Neal P. Goswami

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Scott: State won’t seek armored vehicles, high-powered weapons from U.S. military

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said the Vermont State Police will not be seeking any armored vehicles or other heavy-duty equipment from the U.S. military after President Donald Trump eased restrictions on police departments earlier this week. The Republican president signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. The so-called 1033 Program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. The Obama administration created a list of prohibited military equipment that police could no longer receive, including armored vehicles on tracks and other weaponized vehicles, rifles and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, and grenade launchers. Another list of controlled equipment, such as aircraft, explosives and riot gear, required police agencies to show a specific need before it was handed over. Continue Reading →

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Vermont water rescue team heads to Texas

COLCHESTER — A Vermont swift water rescue team deployed to Texas Thursday on a 12-day mission to help with the rescue efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott participated in a sendoff event Thursday morning for the Vermont Task Force 1 Swift Water Rescue Team. They will help with evacuations and rescues in flooded parts of Texas after Harvey dumped dozens of inches of water on some areas of the state. The 15-member contingent from the 90-strong task force will take two days to drive to Texas with their equipment and two days to return. “This is what makes me so very proud as governor. Continue Reading →

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Stormwater permits could be costly for some

MONTPELIER — Properties with more than three acres of impervious surface — such as a paved parking lot — may soon need to obtain stormwater permits or pay significant “impact fees” under new stormwater rules being considered by the state. The Department of Environmental Conservation is required to adopt an updated stormwater management rule under Act 64, which was signed into law by former Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2015. The updated rule is part of the state’s effort to meet the federal Total Maximum Daily Load mandate for phosphorous flowing into Lake Champlain. Padraic Monks, DEC’s stormwater program manager, said the updated rule being drafted by the department includes the additional general stormwater permit. “We were directed to revise the stormwater rule, re-issue it by the end of this year and also adopt new regulations for existing stormwater discharges,” Monks said. Continue Reading →

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Police weigh Trump order on military equipment

MONTPELIER — Heavy-duty military equipment, including armored vehicles and grenade launchers, may soon be available again to Vermont police departments after the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era ban on their distribution — but some municipal agencies say they aren’t interested. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. That program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. “The recommendations issued pursuant to Executive Order 13688 do not reflect the policy of the executive branch,” Trump’s new order reads. “All executive departments and agencies are directed, as of the date of this order and consistent with Federal law, to cease implementing those recommendations and, if necessary, to take prompt action to rescind any rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies implementing them.”

The Obama administration, after review by a working group, created a list of prohibited equipment that would no longer available to police. Continue Reading →

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Scott administration recommends closing EB-5 center as feds send termination notice

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott released a report from his administration Monday evening recommending the shut down of the state-run EB-5 regional center alongside a notice from the federal government that it plans to terminate it. Scott ordered a review of the regional center, which oversees projects utilizing the federal foreign investor visa program, after a financial settlement in a massive fraud case was announced earlier this year. The owner of Jay Peak Resort, Ariel Quiros, and the resort president, William Stenger, were accused last year of a massive fraud scheme involving several EB-5 projects in the Northeast Kingdom by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the state. Quiros was accused of using more than $200 million in inventor funds for his own private use in what investigators labeled “a massive Ponzi scheme.”

On Monday, Scott released a notice from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services outlining its intent to close the state-run center, citing the fraud case and the state’s lack of oversight as key reasons for the pending closure. Scott’s office said Monday that he ordered the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation to review the center’s operations in July, after a court approved a settlement with financial firm Raymond James. Continue Reading →

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Trump signs disaster declaration

MONTPELIER — President Donald Trump has signed a major disaster declaration for Vermont following significant flooding earlier this year, qualifying the state for federal aid in recovery efforts, Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday. The public assistance disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow communities and public utilities in affected areas to receive 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government for storm response and recovery efforts, including debris removal and repairs to public infrastructure. The disaster declaration covers Addison, Bennington, Caledonia, Orange, Rutland, Washington and Windsor Counties. Significant flooding occurred following a period of heavy rain between June 29 and July 1. Scott asked FEMA to assess damage caused by the flooding on July 6. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers approve budget rescission plans

MONTPELIER — The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee has unanimously backed a plan presented by the Scott administration to reduce General Fund spending in the 2018 fiscal year budget by $12.6 million. The panel of House and Senate members met Thursday to review the plan, which was necessitated by a revenue downgrade issued last month. Economists for Gov. Phil Scott and the Legislature downgraded expected state revenues for the current fiscal year by $28.8 million, including $16.3 million in pending corporate tax refunds carried over from the 2017 fiscal year. The state’s Emergency Board last month approved a plan to pay for the refunds. The state’s Transportation Fund was also downgraded by $3.5 million. Continue Reading →

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Scott administration to present budget rescission plan Thursday

MONTPELIER — The Scott administration will present its plan Thursday to cut $12.6 million from the state’s General Fund and $3.5 million from the Transportation Fund to balance the state budget after a revenue downgrade was issued last month. Administration officials will meet with the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee Thursday. The plan relies primarily on the expected generation of new revenue, some budget cuts and some reversions, or reallocating previously unspent funds. The administration’s budget rescission plan comes after economists for the administration and Legislature issued a revenue downgrade in July. The General Fund was downgraded by $28.8 million, including $16.3 million that is expected to be paid out in the form of corporate income tax refunds during the 2018 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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Details scarce on Ivanka Trump’s Vermont vacation

MONTPELIER — State officials say they are unable to provide details of any security operations in place after the New York Times reported Tuesday that First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner are vacationing in Vermont. The visit to Vermont by the Washington, D.C., power couple remains shrouded in mystery, with their location unknown to the public. Both Ivanka Trump and Kushner play prominent, senior roles in the administration of Republican President Donald Trump. Ivanka Trump is a special assistant to the president. Kushner, meanwhile, is the director of White House Innovations and has several high-profile tasks, including bringing peace to the Middle East. Continue Reading →

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Sanders prepares legislation and strategy for single-payer push

MONTPELIER — With a re-election bid looming in 2018 and a potential second presidential run further on the horizon in 2020, Sen. Bernie Sanders is focusing his time, attention and campaign dollars on drumming up support for a complete overhaul of the nation’s health care system. The 75-year-old independent senator is almost assured re-election to the Senate if and when he officially declares his candidacy. Whether he will launch a second bid for the White House is less clear. While the country attempts to catch its breath after the furious but failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Sanders is prepping a new national campaign to build support for a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system. It’s the moment Sanders has been waiting for to achieve a policy goal he has coveted for decades. Continue Reading →

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