Recent Posts

Galbraith calls for universal background checks, ban of “assault-style” weapons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith called for a ban on "assault-style" weapons at a news conference Monday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith scrapped the planned announcement of his college plan for low-income Vermonters and instead called Monday for a ban on “assault-style” weapons following the massacre in Orlando on Sunday. Galbraith called for several new gun control measures at the state and federal level as authorities continued to investigate the shooting death of 49 people at a night club in Orlando, allegedly by Omar Mateen, who was killed by police. He told reporters at a news conference Monday at the Community College of Vermont there would be “a significant change in topic.”

“Today, with what’s happened in Orlando, I think that is the focus of attention in our state and it raises a broader issue for me, which I really go back to Robert Kennedy and his quote — “When in the face of evil good men do nothing, that is how evil triumphs,” he said. The former diplomat and Windham County state senator decried the lack of conversation in Vermont about new gun control measures. “We pretend that we are somehow immune from the national trends, when in fact, we’re not and when we face these tragedies we often go to a different issue. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers look to “ban the box”

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given their overwhelming endorsement to a bill intended to make it easier for people with criminal histories to find employment. By a vote of 138 to 5, the House give preliminary approval to a bill that would — for the most part — prohibit employers from inquiring of a prospective employee’s criminal background on an application form. “The House’s vote to ban the box is a vote for compassion, redemption and opportunity,” House Speaker Shap Smith said after the vote. “The current policy of screening for criminal histories in preliminary job applications puts a barrier in the way of successfully finding employment. By removing this wall, Vermonters will have more opportunities to succeed.”

The bill still has a ways to go, pending a final vote of House lawmakers today and approval by the Senate. Continue Reading →

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DCF protection bill clears committee

Sen. Dick Sears contemplates the DCF protection bill Wednesday morning.

MONTPELIER — A bill that offers enhanced penalties for assaulting mandated reporters and criminalizes the act of making a threat cleared a key legislative committee Wednesday. By a vote of 4 to 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave its go ahead to a proposed law that would offer stiffer penalties for assaulting a worker with the Department for Children and Families or anyone who is required to report suspected child abuse. The bill comes in response to the 2015 shooting death of DCF worker Lara Sobel, who was killed outside her office in downtown Barre in August, and is one of several recent initiatives to protect workers who sometimes find themselves in the middle contentious domestic situations. Under the terms of the bill, DCF workers and mandated reporters will join the ranks of police officers, first responders and medical providers; assaulting a member of any of these professions carries a stronger penalty than the assault of the average person on the street. The enhanced penalty for assaulting a mandated reporter would only be in effect if the assault is directly related to the act of making a DCF report. Continue Reading →

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Story +Video: Rules Committee advances resolution to suspend McAllister

Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, sat alone before a Senate Rules Committee meeting Wednesday. The committee voted to advance a resolution to the full Senate that seeks to suspend McAllister from the body because of pending sex crime charges against him. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Senate Rules Committee voted Wednesday in favor of sending a resolution seeking the suspension of Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister, who is charged with several sex crimes, to the full Senate next month. The 3 to 2 vote on the suspension resolution offered by Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, came after the panel rejected another resolution from Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, on a 4 to 1 vote, that would have amended the Senate’s rules to prevent it from acting in any manner until any pending felony charges are settled in court. McAllister, if suspended under the resolution, would continue to receive his pay because it is constitutionally protected unless he is expelled, Baruth said. Sens. Baruth, Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, and John Campbell, D-Windsor, voted in favor of the suspension resolution. Continue Reading →

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Senate Dems leaning toward suspending McAllister

The Senate Democratic caucus met at the home of Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell Saturday to discuss several topics, including the potential legalization of marijuana in Vermont. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

HARTLAND — Senate Democrats are moving toward seeking the suspension of a Republican member of the body accused of sexual crimes to avoid interfering with his criminal case. Fifteen members of the Democratic caucus met Saturday at the timber frame home of Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, and one on the phone, to discuss how the body should proceed regarding Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister. The 64-year-old McAllister was arrested at the State House in May and stands accused of sexually assaulting three women, including a legislative intern who allegedly lived with him in Montpelier at times. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and his criminal case is pending. McAllister has refused to resign, despite immense pressure from both Republicans and Democrats. Continue Reading →

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Gubernatorial candidates divided on expanding background checks for gun sales


ubernatorial candidates are divided over the need to strengthen the state’s gun control laws. Sue Minter, one of two Democratic candidates for governor, has come out strongly in favor of requiring universal background checks for all firearm sales in Vermont, regardless of the nature of the transaction. “I am committed to requiring universal background checks for gun sales – including those that occur at gun shows, flea markets, and private sales,” Minter wrote in a statement to her supporters one day after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., claimed the lives of 14 people. “Background checks are currently required for all gun sales at Vermont’s federally registered firearms dealers,” Minter’s statement continued. “The same standard should apply to all gun sales.”

In a subsequent interview, Minter rejected the argument that the state’s gun laws do not need to be changed because Vermont is already among the safest places to live in the United States. Continue Reading →

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Embezzlement threatens Hunger Free Vermont


MONTPELIER — Hunger Free Vermont is in dire need of donations as federal authorities investigate a long-term embezzlement that sapped its cash reserves, according to Executive Director Marissa Parisi. The theft was discovered about a month ago by the group’s local bank branch after irregularities in a checking account were spotted, according to Parisi. The extent of the theft is still being determined, she said. “We’re still going through everything with a fine-toothed comb and we’re working with federal authorities,” Parisi said. “It’s likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Continue Reading →

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State to try new drug to fight opiate addiction

Peter Shumlin

MONTPELIER — The state will begin offering a drug to inmates leaving prison that blocks the brain’s pleasure center, with the goal of reducing relapses into opiate addiction. Beginning in January, inmates leaving Marble Valley Correctional Facility will have access to naltrexone, a drug that prevents a user from feeling high when ingesting an opiate such as heroin or oxycodone. So far, the state has trained 50 health care providers to prescribe naltrexone, a drug that is administered once a month by injection; however, no special training needed and the drug can be administered by any prescriber. Currently, the drug is approved for use in treating alcoholism and opiate addiction. While the drug itself is not new — some doctors have been prescribing the drug all along — the state is looking to expand its use in the hope of curbing the state’s opiate epidemic. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy


lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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State’s inmate population declines to lowest level in over a decade

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The number of inmates in Vermont prisons is at its lowest level since the early 2000s, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday. On Monday there were 1,734 inmates in Vermont prisons, a decline of 17.5 percent since Shumlin took office in early 2011 when there were 2,103 inmates in custody. Also, the number of inmates being held in out-of-state prisons has fallen 52 percent since Shumlin took office from 562 to 271 today. Shumlin cited a series of policy changes and new laws for the drop, including alternatives to incarceration for first offenders, the elimination of criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana and making it easier for people convicted of some crimes to get jobs with the state. Continue Reading →

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