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House member surveys federal threats to funding, policy

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas

MONTPELIER — As the administration of President Donald Trump settles in, one Vermont lawmaker is attempting to survey the landscape and determine where the state could be harmed by changes in federal policy and funding. Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, a former House majority leader, is attempting to create a rapid response plan if the president’s policies have a significant impact on Vermont. So far, however, there are still many question marks about what the Trump administration is planning. “There’s nothing rapid about it so far because right now a lot of what I’m doing is trying to get a handle on the landscape — what do we hear might be coming down from Congress, what do we hear might be coming in the form of executive orders,” she told the Vermont Press Bureau. Copeland Hanzas is keeping in touch with the state’s congressional delegation to stay abreast of what could be coming. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 2.10.17

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VTDigger’s Mark Johnson joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld on the Capital Beat Podcast. Topics this week include legislation aimed at standing up to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump and Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed budget. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Secretary of State Condos and Sen. Jeanette White

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami discusses an ethics bill passed by the Senate with Secretary of State Jim Condos and Sen. Jeanette White, the chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. Capital Beat airs Mondays at 7:30 p.m. on Vermont PBS Plus. Continue Reading →

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Vermont officials push back on Trump orders with legislation

Gov. Phil Scott, left, and Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, right, discuss proposed legislation in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Vermont state officials flexed their muscles Thursday, unveiling proposed legislation to prevent law enforcement agencies in Vermont from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration enforcement in response to executive orders from Republican President Donald Trump. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, appeared at a news conference Thursday with Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and a tri-partisan group of lawmakers from both the House and Senate in an extraordinary show of cooperation. They worked collaboratively to craft legislation they say will address the federal government’s “overreach” in a series of executive orders signed by the president. Scott has emerged as one of the highest-profile Republican governors to buck Trump’s efforts to boost immigration enforcement and enhance border security. “We can’t pick and choose what pieces of the Constitution we defend and that is why we are here today,” the governor said. Continue Reading →

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House rejects key plank in governor’s budget

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MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s budget proposal suffered a potentially fatal blow Friday as the House voted to reject his plan to move school budget votes to May 23. The House voted on an amendment to an underlying education bill from the Senate. It called for moving local school budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to May 23, as Scott called for in his budget address last month. Scott was looking to provide more time for local school districts to find a way to level fund 2018 fiscal year budgets at 2017 fiscal year levels, which he wants the Legislature to mandate. But the House voted 47 to 87, largely on party lines, against the amendment sponsored by Barre City independent Rep. Paul Poirier, who himself was against the idea. Continue Reading →

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House members propose paid leave, governor promises veto

Rep. Matt Trieber

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers unveiled a proposal Thursday for a state-run paid family leave program, which Gov. Phil Scott promised to veto just hours later. Reps. Matt Trieber, D-Bellows Falls, Sam Young, D-Glover, and Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, D-Bradford, said at a State House news conference Thursday they plan to file a bill that will create the pooled insurance program that provides Vermonters up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. The program, which they said will likely be administered by the Vermont Department of Labor, would be funded by a 0.93 percent payroll tax that will be split evenly between employees and employers. Employees would be able to access 100 percent of their regular pay while on approved family or medical leave under the measure. Continue Reading →

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House OKs recount of Orange House race

Rep. Robert Frenier

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House approved a resolution Wednesday after hours of pointed debate that calls for a recount in the Orange-1 House district race between Robert Frenier and Susan Hatch Davis that was decided by seven votes. Frenier, a Republican who was seated as a House member last month, beat Hatch Davis, a five-term Progressive incumbent, by an eight-vote margin on Election Day. A recount sought by Hatch Davis narrowed Frenier’s victory to a seven-vote margin, but was certified by a judge. Hatch Davis remained unconvinced, however, and sought another recount, which was rejected by Orange County Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout. Hatch Davis then contested the election with the House, which has the authority to “judge” the election and qualifications of its members under the Vermont Constitution. Continue Reading →

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Senate committee rejects Scott’s school budget mandate

Sen. Phil Baruth

MONTPELIER — The Senate Education committee has unanimously voted to oppose Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to mandate that all school budgets be leveled-funded next year — and that rejection has broad budget implications. That’s because the governor had hoped to deal with a budget gap in the state’s General Fund, in part, by transferring early education, higher education and teacher retirement programs over to the Education Fund. The roughly $50 million price tag for this transfer was to be offset by a plan to require that all local school budgets not grow at all next year. The governor’s proposal would also require all teachers to pay for 20 percent of their health care premiums.

Because many school boards are finalizing their budgets for next year, the governor proposed moving all local budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to late May to give the boards more time to reduce their budgets. Senate Education chairman Phillip Baruth says the governor’s plan is unfair to local school boards. Continue Reading →

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Speaker, Pro Tem back governor’s plans to oppose Trump order

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MONTPELIER — Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say they are firmly behind Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s plans to oppose a presidential executive order that seeks the help of state and local law enforcement in targeting immigrants, among other things. Scott unveiled a series of actions Monday that he is taking to protect Vermonters and immigrants in response to an executive order signed Friday by Republican President Donald Trump. Scott called the order an “overreach” because it seeks help from state and local law enforcement “to perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States.”

In announcing the steps his administration is taking, Scott vowed to “stand up for the rights and civil liberties of all those in our state.”

On Tuesday, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, said they support Scott’s efforts. “We look forward to partnering with the governor on insuring people’s civil rights,” Johnson said. Ashe, meanwhile, said the Senate is “happy” to see Scott taking action. Continue Reading →

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House, Senate approve abortion resolutions

Supporters of Planned Parenthood packed the House chamber in support of a resolution celebrating the organization and the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The House and Senate approved resolutions Tuesday celebrating the 44th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and Planned Parenthood’s 52 years of existence. The resolution was approved in the Senate on a unanimous voice vote — meaning no senators expressed opposition. In the House, the resolution was approved on a 103 to 31 roll call vote. The resolution “urges Congress and other state legislatures to preserve the rights protected in Roe v. Wade and to preserve access to essential health care services” and “reaffirms the right of every Vermont woman to privacy, autonomy, and safety in making personal decisions regarding reproduction and family planning and the right to continued access to safe and legal abortion.”

Hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters packed the House chamber Tuesday to show support for the group and the resolution. But the resolution generated some pointed comments from members of the House. Continue Reading →

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