MONTPELIER — The Senate Rules Committee voted Wednesday in favor of sending a resolution seeking the suspension of Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister, who is charged with several sex crimes, to the full Senate next month. The 3 to 2 vote on the suspension resolution offered by Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, came after the panel rejected another resolution from Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, on a 4 to 1 vote, that would have amended the Senate’s rules to prevent it from acting in any manner until any pending felony charges are settled in court. McAllister, if suspended under the resolution, would continue to receive his pay because it is constitutionally protected unless he is expelled, Baruth said. Sens. Baruth, Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, and John Campbell, D-Windsor, voted in favor of the suspension resolution. Continue Reading →
MONTPELIER — Legislation to be introduced next month when lawmakers return to the State House would allow those 21 and over to grow and possess marijuana as early as July 2016. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Jeanette White, D-Windham, and Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, would allow for the retail sale of pot and permitted lounges, in 2017. White crafted the bill following a series of hearings by the Senate Government Operations Committee this fall. The committee could not reach consensus on a bill, she said. Continue Reading →
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 →
MONTPELIER — Vermont has always had a part-time Legislature comprised of ordinary, civic-minded Vermonters, but one representative says that characteristic is threatened by the growing level of engagement outside of the regular legislative sessions. Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, a Republican, took to social media Friday to lament the extensive work performed by some legislative committees since the official session ended in mid-May. “Is anybody else as frustrated as I with the amount of legislative activity that has happened since our May 16th adjournment? Report, after report, after report has legislative committees meeting and conducting legislative work just about full-time,” Scheuermann wrote. “While there have always been some summer study committees during the off session, I have never seen the amount of legislative work being conducted as I am seeing this year.”
Is anybody else as frustrated as I with the amount of legislative activity that has happened since our May 16th… Continue Reading →
MONTPELIER — State Senate officials are developing a process to oust embattled Franklin County Republican Sen. Norm McAllister in case he does not resign before the legislative session starts in January. McAllister, 64, was arrested at the State House in May and stands accused of sexually assaulting three women, including a legislative intern who was allegedly as young as 16 at the time. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and his criminal case is pending. In an interview published last week in Seven Days, McAllister adamantly denied the charges and indicated he will not resign. That entrenched position is not sitting well with Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning. Continue Reading →
MONTPELIER — House and Senate negotiators were nearing a deal on a $30 million revenue package early Saturday morning that will help balance the 2016 fiscal year budget and close a projected $113 million gap — but includes provisions Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he does not support. The bulk of the new revenue comes from changes to the income tax code. Both the House and Senate have agreed with the governor to raise $15 million by eliminating taxpayers’ ability to deduct their prior year local and state taxes on their state returns. But the House and Senate are also looking to raise about $10.5 million by making changes to how much taxpayers can deduct. Under the plan lawmakers were nearing agreement on, income tax deductions would be capped at two times the standard deduction — about $25,000 for a couple. Continue Reading →
This story was updated at 5:55 p.m.
MONTPELIER — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott said Monday that embattled Sen. Norm McAllister, who faces multiple sex crime charges, intends to resign within 24 hours. The announcement came as Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislators leaders all called for him to step down Monday morning. But in a bizarre twist, McAllister, R-Franklin, reached by phone at his home Monday afternoon, said he was not aware that anyone had reached out to Scott to promise his resignation. McAllister said he has made no determination about his future and planned to meet with his lawyer Tuesday. He declined to discuss the case any further, but said he has “had better days.”
“My lawyer has told me not to talk to anybody about any of this,” McAllister said. Continue Reading →
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Barre-Montpelier Times Argus Editor Steve Pappas and Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami discuss the sexual assault case against Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, the last week of the session and Bernie Sanders. http://www.vermontpressbureau.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Capitol-Beat-5-11-15.mp3 Continue Reading →
MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin privately signed new gun legislation Friday afternoon without any fanfare and announced the move in a statement. The new law, which passed the Legislature as S.141, creates a new misdemeanor state-level crime for possession of firearms by people with certain criminal convictions. The law also requires the reporting of names to a federal database when people are found by a court to be in need of mental health treatment and a danger to themselves or others. Shumlin had spent much of this legislative session resisting and new gun laws, saying Vermont’s current laws were sufficient. But a controversial element — expanded background laws for all gun sales — was stripped from an earlier version of the legislation. Continue Reading →
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 →