Peter Shumlin

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Contraceptives bill signed into law

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. Shumlin, a third-term Democrat who is not seeking re-election, signed H.620, on the steps of the State House Monday with lawmakers and representatives of Planned Parenthood looking on. He said the legislation moves Vermont in the right direction while some parts of the country are heading backward. “When we look around us here in 2016, here in America, and we look at the issue of reproductive rights and women’s health, it’s pretty darn shocking to this governor of Vermont when I see what’s going on with the rest of the country,” the governor said. “We have the presumptive [presidential] nominee of the Republican Party who has literally suggested that women should be punished should they seek an abortion. Continue Reading →

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House defeats efforts to legalize, further decriminalize pot

Law enforcement officers listen to debate in the House about marijuana legalization. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for the drug, and even fell short of decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of two marijuana plants. The House did manage to salvage a commission that will study the legalization of marijuana and report its findings back to the Legislature, likely setting up another push at legalization next year after the November election. The House first voted 121 to 28 Tuesday against the Senate’s proposal, which was strongly backed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. The Senate passed the bill on a 17 to 12 vote. Rep. Chris Pearson, a Progressive from Burlington, was among the slim minority of House members who supported the Senate’s language. Continue Reading →

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House delays marijuana vote

MONTPELIER — The House Democratic leadership backed away from a vote on legalizing marijuana Monday night as a more modest compromise plan was being drafted for consideration. House Speaker Shap Smith and other leaders worked over the weekend and throughout Monday to craft a proposal that could get through the House. The Senate, which passed a bill earlier this year to create a legal, regulated retail marijuana market, attached its plan to a House bill that was expected to be considered by the House Monday. Gov. Peter Shumlin has been calling publicly for the House to vote on the Senate bill, but the House has not been willing to act. Smith has been saying for weeks that his chamber did not have the votes to pass any legalization bill, but relented to a floor vote as he faced withering criticism for holding up the bill. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration releases emails it sought to delete

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MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration has released the first batch of emails sent and received by five former staffers that it sought to destroy last month, a request that drew heavy criticism because it came just days before state and federal fraud charges against two Northeast Kingdom developers were revealed. The first batch of emails — about 5,500 — that were slated for deletion was released to the Vermont Press Bureau Friday as part of a public records request. The administration agreed to release the emails after they were reviewed to redact protected and privileged information. Scott Coriell, spokesman for Gov. Peter Shumlin, said all members of the governor’s staff, excluding the governor, have spent the past week completing the request, which required about 200 staff hours. There are tens of thousands of emails that are subject to the records request, according to Coriell, and the administration has no precise timeline for when the remaining records will be released. Continue Reading →

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VSEA, Democratic candidates call for funding labor contract

Vermont State Employees Association Executive Director Steve Howard calls for lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract at a State House news conference. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association and the three Democratic candidates for governor are calling on lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract for state workers recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board, but Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says it is too costly. The VSEA and the candidates — Matt Dunne, Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith — held a State House news conference Wednesday calling on the Legislature to include a 2 percent salary increase for state workers in the 2017 fiscal year state budget and a 2.25 percent increase in the 2018 fiscal year budget. That increase was recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board Tuesday in a 3 to 2 split decision over the Shumlin administration’s proposal for a 1 percent increase in 2017 and a 1.25 percent increase in 2018. VSEA President Dave Bellini said Wednesday the union has been seeking a fair contract through collective bargaining since last August that respects state employees. “You show respect and support by putting your money where your mouth is — funding our contracts, our retirements, making investments in safety for the hardworking Vermonters who are state employees,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Documents show feds were onto Quiros long before state launched probe

