Peter Shumlin

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Former NAACP head backs Sanders, Shumlin lowers expectations for Clinton

Ben Jealous (Courtesy photo)

MONTPELIER — Former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Ben Jealous officially endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president Friday afternoon, seeking to boost Sanders’ credibility with minority voters as the primary campaign grinds on after New Hampshire. “Throughout his life, he has been a fearless, tireless and trustworthy champion for the right of all our nation’s children to have full and unfettered access to the American dream,” the 43-year-old Jealous said on a conference call with reporters. Jealous, who was slated to appear alongside Sanders at a news conference in New Hampshire, did not arrive due to inclement weather. The campaign opted for a conference call instead. Jealous served as the youngest-ever head of the NAACP from 2008 to 2012. Continue Reading →

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Senate to reconsider small biz exemption for paid sick leave

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MONTPELIER — A paid sick leave bill passed by the Senate Wednesday veered off course Thursday after a motion was made to reconsider a failed amendment seeking an exemption for small businesses. Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Washington, made the motion Thursday to reconsider his vote on the amendment introduced a day earlier by Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington. The amendment, which failed Wednesday on a 15 to 14 vote, seeks to exempt small employers with five or fewer full-time workers from the paid sick leave mandate. The Senate, after recessing to consider the matter, voted by voice to reconsider the amendment. A second voice vote postponed that action until Wednesday rather than face immediate consideration. Continue Reading →

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Senate Judiciary advances pot bill on 4 to 1 vote

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4 to 1 Friday to advance a bill that legalizes marijuana. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The legalization of marijuana in Vermont received its first affirmative votes from lawmakers Friday as the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced legislation on a 4 to 1 vote. The downsized legislation to allow the legal possession, consumption and sale of marijuana in the state is now headed to the Senate Finance Committee, which will attempt to determine how legalized marijuana will be taxed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, worked to amend a bill introduced by Sens. Jeanette White, D-Windham and Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, to create a bill that he would support and met the conditions laid out by Gov. Peter Shumlin. The governor called for the legalization of pot in his State of the State address earlier this month. Continue Reading →

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Story & Video: Shumlin and Sears outline bill to “cautiously and deliberately” legalize pot

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears announced legislation Tuesday to “cautiously and deliberately legalize marijuana in Vermont.”

Shumlin said the “war on drugs” had failed when it came to marijuana prohibition. “The black market is failing Vermont. When you have 80,000 Vermonters who admitted to buying pot … every single month in the last year, and you can assume that since it’s illegal that number is higher, you know we’ve got a problem to solve,” the governor said a State House news conference Tuesday, flanked by Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn and Sears, D-Bennington. Shumlin called for the legalization of marijuana in his State of the State address earlier this month, with some conditions, including:
— A legal market must keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids. With 83 percent of Vermont youth saying that marijuana is easy or somewhat easy to obtain, the current system doesn’t do this. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin scraps Medicaid change after one day

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday he will scrap a $4.9 million budget-savings initiative he proposed just one day earlier that would have changed Medicaid eligibility requirements for pregnant women. Shumlin, who delivered his final budget address to the Legislature Thursday, had planed to raise the income level at which pregnant women qualify for the Medicaid from 138 percent of the federal poverty level to 213 percent. That equates to about $16,000 and $25,000, respectively. Women who no longer qualified for Medicaid under the governor’s proposal would have been eligible for subsidized health plans on Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. A change in state law would be required, however, to allow pregnant women to enroll in a health plan outside of the open enrollment period. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin seeks 3.1 percent boost in FY2017 budget, expansion of provider assessment

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers the final budget address of his governorship inside the House chamber. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is looking to address a deficit in the state’s Medicaid program by expanding a tax on health care providers in the $1.537 billion 2017 fiscal year budget proposal he revealed Thursday. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, delivered the final budget proposal of his tenure to lawmakers Thursday. His proposal, outlined in his 30-minute address inside the House Chamber, would boost spending by 3.1 percent over the current fiscal year — after mid-year adjustments are put in place. Shumlin touted his budget as responsible and necessary, noting he closed a projected $68 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending without the use of one-time funding for ongoing expenses for the first time since before the Great Recession. The 3.1 percent spending increase matches projected revenues, he said. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Vermont Should Divest from Coal and ExxonMobil Stocks

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n Christmas Day, I burned brush on my farm in Putney — in a t-shirt. My experience was not unlike that of many Vermonters as we all lived through Vermont’s most tropical Christmas in memory, capping off the world’s warmest year on record. Climate change is here, and it is affecting the Vermont that we love, from our ski areas to our lakes. Now is the time to take every sensible action to combat it if we’re to have a shot at preserving a livable planet for our kids and grandkids. At home, we’ve done a lot; from increasing by ten and 20 times the amount of solar and wind in Vermont, respectively, to investing in energy efficiency to help Vermonters use less energy and save money. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capitol Beat with the Governor 1.15.16

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin discuss his trip to Iowa this week to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the use of the Enterprise Fund and potential changes to Act 46, the education reform bill passed last year. Continue Reading →

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Donegan: Legal pot market will have difficulties with banking, insurance

Susan Donegan, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, testifies before the Senate Juduciary Committee on Thursday about proposed legislation legalizing marijuana. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan says banking services will be limited if Vermont legalizes marijuana for businesses in the market but it could also present some opportunities for institutions in Vermont. Donegan provided testimony Thursday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is reviewing two bills that would legalize marijuana. The federal government still considers the drug to be illegal, however, which has created issues for Colorado and Washington where marijuana has been legalized at the state level. Businesses selling marijuana in the those states have not been able to access the federally insured banking system. How Vermont businesses would fare in a legal marijuana market in the state was immediately raised by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, on Thursday. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers get refresher course on the all-payer model

Al Gobeille

MONTPELIER — A group of lawmakers in the House were given a refresher course Wednesday on the state’s efforts to reform the state’s health care payment system, and were assured that Medicare benefits will not be changed as part of that process. Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille walked the House Committees on Health Care and Human Services through the efforts to nix the current fee-for-service model in favor of an all-payer model. The Shumlin administration is working with the GMCB, the state’s health care regulatory body, to negotiate terms with the federal government on what the new model will look like. Under the current system, health care providers are paid for each medical service they provide. That means doctors are incentivized to order more tests and procedures in order to get paid more. Continue Reading →

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