winner by the Associated Press just after 8 p.m. He defeated Republicans Emily Peyton and Steve Berry, and fended off the write in challenge by Feliciano.

With just 79, or 29 percent of the state’s 275 precincts reporting results at 8:45 p.m., Milne had tallied 70 percent of the vote, far ahead of both Peyton and Berry who both had about 6 percent. Write in votes, presumably most with Feliciano’s name, accounted for 17.5 percent of the reported votes.

Town and city clerks were mandated to report results to the Secretary of State’s office Tuesday night with the number of write in votes cast, but were not required to declare for whom those write in votes were cast.

“I’m very pleased to win. I was not surprised, I guess, but I think the low turnout could have been bad for me. My sense is that if there was a larger turnout my margin would have been higher,” Milne said. “Overall, I thought it was good for Vermont and I think it gives me a little more name recognition going into November, so I’m thankful for my opponents for that.”

Milne will now pivot from the primary to focus on defeating incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who easily won his party’s nomination Tuesday. Milne said he will make the case that Shumlin has had “a really bad performance over the last four years.”

“We need to present ourselves as a credible alternative to Gov. Shumlin and I think we will do very well in the fall,” he said.

Corren was asking voters to write him in on the Democratic primary ballot to help him secure the nomination for both the Progressive and Democratic Parties. He will need at least 250 write in votes on the Democratic ballot for the party to endorse him. However, some party stalwarts, including Democratic Sens. Dick Mazza, Dick Sears and John Campbell, have endorsed the popular Republican incumbent Phil Scott.

As of 8:45 p.m., 1,245 write in votes had been cast, but it was unclear for whom. Some Democrats had pledged to write in Scott on the Democratic ballot in a bid to thwart Corren.

In the Democratic primary for governor, Shumlin was declared the winner early on by the Associated Press. He was way out ahead of challenger H. Brooke Paige. Shumlin had 76 percent of the vote to Paige’s 17 percent.

Paige was also badly trailing incumbent Attorney General William Sorrell, also declared a winner by the AP, in that position’s primary. Sorrell had 79 percent to Paige’s 20 percent.

The race for the Republican nomination for U.S. representative was too close to call. With 92 precincts reporting, Mark Donka and Donald Russell were separated by one vote and had 34 percent of the vote each. Donald Nolte had tallied 27 percent of the vote.

Turnout, as expected, was extremely low. The percentage of registered voters that cast ballots Tuesday was unknown Tuesday night, but looked like it could be one of the worst showings in recent history.

In Barre Town, by 2:30 p.m. only 227 voters had cast ballots out of a possible 5,464 voters on the checklist, according to Town Clerk Donna Kelty.

“It’s been realy, really, slow here,” Kelty said. “We rarely have great turnout for primary elections In our municipality it was the first day of school so people had other things on their minds.”

In Bennington, both of the town’s House districts featured a contest on the Democratic ballot. In the Bennington 2-2 district, four Democrats were running for two spots on the November ballot. Results were not available as of 8:45 p.m.

Still, not even that contested race with well-known candidates could drive voters to the polls in large numbers.

“It doesn’t look like it’s huge,” Town Clerk Timothy Corcoran said about turnout. “Even with those it’s not real huge.”

Corcoran said a lack of contested statewide races on the Democratic side was a major reason for the lack of interest among voters.

“There’s no real statewide races. Nobody votes in the Republican primary,” he said.

Kelty said the state’s late August primary is a main reason for the low turnout. Moving the primary to earlier in the year would like boost turnout, she said.

“I would agree 100 percent with that. If I could pick and choose I think a good time for a primary would be mid-June,” Kelty said. “That would allow ample time for the secretary of state’s office to prepare ballots for the general election.”


Vermont to recover millions in tobacco settlement

MONTPELIER — The state will receive $14 million in civil penalties and legal relief from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds following a 2005 lawsuit, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced Monday.

The state sued the company over unsubstantiated advertising claims about the health consequences of one of its products.

