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VIDEO: Protesters stage a sit-in inside the House chamber

http://youtu.be/Nv7Pus25HSA

MONTPELIER — About 100 single payer advocates, gathered in the State House Thursday afternoon to demand forward movement on a universal, publicly financed health care system, disrupted some ceremonial proceedings before a smaller group staging a State House sit-in were removed by police at 8 p.m.

The Vermont Workers Center organized demonstrations Thursday afternoon that took place in the House chamber, outside the entrance to the chamber and in hallways throughout the State House while Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin was being sworn in and delivering his inaugural address. “Ain’t no way we’re backing down, we’re rising up, the time is now,” they chanted at one point. The protesters who staged the sit-in in the well of the House into the evening said their intention was to extract a commitment from Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith for a public hearing on a public financing plan and report prepared by the Shumlin administration. No such commitment was made. Smith said Thursday afternoon that hearings will take place in the House Health Care and House Ways and Means Committees, but did not promise a public hearing. Continue Reading →

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Inaugural Address (chanting and shouting edition)

MONTPELIER – Gov. Peter Shumlin’s agenda for the year includes job creation and proposals to clean up the state’s waterways. Shumlin took the oath of office Thursday afternoon and delivered an inaugural address that focused on cresting more green-energy jobs and pledged to take action to clean up Lake Champlain. “I heard clearly in the election this fall that Vermonters expect more from me and from the state to improve their lives,” Shumlin said. “From jobs to the environment, I have an agenda for progress that I will partner with you to fulfill in this term and beyond.”

Shumlin touted what he sees as positive steps taken in Vermont this year: the closing of Vermont Yankee, new legislation mandating early childhood education and the steps taken in the clinics and the courts to stem the tide of opiate addiction. Shumlin said his speech outlined the first part of what he called his “Agenda for Progress,” with the second part outlined during his budget address next week. Continue Reading →

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Technicality stalls minimum wage debate

MONTPELIER — A misprint in the House calendar discovered late Thursday night doomed consideration of a minimum wage bill until Saturday, just as Democratic leaders ramped up efforts to corral an unruly caucus. House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, made a point of order around 10:30 p.m., hours after debate had begun. But House Speaker Shap Smith said minority Republicans were correct, and ruled that action must be postponed and placed back on the calendar, making Saturday the next day the bill will see action. Democratic leaders were looking to pass a scaled back minimum wage bill from the more ambitious plan they previously passed. The new plan, hashed out following a day-long back-and-forth between the House, Senate and governor’s office, is much closer to one favored by Gov. Peter Shumlin. Continue Reading →

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Sen. Sally Fox loses battle with cancer

MONTPELIER — Chittenden County Sen. Sally Fox died early Friday morning after a prolonged battled with lung cancer. Fox, 62, a Democrat from South Burlington, was in her second term in the Senate. She was serving on the Senate Health and Welfare and Appropriations Committees. House Speaker Shap Smith announced her death Friday morning in the House chamber, saying she died peacefully, surrounded by family, around 3:15 a.m. Services will be held Sunday in South Burlington at Temple Sinai, according to Smith. Later in the morning, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott gaveled the Senate to order by noting that Fox’s death was “bringing the first week of the session to a tragic close.” Fox’s desk was clear except for a single, white rose. Continue Reading →

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House approves campaign finance measure

MONTPELIER — The Housed passed a campaign finance reform bill Thursday on a bipartisan vote following a conference committee with Senate negotiators. The legislation sailed through the House on a 124 to 15 roll call vote, but some members are disappointed in the final version of the legislation. The plan will raise some contribution limits. House and Senate negotiators met out of session over the last several months after failing to reach agreement before the end of the 2013 legislative session. They  signed off on a compromise plan Tuesday, the first day of the 2014 legislative session. Continue Reading →

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