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Shumlin reflects on single payer failure

MONTPELIER — Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said money, wary lawmakers and timing were the core challenges that ultimately caused his failure to deliver on a promise to implement a single-payer health care system in the state. The former Democratic governor reflected on that failure Tuesday at a forum at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Shumlin ran for governor in 2010 on a platform that promised voters a single-payer system. But he announced after his 2014 re-election bid that his administration would not be moving forward with the plan. He cited the tremendous cost of the program and the burden that would be placed on the state’s limited tax base. Continue Reading →

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Welch makes DACA case to Trump

MONTPELIER — Vermont Rep. Peter Welch said he believes Republican President Donald Trump wants to ensure there is protected legal status for Dreamers after taking part in a bipartisan meeting with him Wednesday afternoon. Welch, a Democrat, met with Trump, senior staff and about 14 members of Congress Wednesday afternoon in the Cabinet Room inside the White House. The conversation was largely focused on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The president recently rescinded an executive order issued by former Democratic President Barack Obama that protected from deportation young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought into the country by their parents or guardians as children. Welch said he was able to share a personal moment with Trump after the meeting and shared the story of a University of Vermont medical student who has dedicated his life to cancer research in other of his mother, who died of cancer. Continue Reading →

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Sanders releases Medicare-for-all bill, passes on cost and funding

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his long-awaited Medicare-for-all legislation Wednesday, touting the support of 16 Democratic senators who signed on as co-sponsors, but plenty of crucial questions remain unanswered, including the cost. The support of one-third of the Democratic caucus in the Senate is a significant improvement for Sanders, who stood alone the last time he introduced a single-payer health care system in 2013. It reflects how Sanders, an independent, is shaping the future of the Democratic Party following his improbable run for the presidency in the Democratic Primary last year. The line-up of cosponsors includes a handful of senators pundits have eyed as potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2020, including Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. The bill Sanders laid out Wednesday include the broad goals of a generous, government-run health care system for the country. Continue Reading →

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Scott’s pot commission seeks recommended legislation for 2019

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott will sign an executive order today creating the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission that will review myriad issues regarding the legalization of marijuana and look at 2019 for potential legislation to create a regulated retail market for pot. The first-term Republican is creating the commission after vetoing a bill in June passed by the Democratic-led Legislature that sought to legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of dry marijuana and the cultivation of up to two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants beginning July 1, 2018. The bill would have also created a commission to craft legislation for lawmakers to consider during the 2018 legislative session that would create a regulated retail market for marijuana and review various issues related to legalization. Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process if Scott had signed the bill. Other states that have already legalized the drug have done so through public referendums.

Scott worked with lawmakers to appease his concerns ahead of a June 21 veto session, but lawmakers quickly passed a budget that Scott had also vetoed, leaving no time to address the marijuana bill. Continue Reading →

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Vermont joins multi-state suit to preserve DACA

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan has joined a multi-state suit that seeks to prevent President Donald Trump from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has protected young immigrants from deportation. The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Wednesday afternoon. “We are going to continue to protect all Vermonters, including the 42 DREAMers here in this state,” Donovan said. The Republican president announced his intention to rescind the program, known as DACA, on Tuesday. It was created through an executive order by former President Barack Obama. Continue Reading →

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Vermont delegation wants legislation to protect DACA recipients

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s congressional delegation and the state’s Republican governor are condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind an Obama-era program that protects young immigrants from deportation, and hoping Congress will act to keep them in the U.S.

The program was created through an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012. Until Tuesday, Trump went back and forth as a candidate and then as president on whether he would continue the program. The policy change initiated by Trump means that nearly 800,000 young immigrants who have been allowed to remain in the U.S. under the program, including 42 Vermonters, could face deportation after March 5, 2018. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Trump “has revealed he is as heartless as he is uninformed.”

“We live in an unprecedented time when our president seeks to divide us, not to unite us,” Leahy said in a statement. “He rallies his dwindling supporters by exploiting fear and resentment, marginalizing those who are vulnerable and even those who risk their lives for our country and communities. 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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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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Scott: Senate health care vote is ‘disappointing’

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he is disappointed the U.S. Senate has voted to begin debating a repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a clearly defined path forward. Scott, in a telephone interview from Aspen, Co., where he is attending the Republican Governors Association quarterly meeting, said health care has dominated the two-day summit. “Suffice it to say, there are lot of differing opinions on what’s happening and what’s best for our individual states,” the governor said. Some states, like Vermont, have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and stand to lose significant federal funding under the plans pushed by Republicans in Congress. As a result, Scott said there is no consensus among the 33 GOP governors on whether Congress should be moving forward with efforts to repeal the ACA. Continue Reading →

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Leahy, Sanders vote no, but Senate moves to debate ACA repeal

MONTPELIER — Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders are lashing out after the Senate voted Tuesday to begin debating a health care plan that would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and leave tens of millions of Americans without health insurance. Both Leahy, a Democrat, and Sanders, an independent, voted Tuesday afternoon against a motion to proceed to debate on a House-passed health care bill. The vote was held Tuesday before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., revealed the legislative language that senators will be debating, however. The process used by the Republican majority and the secretive nature of the Senate GOP’s plan have drawn the ire of Vermont’s two senators. Continue Reading →

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