A trial court ruled in 2010 that the company did not conduct sufficient scientific studies to support an advertising claim that a non-traditional cigarette, known as Eclipse, would reduce a smoker’s chance of developing cancer. The court awarded the state $8.3 million in civil penalties for the violations and issued a permanent injunction against Reynolds to prevent similar conduct in the future.

The court was in the process of considering the State’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in the lawsuit when the parties reached a settlement, according to Sorrell.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell

Under the the terms of the settlement, the company will pay the state $8.3 million in civil penalties. The remaining amount will cover attorneys’ fees and costs and will be divided among the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, other state attorneys general offices and a private attorney that worked on the lawsuit, along with the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Enforcement Fund, which advanced funds for the lawsuit.

The permanent injunction against Reynolds will remain in effect.

“This was a long and hard, but successful fight. Reynolds crossed the line and it cost them. At a time when tobacco companies are trying to find ways to hook new smokers, Vermont has sent a message that advertising tobacco products with unsubstantiated health-benefit claims is illegal and will not be tolerated,” said Sorrell said in a statement.

Reynolds made its “less risk” claims in print ads placed in nationwide publications, on a website promoting the product, in direct mail materials sent to Vermont consumers and on cigarette packages of Eclipse sold in Vermont.

Democratic PAC settles with state

MONTPELIER — A Democratic PAC must may a $30,000 penalty for violating the state’s campaign finance law during the 2010 election.

Green Mountain Future, a political action committee created by the Democratic Governors Association has settled with the state for the $30,000 penalty, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced Wednesday.

The settlement, which has been approved by the Vermont Superior Court, requires GMF to pay the state a civil penalty of $20,000 for failing to include its address on its website or in television ads that ran during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. GMF must also pay a $10,000 penalty the court had previously imposed for not registering as a PAC and filing campaign finance reports.

“Voters are legally entitled to know who is seeking to influence them,” Sorrell said a statement. “PACs need to obey the laws. They cannot hide. They must disclose their identity, including their address, their donors, and their expenditures, to the extent required by law.”

GMF spent more than $500,000 during the 2010 campaign on political ads. Television ads attacking Republican candidate Brian Dubie, the state’s former lieutenant governor, aired thousands of times but did not include complete identifying information. The public had no way of knowing who was behind the ads because GMF did not file required reports, Sorrell said.

The Vermont Superior Court determined that GMF violated Vermont’s campaign finance laws in Dec. 2011 but did not impose a financial penalty for its failure to fully identify itself in ads.

The Vermont Supreme Court then ruled in September that the lower court erred in not imposing a penalty. In its decision the Vermont Supreme Court said “the difficulty of calculating a penalty [does not] mean that no penalty can be awarded.”

The case returned to the trial court for consideration of an appropriate penalty. The settlement announced Wednesday closes out the only remaining issue in the enforcement action, Sorrell said.

Donovan campaign says victory or concession speech won’t happen Tuesday night

TJ Donovan supporter Steve Howard said the the Democratic primary race for attorney general could keep going into late Tuesday night or Wednesday, and a victory or concession speech would not happen Tuesday night.

With 244 of 258 precincts reporting, 95 percent of precinct areas, Donovan reached 20,000 votes to incumbent Bill Sorrell’s 20,615, making the margin 49 percent to 51 percent.


One part of Hilton Burlington swarming with Donovan supporters

This gallery contains 2 photos.

BURLINGTON — A conference room for Democratic primary attorney general candidate T.J. Donovan has some 125 or more people, ranging from politicians to office workers and supporters. There’s standing room only, and people are hovering over iPhones to check AP … Continue reading

Donovan campaign bustling

BURLINGTON — A conference room filled with T.J. Donovan supporters at the Hilton Burlington is buzzing with chatter as precinct results for the Democratic attorney general race are rolling out.

With 23 percent of the precincts reporting, incumbent Bill Sorrell had 51 percent of the vote, and Donovan had 49 percent, according to unofficial figures. The crowd applauded after previously giving a “boo” in unison because another tally showed Sorrell with a wider margin.

