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Thousands of Vermonters at risk after massive data breach

massive security breach at the Vermont Department of Labor may have compromised the Social Security numbers of tens of thousands of Vermonters, and Gov. Phil Scott says the state is contemplating legal action against the private vendor responsible for the breach. The breach affects a database maintained for the state of Vermont by a third-party vendor, called America’s Job Link Alliance. Scott says the state learned Wednesday that “the vendor now believes more than 180,000 accounts on Joblink were compromised.”

The breach could affect anyone who’s applied for unemployment since 2003, and has entered information into an online jobs database that people are required to use to demonstrate they’re seeking new employment. When people file for unemployment, they’re in most cases required by state and federal law to look for work. “And as part of their regular job search, they have to put their information into the database and they then can use that database to help them find jobs,” says Commissioner of Labor Lindsay Kurrle. 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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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 3.17.17

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VTDigger’s Elizabeth Hewitt joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld on the podcast this week. Topics included the state budget and House Democrats’ frustration with Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Subscribe to the Capital Beat Podcast on iTunes for the latest episodes.   Continue Reading →

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Scott stands his ground on budget

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott stood his ground Thursday, a day after House Democrats accused him of “shirking” his responsibility to lead and provide them with new ideas to help balance the state budget. Scott, a first-term Republican, said at his weekly news conference Thursday that lawmakers should complete their own budget proposal if they aren’t prepared to accept his. The governor’s proposal has seen little support in the Democratic-led Legislature. His budget plan, which was revealed in late January, called for local school districts to level-fund their budgets, which would have saved $41 million in the education fund. It also calls for teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums, saving an estimated $15 million in the 2018 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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House Dems take off gloves in budget battle

MONTPELIER — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and the chairs of the House money committees came out swinging Wednesday, accusing the governor of shirking his responsibility to govern by not engaging with lawmakers in the budget process after his initial proposal was rejected. Johnson, joined by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kitty Toll and Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Janet Ancel, excoriated Republican Gov. Phil Scott for being disengaged from the budget process and sticking to what they say is a budget plan already rejected by lawmakers and local voters. Showdowns between lawmakers and the administration are expected, but for the first time in six years, the Democratic-led Legislature must work with a Republican administration. Wednesday’s tough words from Democrats indicate a more volatile process is likely this year than in recent years when Democrats also controlled the governor’s office. Scott’s budget proposal, unveiled in late January, called for local school districts to level-fund their budgets and force teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums. Doing so would save tens of millions of dollars in the state’s education fund. Continue Reading →

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Immigration issue splits House GOP caucus

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House advanced legislation aimed at preventing local law enforcement from participating in federal immigration enforcement in a vote that split the Republican caucus with half going against a popular governor from their own party. The bill, S.79, has been pushed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and a tripartisan group of lawmakers in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump dealing with immigration and border security. It received preliminary approval in the House Tuesday on a 110-24 vote, with 24 Republicans voting against it. The bill originated in the Senate where it passed 30-0 and was unchanged by the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Chip Conquest, D-Newfane, the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues the legislation is “not about immigration” at the state level. Continue Reading →

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Scott renews call for new ed money

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is continuing his call for new spending on early and higher education, even after local voters gave widespread approval to increased school budgets, ignoring the governor’s plea for level-funded budgets. Scott said there are still opportunities to find savings within the state’s education fund to pay for $9 million in new spending he has called for in early child care and education, and the $5 million he is seeking for higher education. The governor’s proposed 2018 fiscal year spending plan sought level-funded school budgets and a requirement that teachers pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums to help fund the new initiatives. But lawmakers rejected Scott’s call to move the school budget vote date to May, ensuring that local school boards would put their existing budgets up for a vote on Town Meeting Day. Voters approved 183 budgets on Tuesday while rejecting 18. Continue Reading →

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Scott administration concerned with GOP health care bill in Washington

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s top health care official says the Scott administration is working quickly to assess the impact a GOP health care plan in Washington would have on the state if enacted. Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille said his team is reviewing the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. At first glance, Gobeille said, the plan could have significant negative impacts on Vermonters. After years of failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare during former Democratic President Barack Obama’s tenure, the GOP now controls both chambers in Congress and the presidency. President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress campaigned on dumping the sweeping health care reform law Democrats enacted early in Obama’s presidency, and now the GOP has put forth a plan to do so. Continue Reading →

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Ashe: Governor needs funding source for new spending

MONTPELIER — Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said the state Senate is moving forward on crafting a state budget that does not include any of Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed new spending unless he provides lawmakers with a different plan to pay for it. The governor’s proposed 2018 fiscal year state budget included new spending for early and higher education as well as housing. But the new spending was covered by shifting some general fund obligations to the education fund, a move lawmakers have all but rejected. Ashe, a Chittenden County Democrat, told reporters Tuesday at his weekly briefing that the new spending will be off the table unless the governor and lawmakers can agree on other areas to cut to cover it. Scott has maintained his promise not to balance the state budget with new taxes or fees, making closing a projected $70 million gap a larger challenge. Continue Reading →

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