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Welch warns state lawmakers about pending health care changes

Democratic Congressman Peter Welch speaks to Vermont lawmakers about potential changes to federal health care policy that will impact the state after Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office Friday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Congressman Peter Welch told Vermont lawmakers Wednesday that he is working to thwart Republicans from completely unraveling the Affordable Care Act, an action he said would be “one of the most reckless fiscal actions.”

Welch, a Democrat and the state’s lone member of the U.S. House, will begin serving under his third president Friday when Republican President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office. He was first elected in 2006, and served two years under President George W. Bush and eight years under President Barack Obama. During Obama’s tenure, House Republicans voted 65 times to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, a landmark health care reform bill Obama signed into law. Now, with a Republican Congress and an incoming Republican Congress, Welch warned Wednesday that major changes are coming that could be disruptive to Vermonters and all Americans. “It’s as though the discussion is ideological, that getting rid of this will give people more freedom,” he told lawmakers. Continue Reading →

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Scott explains the sale of Dubois Construction

Gov. Phil Scott briefs reporters on the sale of his share in Dubois Construction, which does business with the state. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has sold his share of a construction business and will be paid $2.5 million by the firm over a 15-year period. Scott, pledging to be transparent and open about the sale, briefed reporters Friday on its terms. Scott had been a half partner in the company, Dubois Construction, which bids on state contracts, before the sale close on Dec. 30. “I signed a sales agreement and sold my shares back to Dubois Construction,” Scott said. Scott said he chose to sell his share back to the company and finance it himself. Continue Reading →

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Gun Sense renews push for universal background checks

Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden, speaks at a news conference about his legislation for universal background checks on all gun sales in Vermont. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Proponents of a law to require background checks on all gun sales in Vermont launched a renewed effort Tuesday to achieve their goal, but roadblocks in their way in previous legislative sessions remain. Gun Sense Vermont, a group pushing for universal background checks, hosted a State House news conference Tuesday to rally supporters. They promised to keep pushing for such a law despite stiff opposition from guns rights groups and even Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden, introduced S.6, a bill that again calls for universal background checks and has several co-sponsors. Baruth submitted similar legislation in recent years but has been rebuffed. Continue Reading →

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Johnson, Ashe lead lawmakers forward

Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was elected speaker of the Vermont House on Wednesday, Jan. 4. She is the 3rd woman to serve as speaker in Vermont history. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers returned to the State House Wednesday for the 73rd biennial session, electing new leaders and embarking on a new era of state government. The 180 members of the General Assembly —150 in the House and 30 in the Senate — swore their oaths of office before electing their own leadership. Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was elected by the House on a 100 to 50 vote to serve as speaker. Johnson, who defeated Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex, became just the third woman to serve as speaker in Vermont history. In the Senate, Chittenden County Sen. Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, was unanimously elected president pro tem. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court denies Shumlin’s appointment authority

House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, speaks to his attorney, state Rep. Janssen Willhoit, during oral arguments before the Vermont Supreme Court on Tuesday. Milton is challenging outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin's authority to name a replacement for Justice John Dooley, who is not seeking retention and will leave the bench on April 1. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court ruled unanimously against outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin Wednesday, barring him from appointing a new justice to join its ranks and delivering a stinging blow on his penultimate day in office. Shumlin, a Democrat, had hoped to appoint a replacement for Justice John Dooley, who revealed in September that he was not seeking retention on the court. Shumlin triggered the replacement process by calling upon the Judicial Nominating Board to send him the names of well qualified candidates to succeed Dooley, who will leave the bench when his term expires on April 1. But Rep. Donald Turner, the House minority leader, and Sen. Joe Benning, the Senate minority leader, petitioned the Supreme Court on Dec. 21 asking it to prevent Shumlin from making the appointment. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court hears appointment case, decision pending

Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley speaks during oral arguments Tuesday for a case that will determine whether outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin can replace him when his term expires April 1. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin can appoint a replacement for one of its members, Justice John Dooley, before Shumlin leaves office on Thursday. The hearing Tuesday, held in a packed Supreme Court chamber filled with media, lawmakers, statewide elected officials and other observers, was triggered by a petition filed by Rep. Donald Turner and Sen. Joe Benning just before Christmas challenging Shumlin’s authority to name Dooley’s replacement. The justices made no indication Tuesday afternoon before ending the court session when it would issue a ruling. However, the court is expected to rule imminently in order to settle the matter before Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott is sworn into office on Thursday afternoon. Should the justices rule in Shumlin’s favor he could then name a replacement for Dooley on Wednesday when the new Senate is sworn in. Continue Reading →

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Sears backs Shumlin in Supreme Court legal battle

Sen. Dick Sears

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include comments from Gov.-elect Phil Scott. MONTPELIER — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has filed a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court defending Gov. Peter Shumlin’s authority to appoint a Supreme Court justice before he leaves office on Thursday. Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, a close friend and political ally of Shumlin, submitted the legal argument ahead of a Tuesday hearing scheduled by the state’s highest court to determine if Shumlin can make the appointment. Sears is asking the court to dismiss or deny the petition filed by two lawmakers challenging Shumlin’s authority. “Once the vice chair of the committee got involved I thought the chairman ought to get involved,” Sears told the Vermont Press Bureau. Continue Reading →

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Benning joins Supreme Court scuffle

Sen. Joe Benning

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court has granted a motion by Sen. Joe Benning to join a petition to the court aimed at preventing Gov. Peter Shumlin from appointing a Supreme Court justice before leaving office. Benning, a Republican from Caledonia County, said he was asked by Rep. Donald Turner’s attorneys to intervene in the case to help boost Turner’s standing before the court. Turner, the House minority leader, filed a petition with the court last week challenging Shumlin’s authority to fill a pending vacancy on the court. Turner plays no official role in the selection of a Supreme Court Justice. As a senator, however, Benning, along with the full Senate, must advise and consent on nominations. Continue Reading →

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Podcast: Scott discusses deliberative transition process

Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott speaks to reporters the day after winning Vermont's gubernatorial race. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)
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MONTPELIER — With just over a month to go before he takes office, Gov.-elect Phil Scott has yet to name any top cabinet positions, but promises his deliberative selection process will result in a full cabinet by early January. Since winning the governor’s office on Nov. 8, Scott, a Republican, has appointed four people to serve on his staff. But top-level cabinet positions remain unfilled. Six years ago, outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin named several such appointees within a couple of weeks of his election. Continue Reading →

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