Former Gov. Phil Hoff is here, and the crowd hovered around a standing up flatscreen with TV news updates scrolling on the screen.

Donovan is walking into the room now.

Donovan campaign lingers for results

Time will soon tell how much T.J. Donovan’s efforts paid off.

The 38-year-old has sought to oust an incumbent with 15 years on the job, perhaps the most competitive race Attorney General Bill Sorrell has ever seen for an office he first landed through an appointment.

Donovan secured numerous endorsements, ranging from two police associations of the state and Republican mayors of Rutland and Barre. And he apparently out-raised and out-spent Sorrell in campaign dollars.

Continue reading

Suspense in AG primary building as polls near close

Fifteen years after assuming statewide office, Attorney General Bill Sorrell today faces the first election-night suspense of his political career.

Since being appointed to the post by then-Gov. Howard Dean in 1997, Sorrell has won less than 60 percent of the popular vote only twice, and has never trailed his closest competitor by fewer than 25 points.

But Sorrell had also never faced a name-brand competitor, and in the estimation of one longtime political strategist, his campaign muscles had “completely atrophied.”

We’ll find out later tonight whether Sorrell, 65, managed to work himself into fighting shape, or if challenger TJ Donovan will knock the seven-term incumbent out of a job.

The Vermont Press Bureau has reporters at the election-night headquarters of both candidates. I’ll be watching events unfold with the Sorrell campaign in a cozy conference room here at the Courtyard Marriott, nearby the Burlington waterfront. David Taube – it’s his first Vermont election since joining the bureau earlier this summer! – is hanging out with the Donovan camp just a stones throw away at the Burlington Hilton.

Stay with us all night for the latest on AG returns, as well as updates in other closely watched primary races.

Sorrell has 20-point lead!!! Or not…

Vermont media is atwitter this afternoon with new polling numbers on the Democratic primary for attorney general.

So what do the numbers tell us? Perhaps nothing.

The poll, which surveyed a random sample of 477 registered voters earlier this week, will certainly grab some headlines. It shows incumbent Bill Sorrell wielding a commanding 44-to-24 edge over challenger TJ Donovan.

But in a late-August primary that by most accounts will be lucky to draw 12 percent of registered voters to polls, how reliable is a poll of 477 random registered voters?

“I have serious doubts about the validity of this poll,” says Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College.

Even Rich Clark, director of the Castleton Polling Institute, which conducted the survey, says he wouldn’t put a ton of stock in the results.

“If the election was held by calling up people and asking their preference, Sorrell kills right?” Clark says. “But that’s not what’s going to happen. We’re going to have a low turnout and whoever turns out voters wins. I doubt the Donovan campaign look at this and says, ‘it’s over.’”

Primary voters are a tiny subset of the electorate, one whose voting behaviors differ from larger universe of voters in general elections.

“But I don’t have good scalpel to cut out those who are least likely to vote,” Clark says. “Polling in a primary race, especially where you have low turnout, is extremely difficult for that reason.”

Davis says the he’s troubled by one of the poll’s stats in particular – the percentage of respondents who say they’re “very likely” to vote in the primary. According to the poll, 59 percent of registered voters say they’ll turn out next Tuesday.

But turnout in the five-way Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2010 was only 24 percent, and most political observers say the Democratic primary this year will be lucky to draw half that. Poll respondents are notorious for inflating their likelihood of voting. ButDavissays the 59 percent number stands out nonetheless.  

“I have serious doubts about the validity of a survey which is based on a group of respondents of whom nearly 60 percent say they’re going to vote when the actual turnout is likely to be closer 10 percent,”Davissays.

Clarksays he thinks it’s a “closer race than the numbers show.”

“But if I was betting, I would bet on Sorrell,” he says. “We don’t turn away incumbents that often in primaries. And Sorrell does better with older voters, which are also more likely to turn out in primary.”

