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Governor, lawmakers strike budget deal on eve of veto session

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and legislative leaders struck a deal Tuesday to end a month-long impasse on the state budget and property tax bills as rank-and-file lawmakers prepared to return to the State House for a veto session Wednesday. The breakthrough on the eve of the veto session should pave the way for a relatively smooth process Wednesday. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, said a new budget was being drafted and would likely be distributed to all rank-and-file members of the Legislature Tuesday night. “I feel like we have a strong compromise that … everybody will be able to say yes to. I think, conceptually, we’re agreed to stuff, which is a huge step forward from yesterday,” she told reporters Tuesday afternoon. Continue Reading →

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Soucy picked for Rutland County Senate seat

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has appointed Killington resident David Soucy to fill an open Senate seat in Rutland County, replacing Republican Kevin Mullin who was recently appointed as chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board. Soucy, 60, the head golf professional and general manager at Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, will be sworn in Wednesday morning ahead of a special legislative veto session. He will serve alongside Republican Sens. Peg Flory and Brian Collamore in the three-seat Rutland district. “I’m honored and humbled to be appointed by the governor and I look forward to getting to work,” Soucy told the Vermont Press Bureau late Monday afternoon. Soucy, who was one of three candidates put forth by the Rutland County Republican Committee for Scott’s consideration, said he received a call from Scott Monday informing him of the appointment. Continue Reading →

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Scott responds to legal pot compromise, expresses optimism

MONTPELIER — The Scott administration has accepted most of the changes lawmakers have suggested to a marijuana legalization bill vetoed by the governor, but is seeking some additional amendments to gain his support ahead of next week’s veto session. Kendal Smith, Gov. Phil Scott’s director of policy development and legislative affairs, sent a response late Wednesday to the changes proposed last week by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, and Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown. “I think it’s workable,” Sears told the Vermont Press Bureau. “The response has generally been somewhat positive. A little confusion about some of the points he makes and trying to make sure we get it all right.”

“I don’t think that we’re so far apart that we can’t reach some kind of agreement,” Sears added. Continue Reading →

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key lawmakers craft legal pot compromise

MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have sent a proposal to Gov. Phil Scott that makes changes to a marijuana legalization bill he vetoed last month ahead of next week’s veto session. Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said language he crafted with House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Maxine Grad was sent to the governor’s office Thursday. The two lawmakers are awaiting feedback from the governor on their plan to address his concerns with S.22, which was vetoed by Scott on May 24. “I’ve been working with several other senators and met last week … with Maxine Grad and we agreed on a new proposal. We sent copies of the proposal to the governor. Continue Reading →

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Scott fulfills promise to veto budget, property tax bills

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott fulfilled his promise Tuesday to veto the state budget and a bill that sets property tax rates over a disagreement with Democratic lawmakers about how to negotiate teacher health care benefits. Scott sent a single veto message to House Clerk William MaGill Tuesday morning for both the budget, H.518, and what is known as the yield bill, H.509. MaGill promptly rejected the single message, however, saying two bills cannot be vetoed in a single message. “Every bill needs to have it’s own objections, according to the [Vermont] Constitution,” MaGill said. “There hasn’t been, as far as I’ve ever seen, a veto message for two bills at the same time.”

Scott spokesman Ethan Latour said the administration disagrees with MaGill’s ruling, saying there is not constitutional provision or statute “for the house clerk to impost a restriction on how, or in what way, a governor communicates his objections in writing.”

“We feel the House Clerk’s actions are obstructionist, unconstitutional and partisan, which makes them exponentially more concerning,” Latour said. Continue Reading →

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Scott receives budget bill after formal request for immediate delivery

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott’s office received the 2018 fiscal year budget bill from the House Friday afternoon after it submitted a formal request for immediate delivery, setting the stage for the governor to veto the budget and a property tax bill sometime next week. Lawmakers had maintained possession of the 2018 fiscal year budget since they passed it two weeks ago and adjourned the 2017 legislative session. Another bill that sets property tax rates, known as the yield bill, was delivered to the governor Thursday. Scott has vowed to veto both pieces of legislative because they do not account for a savings of up to $26 million in the Education Fund that he began demanding from lawmakers in mid-April. Scott is seeking to capture savings from new health care plans that will be offered to all Vermont teachers in January. Continue Reading →

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Governor, lawmakers look to set ground rules for VEHI savings negotiation

MONTPELIER — As a June 21 veto session nears, Gov. Phil Scott and lawmakers are mired in negotiations over how negotiations should proceed on Scott’s desire to push all Vermont teachers into a uniform health care benefit to save money. Scott said at his weekly news conference Wednesday that legislative leaders reached out to him late last week about setting up a meeting to rekindle negotiations on his teacher health care savings plan. But Scott indicated he wasn’t interested in meeting with the group of lawmakers Democratic legislative leaders proposed. “It’s about the process at this point, just trying to set up a way for us to move forward so we’re not wasting our time and we have the right people in the room,” Scott told reporters. “We’re going to respond to them in writing and set some guidelines as to how I think this negotiation should work. Continue Reading →

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Scott vetoes pot legalization, offers path forward

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a marijuana legalization bill but said Wednesday he will reconsider signing it if lawmakers make changes during a veto session next month. Scott’s announcement at a news conference Wednesday ended days of speculation about the bill’s fate, but it opened the door to even more intense lobbying and campaigning in the weeks leading up to the June 21 veto session. It also halts — at least temporarily — the potential for Vermont to become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use through the legislative process. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana, but all did so through voter referendums.

“I am returning this bill to the Legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market,” the governor said. Continue Reading →

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Scott to veto pot legalization bill

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday he will veto a marijuana legalization bill sent to him by lawmakers for technical reasons but will reconsider signing it if lawmakers make some changes during a veto session next month. Scott’s announcement Wednesday ends days of speculation about the bill’s fate, but opens the door to even more intense lobbying and campaigning in the weeks leading up to the June 21 veto session. Scott, a first-term Republican was facing a midnight deadline. His five days of consideration were about to end after receiving the bill from the Legislature last week. He faced three options — sign it into law, veto it or let it become law without his signature. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers adjourn, await veto

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers ended the legislative session early Friday morning, passing a state budget and other key bills, but with no accord reached with Gov. Phil Scott on the cost of teachers’ health care benefits, lawmakers will surely return next month for a veto session. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, met with the Republican governor several times Thursday hoping to hammer out a deal. The meetings occurred with such frequency that rank-and-file lawmakers began to assume a deal was imminent. But the legislative leaders finally acknowledged Thursday evening that a deal was to remain elusive and set in motion the process required to complete the budget and other money bills without the governor’s approval for adjournment. Scott, who spoke to both chambers before they adjourned, reaffirmed his intention to veto the budget and a bill that sets property tax rates. Continue Reading →

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