Claire Ayer

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Gun bill advances in Senate

MONTPELIER — The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill ahead of the Legislature’s Friday evening deadline for non-money bills on a 5-0 vote, ensuring the full Senate will consider a scaled back-gun bill this year. The legislation, supported unanimously in the committee Friday, seeks to ban some convicted criminals from possessing weapons and will require people found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others to be reported to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It would take effect on Oct. 1. The legislation is a scaled back version of another bill, S.31, that Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, declared “dead,” because it included an expansion of background checks for private gun sales, something that was vehemently opposed by gun rights activists. Continue Reading →

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Senate fends off effort to repeal aid-in-dying law

MONTPELIER — The Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to legislation that prevents safeguards in the state’s aid-in-dying law from expiring after fending off a spirited attempt to repeal the 2013 law that allows terminal patients to obtain lethal medication to end their lives. Under the current law, patients who want to obtain lethal medication must be a Vermont resident and have a terminal diagnosis with a prognosis, according to two doctors, of less than six months to live. A doctor must also find that the patient has the capacity to make the decision to obtain the medication voluntarily. And, the patient must make two oral requests at least 15 days apart followed by a written request with two witnesses attesting that the request was made voluntarily. But those steps, based on a landmark Oregon law, are set to expire in July 2016 if the law is not amended. Continue Reading →

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Race on to advance gun legislation

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers are making a final effort to push gun legislation through the committee process ahead of Friday’s crossover deadline, but significant hurdles remain. The Judiciary Committee began considering new legislation Wednesday that would prohibit a person convicted of a violent crime from possessing a firearm. Crimes in the proposal include the state’s so-called listed crimes — more than 30 serious offenses with hefty prison terms and fines. The proposal also includes any offense involving sexual exploitation of a minor and trafficking of certain drugs. Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said 49 other states have a similar law on the books. Continue Reading →

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Consideration of child protection law delayed a day

MONTPELIER — Legislation aimed at boosting the state’s child protection laws was pulled from the Senate floor Tuesday to allow senators more time to understand the bill. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, requested the one-day delay in order answer persistent questions from constituents about the bill’s contents. It’s undergone several changes since the Legislature reconvened in early January. A special legislative panel, the Committee on Child Protection, was formed last year after the deaths of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney, in February 2014, and 15-month-old Peighton Geraw, of Winooski, in April 2014. Both were ruled homicides, and murder charges have been filed against family members. Continue Reading →

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Gun bill set for State House showdown

MONTPELIER — More than 100 gun control advocates packed a State House room Wednesday in support of pending legislation that would expand criminal background checks to gun shows and online gun sales in Vermont. The legislation is in the process of being drafted and will be co-sponsored by Sens. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, John Campbell, D-Windsor, and Claire Ayer, D-Addison — all members of Senate leadership. Gun Sense Vermont, a gun control advocacy group, held a press conference Wednesday to highlight the legislation and encourage lawmakers to support it. “In Vermont our laws are leftover from an age gone by, from before there was Internet, before there was an interstate. Continue Reading →

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Dramatic vote in Senate proves game-changer for “death with dignity”

The Legislature may have 180 members, but the biggest votes in Vermont’s history often come down to a single individual. And in the Senate Wednesday evening, Sen. Peter Galbraith used his turn at the wheel to derail a decade-old push for a state-sanctioned process by which doctors could hasten the death of their terminally ill patients. As one of four senators refusing to say publicly whether he supported “death with dignity,” the Windham County Democrat has been at the center of the intrigue since last month. On Tuesday, he broke his silence by voting in favor the bill. His support would prove fleeting. Continue Reading →

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