According to Clark’s poll, Sorrell also does better among voters in Chittenden County, where turnout will be highest next week. He’s also favored over Donovan among voters who voted in the 2010 primary.

“So that tells me he’s got some support among the habitual voters,”Clarksays.

The poll found that Donovan, 38, has the advantage among younger voters and women.

Davis, however, says he has a hard time putting any stock at all in the findings that deal with sub-categories of respondents. When the sample size falls below 200, Davis says, margins of error become widen enough to render the result meaningless.

As for the poll’s 44-24 findings in favor of Sorrell?

“I don’t believe that for one second,” Davis says. “My guess is it’s going to be very close next week.”

The poll found that 31 percent of would-be primary voters are undecided.

The poll also tapped the pulse of Vermonters on general election races. If the gubernatorial election were held today, Gov. Peter Shumlin would defeat his Republican challenger by a margin of 60-to-25. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, retains a 62-25 lead over Mitt Romney. Both results mirror the outcome of the CPI’s last Vermont-related poll, conducted in late February.

Donovan to pick up endorsements from Rutland County senators

TJ Donovan will head to Rutland this afternoon to pick up endorsements from the county’s three-member Senate delegation.

At 4 p.m. in Rutland City Hall, Sens. Kevin Mullin, Peg Flory and Bill Carris will throw their weight behind the 38-year-old challenger. Mullin and Flory are prominent Vermont Republicans, and it isn’t the first time Donovan has courted support from the GOP in his bid to unseat incumbent Bill Sorrell in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

He’s also won nods from Rutland City Mayor Chris Louras, who formerly served as an ‘R’ in the Legislature, and Barre City Mayor Tom Lauzon.

Sorrell, meanwhile, has his own campaign stop in Burlington, where he’ll be lavished with praise from tobacco-control advocates. The 11 a.m. press conference, at the back entrance of Fletcher Allen Health Care, will feature doctors and other anti-smoking figures lauding Sorrell his efforts on behalf of their cause.

Donovan picks up endorsements, unveils drug plan

Following a morning press conference in St. Albans at which he received endorsements from mayors past and present, TJ Donovan unveiled a prescription drug plan that he says will serve as “a cornerstone policy of his campaign.”

St. Albans has become a poster city for Vermont’s prescription drug problem, with local officials attributing chronic public-safety issues to rampant opiate abuse.

Former St. Albans mayors Peter Deslauriers and Martin Manahan, as well as current mayor, Liz Gamache, all formally endorsed Donovan today.  

You might remember Manahan from the 2010 cycle, when the Democrat enthusiastically endorsed Republican Brian Dubie. Manahan was so hot on Shumlin’s rival that he was featured in a 30-second TV spot entitled “Democrats for Dubie.”

“The last thing Brian cares about is what party I belong to,” Manahan said in the ad. “He cares about our community and the state ofVermont.”

This year, Manahan is a Democrat for Donovan.

“TJ has fought alongside us in the battle against the number one criminal activity our state is facing,” Manahan said in a release from the Donovan campaign. “We need an Attorney General that has not lost the connection to our local communities.”

Manahan had some rough words for Bill Sorrell, who has, according the former mayor, been a no-show in St. Albans, despite the city’s well-chronicled narcotics woes.

“I was disappointed that during my six years as mayor, I never had any contact from Attorney General Sorrell,” Manahan said. “I think the highest ranking member in theVermont law enforcement community should have offered his support in our efforts fighting the prescription drug epidemic our community was facing.”

Manahan’s comments, and the Donovan campaign’s decision to feature them so prominently in a press release, spotlight the challenger’s newfound willingness to go more directly after Sorrell’s record.

The release comes literally one day after Donovan, at Sorrell’s behest, signed a “positive campaign pledge.”

In doing so, Donovan has vowed not to “engage in, permit or condone any negative or defamatory attacks upon my opponent’s character.”

Donovan looks to be on safe ground here, with Manahan’s jab directed at Sorrell’s job as AG, not his constitution as a human being.

