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Scott vetoes pot legalization, offers path forward

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a marijuana legalization bill but said Wednesday he will reconsider signing it if lawmakers make changes during a veto session next month. Scott’s announcement at a news conference Wednesday ended days of speculation about the bill’s fate, but it opened the door to even more intense lobbying and campaigning in the weeks leading up to the June 21 veto session. It also halts — at least temporarily — the potential for Vermont to become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use through the legislative process. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana, but all did so through voter referendums.

“I am returning this bill to the Legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market,” the governor said. Continue Reading →

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Scott to veto pot legalization bill

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday he will veto a marijuana legalization bill sent to him by lawmakers for technical reasons but will reconsider signing it if lawmakers make some changes during a veto session next month. Scott’s announcement Wednesday ends days of speculation about the bill’s fate, but opens the door to even more intense lobbying and campaigning in the weeks leading up to the June 21 veto session. Scott, a first-term Republican was facing a midnight deadline. His five days of consideration were about to end after receiving the bill from the Legislature last week. He faced three options — sign it into law, veto it or let it become law without his signature. Continue Reading →

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House sends pot legalization bill to the governor

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House concurred Wednesday with a Senate-passed bill to legalize marijuana, becoming the first Legislature in the country to send a recreational marijuana legalization bill to a governor to become law. The bill, S.22, was passed by the House on a 79-66 vote after appearing to be dead several times since the legislative session began in January. It followed an untraditional path through the Legislature to make it to Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who said Wednesday he remains unsure if he will veto it. While other states have already legalized marijuana, those states were compelled to act by voter-approved referendums. The Vermont General Assembly is the first legislative body in the country to have two chambers approve legalization for recreational marijuana use. Under the legislation, people 21 and older will be allowed to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana beginning July 1, 2018. Continue Reading →

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House advances pot legalization

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House narrowly passed a marijuana legalization bill late Tuesday night after hours of debate, but the legislation is not expected to advance further this year. The bill. H.170, passed around 11:30 p.m. on a 74 to 68 vote, after two attempts to send it back to committee and several amendments aimed at weakening or delaying it. The bill allows for the legal possession of up to 1 ounce of dry marijuana and the cultivation of up to two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants. The vote was a victory for proponents of legalization, but the legislation is not expected to advance beyond the House this year. Continue Reading →

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Senators look to advance discussion on legal pot

MONTPELIER — Frustrated by a lack of action in the House, the Senate will consider two amendments in the coming days that would put the state on a path toward legalizing marijuana. The Senate Judiciary Committee laid out its plans Tuesday to offer various amendments. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said there is “general frustration” in the Senate that the House has been unable or unwilling to act on its own bill this year, which prompted a review among some senators on how to move the conversation forward. “We had fully counted on the House passing H.170 this year. When they got to the floor I think there was a big deflation for us in the Senate. Continue Reading →

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Leahy joins filibuster effort against SCOTUS nominee

MONTPELIER — Sen. Patrick Leahy joined with most of his fellow Democrats in the Senate Monday and announced he will support a filibuster against President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Leahy is a senior member, voted 11-9 along party lines Monday to send Judge Neil Gorsuch’s name to the full Senate for confirmation later this week. But Leahy, and several other Democrats, announced their intention Monday to oppose what’s known as a cloture vote in the Senate. A cloture vote requires a threshold of at least 60 votes to end debate and move to a confirmation vote on the Senate floor. At least 41 Democratic senators now say they will not vote for cloture, meaning majority Republicans will not be able to confirm Gorsuch in the traditional manner. Continue Reading →

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State officials warn of potential scammers

BARRE — Attorney General T.J. Donovan and other state officials are urging Vermonters to be vigilant against scammers as the state and federal tax filing deadline nears. Donovan joined Vermont Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom and others at a news conference at Capstone Community Action in Barre Monday to raise awareness of tax scams. The most common, Donovan said, is callers pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service seeking back taxes owed to the federal government. Such scams increase as the annual tax filing deadline approaches, he said. “March Madness is over. The April reality check is upon us. Continue Reading →

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Pot legalization flames out in House

MONTPELIER — Democratic leaders in the House jettisoned a bill Tuesday that would legalize marijuana in Vermont to the Human Services Committee after it became clear that they lacked the votes to pass it on the floor. The bill, H.170, was expected to finally have its day in the House after previous delays. But Democratic House leaders acknowledged late in the day that support for the measure was wavering. Instead of bringing the bill to a vote it was sent to the Human Services Committee on a voice vote where its prospects, and a timeline for consideration there, are unclear. The legislation would legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of dry marijuana, two mature marijuana plants and four immature points. Continue Reading →

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Scott signs immigration bill into law as Trump administration cracks down

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott, flanked by Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Democratic lawmakers, signed into law Tuesday a bill aimed at curbing the impacts of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in January. The signing comes just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the daily White House briefing a crackdown by the Trump administration on jurisdictions that do not honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people they may want to take custody of. Such jurisdictions have been commonly referred to as sanctuary cities or states, but there is no legal definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction. The bill signed into law Tuesday, S.79, grants Scott as governor the sole authority to enter into agreements with the federal government to deputize local, county or state law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration law. Scott said the law is necessary because the president’s executive orders indicate “a shift in federal policy in the areas of immigration and border security.”

“The executive orders indicate the federal government will seek agreements and engage with the states to perform immigration enforcement functions that are the responsibility of the federal government. Continue Reading →

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Scott taps Judge Karen Carroll for Vermont Supreme Court

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott has tapped Superior Court Judge Karen Russell Carroll Thursday to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice John Dooley, who will retire from the bench at the end of the month. The selection of Carroll, first appointed as a state Superior Court judge in 2000 by former Democratic Gov. Howard Dean, means the five-member Vermont Supreme Court will have a majority of women justices for the first time in state history. Scott, speaking at his weekly news conference Thursday, said the gender balance of the court did not weigh into his decision-making process. Rather, the governor said he focused on each candidate’s history and personality. “The personality of Karen, I think, lends itself well to the court,” Scott said. Continue Reading →

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