Ariel Quiros (Courtesy photo)

ederal authorities launched an investigation into Jay Peak’s EB-5 projects nearly a year before state officials had their first inkling that something illegal was afoot. And documents on file at the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that the agency had strong forensic evidence of a massive fraud well before the changes in state regulatory oversight that Gov. Peter Shumlin now credits for taking down the “Ponzi-like” scheme. On May 22, 2014, at about 10:30 in the morning at SEC offices in Miami, Florida, federal lawyers grilled Ariel Quiros about a series of financial transactions detailing alleged misappropriation of funds from the foreign investors. The 245-page transcript of their day-long interview reveals pieces of the evidence the SEC would later use to file dozens of federal civil charges against Quiros, the owner of Jay Peak, and Bill Stenger, the resort CEO that federal authorities say facilitated the scam. SEC lawyers conducted that deposition seven months before a memorandum of understanding that shifted the state’s financial oversight of Quiros’ and Stenger’s dealings away from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and over to the Department of Financial Regulation. Continue Reading →

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Story & Video: Gubernatorial candidates pounce on alleged EB-5 fraud, call for transparency and release of documents

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith calls for an independent commission to investigate the state's role in EB-5 projects that are the subject of civil fraud litigation. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

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MONTPELIER — Candidates seeking to succeed Gov. Peter Shumlin are calling for transparency and one is seeking an independent commission to review the state’s involvement as a federal and state fraud case against two Northeast Kingdom developers proceeds. Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith, a former Windham County state senator, held a State House news conference Monday to call for an independent commission appointed by the chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court to investigate the state’s role in the fraud case against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. The two men are facing civil litigation filed by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the state for allegedly misusing $200 million in investor funds they raised through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Quiros is accused of using $50 million of investor funds for his own personal gain. Galbraith said the two men have contributed significant amounts of money to Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Democratic Party and it should be determined if those contributions resulted in any favorable treatment for the EB-5 projects led by Quiros and Stenger at the Jay Peak and Q Burke Mountain resorts, and other projects in Newport. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration defends its request to delete emails

Darren Springer, chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin, briefs reporters on the administration's request to delete the emails of former members of the governor's staff. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration sought Monday to disassociate its request to delete the emails of five former staffers from a major civil fraud case revealed last week against two developers in the Northeast Kingdom who used a foreign investor program overseen by the state to raise capital. Top administration officials briefed reporters on its request made prior to the public revelation of fraud charges against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros to delete the emails of former administration staff members that are more than three years old. The request to delete emails came under fire over the weekend after it was revealed in a VTDigger.org article. “To conflate them is absolutely incorrect and inaccurate,” Darren Springer, chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin, told reporters Monday. One of the former staffers in question, Alexandra MacLean, left the governor’s office for a job at Jay Peak, where many of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program development projects headed by Stenger and Quiros took place. Continue Reading →

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House Ways and Means amends pot bill, backs legalization

MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee has voted to approve an amendment to a marijuana bill that would allow for the legal possession of up to 1 ounce and cultivation of up to two marijuana plants. The amendment, which materialized in the committee Thursday, passed on a 7-4 vote Friday after a few minor changes. It would fundamentally alter the bill advanced by the House Judiciary Committee last week. The Judiciary Committee’s work stripped out the Senate’s language that legalized marijuana and created a regulatory structure for its retail sale. But support for that never materialized among Judiciary Committee members, so it was amended to create a commission to study the issue. Continue Reading →

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Federal and state authorities allege massive fraud in Northeast Kingdom development projects

Attorney General William Sorrell speaks at a State House news conference held to announce fraud charges against the developers of several EB-5 projects in the Northeast Kingdom. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — The federal Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday unveiled a civil fraud complaint charging a “Ponzi-like scheme” involving the main actors in major Northeast Kingdom development projects for misusing $200 million dollars of foreign investors’ money, while state officials filed a state-level complaint mirroring the federal charges. Ariel Quiros and William Stenger, owners of Jay Peak Resort and the principals heading up eight different development projects through the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, have raised $350 million in $500,000 increments from foreign investors seeking permanent residency in the U.S. through the investor program. Federal and state officials on Thursday said $200 million of the money raised was misused, including $50 million by Quiros for his own personal benefit. The eight ambitious EB-5 projects include improvements at Jay Peak and Q Burke Resorts and a biomedical research facility in Newport. According to the state’s civil complaint, filed in Washington County Superior Court on Thursday, the duo used various limited partnership companies to raise the funds. Continue Reading →

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