Anyway, here’s the text of Donovan’s prescription drug plan:


Sharing Our Common Responsibility
Building an Informed Community Solution to Vermont’s Prescription Drug Problem

Vermont is facing a drug epidemic that is damaging our communities. Drugs like Oxycontin, Oxycodone, and other opiates have risen to the top of the most abused drugs in Vermont.

Drug-induced death rates nationwide have tripled since 1990 (1). Over-the-counter prescription drugs account for approximately 40 deaths each day (2). For the first time ever in 2009, drug deaths outnumbered traffic fatalities in the United States (3). Some of these drugs, like relative newcomer Fentanyl, can be up to 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine (4).

According to a July 23, 2011 report by Sam Hemingway in the Burlington Free Press, based on information from the Vermont Dept. of Health, in 2010 prescription opiate overdose deaths accounted for more than half of all fatal drug overdoses in Vermont for the sixth consecutive year (5). The report indicated that in 2010 more people were prosecuted in Federal court in Vermont for illicit trafficking in oxycodone and other opiates than any other drug. The report also indicated that Vermont ranks second in the country, behind only Maine, in per-capita treatment admissions for addiction to opiates. The report indicated that the number of Vermonters looking for treatment for addiction to opiates has jumped by 300% since 2005. In 2008, Vermont ranked 31st among the states in rate of drugs overdose deaths per 100,000 population (6).

More importantly, the demand for these drugs drives crime. In Chittenden County, we continue to grapple with petty crime, home intrusions, robberies, break-ins and thefts involving drug-addicted individuals looking for the closest medicine cabinet or source of funds to feed their addiction.

Clearly, there is work to be done and the office of Attorney General should play an important role in leading the charge in addressing prescription drug abuse. Our next Attorney General can do more for Vermont.

My plan addresses these issues by staying watchful for signs of abuse, offering relief and support to those who ask for help, providing safe disposal for medications, and offering sanctuary to those in danger.

We can no longer turn away from the epidemic that is killing our neighbors. Vermont cannot afford to lose another life in this battle against addiction. As Attorney General, I will work with law enforcement, community organizations and the legislature to establish a “Good Samaritan Law,” which will allow individuals who are overdosing on prescription drugs to seek emergency medical help without the fear of facing charges. We should not prosecute those who seek sanctuary in this way for the pills in their pocket.

We have long been tough crime. Now we need to be smart on crime. To be smart on crime we must focus on treatment, provide support services and ensure that law enforcement is informed about addiction issues. The Attorney General should lead on this issue and work together with local communities to change the way we handle drug abuse here in Vermont.

Vermont must improve its drug screening capabilities. Screening for heroin, cocaine and marijuana is now common, and screening for opiates must be as well. We must work to prevent the escalating cost of life associated with opiate overdoses and deaths. As Attorney General, I will work shoulder to shoulder with Vermont’s medical community and drug screening organizations as well as recovery and addiction organizations like Spectrum and the Lund Family Center. We can collaboratively re-build our criminal justice system with a foundational rock of treatment, not the shifting sands of incarceration.

Vermont must focus on treatment and rehabilitation. We must meet the needs of addicted Vermonters. When we fail to commit needed resources, we not only fail our neighbors, but we also put our communities at risk.

As Attorney General, I will work aggressively with the Department of Health, Governor Shumlin and others to make sure that more treatment beds are available. Being smart on crime means committing to having resources and systems available to help people get back on their feet and become productive members of society. Now is the time for the Attorney General to lead the way, fight to keep our communities whole and healthy, and make sure we have the resources to treat people in need.

The most dangerous drugs in the house are the ones you forgot you had. Many times, these pills are leftovers from past surgeries or are prescriptions that have long run out. Currently, we are relying on the federal government, which has begun organizing “Pill Take Back Days” in some communities. We must be more aggressive. As Attorney General, I will work with local law enforcement, pharmacists, and the medical community to develop and implement a simple plan for easy, safe and secure disposal of these highly addictive drugs and an aggressive outreach program to educate Vermonters about the importance of safe prescription drug disposal.